I’m so happy to see you here. If you’re holding this book in your hands, I’m guessing you’re a sex worker. So am I. Let me tell you about my first call as a working girl.
San Francisco, January 17, 1991. I’d been stripping at the Lusty Lady peepshow for about a year. Twenty-two years old, fresh out of college, I was a shapely, fair-skinned brunette cultivating a smart-and-sexy persona by wearing nerd glasses on stage. I was making great money, raising hell and riding high. I’d done girl-on-girl shows with other dancers and a few professional domination sessions with a friend, but up to that point, the job felt removed, like a sexy game. Now it was about to get real.
That night, I was going to the home of a major politician, a bit of a Big Damned Deal, sent by a fellow Lusty who had been working for a madam for the past few years. This client—I’ll call him J—was her regular and always eager to see new girls.
My friend prepped me as best she could: J was brusque, not a conversationalist. In fact, the more he talked, the less he liked you. He’ll be all over you the minute you walk in the door, she warned, and he was energetic in bed. But she assured me if I told him I didn’t like something, he would stop. All of this had me nervous enough without the kicker—I was a birthday surprise from J’s girlfriend, M, and she was going to be there, too.
I prepared like a bride on her wedding day—showering, shaving, inspecting every inch of my body for flaws. I was sure I’d show up and be rejected after one look. My mind spun out all kinds of crazy scenarios.
That evening, nothing went how I’d imagined. J opened the door, a shaggy lion of a man wearing a bathrobe. M, a foxy, petite Latina, stood in flawless black lingerie, stockings, and high heels. They whisked me off to the bedroom, lit with dozens of candles, in exactly two seconds flat. I guess they liked me just fine.
The scene was alien yet familiar. Although I was terrified, I also felt exhilarated and fascinated. Instinct kicked in, and while I had never had such spontaneous and strenuous sex with two strangers before, I knew when to act, when to react, and how to shift the energy when it all got to be too much. So did M, apparently, because after about fifteen minutes, without saying a word, she got up and left the room. When she didn’t return, it became clear she had left altogether. Um . . . wow.
Nothing in my instinct kit had prepared me for that possibility. J, however, didn’t blink. He kept at his sexy fun for a few minutes more, finished, and then we lay there in the post-coital glow. I asked about M. He just shrugged—maybe she got bored. We chatted a few minutes more, then, in the most gallant fashion, he paid me and threw me out.
I stepped out into the foggy San Francisco night holding two crisp one hundred dollar bills, my body tingling. I was mortified because somehow I had offended M, and J would never want to see me again. But no matter. I’d crossed a line: I was a prostitute now. I knew I should feel bad, but for the life of me, I couldn’t think why. Instead, I was on fire.
I had no way of knowing it then, but that night shaped the broad contours of the next fifteen years of my life. It turned out J liked me bunches, becoming my best client and remaining a friend to this day. I developed a loyal clientele. Earning stacks of bills would always be erotically charged, making me feel richer than my wildest dreams.
The Life gave me a life I loved: I earned the down payment for my first house as a call girl. I traveled to Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, and Timbuktu on my ill-gotten gains. I earned my first master’s degree on my own schedule and got my second master’s without student loans. Along the way, I paid off more than one hundred thousand dollars in debt, and when I hung up my phone for the last time, I had six figures in the bank set aside for my retirement. Just like that first night, I never lost the feeling that prostitution was my calling. Although stigma placed me squarely outside the protections of polite society, I knew I was born for the work and never felt ashamed. I learned things I couldn’t have learned any other way. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. However, it never came easy.
Striking out as an escort on my own, I encountered the terrors of screening strangers, risking my living situation, my legal status, my life. Friends in the industry helped keep me sane, but I never felt I measured up to their beauty or success. I dated both clients and civilians but wrestled with jealousy and sharing my hard-earned cash. I’d obsess that clients, cops, or the IRS would leave me penniless. Over time, I grew rageful, finding slights and hypocrisies everywhere. I struggled with loneliness and isolation. And always, always, always, my situation felt precarious. In an instant, something horrible could happen and I’d be an ex-hooker, washed up and unemployable . . . or worse. It never ended well for people like me in the movies.
I retired more than a decade ago, and those years have given me perspective. I can see now that some of that pain was just a part of being alive, but a lot of it I brought upon myself. I don’t want that same fate for you, Sexy Reader.
I wrote this book because my twenty-two-year-old stripper self used to react like a Roomba to the contradictory messages from life inside a peepshow booth, and because my thirty-three-year-old call girl self was racked by anxieties and hair-curling rage. I wrote this as a love letter to my sex worker friends and all their fears and heartaches, and as a tribute to those lost along the way. I wrote this for workers I’ve never met but only read about online—the whip-smart escort who loves her job but thinks she’ll never get married. The pro dom sobbing at home alone after a client beat her up, who needs to keep working because she hasn’t made rent. The day-spa masseur doing full service on the side, who now has to come clean to his boyfriend because a condom broke with a client. This is tough emotional stuff—sex work ain’t for sissies.
If anyone can learn from my mistakes, feel less alone, or face the work with more clarity, then this book has achieved its purpose. Because sex is far too important to leave to amateurs. There always have been and always will be sex professionals, at least until the invention of the sexborg. We deserve to be safe, whole, healthy, and gratified while we do it. Let us find our way there together.
With my whole heart—
P.S. If you want to learn more about my work history, positionality, or cred, flip to my biography in the appendix and study up!