Listen up. I'm a prostitute.
Yup, I peddle in sex and sexual expression. I spread my legs for money, too, sometimes. I wear red lipstick and high heels and talk dirty. Sometimes I wrap my body in corsets and leather. Sometimes I wear Converse sneakers and jeans. I run my show the way I want it to be run, and I don't roll over and play feminine fantasy mistress.
As a prostitute I rarely did kink with my clients, because my clients were kind of nervous about doing kinky stuff with someone who didn't advertise specifically for that. In London I ended up deciding that my ideal was to ditch both idealized models and be a kinky girlfriend experience, allowing me to do what I really liked: a bit of both. My job satisfaction increased dramatically with that assertion of my agency and my refusal to indulge the dichotomy, something that feels safe for other sex workers but felt stifling to me. In this piece I say "pro-domme" and "prostitute" interchangeably to embrace all three of my experiences in the profession; of course, other workers' limits vary.
Do I sell sex? Yes.
Looking over the comments on my last piece, I was amused and saddened to see that people thought that I was glamorizing the work, and yet I was someone no one decent wanted to be around. I haven't found that to be true, of course, but that stigma is part of what keeps sex workers marginalized and at risk for assault, rape, and murder. Abusers know they can get away with hurting sex workers, because society says sex workers have no self-worth and are isolated. I was told multiple times that sex workers have a lifespan of 34 years -- maybe it has something to do with the way people treat sex workers as less than human, including within the comments on pieces about sex work. And some of the worst comments have come from other feminists, women who feel they have a right somehow to gaslight me, tell me I'm worthless, and treat me like an enemy, not like another woman, and all so that we "think of the poor victims" instead of thinking how those funds are misappropriated by people in power to line their own pockets. Funny that.
I think that in our consumerist society, we tend to judge people on what we think they're worth an awful lot, whatever their profession. I mean, I can't show up to the office wearing whatever I want, not having brushed my hair or teeth; no matter where you work, looking presentable is generally required. I don't think that's limited to sex work. But sex work is older than consumerism. It used to be sacred. And honestly, if I was in an environment where my housing and food needs were taken care of in a quality way, and if I didn't need money to get by the way we do now, I'd be a sacred whore, doing it for the energy and the exchange, not for the money.
But I don't live in that society. I need to put food on the table. If I want to be able to improve my life and quality of living, I need to make moola. I choose to do sex work, where I set my price and hours and vacation time myself (particularly in the U.S., where we have one of the lowest vacation time minimums in the Western world). I say, "This is what an hour of my time is worth to me," and if a person disagrees, they call someone else. That's OK. It narrows down whom I see into a bunch of folks who appreciate me in ways I would never be appreciated in the office cubicle world. And I have the control. I get to decide how I want to budget, whom I see and when, whom to be polite to, and whom to decline.
I didn't have that right when I was an admin.
As an independent sex prostitute I get to decide whom to see, so during my sessions, we tend to explore queer sexuality. My sexuality, mind; most of my clients are straight men, or at least thought they were when we started! And rarely, if ever, has it been about penis-in-vagina sex; men don't come to me for that, because I demand more out of them. I expect them to challenge their assumptions of what makes male and female, what is appropriate and what isn't. We discuss and explore power: who has it, and how, and why. I enjoy demonstrating that penetration is not a male act, or even something only men enjoy. I enjoy discussing sex, and gender and class. I like to help men in positions of power rethink femininity and feminism. My work is intellectually stimulating and challenging, and it uses my brainpower more than any other job I've had.
And yeah, I also like sex, and I like sex with men. How does that make me less of a feminist? As a sex worker, I set terms, I create clear and defined boundaries. Sex work has taught me how to say "no" and stick to it, including in my relationship with my fiancé. I don't see how that can possibly not be empowering for someone like me.
I am sick and tired of having to explain that, yeah, I do all that and I support women's rights. Yeah, I do feel empowered. I put on my lipstick not as an expression of femininity but as a queer femme. Don't take that agency away from me. I put on lipstick not because I feel less sexy without it or because men insist (I don't see the sort of men who would, though they do exist). I put on lipstick as an accessory, a piece of armor that tempts and marks me as "other." Lipstick is just the beginning of how I mark you as mine. It is part of my ritual. It is as much a part of calling down the Goddess for me as my bath or meditation before a session. My makeup is part of my process, and no, it's not for the client. It's for me. Who has the right to take that from me?
I don't need anyone's approval. That's what women's rights taught me. I may get misrepresented by the media. I may get slagged off by moralistic people. But I will demand acknowledgment. I am a feminist, and a whore.
And I exist.