My name is Lola Davina.
My name is pronounced LO-la Dah-VEE-nah; she/her pronouns.
I was born in 1968 to a middle-class nuclear family of European descent. Although I haven’t done any kind of sex work for more than a decade now, I consider myself to be a sex worker. Those experiences inform my sexuality and my career path. The most succinct description of my identity is bi/queer/transphile/cis-blurry female-identified sex worker, although that that really doesn’t explain the half of it.
As a kid, I was always fascinated by the adult industry. I can recall knowing about three kinds of sex work: stripping, pornography, and prostitution, and later on learning there was this other thing called “phone sex.” At the age of ten, I wrote in my journal, “I want to grow up to become a prostitute.” Don’t ask me why. . .
Ever goal-oriented, when I graduated from college in 1989 and moved to San Francisco, I made a to-do list: volunteer in the raging AIDS crisis, work as a cocktail waitress, and spend two hundred hours stripping. In my budding researcher’s mind, these constituted a “real world” internship. So, I signed up to deliver Open Hand meals to people living with HIV/AIDS. I got myself hired at a Cuban salsa joint, slinging booze. And one dark, rainy day in January 1990, I auditioned my way on to the stage of the Lusty Lady, a live peep show theater.
The Lusty was not your typical strip joint. Back then, it was an epicenter of Riot Grrrl punk, ACT-UP fueled activism, and sex-positivity. Those two years taught me sex workers are kickass rule-breakers, making the world a better place, all the while looking fabulous. I met some of the fiercest, most fun, ferociously brilliant people, several I’m lucky enough to call my closest friends today.
Someone once said stripping is a gateway drug. Fellow Lustys paved my way to professional domination and prostitution. I didn’t have what it took for contact stripping, but I made porn videos, ran sex parties, wrote erotica, and worked briefly for a madam, whiling away a couple of stupendously boring afternoons in a brothel.
So, I consider myself someone who has directly experienced much of the sex industry, albeit in a specific place and time. Additionally, I’ve read a broad cross-section of academic sex work research, as well as followed the popular dialogue on sex work online up to the present day. I’ve also been on the client side of the exchange, visiting strip clubs and purchasing the services of pro doms and escorts.
My time working for other people is limited, since I mostly worked with and for women I considered my peers, not laboring under a typical employee/management dynamic. Without exception, I worked inside: apartments, porn sets, dungeons, a brothel, or sex parties, almost exclusively in the Bay Area. When I traveled for work, it was always to upscale hotels—I could have been anywhere in the money-bubble world.
While working, I earned an M.A. in Human Sexuality Studies, and later, an M.S. in Nonprofit Fundraising. It’s always been about sex and money for me—go figure. My human sexuality master’s thesis was on sex work and Social Contact Theory. My research found that people who personally know a stripper, porn actor, pro dom, or prostitute are more likely to have a favorable impression of both the sex industry and sex workers than people who don’t know anyone in the Biz—just something to keep in mind next time you’re wondering whether to come out.
As for my personal life while working, there were stretches when I was single. I dated several butch lesbians who weren’t threatened by my job, living for a time with one woman while I worked out of our apartment. I dated several couples and a few clients, mostly disastrously, until one stuck, so I married him.
Finally, in my post-sex work career, I’m a writer, educator, fundraiser, and playwright.