Practitioner Training part 1

Things are moving along at a very fast pace, and I am brimming with excitement about what is to come. Practitioner training this weekend was transformational. There were seven of us in the class, five of which are definitely going to be working with Rania and Don. It was such a beautiful workshop. I don’t know where to start. Being in the presence of such loving, talented people (mostly women) was remarkable. I think my longstanding desire for female friendship and sisterhood will be fulfilled by this group. 

 One fellow practitioner in particular, August, and I really connected. We had all kinds of strange quirky things in common. I am hoping to explore a friendship with her. 

 The gathering of practitioners felt very ancient and sacred, the sharing of taboo stories and knowledge. I slept on Rania and Don’s couch on Sunday night, and the next day they very kindly gave me a ride to the store to get a good quality portable massage table, and helped me with some furniture I had purchased and needed to get home. 

 Now, I must begin turning my home into a tantric temple. I admittedly am not the best housekeeper in the world, but I do have to step up my game in that department. I can handle it! It’s just another adventure. 

 They advised that I not quit the agency right away, but I find myself not wanting to work that way anymore. I haven’t officially quit, but I haven’t been working. The idea of fucking strangers for money feels so unappetizing right now. It’s like my body is rejecting that form of sex work. I need to meditate, focus on my yoga practice, and grow spiritually and be the best dakini I can possibly be. 

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.

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.

Conversations With my Lover on Sex Work

It is still a somewhat awkward topic at times, and I find myself not disclosing every work story when I am with Josh. I don’t want to worry him, and I don’t want to bog him down with information about all my clients and experiences. A couple weeks ago, I was visiting him, and we were having coffee on the table in the common area of his apartment building, and the conversation flowed in a way that made the topic easy to address.

He mentioned that he has an issue with people who claim to be ‘sexual healers’. This led to a discussion on how one can never be a ‘healer’ but rather a facilitator for someone to go through the healing process themselves. The person may provide something that helps the person heal, but they are not responsible for the healing.

My heart beat faster as I took a sip of my black coffee. Now was my chance to take a risk, be vulnerable, and share my personal experiences with my lover. It would either bring us closer, or he would have an issue with it and it would push us apart.

I told him the story of the young man I worked with who was terrified to have sex after his long-term girlfriend consistently belittled him in bed. I told Josh about how I held this man and comforted him before guiding him through the experience of pleasuring me, and how after the session was done, he was completely ecstatic that he was able to have pleasurable sex again.

Josh looked at me in a way that showed me that he really got it. His eyes lit up and were full of admiration. “That’s awesome,” he said, and my heart swelled with happiness. My work had not made me unloveable. Quite the opposite.

I told him another story about a man who hired me to pleasure his girlfriend. She wanted the experience, but was terrified. I gave her a full-body massage and talked her through the experience, giving her a full vulva massage and an internal massage. The session ended with her asking her boyfriend to watch me and take notes for future reference.

Josh suggested that we watch The Sessions together, the movie about the sex surrogate who works with the man who was crippled by polio and who spent most of his life in an iron lung. The next weekend, we watched the movie together and cuddled the whole time. I found it very moving, even though I would have preferred that they had given the surrogate more air time and explored her life more deeply. The poet with polio was the character who got the most air time, and he was a fascinating character, and the connection between him and the surrogate was very touching. It was also nice to see a sex worker portrayed as having a healthy marriage, even though it was not explored in great detail.

I am so blessed to have found someone like Josh. He is the man I used to imagine myself finding, and, over time, grew to believe did not exist, at least not for me. He deeply respects women and is very spiritual.

Tips for Getting Into Escorting

I’m writing this post as a response to someone who asked me about how to get into this profession in a safe and healthy way. There are a few different ways to get started. You can go independent, or go through an agency like I did. Both have benefits and drawbacks.

Before you look into these, I recommend brushing up on the laws around sex work in your area. The United States has very strict laws regarding sex work, and you will have to work around them. In places like Canada and the UK, the law is much more relaxed. You will have to navigate legalities in order to work, so be aware of that. The way I work, doing outcalls, I am not breaking any laws, but the people I work with are, so I have to be discreet in order to protect them. The drivers and booking agents I work with could be arrested for ‘living off the avails’ an archaic and paternalistic law that supposedly protects sex workers from exploitative pimps, but in reality can be used against people we hire for security and marketing, and, in some cases, even our live-in romantic partners. That said, the reality is that generally the police ignore the indoor sex industry in favor of harassing more visible and vulnerable street workers.

