When I started escorting a few years ago, I thought it would be a fun and adventurous thing to do. I thought I’d stick with it for perhaps a year or so. I had just graduated, and as the economic crisis was still holding large parts of Europe hostage there were no interesting jobs in my field anyway. So I might as well try this exciting thing called “sex work” I’d heard so much about.
I did try, and after some years of working as an escort, brothel worker, and now independent whatever-I-am I can honestly say it was one of those truly great life choices.
Because it has been fun and adventurous: the fancy dinners, high heels, pretty dresses, and finally learning how to do my make-up. I have been in pretty much all the posh hotels in Amsterdam and London. I know how to confidently order wine, even if I have absolutely no idea what I am ordering. My lingerie collection is worth more than the laptop I am writing this on. So yeah, all that.
But mostly because of reasons I would never have guessed. It is not for nothing that that one year of fun stretched into three, and I have no intention of quitting.
I let sex work take over my life, because I have never done work more deeply satisfying than this.
I get to see people in their most open and vulnerable state. I get to touch them in places and ways they have never been touched before. They confess their darkest fantasies, and I get to take them by the hand to explore them. I have people cry in my arms within an hour of meeting. I get to play with all kinds of bodies, learning new things every time. In short: I get to connect with a range of humans that is wider than I could ever have imagined.
When the masks come off, my clients are no longer the CEO, the busy parent, or the manager. They become just human, connecting with another human. Having that kind of intimacy on a daily basis brings me more joy and satisfaction than any other job ever could.
Seeing the effects I have on clients has boosted my self-confidence. The look on their face when they start to really feel the pleasure of a simple touch is just priceless. Or when they talk about a long-hidden fantasy for the first time and see that I am getting excited by it. Or when they leave after a good session, walking with just a little more confidence than when they came in.
Plus: You can only have so many adoring looks before they start to have an effect. It is simply really nourishing for the soul to hear lovely things about yourself daily, from so many different people. I remember looking in the mirror just before a session about three months after I’d started and thinking; “Wow… I would pay to spend time with me…”
Then there is the money. I truly love how I do not have to toil away 40 hours a week in an office just to pay the bills. Sure I work hard, but on my own terms. If I need to go for a walk in the woods, I can. I can sleep in whenever I want to, or start work early if that feels better. I can do proper self care by going to yoga when I feel stressed. Or even get a massage. If I plan ahead, I can be flexible with my time and be mostly without worries about money.
I am in the privileged position of doing a job I really like. I can choose who I work with, and I turn away about half of the people who inquire. This is quite privileged not only for the sex industry, but also in general. Most people in any industry do not have this luxury.
So yes, I absolutely love my job. Even if I have hard days too sometimes. But in a way, this should not matter.
Sure, thanks for caring. But we need to talk about this on a deeper level. Because whether or not I like my job is often seen a a measure for how easy and safe it should be for me to do it. This is a situation unique to the sex industry and it highlights the problematic way many people still view sex work.
We don’t ask the barista, the plumber, or the mail person whether they really like their job as a measure of whether their industry should be criminalised. Imagine criminalising the whole clothing industry because of bad working conditions in some factories. Or health care. No, we understand that people who work under bad conditions need labour rights. That that is going to help them much more than criminalising their jobs. Why is this so difficult to understand when it comes to the sex industry?
In the Netherlands this debate is very current. Our newly formed government has two Christian parties in its coalition, and a law that was supposed to better the position of sex workers has now been tweaked in such a way that it is actually really harmful. If the law is passed sex workers will have to register and put an actual sign on their house (!). In a society where being a sex worker still comes with a lot of stigma, this does not seem like the most safe thing to do. Also, profiting from unlicensed sex work will be a criminal act. So if I decide not to register (because of said sign, and the very difficult and expensive process of applying for a permit) I not only risk fines and even jail time myself, but I also bring this risk to anyone I work with. A driver who picks me up so I don’t have to walk home in the middle of the night could be charged for example. Or a colleague who I pay to be my safety line for the evening. Laws like this one make it harder for me to do my job and stay safe.
Whether I love my job or not, having strong labour rights is always going to be better for my position than criminalisation. Yes, even someone who was trafficked and is being coerced into doing sex work is going to better off if they can go to the police without fear of being persecuted. Human trafficking and sexual assault are already illegal, we do not need special laws for the sex industry to stop these things. Laws specific to the sex industry cause more harm than good.
Decriminalisation means sex workers can form collectives, can take security measures, and can do their job just like anyone else regardless of how much they enjoy it. But that means trusting the women (and others) in the industry in their ability to make choices for themselves. Trusting that even if they do not like the job as much as I do, it is still their choice to continue doing it. Maybe because of the money, or the flexible working hours. Maybe because they simply enjoy sex, or because it combines well with raising children. It doesn’t matter.
It is not up to us to decide what is good for others. We need to create a situation where sex workers are empowered to choose what is best for ourselves. Strong labour rights will be a great step forward in this.
Trust sex workers, decriminalise sex work.
Rosie Enorah Heart