Fox Furs and Money Pits.

While it wasn’t always entirely true, I said for years that I did sex work because I loved the money. And sure, that was part of it, but it wasn’t just the money – it was the sexuality, the freedom of living in a social void somewhat free of external judgments, the open schedule, the overall decadence of it all. Still, the money was a really good place to start, when it came to reasons why you’d want to be a sex worker. Cause it sure is a hell of a lot of money.

Now that I don’t have that money anymore and I’m “retired” (though as Melissa Petro once said, albeit in reference to the negative stereotypes around sex work, once a prostitute, always a whore), the money I would use to go shopping for clothing or for paying my rent in cash or for taking a cab everywhere, it’s gone, and the reasons why that money was so important to me have come boiling up to the surface. It was, in many ways, the cushion that kept me safe from my own angry feelings about how sex work separated me from my own life: how much it hurt to know that my job came with a solitary rage about how I would be treated for being a sex worker, by worlds both big and small.

As much as my friends and family tried to support me, no one liked 100% that I was a professional dominatrix. I could feel it in the small ways they moved around the topic, carefully navigating the emotional potholes that would have upset either them or me. If I was sensitive to emotional shifts before being a dominatrix, I could certainly detect them after years of observing people in their most intimate settings. The truth was, I was defensive of myself before I became a dominatrix, and even more defensive after I had been one for five years. I had a good reason to be, then. I worked an illegal job that people judged me for having. And to put it to the point, I judged myself for having.

Being “open,” too, certainly had its price, it made me wish I were a better liar. People wouldn’t date me, friends would minimize the validity of my job in comparison to theirs, my mother would worry about me constantly. And for my own part, I started to believe all the asides and disapproving moments and silent questionings. I would joke about how hundreds of dollars is the only way people would deal with these scumbags, even though I liked most of my clients. I didn’t feel entitled to complain about bad days because, well, if I hated it so much, why didn’t I just quit? I pretended I wasn’t sexually interested in what I did in session and would refuse to bring s&m into my bedroom, for fear that the boundary lines would bleed and my own internalized hatred of myself and my job would be revealed to everyone. I needed that distance to ensure myself that while sex work said something about someone, it wasn’t saying that about me specifically. Because I believed what was whispered, because I too was whispering it back to myself.

That was the worst part: I didn’t even want to stand behind myself in my decision to be a sex worker. How could I expect others to stand behind me? This, for me, is the crux of sex worker rights issues. We can’t even stand tall in our declaration of ourselves as sex workers. We have to use false names, conceal our real identities, hope and pray that Grandma doesn’t read blogs and our teachers don’t watch our porn. We have to save that “real” piece of ourselves for the day that we quit our sordid life and come back from the dark side. And the more transparent peoples’ lives become on the web, the more we have to worry. We also have to wish for a “better life” for ourselves beyond our education or our current skillset, because inevitably, the life we have isn’t good enough. Not good enough for everyone else, anyway. If we’re not downtrodden street workers, if we’re just middle class whores making it work – we have no excuse. The pressure of the lies, both internal and external, are psychological terrorizing in its purest form. What saddens me the most is that I am the driver of that car, more than anyone, and I can barely stand next to my sisters and brothers without fear and shame, enough for us all, but more than enough for myself.

The money was what I hide all my anger and resentment and internalized stigma behind. Because the money was the only thing that didn’t have judgment preassigned to it. I could make it do whatever I wanted it to, I was in control of how I saw it and what it could do for me. The money could make me feel pretty, successful, posh. It gave me a sense that I was doing something right. It gave me a sense that I had value. And there was so much of it, there was plenty of room to store all my problems in between its layers. And those layers were there, when I felt I was sacrificing too much and I couldn’t take it anymore. The layers were there when I needed to hide, from myself and from the rest of world.

