Internalized Whorephobia

I have very understanding friends. Ra and his partner have spent a lot of time with me over the last few months (Ra’s time with me goes much farther back, because Anton is a relatively recent addition to the group), and they have listened to my outpourings of angst over my feelings for Josh and my feelings of fear and crippling insecurity.

Ra pointed something out last week that I found very interesting. I was telling him how insecure I feel about Josh, how when I imagine myself telling him how much I love him, this little voice in the back of my head stops me. “Why would someone as wonderful as Josh, why would ANYONE want to be with a hooker?” I struggle with this voice. I imagine myself being seen by others as dirty, diseased, sleazy, lacking self-respect and morality. When I was done going through this list with Ra, he said: “It sounds like you have internalized whorephobia. I understand, I had internalized homophobia for years.”

That stopped me in my tracks. Could I, such a strong woman with healthy self-esteem, one who defends sex worker’s rights and comes out swinging in defense of my fellow whores at the agency when they tell me that their romantic partners don’t treat them with respect because of their profession, have internalized these damaging messages about women in my profession? Even with knowing the good I have done for others since becoming a whore, not to mention how I have grown spiritually since entering the trade, I am at times incapacitated by shame around my choices and innate nature.

In Women of the Light, a book of essays edited by Kenneth Ray Stubbs, Carol Queen writes a brilliant essay about her time as a call girl and how sex work is directly connected to worship of the goddess and a celebration of life. She says that we whores are doing the Goddess’s work in a culture that would brand it the devil’s work. This can take a toll on us.

Somehow, I can claim the right to respect and happiness for any other whore, but I can’t quite claim that for myself. I think of Josh and his life up until his marriage ended. He had a conventional, ‘respectable’ marriage and raised children with a very traditional, conservative woman. A part of me wishes that I could offer him that same respectability, but that is the one thing I do not have to give. I am a sexual outlaw, a deviant, a whore. This causes me both pride and happiness and intense shame and fear. It is hard to go about your life when so many people seem to hate you.

I can imagine taking on stigma and being an outlaw next to someone I love. I have done this in my relationships with my trans lovers, walking next to them and offering support, standing up to transphobic bigots on the street, taking the rage some cis men threw at me for choosing a trans woman as a lover instead of a man… but I cannot seem to imagine anyone being willing to be by my side fighting the whore stigma with/for me. It makes me wonder why.

Ra went on to tell me how much my friendship means to him. “When you met me,” he said “I was at one of the lowest points in my life. I was in an abusive relationship and I was suffering from PTSD and getting off meth. And you were always absolutely wonderful to me. If anyone deserves to be happy, it’s you.”

I started to make an inventory of the things I do have to offer. Love, devotion, financial security, generous spirit, sex skills, listening skills, emotional support, backrubs and foot rubs, interesting conversation, great food, companionship, honesty and loyalty. What is off the table for me: sexual exclusivity, conventionality, ‘respectability’.

When I visit Josh and we watch movies together, which we do sometimes, I am struck by the degree of whorephobia in the media. I feel afraid and I don’t talk too much about my work. I’ve told him what I do, and we’ve talked a bit, but he still talks about ‘hookers’ like they are other people and not the woman he holds in his arms at night. I am afraid that if he saw me as a ‘hooker’ rather than whatever version of sex therapist/worker that he currently sees, he will stop touching me so tenderly and holding me and caring for me. It’s fucked up. It shows how deeply I have absorbed those attitudes that women who are sexual with a wide variety of people are ‘used up’ and ‘not worth caring about’. It’s such a basic attack on a woman’s being. Sexuality is such a basic part of who we are, and, to me, such a powerful part that it cannot be suppressed without severe damage to the psyche. So the choice remains: damage yourself by suppressing that which is natural and innate, be a good girl according to patriarchy and shut up, or be an outlaw and be vilified and subject anyone you are in a relationship with to potential stigma and discrimination. It’s a complicated mess. I long for a time when people like me are held in high esteem as teachers and shamans rather than vilified as dirty, worthless whores.

