Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Sex work = empowerment, a load of crap with an once of truth

This is a rant I’ve bit my tongue on for a long time cause I expect to have a lot of angry ladies knocking on my door.  They’re gonna be, for the most part, college educated or at least well read women who like to frame their sex work as part of some sort of feminist liberation or maybe it’s a workers rights issue.  From the outside they’ll look like they have a point, they will look like the kind of people who made the choice to do sex work from a number of other options, like they have reasonable self esteem and like they are happy with their bodies and their experiences. Look a little deeper, however, and you’ll see women who have given the best years of their professional lives to sex work often (not always) without acquiring many other marketable skills. You’ll find women who call submissive men “repulsive… spineless pathetic little creatures” but in reality spend their time in cafes coaching each other on how to attract the attention of these men.  You’ll find women whose ability to make a living depends largely on other people’s approval of their bodies, who are reliant on sexually dissatisfied men to pay their rent and buy groceries.  You’ll find women who made this choice when they were 18 and invincible who are now 30, in a career track that, once again, is based on someone else’s desire for their bodies, and with no real plan for future employment or retirement. You’ll find people who rave about the flexibility of their work schedule, but who ultimately (like the rest of us) work whenever their clientele demands it.

I’ve bit my tongue on this rant because I know it isn’t going to make me a lot of friends, but also because I haven’t talked about my own sex work in a long time.  Back in the day, when I was 18 or 20 and invincible, I tried being a pro domme. I tried a bit of stripping and a bit of low budget kink porn too, and you know what?  I had fun. I had fun for a few months before a homeless man asked me for change on my way home from the dungeon where I was having fun and my first thought was “do you know what I just had to do for this money?!” and that’s when I knew it was time to quit.

Some of the reasons it was time to quit had to do with the setup: the dungeon I was working in was among the most reputable in the area and it had rampant workers rights violations: mandatory unpaid training, mandatory unpaid meetings, coworkers who drank or smoked pot on shift, unsafe practices around piercing, etc.  I will say I was never pressured into doing anything I was uncomfortable doing sexually speaking though, and for that I’m grateful. Other reasons were more practical: it was clear to me that this would never be as lucrative as the fairy tales you hear.  Even if my clients treated me to nice dinners, bought me shiny things, and tipped well, I could still make more in tech than I could in sex.  I’m pleased to report I was not mistaken on this point, plus the tech job comes with health insurance and paid holidays.

So why do we think sex work will be empowering?

Sex workers talk a good game – I became a pro domme because my girlfriend in college made a lot of money doing it.  Or, well, compared to my $8/hr work-study job she made a lot of money.  The seed was planted that sex work was a way I could make double the money in half the time and get cute shoes to boot.  The reality?  She didn’t tell me about all the nights she sat out an unpaid but mandatory shift without a single client and came home empty handed.

We only see the success stories – Belle De Jure, Mistress Matisse, totally hot women on top of the world making bank and bringing sexual empowerment and pleasure to the forefront. They’re beautiful, in love, free.  They are also the fairytales embodied. Will some women become world class call girls with an exclusive hand picked client list? Sure.  Will most women who enter sex work become this? No.  In the same way every kid from the ghetto that plays basketball won’t become Michael Jordan, but every single one gets to dream big because of Michael Jordan.

We’re too embarrassed to tell the bad stories so once again you only hear the good – as a sex worker I felt intense pressure to like my job, and I’m not alone in this. There was so much social stigma already that I couldn’t for a minute confess that I didn’t feel sexy and empowered and rich. The dungeon I worked in had a scabies outbreak about a month after I left, other girls stole things from my work bag, clients were outright insulting (or maybe they were fucking hot as hell and off limits for personal use ‘cause they were clients). All of these are things I didn’t share because, well, how do you think that reality makes me feel about myself?

Like everyone else,  we tell the story of how we want to feel.  We embellish the good parts and shy away from the bad.  Like every story this one has nuance and contradiction – when I left sex work I missed it.  I held on longer than was practical because I enjoyed it, and for invincible, care-free, 18 year old me who didn’t have that many bills to pay, it was a good gig.  But it also disconnected me from my body, made my sex a quantifiable asset, and contributed to the disintegration of my relationship at the same time that it made me feel more beautiful than I ever had before.

Written by kinkinexile

September 13, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Posted in history, memories

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