Empowered- A Sex Worker's Story
The public opinion of the sex industry is that it's demeaning, immoral, and sexist. To me, it was something different. It was empowering.
Let's start at the beginning. When I was 18, 19, I was an idealistic, angry young feminist/Riot Grrrl who really believed all sex work was bad and shunned porn and anything that turned women into sex objects. I read Andrea Dworkin and Mary Daly books and admired them for their radical views. I didn't want to be a "NOW" feminist, I wanted to be a radical feminist.
As you can probably guess, I didn't get many dates and never had sex. Most people assumed I was a lesbian. I didn't exactly feel empowered from my work as an activist, but more depressed because I had very little social life other than the people I was politically involved with.
Then one day I met the woman who would be my feminist mentor, Kate Kaos (Kate, where are you?) who was an unabashed radical feminist and stripper. She introduced me to the Sister Serpents, a feminist artist's collective and taught me that it was OK to be sexual and be a feminist. Kate was opinionated, intelligent, and often rubbed people the wrong way, which is what I liked about her. She wasn't afraid to stand out in the crowd or make an inappropriate comment, but she genuinely cared about people. Through her, I began to realize that the sex industry wasn't evil, but a way for women to exert control over men.
It actually wasn't Kate who helped me get my start in the sex industry, but a roommate who began working as a dominatrix at a commercial dungeon. One day, when I got laid off from my job as a dog walker, I asked the if the place she worked was possibly hiring and she told me to give her boss a call. I figured dommeing was something I could do, as I was tall, angry, and good at being mean to people. Unfortunately, my roommate's boss was a big, fat slob who ran a dungeon so he could get free foot fetish sessions from the dommes and gave me the run-around for weeks until I realized he wasn't going to hire me. I felt a little deflated, but wasn't ready to give up yet. I applied for a job at the city's largest commercial dungeon, where quite a few dommes here get their start, and learned on the job.
Immediately, I was hooked. It was so much fun to do kinky things and dress in cool latex clothes with big black boots and force men to do things like lick your feet, bark like a dog, and kiss your ass. Who wouldn't find this empowering? The money was fairly good and the job was so fun at times I couldn't believe I was getting paid to do it. However, there was a downside to all of it and, like several of the dungeons I worked at later on, it usually came with a greedy, narcissistic dungeon owner who felt the need to treat his employees like dirt. So one day I walked out of that dungeon in an angry huff and never came back. I worked at several more commercial houses over the next few years and the result was usually the same. If I was going to do this job, I wanted to be the one in control.
So I began to work for myself, placing my own ads, and occasionally escorting for agencies on an on-call basis. I embraced the sex industry wholly, realizing I had finally found an escape from "normal" jobs with overbearing bosses, regimented hours, and tedious, boring labor. Yes, the sex industry can be scary, unpredictable, and stomach turning, but it gave me power over my own life, and most of all, men.
Despite the horror stories the media wants you to hear, most of my experiences with men in the sex industry have been positive. I've gotten to know sides of them nobody knows, I've had men shower me with compliments that I never hear in my "real" life, and lastly, I've learned not to be afraid of them. Yes, I used to be scared of men because I never really had any as friends or boyfriends, so I kinda hated them. Like the fear of the unknown. Now, most of my closest friends are guys. I can relate to them almost better than I can relate to women. For some women, working in the sex industry has made them hate men, for me it's just the opposite. It made me realize the power I have over them and how I can manipulate that power to get what I need.
I've never felt uncomfortable in the industry, either. I'm at my comfort zone most when amongst sex workers and find myself feeling uncomfortable when I'm among those who think sex work is dirty or immoral. When I hear people outside the industry chiding sex workers for whatever reason, I want to correct them and tell them how it's a viable industry, supported by regular tax-paying citizens of all different occupations, "just like you." Usually, I silently listen to what they say, and cringe inside, knowing that if I say too much, I might give myself away.
But that's not all.
Being a sex worker gave me the power to go back to school and continue my education in a creative field that would make me achieve my goals. These days, I work in the male-dominated field of film doping a job traditionally held by men. I'm constantly challenged by guys on a daily basis who don't think I can do the job properly, but I know better than to take them seriously. It pisses them off to see a female doing a guy's job, but it makes me feel all the more empowered to see them get pissed off. I'm not afraid of them anymore.
As far as Kate Kaos goes, I haven't seen her in years since she moved back to Australia, but I think she'd be proud of me. I still consider myself a feminist, but now my brand of feminism is much different, one that is sex-positive and supportive of sex workers.