What is Sex Work?

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Sugarbabies Unite! (sort of.)

For some, the jury is out on whether being a sugarbaby counts as sex work, for others it’s pretty clear that it is. The ladies of Tits and Sass think it is, even if we don’t all have the same opinion on it. So, we decided to have a little Sugarbaby Roundtable on the topic. What could be better than the opportunity to share experiences, especially when the subject at hand is generally treated like a secret?

Confessions of a Professional Dater

The term “sex worker” usually makes me cringe. By most people’s standards, as an escort, I certainly fall into that occupational category. Living in a country where prostitution is illegal in all but a single state means that labeling myself a “sex worker” is hardly pragmatic. Besides, to call men like myself (straight male escorts) “sex workers” is almost insulting. How great would my life be if I could just sell sex? I have very few clients whose primary interest in retaining my services is sexual intercourse, or even sexual physical contact. Critics of the show I happen to be a part of have no frame of reference for what my profession entails. I will be the first to admit that the show, with eight 30-minute episodes per season, is not exactly made to be educational. Those critics have said repeatedly that women don’t have to pay to get laid. I have said repeatedly that they are correct, but that both women and men most definitely pay for “sex.”

I was raised on the Discovery Channel. Both of my parents were educators and naturally curious people. In my home growing up, there was no shortage of animals fucking on our TV screen. Those scenes were usually over in a matter of seconds, as compared to the sometimes hours of observation and analysis of the courtship rituals that led up to the act. It’s always been fascinating to me that although sexual intercourse among mammals is pretty much homogeneous, the courtship rituals and mating systems that get individuals to the act are incredibly diverse. That (entire process) is “sex.” Intercourse is by far the least interesting aspect. It’s a series of hip thrusts in a few positions. The mating game that happens before intercourse, on the other hand, is captivating. For us human animals living in the “modern world,” our mating game is the world of dating. I am a sex worker, but I am primarily a “professional dater.”

Talking Dirty with Tonya Jone Miller


I was flipping through BUST magazine last month when I came across a story about a Portland-based phone sex operator who makes all sorts of cash talking about food fetishes. Impressed and intrigued, the first thing that came to my mind was my all-time favorite South Park episode where Stan’s dad gets caught jerking off while watching the Food Network late at night. After his wife blocks the channel, he starts calling the Food Network hotline and talks to a sultry-voiced woman about deglazing and how moist the pan roasted chicken is. So when I heard about Tonya Jone Miller, I was beyond thrilled to think that conversations like this really happen in the non-animated world, and that a real live woman might be getting rich bringing foodie fantasies to life.
To my disappointment, Tonya tells me that the food fetish thing isn’t super-common but was a fun angle for the story, which appeared in BUST’s food issue. She is, however, a successful, full-time indie phone sex operator with plenty to say about her business.

A “Whore” of Many Colors

I just want to know what these people want from us. They argue over which term to use like we are animals, where using the wrong genus actually matters. It is not difficult to figure out. We are sex workers because we use our sexuality to make money, period. All of us: strippers, escorts, dominas, whatever. It is an umbrella term because we can all fit under it. Why is that so hard? Why do they need everybody to be ultra specific before they can tuck themselves in at night?

I know why: this isn’t really about trying to figure out what to call us. This is the kind of classification you use so you know how to react to someone, you know what I mean? They want to know which kind of sex work we do so they can know how to treat us, because “sex work” doesn’t have the same hateful baggage as “whore” or “stripper” does for some people, and it is hard to throw at someone. “This is one sex worker with chutzpah” just doesn’t have the same sting; it sounds like something you say to an equal, not something you say to classify another group of women as less worth respect than you are. I’m looking at you, Andrea Peyser.

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