Now that they’re gone, all those feelings still remain, with exposed ends. I’m still angry at the world for judging me so harshly, while still being aware that it was a judgment I set myself up for. I don’t know if anyone could have judged me as harshly as I judged myself, for flipping off the world and expecting it to give me a hug in return. And the worst of it is, I still struggle daily not to judge the other sex workers in my own life. I struggle to hear their stories without judging them for telling too little or telling too much, for taking a stand or for staying silent, for denouncing their former sex work or for glamorizing it. Sex work is such a solitary profession in that way, separating people who would otherwise stand in solidarity with one another. For my part, it taught me how hard it is to even stand in solidarity with oneself.


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The Love of Another.

And it was then, lying there in the dark, clutching my own chest the way a lover would, that I realized how the love of another got made up, in a moment, in a touch, how easy it could be done, if you only let it run itself. And how difficult it could be if you had begun to examine the cracks in things and seeing one, began to see them all…

Older professional dominatrices speak of a time long gone, a time of folklore and fable, a time that may never have been, when slaves were true and servitude really meant something. To me, in its most basic form, pro-domination only reveals the falsehood of forms of devotion paid for in cash. And after all, you’re not even special in your role, for you are so rarely the first (or the last) woman to be fawned upon in a professional way. Indeed, the first email you get from a client details an account of the other Mistresses they’ve served. It’s as though you’re already reading about their failed relationships: not exactly something you would do on, say, a first date. So, from the very beginning, it’s all right there in front for you to see.

But maybe it says as much about me that I was unwilling to believe that devotion existed, really. For myself, I knew from the beginning: I was not an attractive child. I was not worshipped by anyone for my beauty or my grace. It’s not modesty that makes me say that, because I feel as though even then, I had a strong grasp on what was real and what wasn’t, regarding beauty and love: in some ways, too strong a grasp. White knuckle tight. The blistering hurt right there on the surface.

It’s inevitable that when you deal professionally in the construction of obsession and need, as a professional dominatrix does, that you start to doubt the validity of beauty and love. See, I have this one particular moment I am thinking of. It’s when I stand tall in 4+ inch platforms above a client, all decked out in feathers and lace, and he stammers to me how beautiful I look, all sort of emotion and desire behind the brightness in his eyes, that I begin to wonder: what does he want from me, for being beautiful? Will I ever be able to be beautiful, just be so in the world, or will it always be attached to the needs of another?

And then the slippage begins, the circling spiral into unsafe thoughts. What makes this any different than when I go on a date? What if I dress up to go out? No one pays me to do those things. But there is a payoff. And I wait for the payoff, as I’ve waited for a scene to end, to trot off with cash in hand. So what is my beauty, then? And what love or devotion does it produce? Does that mean that I am only useful if I can please someone else? Could I be beautiful, and no one would be pleased by it? Would that even mean anything at all?

It’s ironic that in order to have something better, something that feels more whole, one has to go back to a place that is purer, more virginal in its make up. Less wrought with uncertainty and confusion. It’s hard to explain, the climb out of a jaded hole you’ve dug yourself. You have to hear less noise in your head about other’s intentions and schemes and find those people whose intent is true and visible. Otherwise, you are likely to drown in a world of liars and cheats: a world of your own choosing. In some ways, one must abandon one’s supposedly worldly natures and approach things more directly – see the world as it is. No better, no worse. It starts within, it’s a conscious decision to invite only the noble and good from the world. This is ironic because it seems impossible to do when one is, in fact, pure or virginal; that’s too soon in the game. It can only be done after a walk through the fire.

For this, I cannot regret what I have seen, but it is no easy task to return from it. As time goes on, though, it seems it may have been the only way to go.


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Sex Worker Literati Postcasts

The readings from David Henry Sterry and Audacia Ray’s Sex Worker Literati events were placed on postcast and can be viewed for FREE here. I think it goes without saying that watching yourself reading is an illuminating and intimate experience. I am very glad to be able to do it. For those of you who missed my reading, or are interested in seeing other writers perform from Sex Worker Literati, be sure to check it out.

