23 Things I Wish I'd Known: #14: Sex Work Doesn't Have to Be Fun

At age 22, I started stripping. For the next fifteen years I worked off and on as a dominatrix, porn actress, and escort.

Now I’m 49.

Here are 23 things I know now that I wished I’d known then:

#14: Sex work doesn’t have to be fun. In fact, often it’s often a better job when it’s not.

When I first started out in sex work in my twenties, I needed it to thrill me. I wanted to turned on, literally and figuratively, taking me places I’d never been before. I’d say “yes” to anything, just because someone asked, so I ended up doing all kinds of crazy shit — having sex with clients on a bunk bed in a lesbian punk rocker’s apartment where I was cat sitting. Travelling to sketchy parts of town without anyone knowing where I was going. Stepping into three-ways already in progress with perfect strangers. I met all kinds of people, had all kinds of adventures, and made fast cash along the way.

This had a serious downside — I had zero skills for when things turned not fun. I’d scream at club patrons and get them eighty-sixed for looking at me funny. I’d kick clients out of my apartment for tiny infractions, then get paranoid they’d retaliate and not answer my phone for days. One afternoon I walked out of a strip club mid-shift because I was bored. I didn’t have any strategies for keeping an even keel for the long run.

When I came back to sex work in my thirties, my outlook was completely different. Sex was a job now, a means to an end. I didn’t expect it to entertain me — it was simply the fastest way I knew to make money. My number one goal was avoiding burnout.

Something unexpected happened when sex work was no longer a sport, but a routine that required a healthy body and clear mind: the experience vastly improved. I screened rigorously, knowing a single asshole could rattle me for a week. I enforced my rules without hesitation or guilt, because I knew I’d regret letting down my guard, even with clients I liked. I kept regular hours, rather than turning on my phone only when I felt like it. This improved the quality of my clientele and made my earnings more predictable. I fired marginal clients to be available for better ones. In other words, I upped my game. Sex work became satisfying in a way it never had before.

Here’s the other thing — once I achieved some distance and discipline, I could enjoy those fun moments without getting drunk on the power or the sex or the cash, but then let it go, because I knew it wasn’t personal and knew it wouldn’t last. I wouldn’t get bent out of shape chasing more of that high.

Balance is the key to life. Getting to a place where you see the job clearly and understand how it motivates you, without allowing it to pull you out of orbit – whether you’re having a good day or a bad one — is the very best place to work from. Finding that place where the world makes sense and the work makes sense and you make sense, that is true power.

I offer my best advice on keeping your head in my new book, Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industrynow available in paperback and as an ebook.

Until next time—be sweet to yourself.


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