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I Did It! Step One

Well, I signed up for Rania and Don’s practitioner training. The first part happens this weekend. I bought myself a himalayan rock salt lamp to celebrate. It’s pleasing pink glow on my table/writing desk is a symbol of the positive changes I am making in my life. I still haven’t figured out how to wiggle out of my lease, but I have had some friends give me valuable advice on the subject. I’m biding my time, looking online at places occasionally, and trusting that all will work out in the end.

I saw Josh last night, and we spent much of today together. Almost a year of being in each other’s lives and it still feels positively magical. My friend Ra, who did a shamanic healing session with me last week, said that he feels strongly that my story will have a happy ending… which is only fitting considering I have given happy endings to so many (hardy har). I am taking his advice with Josh and am just focusing on the here and now and on how wonderful it is to be with him. No freaking out about The Future or whywouldanyonewannabewithahooker or any of that drivel. Just be present with this wonderful person right now, and let the rest sort itself out. I firmly believe that once I transition to being a tantric practitioner, I will be in a stronger place to make my feelings known. In the meantime, I truly don’t think he’s going anywhere. He is very loving with me and I with him. No harm in taking the slow, steady path.

Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pulled Me Back In!

Last night, I had an eight hour session with a client, and it was an amazing experience. He was a man close to my age, attractive, into similar music/subcultures as myself, and very kind. We drank a couple bottles of wine over the course of the evening and discussed philosophy, human rights, queer theory, feminism, gender relations and literature. I found myself being myself with him, rather than the modified version of myself that I sometimes project to my clients.
He was very shy when it came to the sex part of the night, but I helped him come out of his shell pretty quickly. He had beautiful long hair and dark eyes, and his back was scarred from his forays into the world of hook suspension, something I had at once time considered doing myself.
Sexually, he was very sensuous and considerate. I asked him to let his hair down and run it over every inch of my body, which he happily did. I enjoyed all of what we did after that. I didn’t want to leave. I felt a conflict in a sense, because I know that, if we didn’t have the client/provider relationship, he would be someone I would be friends with, and possibly I would have been his lover under different conditions. Of course, with Josh in the picture, that would have been unlikely, so I am going to be content with the relationship within the context that exists.
He wants to hire me this Friday for another eight hour session, which I am happy about. Today, one of the booking girls told me (off the record) that I am excellent at what I do and that I am one of the best girls they have. It felt good to hear that, and it also makes it harder to think of leaving. I am going to think of it as a process. I can do the agency for a time while I work out how to be a fabulous tantric practitioner and whatever else I want to be. It might even work if I stayed on with the agency on a very part-time basis and catered to a few regular, trusted clients. No more coke dicks for me!

Challenges and Possible Solutions

Work this week has not gone well. I had three appointments, all of which were not pleasant for me. On Thursday night, I had a seven hour appointment with a very attractive and polite man. He wanted to dominate me, which was not something I would have agreed to had I booked the appointment. However, since I was there and I needed to make some money, and I got a reasonably good feeling from him, I agreed within certain limitations. The activity was 100 percent consensual, and he checked in regularly to make sure I was doing ok. That said, it was deeply unpleasant for me. It was not something I ever would have agreed to in my private life, especially with my history of being in a long-term relationship with someone who did not respect my limits in BDSM play and who was very dominant.

Seven hours of face slapping, hair pulling, whipping, spanking, being spat on and told to get into outrageously difficult positions on the floor in heels took a lot out of me. I was literally counting down the minutes until I could leave. At the crack of dawn I returned home feeling broken and exhausted.

The following night, my new friends, the Tantric massage couple, had me over for dinner. We had a lovely time, as we always do. They listened to me whine about my work and the horribly challenging seven hours the night before. The evening ended with them taking me into their massage room and giving me a wonderful four hand sensual massage. It was deeply healing for me. They explicitly stated that they wanted absolutely nothing from me, that they just wanted to serve me that night. I was deeply touched, and after they were finished, I felt better. I am still not completely my old self, but I am definitely better today.