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Actively untouchable.

At the first foot fetish party I ever worked (and really, the first sex work I ever did), I spent most of my time standing against a wall. There was a hallway, intersected by the dungeon rooms of a Manhattan loft space, where all the girls who had not yet been picked for a session would advertise themselves. I wasn’t advertising so much as being completely terrified, a shaking wall flower. More like wall socket, I was quite attached to that wall for the evening. So I used the opportunity to watch and learn.

I watched two Asian girls, covered head to toe in latex and PVC, humiliating this man in the hallway. Spitting on their boots and shoving them in his mouth, while he squirmed on the floor. Throwing their heads in the air and laughing. Being, well, mean. And rude. Openly.

I didn’t want to be in their position, per se, it looked kind of hard from my point of view. I felt more on his level than I did theirs. After all, I was so vulnerable and at risk, dressed in lingerie I felt uncomfortable with outside of a bedroom. How could I wear intricate outfits like theirs and still look so…actively untouchable?

Actively untouchable. That’s what I wanted to be, I realized. A part of the game, but better than the game nonetheless. I wanted to be special, basically, and I was hoping that in this world, there was a place to be special: just above it all. Little did I know there was no being “above the game,” in any aspect of life. You had to play to make it work. And when you played, you got involved, whether you intended to or not.

It’s so strange to me now, how I can never be that naive again. And I say naive because, well, I never felt very innocent. I always thought of myself a worldly and wise beyond my years. That’s what everyone was always telling me, anyway. But now, at 25, people have stopped telling me that because I grew up. I am the age I always strived to be, so the compliments on my maturity or sage nature have faded. I am left now with the knowledge that I knew really nothing about the world back then and had I, I might not have been so willing to dive into it.

I admired Dommes back then because they seemed to inhabit a space that I wanted, a space where men couldn’t tell you what to do and you didn’t have to be so angry all the time. So angry and so silent. I wanted to be cool and powerful instead. Self-controlled and controlling.

Being a dominatrix, in the end, though, just made me angrier. I saw too much of the way things really were to feel any comfort of my own. I wonder, still, how women in the sex industry can claim sometimes that they “love men, they wouldn’t do this job if they didn’t.” It always sounded so apologetic, like we should be grateful on some level that most men pay us hundreds of dollars to beat them privately, so that they can happily skip back into the world unencumbered by the burdens of their desires. The way I see it, if you don’t pity men on some level more than you supposedly love them, there’s no making it through. What’s so lovable about that sweat of desperation? And what’s so lovable about it ending up stuck to you, instead of them?

I wasn’t the one who got to go home at night all free of my sins, refreshed for the next day of work. I was the one who had to sit around with my client’s deep, dark secrets and try and process them through. Try and help. Some might regard that as having been my mistake in it all: my belief that my work was worthwhile in that way. I hold to this day that isn’t wasn’t. I still believe in the potential of sex workers to transform, create and empower: likewise, there is the potential to reinforce, whitewash and passively accept. After all, there‚Äôs no cause to romanticize the situation, either. Because in some ways, the image of the dominatrix duped me too: here I thought it was all too real. Turns out I also had at least one fantasy I wanted very badly to make come true.

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And who of us will save themselves?

Some thoughts regarding the Gawker article “Sex Workers Rights are Rights for All Women”

Sex Worker: a person whose work involves sexually explicit behavior; especially : prostitute (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

When you enter into sex work, your body changes. That is to say, you begin to view your body differently and inevitably, the reality you exist in around and in relation to your body morphs into something new. You begin to realize that your body is no longer your own. But then…you begin to wonder if it ever was. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, since it send the mind whirling…it sends your mind off to wonder if its body may have belonged to any number of figures in your life, be they real or imaginary.

