Being a sex worker can be a blast. Easy money that’s fun to make. Partying for a living. Getting a great workout, and sometimes even having great sex on the job. Going to great restaurants and staying at nice hotels on someone else’s dime. Meeting lots of cool people and making them feel great.
Fulfilling clients’ fantasies while escaping your own troubles. Having the opportunity to travel all over the country and even the world, while remaining gainfully employed and recouping any costs incurred.
One of the biggest perks is a high-earning to time expended ratio. Students, single moms and aspiring artists can literally buy themselves time to live the other aspects of their lives, such as supporting dependents and pursuing higher education.
Writing has always been my greatest talent, and I have the sensitive writer’s temperament. Stripping and escorting have helped inspire and sustain my writing, but they’ve also exposed me to genuinely heartbreaking things.
Sure, there are things about stripping and escorting that irritate me — people not tipping at the stage when I’m working the pole hard, Johns canceling appointments last minute — but then there are things that have an emotional impact on me.
Here are the ten most heartbreaking aspects of being a sex worker.
1. We see clients (mainly men) at their most vulnerable.
Guys really spill their guts to you and it can be quite draining. Sometimes you just smile and nod at inane rambling, but other times the conversation gets pretty damn real. You see guys who are mentally disturbed, addicts and physically disabled. Most of all, you see guys who want to vent about their marriage issues or drink their pain away, using you as an enabler.
2. Law enforcement treats murdered or raped sex workers as sub-human.
There’s a degrading expression among cops. “No humans involved” is utilized when a murder victim is a sex worker, especially a trans woman of color. We don’t get the Natalee Holloway media treatment if we go missing and crimes where we are victimized only make the news when someone like Eliot Spitzer, Charlie Sheen, or an intriguing serial killer are involved with us.
3. Feminists don’t have our backs and drown out our voices with their own.
I’m a bit sick of Tina Fey being lauded as a feminist when she thrives on jokes that shame and dehumanize sex workers. If you watch 30 Rock or read Bossypants from a sex workers’ point-of-view, you’d be shocked at how little she thinks of us. Other feminists who hold higher degrees and teach at prestigious institutions have gotten the general public, federal government, and chief executive officer himself on board with the conflation of sex trafficking and consensual sex work.
You’ve noticed what a trendy topic sex trafficking (modern slavery) is, right? It’s really hit the mainstream, but feminists, law enforcement, and federal lawmakers don’t have a damn clue how to actually distinguish voluntary sex workers from exploited trafficking victims. Instead, they’re letting the bad apples make it harder for the rest of us to do things such as bank and avoid housing discrimination.
4. We are disenfranchised from mainstream society.
Chase Bank started shutting down the accounts of sex workers last year and made news for declining to do business with porn stars, whose work is legal. My two Chase accounts could be closed at any moment without explanation, but it’s well known that that bank is targeting sex workers.
Sex workers have used things like Paypal, Bitcoin, GreenDot Cards, MoneyPaks and more to obtain deposits from clients, and law enforcement keeps catching on to us and shutting down various resources. The closure of the Craiglist adult section, plus websites like MyRedbook.com (where sex workers could advertise), has forced some of us onto the streets to survive.
Federal authorities are portraying these moves as ways to protect underage sex trafficking victims and bust money-laundering pimps, but they’re endangering consenting adult sex workers in the process. This kind of discrimination is why a lot of girls, including myself for a time, literally live out of hotels.
5. We will forever be defined by our time as sex workers.
I’m not fame-obsessed like most Americans. I don’t care about celebrities and I don’t care to become one. However, now that I’ve worked — not only as a stripper, but as a full-blown hooker — I’m terrified of becoming a successful writer or public figure. I’m worried that a single Tweet or viral blog post could put me under the microscope and do me in.
Aside from careers in entertainment, where a sex worker’s past isn’t such a big deal, our career options can be severely limited. People like Diablo Cody are burdened with having to forever field interview questions about stripping. The Olympic runner Suzy Favor Hamilton, who was briefly an escort, is also burdened with having to explain that part of her life, using another stigmatized subject (mental health) as a significant alibi.
6. We watch people do themselves in with drug addictions.
You meet a great deal of proud recovering alcoholics and addicts as a sex worker, but you also meet tons of clients and colleagues looking for an enabler or looking for a place to drink or do drugs with someone. I lost one stripper friend to a heroin overdose, and she had a somewhat rapid unraveling. Her first relapse was booze, and the needle soon followed.
