So here is something that annoys me: when people talk about their fear of new sex workers — themselves or other people — being “seduced by the money”.
I can’t exactly put my finger on why this phrase bothers me so, so much but it really does. I don’t think the people who say this are implying that sex work is easy, precisely. But they misunderstand its impact.
My friend told me her first-time story the other day, which was fairly typical: “He gave me $500 and I almost cried. I had never seen that much money before in my life.”
Do you see what makes it seductive? It’s not because it was $500. It’s because she had never seen that much money before.
First of all, and I go into this explanation very hesitantly because what money is “a lot” is a very loaded concept — sex work probably does not pay as much as you think. A porn shoot pays between $500-700. Once I think I made $1,100 for a two guy DP bondage shoot. I used to average about a shoot a month. I averaged around $400 a night at the strip clubs and I worked three days a week, if I worked that week — and I didn’t work every week. I definitely beat up on myself about not working more, because five days is a work week, right? But if you work 12-hr shifts, three shifts is 36 hours or pretty much full time. Exhausting fucking work. When I did more than two shifts in a row, I used to tape my feet in their shoes so they would not bleed.
If you make a thousand dollars a week, every week, you’re still only making around $50,000. This is by no means money to sneeze at; it’s more than my mother ever made, and she had a Master’s degree. But consider that according to Wikipedia, in 2006 the average weekly wage in Manhattan was $1,453. A thousand dollars a week is good sex worker money. It feels rich to me and always will. But in New York City, it doesn’t even make you average. You will be able to pay your bills. You can save. You might even be able to afford health insurance next year. You will not be able to go on shopping sprees at Nordstrom’s.
Writing checks to my landlord and Time Warner certainly feels luxurious to me, but it’s not … seductive. It’s just baseline what I should be able to do with a fucking job.
A thousand a week is great money, but for most of us, it is not the sort of renumeration that would make us lose ourselves and betray our principles. You know what does that? Desperation. That’s why people do sex work when they are broke or on drugs. But people who really don’t want to do it, they make their money and they get out. They go to normal jobs and they go back to their normal lives and it’s really not a thing.
Money itself isn’t that exciting. Is it going to buy you a romantic interest or a straight job or the love of your family when they find out you were doing porn? What could it possibly buy you that would be better than what sex work costs you? It won’t buy you self-respect. It won’t erase the memory of what you did (nor does drinking or drugs, p.s., just saying). And money doesn’t just happen like a landslide. You have to get up every morning and work really diligently to make it happen, answer a lot of shitty emails and slimy phone calls and rub your face on other people’s bodies and smell the scent of them, and be kind, be kind in the face of nervousness and crass and rough treatment until you feel empty and numb. You might feel lonely and you might feel scared and some mornings, only desperation will be the reason you get out of bed.
Why would anyone ever want to feel that lonely? Well, largely, they don’t at any price. Seduction fail.
You might ask why I do it after all that. Because the difference between a person who wants to be a whore, and the one who doesn’t do it, is that one is a coward. Because it’s glorious, because it’s exciting, because it’s raw and honest and it strips me down to nothing so that I know I am powerful all over again. Because I have met the most amazing women and I don’t feel alone anymore. Because I want to provide for myself, and dreaming about my future is beautiful. Because I get to live my fantasies and everyone else’s. Because people confide in me. Because people are sexy in surprising ways. Because I’ve had some mindblowing sex with the unlikeliest people. Because it’s mad and colorful and messy and it makes me feel alive. Because I am very, very, very good at it.
But yeah, the money is not “seductive”. Jesus Christ. It isn’t different money than the stuff you get paid. So everyone chill.