Why do it?


Serpent Libertine posted recently about why someone comes a sex worker. While I’ve often been pressed by others to answer this question, the older I get, the more I wonder about myself.

Why did I become a sex worker? I don’t know. It just kind of happened. It was the money, certainly. After six years in food service, the idea of another soul-crushing food service job was enough to make me have a nervous breakdown. I’d quit a prior food service job after inadvertently zonking myself out on Ambien in the face of having to go back into work the next day. (And they say sex work is emotionally damaging.) I didn’t have the skills or the credentials to get any other job. All the resumes I sent out didn’t make my phone ring.

There’s more to it than that. The money is certainly a pull.  It’s naive to pretend like the money isn’t a big factor for people going into sex work. Yet that can’t be it. There has to be more behind it.

I think, on some level, I’d always thought I’d be a sex worker. When I was a kid, I read this murder mystery about a murder in a strip club. As Christian and as upright as I was, I thought there was something glamorous about strippers. (Granted, I didn’t actually know what happens in a strip club.) I had an attraction to the work, though it took much longer for my attitudes about my body and sex to catch up.

Partly, I think I wanted to be paid for what was already being taken for free. My entire life, I’ve been told that I’m pretty. I’m not actually convinced that this is the truth. Something about me is apparently attractive to men. When I hit puberty, I became acutely aware of the collective leer of Men. The catcalls, the sexual harassment at my series of shitty food service jobs, the unwanted advances. Not the overt brutality of attack. But enough that it felt wrong to me. Enough that I felt like there must be something dirty about myself. And if it happens, shouldn’t it be on my conditions and I be paid?

Enter in here the years of self-destruction. Thus, by the time I was considering becoming a sex worker, I was taking the first baby steps toward recovery.

How do I explain this properly? I had not expected to live past the age I was when I entered the industry. And, suddenly faced with the prospect that I would live, and more over, I would have a future, I had no idea what to do with my life. I needed to do something that wouldn’t take up all my time, that would allow me to not worry about money, focus my energies on the therapy and recovery.

After I left, coming back was equally about the money. During the year or so in between, I considered quitting and going back often. Going back became an issue of financial concern. I needed money again.

I know that I don’t have to do this. I can get a “straight” job. I can get my ducks in a row and join the world. The money would suck. But I can do it.

But I don’t. And here’s why. At the end of the day, money, issues, whatever aside, all that Happy Hooker nonsense aside, you have to enjoy sex work. If you don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t be in sex work. If it’s unbearable and you hate it and everyday you hate yourself, you should get out. But then there are those of us who like it. I get to play. I get to meet interesting people. I get to set my own schedule. I get to travel.

Does this mean there are things I hate about the job? No. But at the end of the day, the good outweighs the bad. Call me privileged or whatever all you fucking want. I’m not ignorant to the realities, to my privileges, to my obligations. I don’t know if I’m a feminist, if this is feminist.

It comes down to this. There are a set of societal conditions that I live in and can’t escape. I choose how I navigate them.


One Response to “Why do it?”

  1. I’m right there with you. I agree the money is the main attraction, but if you don’t enjoy being sexual with people the money means nothing. I was a dancer for several years and the transitition to paid sex work seems almost seamless.

    Anyway, in the end, as long as you’re happy with what you’re doing, that’s all that really matters. 😉

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