Hearing girls in the dressing room boast about being off “H” for a few days was depressing to watch, and so was seeing girls zoned out of their mind on Xanax or booze, just moving about like numb zombies. I abuse Adderall for stripping and can act strung out, but I’ll see people taking higher stakes chances with their lives.
I’ve tried to help out strippers who were living out of hotels, offering them accommodations with me, offering to loan them the house free for the night, or their Extended Stay room for the night. It’s draining and in vain to try and help people who won’t help themselves.
7. We lead double lives and have to lie all the time.
There are some very “out” and proud prostitutes, while others have been outed against their will. Lying is both exhausting and something that doesn’t come easily. I gloss over discussions of work with my family and steer conversation ASAP toward my hobbies: volunteering, pop culture consumption, and inquiries about other family members.
When it comes to dating, I’ve disclosed to several men that I stripped (and even met some at the clubs), but I never disclosed being an escort to any guy. Not getting really serious with guys is a defense mechanism; I fear domestic violence or retribution like online shaming. On a day to day basis, I’m always fudging my work situation a bit, sometimes in front of people who know the truth.
These days, I’ve made progress proving to my family that my mental health has improved and is being better managed; however, it’s hard to have the weight of hypocrisy on my shoulders lying about my main source of income.
8. There’s rampant racism.
There is tremendous pressure for escorts to lower their price points and sell themselves short, thanks to the internet keeping prices so “competitive” like it does for other industries. Minority women are often under more pressure to resort to this than their white counterparts.
When I work at the strip club, it seems like guys consider the minority girls more “attainable” if they’re thinking strictly with their dick. On the flip side, tons of white escorts have “No Blacks Allowed” policies, in the same way many escorts don’t “see” men under 30. While I’m all about sex workers setting and maintaining their own boundaries, having a blanket “No Blacks Allowed” policy seems a tad overzealous.
I admit I’m guilty of racism at times. I too often ignore black customers at the strip club, even when there are no other customers or I’ve already tried all the others. I’ll sometimes roll my eyes when young minority men get bottle service and make it rain on the big booty girl, while not tipping me a single dollar for hanging upside down on a 20-foot pole.
9. People feel entitled to our bodies outside of respectful parameters.
I refuse to work at full-nude strip clubs and was reminded why the other night. Both of my first two lap dance recipients tried to sneak their hands under my thong. There are a ton of guys out there who think buying a $20 lap dance entitles them to finger-f*ck us, suck our tits, whip their dicks out, or even get a quick blowjob or handjob.
Before switching to escorting, I remember a guy busting a nut after two lap dances and thinking to myself, “How is getting a guy off for $40 any better than turning a cheap trick? If I’m going to get guys off, I should charge what an intellectual college grad deserves.”
All sex workers have different boundaries, but guys seem to find out what they are by crossing them instead of asking first. As a whore, I provide companionship with a side of mostly vanilla sex acts for money. If a client forces anal sex on me, that’s a form of rape. If he forces sex without a condom on me, that’s a form of rape. If he threatens to write a bad review about me if I don’t perform a certain sex act or forego a condom, that’s a form of rape.
I’m able to use the internet to weed out bad guys, but this behavior knows no class or race.
10. There’s constant cyber-bullying.
The site TheEroticReview.com is my arch-nemesis. Since I began escorting in 2010, that site has gotten even worse at bullying escorts into compromising our boundaries, namely whether or not we allow reviews, and how we let the threat of bad reviews impact our appointments, our price points, and our-self esteem.
To earn a 10/10 on “performance,” unsafe sex is required. The term “BBBJ” (bareback blow job, i.e. condomless) is extremely in demand, and that already sucks. But now, clients can report when girls allow “BBFS” (bareback full service, as in condomless sex, perhaps even condomless anal sex).
Girls who are naive, uneducated or rely on sites like these for free advertising pander to these assh*les, and escort agencies are the worst perpetrators. The guys who pay less expect more, and they bitch and moan when they don’t get it. The guys who pay more tend to be more discreet.
I’ve worked with four agencies, all female-owned, and found that the owners are invariably in it for themselves, which means offering competitive prices and catering to review board culture. Thankfully, my agency work has never compromised my independent brand.