Content warning—the following contains descriptions of underage sex work and an adult fantasizing about sexual activity with a pre-teenage child.
I don’t know how I started seeing Jeff. I can’t remember meeting him, or what the first session was like, or what he looked like in clothes. I just remember when it turned.
Jeff was a big money client for me at the time. It was my first year as a pro-domme and I worked in the sketchiest dungeon in town. Jeff would book me out for the entire night, freeing me from having to charm individual clients during meet and greets and guaranteeing me enough cash to cover my rent. He was easy too: the session was almost entirely verbal and consisted of my languishing on a velvet padded throne and rattling staccato words at him while hoovering lines of cocaine off the mirror in my Chanel compact. He would sit at my feet, cross-legged and hunched over, slavishly masturbating and smoking poorly rolled joints. He requested that I wear street clothes during one of our early sessions. I returned to the room, minus the latex, in what I had arrived at work in: platform boots, skintight ripped up jeans, and a tube top. I could tell he was hoping for something different, and he came to our next appointment with a small plastic shopping bag.
After I took Jeff’s money and dutifully handed it over to the biker who ran the place, I went into the dressing room to inspect the contents of the bag: a very small pair of shorts and a very small camisole, both in the lightest shade of pink, made of waffle knit cotton. There was a second where I wanted to sit down and cry. I was never molested as a child, but for some reason introducing the specter of childhood into an S&M session disturbed me more than anything else I did at work. From my first day on the job, I had a preternatural ability to perform acts of severe subjugation without being affected by them. I could fist a guy’s ass, piss in his mouth, beat him until he bled, and it didn’t touch me. It didn’t disgust me or traumatize me or make me feel much of anything aside from the intoxication of desire and the masturbatory pleasure of receiving the cash. But the kid stuff fucked with me. Calling it “age play,” the euphemism of choice in BDSM circles creeped me out even more. I didn’t ever want to be called Mommy and I didn’t ever want to play a little girl. Even though I was just seventeen, technically under the age of legality for sex work in New York, I felt like an adult at work, and I wanted to keep it like that.
Working for the biker, I didn’t have a lot of leeway to refuse sessions, certainly not for reasons as fussy and nebulous as emotional discomfort. Plus, I was extremely unlikely to turn a six hour session down for any reason at all. And Jeff was nice. He always brought bottles of wine, never tried to touch me or share my cocaine, and, once he regressed into his stoned helpless session-self, he was very docile and easy to deal with. So I peeled off my garter belt, stockings, and corset, and pulled the little pink outfit on. I didn’t know what to do with my feet. The six inch black stilettos I had on looked pretty wrong with the candy stripper underthings, but I couldn’t exactly go barefoot, could I?
I realized as I marched back towards the session room that I didn’t even remember what Jeff liked to talk about in session. I knew it was all verbal, but what did his fantasy even consist of? The blank that I was drawing was perplexing, but I knew from experience that once I had a few lines in me, everything would flow out, the words thick and hot and exactly right. I didn’t really need my mind as long as I had my vocabulary.
“Mistress, I brought some pictures today,” he sputtered as soon as I entered the room. I could tell from the urgency of his voice, like a kettle left boiling, that I had taken too long getting ready. It took a second to wedge my dominatrix entitlement over my codependent desire to please, but just a second. The job was teaching me fast.
“Sit down. I’m not ready to hear from you yet. Understand?” He nodded, chastened, and folded his doughy body into a pretzel at the foot of my throne. I had to step over him to sit down, and just as my ass was about to hit the seat, he spoke again.
“Mistress? I’m very sorry but may I ask you something please?”
“What is it?”
“Would you be able to take off your shoes?”
Jeff wasn’t a foot guy, I remembered that much. He wasn’t really an anything guy, not compared to my other clients with more specific fetishes, at least. He didn’t want a beating or an ass fucking or a golden shower or bondage. He just wanted to sit at my feet and get fucked up and talk. So the removal of the shoes held a higher purpose for him, one that I understood a few minutes later, when he showed me the pictures he had brought with him.
As soon as I tapped the cocaine out of its little vial and snorted it up my nose, I remembered how Jeff’s sessions went. I felt his cloying hand on my shin as my face went numb, and by the time he asked “are we going to talk about Sarah?” I was ready to play ball. His fantasy entered the room without entering me. I saw it, smelled it, tasted it, even touched it, but it existed outside my own mind. Jeff was sexually obsessed with his very young step daughter—Sarah—and came to me to talk about his fantasies of touching her. As soon as he sat down and started smoking his joints, he regressed to approximately her age. I could see and hear it: his body became languid like a child’s, his voice got high and his diction slurred. His fantasy wasn’t to be an adult molester, it was to be a child with her, to be forced into sexual activity with each other by a twisted, manipulative adult. That was my job. The fantasies I fed him were threats of what I would make them do to each other, together. He said her name over and over again, and so did I, and when I pronounced it with the crisp diction of my cocaine high, his cock jumped and his whole body shuddered.
This had been going on, I presume, for all of our sessions. The combination of denial and drugs had allowed me to neatly compartmentalize it, to leave the hideous scene inside the session room when I closed the door behind myself. I didn’t acknowledge the sessions enough to rationalize them, but even so, I had this justification at the ready. By facilitating Jeff’s fantasies and providing him a place to release them, I was protecting this little girl. I was allowing him to be a fantasy molester, in order to prevent him from being an actual molester. It was practically social service.
Everything had been fine, the tightly wound strings of my oblivion and his obsession taut against each other, supporting the whole experience for both of us, until he showed me the picture. I could say the girl’s name, and know she was real, and wear the outfit that I knew in the pit of my stomach was a version of one she wore. But the picture was too much. It wasn’t pornography or even at all suggestive. It was just a snapshot, of a brown-haired little girl, maybe nine or ten years old, in a pink playsuit. She was smiling in that unselfconscious way that she would only be able to smile for a few more years, the way that we can no longer smile once we feel men looking at us. She was innocent and perfect, and she was you and me and every other girl, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t look at Jeff’s greasy hand stroking his dick, I couldn’t breathe the stench of his sour breath and his bad weed, I couldn’t cosign this moral abomination for one more moment.
That was the moment that I learned that I could have limits. I thought being a sex worker meant relinquishing all limits, and that I had given up the right to be disturbed by anything. I thought so because I had come to sex work alone, underage, and under the tutelage of a predatory man. But I found that boundary in the session room with Jeff, staring into Sarah’s limpid brown eyes, and I asserted it.
I didn’t finish the session that night, and I never saw Jeff again. I think about him occasionally, but what I really mean is that I think about Sarah. Was I a friend or an enemy to her? Had I helped her, or harmed her? Did she even exist, or was she the figment of a sexually tortured mind? She would be about 25 now. I hope, against logic and likelihood, that she is still smiling that self-possessed smile she had when she was ten.