I think it’s funny how people talk about “sex workers” as though they’re not talking about “women.” I could go into the invisibility of non-gender assigned female sex workers, but I mean to point out here: we talk about female sex workers like their apparitions, like they’re “non-female.” That women’s issues are different than whore issues.

Well, I’m not going to directly posit that all women are raised to be “sex workers,” though, on some level, I do believe that to be true. Of course, not all women become sex workers, at least not in name or in professional choice, and I’m sure most women would only acknowledge that statement with a mixture of horror and disgust, but they still tow a certain line that looks a whole lot like hooking yourself. For this reason, I will be bold enough to say that women are trained to prostitute themselves, their being, the things about them that are “profitable,” to the world.

Women are, in fact, raised (if not by their families, then by society as a whole), to be very aware of the fact that they have to give up a little bit more than everyone else does. They are raised to know that if they’re not pretty, life will be that much harder. And for those who aren’t pretty, if they aren’t actively trying to be pretty, life will also be hard. They are reared to know that if they chose their own interests before others, before the high calling of being objectified and commodified and really, used by other people, their fathers and their boyfriends and their lovers will love them a little bit less. They are meant to know, deep down, that their bodies are never truly their own, because someone’s going to own them just a little bit more than they own themselves, always.

I feel my self being sucked away from me every day: when I walk in front of a group of men on the street, when a man introduces himself to my chest, when a male doctor talks over a female one in front of me. We roll our eyes and sigh when women bring these things up, because it’s old (so old), and after all, what can we do to stop it? Then we turn around and throw every whore, bitch, cunt under the train that we can, hoping that the sacrifice of their bodies will somehow save our own.

Sex work is not the problem, but (and this is a big but) it is part of the problem. That’s what few people who are sex worker advocates want to admit. Sex work is just a grosser display of what we all know to be true: sex workers just throw its truth right smack in your face. (Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks). Well, I think we should champion the rights of sex workers because we should champion the rights of all women. When we say that a sex worker is being poorly treated at her job, that she is subjected to the rules of men, we say this because all women are towing the very same lines. We say this because sex workers stand at the front lines of a war that all women fight. Sex workers stand with their sexuality teased outwards, in declaration, while other women are taught to hide their sexuality, protect it from the world as long as they can, til the inevitable feast on their beings, in whatever form that might take.

One of the most basic tenets of sex work is that your body is not your own, it’s your commodity. In sex work, your body is your workplace, the glowing hearth from which all your monetary fires burn. So when I say “all women are whores,” that is precisely what I mean. Any woman who has to consider how much cleavage to show (or not show) at her place of work should know what I mean. I left sex work because I wanted my own body back, because I was sick of giving it to other people in exchange for rent, clothes, admiration or acclaim. But I am no fool and I am not confused about the fact that I have not escaped the grasping hands of sexual need that clutch at my being, regardless of my status of “retired whore” or not.

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Truly Shaming.

I have long been a person for whom an inner judgment tract runs deep. It’s taken me years not to scrutinize everyone and everything around me, every moment of every day. It’s not something I’m proud of, no, it’s just the way my mind dances around the vast complexities of life. And often, it can get rather ugly. Or so I thought.

For Ron, it couldn’t have gotten nearly ugly enough.

Ron was into real life humiliation. The really real shit no one would ever say to your face. He was 53 years old, unemployed, a virgin, mentally handicapped, unattractive, and living in his parents’ basement. This was all information he happily proffered to a Dominant woman, mind you. In fact, he wanted you to know it all. He wanted you to know as much as you could so that you’d have ample ammunition to use against him.

I thought after my years of training myself to be a self-righteously critical misanthrope, humiliating someone for things I already would have mocked them for in my mind would be easy.

It wasn’t.

Six sessions into my career as a Domme, I was standing in a room with no music, no equipment, nothing but a chair and a slave. Nothing but my own imagination and verbal skills to fall back on. For someone who normally thought so much of herself, it didn’t seem like nearly enough, all of a sudden.

