How has sex work changed me?

April 25th, 2009

Kitty, in response to a movie she watched, wrote this post for me.

…the idea that sex workers cannot love/have intimate relationships because of their personal issues, generally implied to have been brought about by work. Let me share what has been affected by my work-

-I suspect my lovers tend to consider me the girl you have fun kinky sex with, but not someone you get emotionally attached to, because I’m a sex worker (and also polyamorous, but that’s another blog).

Hmm. I think this is true for me, although not necessarily because I’m a sex worker.  There are so many reasons I am “not someone you get emotionally attached to”, I couldn’t even try to isolate one.

-sometimes I get selfish about what I want sexually because my work is about focusing on other people getting off… or sometimes I don’t want sex at all because I’m starved for other intimacies.

-sometimes work gets me crazy turned on and I want a lot more sex! Sometimes I want a followup session to my work sessions.

It’s work, yo, but it’s also sex.

-often I want more head petting and affection. I’ve found myself also drawn a lot more to the submissive play I do with G- I think the catharsis is helpful, somehow.

-I end up needing to date people who are happy to hear about other relationships, otherwise, I can’t bitch about work!

They’re work relationships, but they’re still relationships.

-I’ve found I enjoy keeping a few types of kinky play just between me and my lovers, not with clients, so there are some “special”, “just us” stuff.

I don’t tend to reserve activities — in fact, I usually seek out the same activities through sex work that I seek with my lovers — but it is a common way to keep boundaries. (For a more nuanced discussion of boundaries in porn, I recommend this excellent interview with Lorelei Lee.)

While I have never had sex with a man on camera, I dislike all my reasons (mostly, the objections of my male partners) not to have sex with men on camera. Sample conversation from last time I was in San Francisco:

Lochai: You don’t do boy/girl, right? Why not?

Me, half-jokingly: Because no one will ever love me.

Him: So don’t!

Me: That is not what I was hoping you would say.

-I’ve more vocal in bed about what I like and don’t like, and negotiate better in general- if I’m not having my needs acknowledged, I expect to at least be getting paid.

Oh, yes. I think I often unfairly call this selfishness in myself, because it takes my partners aback. But I think it is SO HOT and so necessary when people — especially women — give it to me! If we don’t expect women to be vocal, this causes no end of problems, not least the passive construction of consent. Whatever happened to active desire? Let’s change this.

That’s some of it. I’m sure there’s more, maybe I’ll add to it as I go along. But no, being a sex worker doesn’t mean you have to be less emotionally intimate with lovers. Maybe it does if you want monogamous partnership. Not been my experience though! We’re people, not exclusively fantasy objects, and as such we have our own needs and lives. Why wouldn’t we just due to our jobs?

Huzzah, etc.

I tried to write this article about a year ago, but didn’t post because I got bogged down in defensiveness. Sex work has very few (if any) truly unique evils. It is a little microcosm that fosters and concentrates what is icky about sexuality and gender in the world at large. I’m OK with any changes that awareness might bring me. It’s not “damage”; it’s knowledge, and ignorance couldn’t be farther from bliss.

Sex workers, would you add anything to this list? How has sex work changed you?

4 responses

  1. Sabrina Morgan comments:

    YES to almost this entire post (I haven’t noticed a problem in the emotional attachment department, but you’ll see why in a minute).

    I’m definitely more vocal, assertive and specific about getting my sexual needs met, and I’ve come to think more of sex as being a negotiable service of worth and as a need than as an activity. Because so much of our work is about others’ sexual needs, I find I can get really resentful when mine aren’t met, especially since I have a blanket “ask and you probably shall receive” policy with lovers.

    I’ve noticed I fall prey to one of the great sex work relationship cliches: wanting to play “sugar mama” to my significant others, even when they make more than I do. I’ve seen this chalked up to everything from guilt to entitlement (on the part of the SO) to seeing an intimate relationship as both hard work and a service worth paying for (and forgetting that our SOs aren’t at work – we’re paying them in kind rather than in coin).

    I also tend to go overboard in the girlfriend department (when in a serious relationship) and could be accused of “trying too hard.” That’s sex work related – I never want my SOs to feel that my clients are getting more of me than they are. I’ll probably mellow out on that front with more time and experience as a full-time worker.

    Other ways it’s changed me: I hate wasting my time on the phone or doing things I dislike with people I dislike for free. If it’s not an equal exchange, then I’m working and expect compensation. I also take better care of my body now that I think of it as a business asset.

  2. Kitty comments:

    “I also tend to go overboard in the girlfriend department (when in a serious relationship) and could be accused of “trying too hard.” That’s sex work related – I never want my SOs to feel that my clients are getting more of me than they are. I’ll probably mellow out on that front with more time and experience as a full-time worker.”

    That’s a good one for me too, actually. I find I tend to overwhelm people with little gifts and treats as a way of saying “I care for them, but I care for you more, or specialer, or something”. Especially since my desire for sex waxes and wanes, I like to have something I can give that isn’t dependent on my mood. However, this has made others feel that I was throwing myself at them.

    Another thing I’ve noticed, actually, is that I’ve gotten somewhat aware that I may sound demanding/needy around schedules. Because my sex-for-fun comes first for me, I generally need to know when playdates are going to happen a week or more ahead of time so I can schedule in everything else around them. However, when there’s someone I want to play with, I don’t want to sound desperate by asking about playtime- yet, I don’t have a set schedule and need to know, or it’s not gonna happen. Maybe that’s as much a freelancing issue as anything else.

    “Other ways it’s changed me: I hate wasting my time on the phone or doing things I dislike with people I dislike for free. If it’s not an equal exchange, then I’m working and expect compensation. ”

    Exactly. A timewaster is a timewaster.

    And Calico, glad my blog sparked something. :)

  3. Geoff (grc) comments:

    What you wrote about women feeling selfish if/when they speak up for what they want in bed is, I think, right on target. Many of my former partners have held this view and I find it frustrating. I identify as a dominant, so I’m not always going to provide what my partner wants–I may hold it out as a reward for good behavior, but at the same time, there are instances where I’d just like to please my partner, regardless of the dominant/submissive roles. I dated a woman for a couple of months before I discovered that she didn’t like receiving oral sex (a huge letdown) because of a bad experience as a young woman. I’d been going down on her 3-4 times a night and he was just sitting/standing/lying there putting up with it. Ugh.

    I hope we can all find a way to change this kind of thing. Women should be able to tell their partners what they want and not feel guilty about it. Equalism FTW.

  4. Master Geasa comments:

    Not sure when you get it, but Season 3 episode 7 of Secret diary of a call girl, raises something about this.

    Basically the clash of who is actual having sex, is it Hannah or Belle?

    If you think about it, if you perform, there must be a mask there, the whole ‘go to bed with Gilda, wake up to me’ thing.

    I do sit here trying to draw a line, I could date someone who…. Also at what point are they paying me to have a good time? What is the relationship deal breaker? Is keeping some act back a way to draw the line with your partner?

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