This morning, Rania and I had a long conversation during which I told her how conflicted I’ve been about my work, and how draining it is to have sex with men who don’t see the sacred in what I do and what I have to offer. She understood and listened. I told her how relationship oriented I’ve become recently and how much it’s freaking me out.

I have realized that I do have to make some changes. Rania and Don are helping me figure out my options. Don told me that he and Rania would like me to work for them doing tantric massage, but that if they had to choose, they would rather have my friendship. I told them I wanted their friendship and I wanted to work for them. I’d be making comparable money to my cut at the agency, and I wouldn’t have to provide sexual favours beyond the scope of the Tantric sensual massage. I would have to make my home into a Tantric temple, which is doable. If I pursue this, I have the hope of work that truly would cause me to feel pride and happiness. I want to make a difference and I want to help people explore their sexuality, but I want to do it on my own terms, not according to anyone else’s whim.

A Ritual of Devotion

I have been thinking a great deal about ritual lately, especially within the context of intimate relationships and sexual work. In our culture, we have disconnected the heart from the genitals, the sacred from the body, to our detriment. As I think about the beautiful gift that I have been given with this deep love for Josh, and how our connection has helped me open to the divine and to heal many inner wounds, I want to do something concrete to express my gratitude.

The last time I was in Victoria, I stumbled upon an info sheet about the ritual of foot washing. The services advertised were based on the Christian tradition and were offered by a pastor. The point of the ritual is one of service and humility, of offering yourself to another with respect and devotion. Although I have deep issues with Christianity, there are parts of it that inspire me, and this ritual is one of those things.

In the context of a relationship, I believe that mutual service and honouring the divine within each other is so important. It is fraught in this culture of gender inequality and dissatisfaction within relationships to approach your beloved with a spirit of service and humility. Still, I think this is necessary in many ways for true intimacy and devotion to blossom. I used to think a lot, back when I was still caught up in the cycle of unfulfilling and abusive/dysfunctional relationships, how nice it would be if both people could approach the other with that spirit of service. Indeed, if both people look out for one another, no one is left wanting.

My relationship with Josh is a revelation to me in that respect. This is the first relationship that has lasted more than a few months in which I feel truly honoured and respected. I know that he is interested in doing things that make me happy, and he has approached me time and again from a place of service and devotion. I want to do the same, and I want to honour him in a ritual sense. I know it seems a little strange, but I want to do this.

When he comes back, I am going to invite him over for a ritual. I will cook him dinner, and after I have fed him, or perhaps before, I will wash his feet in a ritual bath with essential oils and give him a massage. I will take this time to tell him how much he means to me and how he has enriched my life, and how thankful I am to him for his gift of gentleness and sweetness and strength. I will tell him that I have decided to stop keeping my emotions close to my chest like a card sharp and am ready to express them to the people closest to me. Like him. I want him to know how much he means to me, even if I risk rejection in the process. Because what is life without a little risk, right?

