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Sex workers are a profoundly diverse group of individuals, with wildly different backgrounds, circumstances, and work tactics. But I’ve been around the block enough times to know that within this corner of our lives, our experiences often coincide. On a near-daily basis, I recognize another escort displaying the signs of an attitude I too once held. So without further ado, here are five common hooker states of mind that I suspect most of you will recognize, in others if not in yourself.
Everyone Must Know — The most embarrassing, cringe-inducing mindset is also one of the earliest to appear among a subset of privileged, politicized, very young sex workers. Think about the worst qualities of most middle class college kids: their naiveté, which they’re (naively) convinced is actually a very sophisticated and hard-earned understanding of the world; their youthful earnestness; their awkward, hyper-self aware social skills or lack thereof. Throw in a job at the local strip club/jack shack/full service incall and it’s a recipe for humiliating disaster. I was convinced that I could single handedly eliminate at least, like, 50% of the stigma around sex work by making it clear that I — a white, educated, intelligent young woman! — was selling sexual services and was TOTALLY EMOTIONALLY FINE and THRIVING and indeed, STILL WHITE AND EDUCATED in spite of it.
This will be me someday! Or not.
(Image from Prowess Pole Fitness)
For the right type of woman, sex work is contagious. Maybe she can’t resist stripping after finding out a friend is doing it, or maybe, if she’s like me, all it takes is one article about an upscale escort to render it a personal life goal. I think of myself as relatively well-rounded in the sex industry because I’ve worked on webcam, in a sensual massage incall, done fetish sessions, and (obviously) prostituted. But there are still some things I haven’t done and want to try. I asked around a little and apparently I’m not the only one with a burning curiosity to explore more aspects of the field. Welcome to our new Tits and Sass column, My Sex Work Bucket List.
1) Work in a ritzy Australian brothel. This one’s all on you, Satisfaction. I guess it’s true that those glamorous TV shows make innocent girls want to become escorts. (Innocent, already-escorting-but-not-in-Australia girls.)
2) Strip. It’s insane to me that I’ve never done this. I almost feel like escorting without having stripped first is like smoking crack before even eating a pot brownie. (I say that as someone who has actually smoked crack, and yes, the experience is exactly like escorting! Just kidding; crack is more fun. I’ve also never eaten a pot brownie but I’m open to the idea.) [READ MORE]
An Intimate Life might not exist if not for The Sessions, last year’s Oscar-nominated film fictionalizing the experience of sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene and her client Mark O’Brien. From the blurbs by actors Helen Hunt and John Hawkes to the book’s pictures of Cohen Greene posing next to the stars, it’s obvious the publishers were guessing most readers would come to the memoir through the movie. I hope it finds a wider audience than that, though, because it could have a big impact on the lives of the sexually misinformed, anxious, and ashamed. Through a combination of vignettes about several of her clients and the recounting of her own sexual awakenings, Cohen Greene offers a blue print on expanding one’s sexual life. As one reviewer on Amazon wrote, “Thank you from my heart and penis.” Sounds like something one of my guys would say.
Awesomely, Cohen Greene opens the book with her number of sexual partners (900) but perhaps less awesomely, she follows that immediately with an explanation of why she’s not a prostitute. I admit that I’m probably a little oversensitive to this, but what is she trying to say exactly? Does she think there’s something wrong with being a prostitute? You don’t come around these parts blowing that horn, Madam. While I imagine Cohen Greene is not someone who would sneer at or shame prostitutes, it’s a little suspicious that she so regularly wants to distance herself from us. For her, the difference in our work is “significant”:
- prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, while surrogacy is new
- intercourse is not the majority or totality of the interaction
- her ultimate aim is to “model a healthy intimate relationship”
- she’s focused on resolving problems and achieving goals rather than simply providing a sexual experience
Her favorite metaphor is that going to see a prostitute is like going to a restaurant but going to see a surrogate is like attending culinary school, the implication being that prostitutes don’t teach their clients anything.
Part of me gets it. But another part of me thinks she might not know many escorts.
The unfortunate thing about a film as honest as After Porn Ends is how disingenuously it can be used by those with an anti-porn bias. The Huffington Post declared that the film “reveals the dark side” of the porn industry, an angle that LA Weekly and Inquisitr, solely based on a viewing of the trailer, echoed—as though porn is usually regarded by the public as harmless and wholesome as Disney films. But After Porn Ends, much like porn itself, embraces all comers. (Heh heh insert stupid pun here.) There’s room for the born-again Christians who crusade against the industry on a whole, just as there’s room for former performers who say “I’m happy I did it” and “[being in porn] has changed me for the better.” Each subject is given plenty of nonjudgmental camera time, salacious details are few and far between, and there’s a refreshing lack of ominous or plaintive music played over the dialogue. Aside from one mean-spirited moment of editing, when Mary Carey is shown checking with someone off-camera to make sure she pronounces “unprecedented” correctly before talking about her run for California governor, the filmmakers seem respectful and gentle with their subjects. How could they be otherwise? One of film’s focuses is how stigmatized performers are by the same civilians who regularly consume their work. [READ MORE]