So back to the biz itself. There are pros and cons to working independent and through an agency. First, I’ll talk about going independent. The benefit of being independent is that you have complete control over your marketing, work hours (depending on clients, of course). You can set your own rates for your services and you don’t have to deal with having a boss. The downside is that you have to front the costs of advertising, and you have to screen clients yourself.

If you go independent, you can work discreetly from your home or another apartment you rent for your work. Another apartment is better than working out of your home, although it is an additional cost. Remember that if a landlord finds out that you are doing sex work on the premises, you can be evicted in many parts of the world, including Canada, so it’s best not to put your housing at risk. Also, even though the overwhelming majority of clients are respectful and decent people, on the off chance that you get a rude or violent one, you don’t want him knowing where you live.

If you do outcalls, it’s important to have someone you can call when you get to the client’s location. Give them the client’s address over the phone in front of the client. That way, he will know that he can’t get away with anything. Also, tell them how long you are going to be there, and, if possible, have them call you to remind you when your time is up, although that isn’t completely necessary.

If you don’t have the time to screen, handle the phone and email inquiries, and do your own marketing, an agency might be the best choice for you. It’s a good idea to research an agency before applying. Go to an interview and ask questions about their practices. Be careful of any agency that is strict about your time, that won’t back you if you don’t want to see a troublesome client, or who charges ‘fines’ for silly things. There is a local agency that fines escorts for having chipped nail polish! Avoid avoid avoid!

I was very lucky when I found the agency I work for now. I didn’t research them in detail beforehand, but they turned out to be a fabulous agency that treats the girls with respect. I have, so far, only refused to see one client, and they completely supported my decision, even though it meant less income for them.

The benefits of working for a reputable agency are that you have more time for yourself. You don’t have to market or deal with the phones. You just have to show up, and they arrange appointments for you. Agencies do tend to be 24 hrs, with much of the appointments happening late at night, so that is something to consider. I am naturally a night person, so that works for me, but for someone else it might not. On the downside, you don’t take home as much cash per appointment as you would as an independent. The agency takes a cut of your fee, usually between forty and fifty percent. Where I work, the agency charges 300 dollars an hour, and I take home 150. I make tips on top of that rate frequently, but that varies person to person and month to month.

When it comes to income, it is lucrative, but irregular. When it’s good, it’s very good. I have gone home a few nights with over a thousand dollars in my pocket just from one client who wanted a long session with me. Other nights, nobody calls and I go home empty handed. If you want to support yourself in this business, it’s important to save your money. It’s easy to get sucked into living large. It’s hard not to feel like a gangsta when you have a stack of crisp hundreds in your pocket, but you have to remember to make that money work for you. In my first six months in the business, I got into the habit of spoiling my then-partner, buying her fancy dinners and gifts and paying her rent for a while… and then work got slow and I had to take appointments when I didn’t want to in order to make ends meet. I don’t want to see anyone in that position. Sex work can be very lucrative, but it isn’t a ‘get-rich quick’ scheme.

I would recommend doing some soul-searching before taking the steps to get into the business. Sex work is, at its best, a very fun way to make a living while helping people and sharing your skills and knowledge. At its worst, it can be a path to drug use and trauma. It is so important to figure out your own boundaries around what you will and will not do with a client and to be comfortable sticking to them. I also recommend some self-defense training. I have only felt threatened by two clients in my first year in the business, but I was very grateful for my knowledge of martial arts and those handy pressure points that can make a grown man weep during one of those two incidents! Some escorts carry tasers or pepper spray. I personally prefer to rely on my hands and my wits. To each her own.

Practice regular self-care! As empowered as you are around your work, sometimes living as someone in a heavily stigmatized profession, and having to spin cover stories to certain people who would judge you harshly, takes its toll. Getting a massage, taking an aromatherapy bath, or walking on the beach, are great ways to care for yourself. Find what works for you.

Good luck and I wish you all success on entering this fascinating profession!