New Developments

I have taken some time off this month. It was necessary for me to avoid burnout and to make some changes to my life. I’ve been practicing yoga almost daily now, and getting back into weight training and regular meditation practice.
I am continuing on a path of inner spiritual work. I am shedding my past skin in many ways, transforming from the terrified woman with the walls up to the soft and open lover of life who allows herself to be seen. With time, these transformations are less scary to me and more exciting.
I have also connected with some amazing people lately. I connected with a lovely couple who are both Tantric massage practitioners and sacred sex workers. We have developed a friendship with the possibility of play. I am very grateful for their presence in my life and look forward to spending more time with them.
Also, I recently attended two workshops by a sexological bodyworker I know. About four years ago, I was his client. He helped me heal from some trauma in our first session, and in our second session, he gave me extreme pleasure. I was a different person then, still married, starting to recognize my erotic needs as important.
When I arrived at the workshop, he didn’t recognize me. We had a good laugh about that, and we talked about work. I told him that I am currently working in the sex industry and that I am planning to study sexological bodywork. I said, truly, that he inspired me with his work.
Now, he and his partner have expressed interest in playing with me. I am deeply honoured by their interest, and I would like to explore with them. I have given a ‘maybe’ at this point.
The thing is, I love playing sexually with different people, but since I’ve become a sex worker, this has taken a back seat to other desires. These two beautiful couples are deeply attractive to me erotically, and being with them could promise to be very transformational and exciting indeed. Still, I feel some anxiety, because I want to solidify the relationship with Josh first. We still haven’t ‘defined our relationship’ and I am finding now that I want to have that conversation more than ever.
He is away this week on business, and I think of him often, and with such an abundance of passionate love. He has had such a profound impact on me and I am overflowing with gratitude to him for his presence in my life. The fear has taken a back seat now to this wonderful feeling of gratitude and happiness. I am finding that now, more than ever, I want my own partner. I want stability along with passion. I want to do the work necessary to sustain a long-term relationship. I am abandoning those notions that I, as a sex worker, cannot have lasting love. I am still a wonderful person to be with, regardless of what I do for a living. Exclusive access to my pussy is far from the only thing of value that can be offered. How about kindness, warmth, understanding, support? I can offer everything to a partner except sexual exclusivity, which is not the most realistic thing to promise, and it is not something that Josh has indicated is of upmost importance to him anyway. I am feeling empowered to be true to my feelings and frame what I have to give in a positive, rather than considering my love to be a burden that I ought to offer to no one.

Breaking Open to the Divine

I am falling more deeply in love every day. It is frightening, exhilarating, dizzyingly wonderful and profoundly ecstatic. In the tantric school, they said that pleasure is medicine. That is also what the founders of the Sexological Bodywork profession believe. I know this is true.

Sex with Josh is such sweet ecstasy. We keep going deeper into these states of bliss and exploring new and interesting territory. Last weekend, while he was fucking me, I had an orgasm so deep and strong that I couldn’t tell where my body ended and the rest of the world began. I melted into this sweet golden light and the sacred healing energy cascaded through me. There was no part of my being that was untouched.

I remember, years ago, when I was an angry nineteen year old fleeing my abusive lover. I was staying with some people I knew and considered friends at the time. They were strict Christians. I had embraced the Christian faith mostly as a knee-jerk reaction to the pain I felt after being beaten by my lover. I embraced celibacy and maintained a structured existence. Sex, after all, led to loss of control, which led to someone having power over you. I never wanted to feel that fear again, the fear I felt when my lover tossed me around, breaking my skin and choking me until I saw white spots dancing in front of my eyes. The sex with him had been exquisite, but was it worth the price of pain and fear? Was it worth hearing the things he had screamed at me in his rages?

I recall the day I sat in the kitchen with my Christian roommate and her granddaughters. It was a nice moment, a moment of community and sharing. We were desperately poor and lived in squalor, but we had each other. We prayed together, and as we bowed our heads, it occurred to me that there was a dark and painful part of myself that seemed very large and frightening, that no amount of prayer could really heal. In fact, as time went on, the stifling of my sexuality resulted in my spiritual life shriveling up like a plant deprived of water and sunlight.

At the moment, with Josh, when I had that orgasm, I felt that dark and painful place shatter and the golden light pierced the darkness. Before, with the abuse I suffered in intimate relationships, I had felt myself break in pain, huddling on bathroom floors terrified and humiliated. Now, I break apart with the most exquisite pleasure. The walls I built up inside myself shattered and I was left smiling, laughing, and thanking the Creator for allowing me to feel such happiness. I really get to feel this much pleasure. I really get to feel so amazing.

In Christianity and other major religions, pleasure is seen as sinful, as corrupting, a distraction from godly pursuits. This disconnect between sex and spirit, heart and genitals, has caused humanity so many problems. I truly believe that we would not see the devastation of war, greed and cruelty in our world if everyone truly embraced the healing power of their sexuality and used it as a path to the divine.