Here’s a submission from one of my readers. Enjoy!
Stripping and prostitution aren’t all bad, but sex work is no walk in the park.
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 working as a stripper and prostitute is the 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 a 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 — like people not tipping at the stage when I’m working the pole hard and Johns canceling appointments last minute — but then there are things that have an emotional impact on me as well.
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. But 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. The term “no human involved” (NHI) is utilized when a murder victim is a sex worker, especially if the victim is a trans woman of color.
We don’t get the Natalee Holloway media treatment if we go missing. And crimes against only make the news when someone famous — like Eliot Spitzer, Charlie Sheen, or an intriguing serial killer — is involved.
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 her book “Bossypants” from a sex workers’ point of view, you’d be shocked by 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, by enacting bills like FOSTA-SESTA, 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.
A few years back, Chase Bank was accused of shutting down the bank accounts of adult entertainers and their spouses, even when the work they do is legal.
When porn star Teagan Presley received a letter from Chase saying accounts belonging to herself and her husband were being closed, she was told in person by someone at the bank it was because she was deemed to be “high risk.”
Soon after, Frank Keating, CEO of the American Bankers Association, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he claimed the US Department of Justice was actively involved in the situation.
“Operation Choke Point,” he wrote, “is asking banks to identify customers who may be breaking the law or simply doing something government officials don’t like … Banks must then ‘choke off’ those customers’ access to financial services, shutting down their accounts.”
Sex workers have used other services 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 closures of Craigslist’s adult section, Backpage, and websites like MyRedbook (where sex workers could advertise), have forced some of us onto the streets to survive.
Federal authorities portray these moves as ways to protect underage sex trafficking victims and bust money-laundering pimps, but what they really do is endanger consenting sex workers who are of age and willingly involved in the industry in the process. This kind of discrimination is why a lot of us, 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 certain careers where a sex worker’s past isn’t such a big deal, our career options can be severely limited for the rest of our lives.
People like writer and producer Diablo Cody (whose real name is Brook Maurio) are burdened with having to forever field interview questions about stripping. Olympic runner Suzy Favor Hamilton, who briefly worked as an escort, had her name stripped from the Big Ten female athlete of the year award and has been burdened with having to explain that part of her life using another stigmatized subject, mental health, to explain her actions and make them somewhat more acceptable to society.
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 say the least, as was seeing others zoned out of their mind on Xanax or booze, moving about like numb zombies.
I’ve personally abused Adderall when stripping, causing me to act strung out, and I’ll see people taking higher-stakes chances with their lives.
I’ve tried to help out strippers who were living out of hotels by offering them accommodations with me or offering to loan them the house free for the night. It’s draining to repeatedly try in vain to help people who won’t help themselves.
7. We lead double lives and have to lie all the time.
There are some out and proud prostitutes, while others have been outed against their will.
Lying is both exhausting and something that doesn’t come easily to me. I gloss over discussions of work with my family and steer conversations toward my hobbies, volunteering, and 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 men I’ve dated at the clubs), but I’ve 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 as I lie 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 competitive, just like it does for other industries.
And as is the case in other fields, 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 penises. 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 when 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 us, touch our breasts, whip their penises out, or even get a quick blowjob or handjob.
Before switching to escorting, I remember a guy ejaculating 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 usually able to use the internet to weed out bad guys, but this behavior knows no class or race.
10. There’s constant cyber-bullying.
A website called The Erotic Review 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 was bad enough, but now clients can report when girls allow “BBFS” (bareback full service, as in condomless sex, and perhaps even condomless anal sex).
Girls who are naive, uneducated, or who rely on sites like these for free advertising pander to these jerks and escort agencies only contribute to the problem. Guys who pay less expect more, and they complain when they don’t get it. 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.
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