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.
Until next time—be sweet to yourself.
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