I did not fully realise this until about a week ago, but I have a reflex of not showing the less glamorous parts of my job. When people ask me how work is, I will always tell them it is great, that I am having amazing experiences, mind-blowing connections with clients, how privileged I feel doing what I do. And that is true. But it is not the full story.
I was co-teaching a five day practitioner training in Conscious Kink in Melbourne last week with Seani Love, and one evening we had a discussion about different career options in the sex industry. I was going on about how much I loved the job, when a participant interjected and said: “Actually, it is not always that great. Let’s not forget it can be very hard work, and burn-outs are a real danger.”
And she was absolutely right.
The hard part
I have felt stressed out about my job often enough: last minute bookings, sudden changes of plan, tiring hours, demanding clients,you name it. Not long before this discussion I had been in tears over my work. I had just worked my first ever shift in a massage parlour, and while the experience had been a good one in general, it brought up all kinds of emotions. The direct experience of not being picked by particular clients brought up feelings of rejection and insecurity. The long waiting in-between sessions made me bored. The sessions themselves made me feel capable and generous and the connection with the other girls was wonderful. When I got home at the end of the day I was tired, crying and questioning my capability to work in this industry, while at the same time being excited about my experiences at my new job.
But when people asked me how my first shift was, I only told them the parts that were exciting. Because when I say I am a sex worker, an escort, that I work in a massage parlour, I fear that most people will assume the worst. They have heard many horror stories about the industry in the media but I am lucky that I don’t relate to these stories at all. So I tell them my side of the story, my direct experiences. I tell them why this is the most beautiful and rewarding job I have ever had. Why I abandoned an academic career to become a whore.
The stigma of sex work
And as true, important and beautiful as my stories are, I often catch myself omitting parts I don’t like. I don’t often talk about the stress a last-minute booking gives me, the cramp I get from wearing high heels, the waves of insecurity I get, the clients that are not interested in emotional connection at all. Or even just how taxing it can be to hold clients through their processes. I love it, but it is hard work.
I omit these bits because I don’t want to reinforce the negative stereotypes many people have about the sex industry. I am afraid that sharing one comment on the less glorious parts of my job will outshine all the ones I have made about how much I love it. Because that one comment will resonate with what people already know. The stigma around sex work is still massive, and it stops me from sharing my negative experiences.
It stops me from asking for the support I need.
Because the last thing I need after a particularly challenging session is a discussion about the dangers of my job. After a hard day I might need a hug, a cup of tea, or a back rub. Just like anyone else after a hard day at the office.
The fear of feeding the stigma against sex work makes me shut up about my challenges. Because this work is so beautiful, so valuable, and there is already so much prejudice against it. My colleagues and I provide our clients with much-needed intimacy and bliss, teach them about their own bodies, and show them how to please others. We are at the forefront of making this world more sex-positive and consent-aware.
We are pioneers. And while pioneering is beautiful and adventurous, it can also be exhausting. Does that mean we have to give up? No, of course not. It just means we need some support every now and then.
Sex work is work, and just like any other job there are good days and bad days. I’d love to be able to share my bad days as well as my good days without the fear of having to defend my entire industry.
The stigma of sex work stops me from asking for the support I need. The stigma of sex work makes my job much harder than it really is. So please hear my stories when I tell you why I love my job, why I chose this career. Spread those stories. Help to make the stigma smaller. And please ask me what I need when I tell you about a hard day.
Thank you <3