I took a few shots. I pointed out a few obvious factors in his pathetic nature: his looks, his sexual inadequacy, his status in life. It felt like shooting fish in a barrel. It felt like…I was doing something wrong.

Turns out, I was. Not ten minutes into the scene, the Head Mistress came into the room to correct my faltering. She slapped him hard in the face, spat out nasty words as she spat directly into his mouth. She was a whirlwind of freshly lit Domme fire. And rather than feel an admiration for what she was accomplishing, like I normally did when observing her in a scene, I just felt sick to my stomach. The realness of the scene had gotten into my system and was eating its way back out again.

I realized that when I yelled at Ron, I had to be the whole world for him, every moment of his day. Every time a pretty girl shot him a nasty look. Every time his mother criticized him. Every time he was out in public and was punished, for being what he was. For being who he was. I felt ill at the thought of taking all that hatred into my body and then projecting it outwards. How could I do that to this man? More importantly, how could I do that to myself?

I was forced to face the notion that there were far, far uglier things in this world than my solipsistic little potshots I silently kept to myself every day. I was too young and too lucky to know what kinds of things a man like Ron had seen. He had more to teach me about the world than I could ever teach him.

Years later, I would realize why I myself went searching for the really real shit in life, in all the wrong places: in nasty, painful relationships, drama-filled partners and ugly social mess-making. I wanted to know what the world was really like. I wanted to know just how ugly the world could be. I saw a glimpse of it when I looked at Ron. But the privilege of choosing to see the ugly parts of the world paled in comparison to being forced to live with it. And for that reason, I wish I could have given Ron the release that he needed. Because this humiliation was the one thing he did ask for. The slave in this scene: the only role he had actually asked to play.

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For Pat Califia.

(I want to note on this piece that while Pat Califia identifies with the pronoun “he,” the poem I cite was written at a time when he identified as a “she,” so that is the pronoun I use.)

Sometimes I think that bottoms are the lucky ones.

I hear the question a lot from bottoms: “I know what I get out of this, but what do you?” Besides the monetary benefits and the writing material, I used to not have a good answer for them. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to see what bottoms create for their tops. It’s only recently that I’ve started to feel that newly familiar surge in my blood and correctly identify it as a forceful infusion sent straight through my palm, created from a slave’s suffering, entering my body as pure life force.

That’s what a bottom can give me. Life force. But it doesn’t just come from anywhere. It comes from a place where the bottom is present to you, knows what you are feeling, sees the glint in your eye as you pummel away at them. It can’t come from a slave that is lost to themselves or you. It won’t come from a slave that is greedy or withholding or abandoned in their own pain. It can only come from a honest place of giving. And when I feel most powerful is when I know that I made that moment happen, for the both of us.

“I am What I wish I saw When I looked at you.” – Pat Califia, from “A Top’s Lament”

When I read this Pat Califia quote for the first time, I was sure I knew what it meant. Califia hopes for the bottom to reflect what energies have gone into the creation of the scene. She writes her lament for being a top because she herself wants to be able to control not just the scene, but everything down to the look in her bottom’s eyes. Her bottom’s core being. She wants to be the universe: the beginning, the middle and the end.

Everytime I re-read this quote, it gets more slippery, though. I become unsure of my own reading and its inherent bias. So, if play is the fusion of two people into one scene, where do the people go? Is there something people keep tucked away for themselves? What does the top have to lament about, really? The way I see it, the lament is that not everything can be controlled, not everything can given. There is always something left of each person in a scene that is quiet, hidden. Secret. Even secret keepers have their own secrets, and even the giving have to keep a hold of something they won’t give up.

There’s some kind of soft sadness in the realization that scenes, like relationships as a whole, are never completed. Nothing in this world is fully formed, just whole in its perfect imperfections. And while the top can lament this fact, she can’t change it. She can only keep looking into her bottom’s eyes and hoping that this time, she sees what she wants to see, looking back at her.

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