CW: Discussions of sex work, abuse, sexual abuse, blackmail
Most people think that sex workers are essentially prostitutes, women walking the street offering passers by sex in exchange for money. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sex work is a vast and highly varied field of work, ranging from the well known FSSW (Full Service Sex Worker) to people like myself who never once engaged in sexual intercourse. If you are interested in looking at the more common myths about sex work, I would suggest checking out Vice’s article on the topic, “Common Myths About Sex Work, Debunked by Sex Workers.”
I can already see the comments pointing out asexual people wouldn’t get into sex work, so I’ll state this:
- Asexual people can and do have sex, they just don’t feel sexual attraction to other people.
- Not all sex worker jobs involve sexual intercourse or even physical touch.
- I never had physical sex with anyone during my time as a sex worker. (“sexless” sex work is a thing few people think of when it comes to sex work, as most of the time news and media focus on types that result in sexual intercourse occurring)
After my daughter was born in 2003, I found myself in need of funding that couldn’t be covered through WIC or my minimum wage job. I started looking for odds and ends jobs and found myself being interviewed via emails with someone who was looking for video clips and pictures of “lactating breasts” and breasts with scars. As someone who not only was lactating, but who had scars due to a breast reduction, I agreed to the contract they offered and sold several clips and images of my torso (and hands in some shots) with the emphasis on my breasts.
When that contract was finished (I’d stopped lactating), I went looking for other work, now knowing there was a market for selling shots and clips of myself doing various tasks. I drew hard lines at showing my face or even the majority of my body, though I did sell a few videos of myself spreading my labia and a few shots of that area for a one time contract with a buyer.
One person I contracted with learned I was a writer and referred me to some people looking for someone to write erotica and smut for them. I worked with under an assumed name and outside of payment for my work, I requested that if it was used in a larger publication or piece to not place my name or even my assumed name with it as I didn’t want to risk it coming back to me. It was honestly quite fun writing erotic scenes, as I was given a set of requirements for each party to do during the scenes, but it was up to me how it all went down. I also found people on message boards and video games who were willing to either pay in game currency or real world cash for erotic roleplay (something I still engage in from time to time).
I led a double life for a long time, making money by selling pictures of my breasts, writing erotica, and role playing with people. I even for a while got into some of the fetish areas through Fetlife, where I would answer requests for various actions such as “masturbate a hot dog with your feet” or my personal favorite, “blindfold Mr. Peaches and finger him until I cum” (It was a live video and they gave various instructions during it such as how to finger the peach, to peel back the skin and rub the exposed flesh, lots of stuff that I just shrugged and went along with). It was a great way to make some money when I was between jobs or when I was struggling to get bills paid.
No one touched me or even saw my face, and I was happy with the arrangements I had with my clients.
These arrangements worked well with my sexuality, as I never had to pretend to “enjoy sex” or even masturbate (I also had a really low libido at the time), as I was providing a service for people so they could get off while I was able to remain detached and focus on skills such as my writing or on my dexterity (I can pick things up with my toes still). I picked up jobs when I needed some extra funds, or whenever I felt extra creative in the cases of writing, and I enjoyed what I did. I made people happy and made a nice profit at the same time.
The problems started around 2008–20010, when I was dating a man who I would later be forced to not only get restraining orders against, but go into hiding to escape him. He learned of my double life and used it against me, forcing me to do things for him or else risk exposure. He took pictures of me without my consent and posted them online, claiming to be me. He contacted previous clients and threatened them because in his words, I “belonged to [him]” and on more than one occasion he threatened to hunt a person down and kill them if they tried to contact me again.
My client list was destroyed in a matter of weeks, and one day I came home to discover my hard drive had been erased, meaning everything I’d keep on it was gone. I later learned he’d kept many of the pictures and after we’d broken up he started posting them to places like Twitter and Facebook, as well as sending them to people I worked with. The police were less than helpful with this, as sex work in their eyes meant I gave consent to having him post this stuff without my permission, so I had to go directly to the various websites to plead my case.
It took me three years to remove the majority of the pictures he’d posted.
I was afraid to do any form of sex work for several years, instead focusing on supporting other sex workers from the sidelines and only coming back through erotic role play and writing erotica more recently. However, with the advent of SESTA/FOSTA and other legislation that claims to protect against trafficking while instead harming those engaging in consensual sex work, it’s been difficult to find work for that as well (for real world cash, in game money is still not much of a problem).
I’m one of the lucky ones, someone who was able to do what they enjoyed, even if sometimes it got a bit weird (I’m sorry Mr. Peaches!) at times and for the most part am not affected by SESTA/FOSTA due to the area of sex work I took part in. My work has massively dried up due to many of the message boards and websites I used to work through shutting down due to SESTA/FOSTA, and protections for people like myself and those who engage in FSSW on the other end of the spectrum are rapidly disappearing.
People engaging in sex work are finding it impossible to come forward if a crime happens, due to their work being considered illegal, and in several cases it is blamed as the reason a person goes missing or dies if it is discovered they engaged in sex work. While my area of work and my sexuality in essence protect me from being targeted for the most part, the protections that used to exist for my area of work are all but gone and completely gone for many of my friends.
If you have made it to the end of this piece, I encourage you to look into why SESTA/FOSTA and programs such as the Nordic Model are so dangerous to sex workers, and how just “legalizing” or outright making every form if it illegal it won’t solve the problems we see with sex trafficking or the harm that happens to sex workers. The problems are so woven into western culture that there is no easy or simple fix. From the shaming and blaming of Indigenous women justifying not paying attention to them when they go missing (I suggest reading up on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic in the US and Canada), to sex workers being arrested for being raped, there is no way to stop the violence against sex workers or the trafficking of people for sex work without focusing on the problems that essentially allow our culture to view sex workers as less than human and thus not worth protecting.
Treating Sex Work as Work
Sex Work Feminism
Sex Workers Say They’re Being Left Out of the #MeToo Movement
Is the War on Sex Work the New War on Drugs?
Why FOSTA/SESTA Harms Those It Supposedly Serves
Stigma and stereotypes about sex work hinder regulatory reform
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: An Epidemic on Both Sides of the Medicine Line