The Flipside of the Coin
Different day, different perspective worth sharing.
Today, thoughts of those clients who made my job fulfilling and worthwhile came to mind, so it only seems proper that I share a little on here. Can't point out the negative aspects without acknowledging the other side of the coin.
The clients who remain most memorable were those who possessed a genuine need for social time and physical contact. These were not men with big bank accounts or a sense of entitlement -- no, these were people reaching out for a sense of human connection and kindness due to a severe lack in their own lives.
I'd prefer not to divulge too many details for fear of embarrassing anyone or violating my promise of discretion. We'll keep it vague and not mention cities and states or identifiable specifics. What matters most is that I remember the details and the lessons these men taught me about humility, tolerance, compassion, and reserving judgment.
One man had retired after an admirable career only to be injured on his own property one winter, which rendered him a quadriplegic. He contacted me years ago, asking that I drive several hours to meet him halfway for lunch and some personal time. During our meal he explained his accident and the subsequent divorce that was introduced during his recovery in the hospital. You can just imagine being married to someone for all those years and then to become injured and they just up and leave you in your time of need. It was heart-breaking to listen to, especially considering that they had a child put in the middle of the ordeal. The man I met wound up losing his wife, his child was turned against him over time, and he had no choice but to live alone.
That man spoke of his difficulties going online to meet people and how women would lose interest once they learned of his condition. You can just imagine how lonely that man's life had become. And he asked me, of all people, to drive down and spend the afternoon with him. Being paralyzed, he was not able to do what his former self could do, in terms of intimate connections and whatnot, so he mostly wished to be held, to feel a woman's bosom on his cheek. Ever since meeting that man I've been forced to reconsider how I view people with disabilities and to imagine the obstacles they must overcome in order to lead some semblance of a "normal" life again. That man was very self-sufficient, very determined and self-disciplined, and I appreciated our time spent together. It taught me a great deal about the necessity of companionship and those oftentimes overlooked as worthwhile candidates for our affections.
Another man I met a few times was in the late stages of Parkinson's disease. It was difficult watching him tremble as he tried buttoning his shirt at the end of a session, his medication no longer sufficient to hold his symptoms at bay for more than an hour or two at a time. He was married but seeking to try new things before his days were up, so he requested that I and a guyfriend fulfill a fantasy of his. My swinger guyfriend agreed to join in pro bono, and awkward as it seemed at the time (that being the only threesome I agreed to in "the hobby"), we apparently pulled off a good show. I remember that man mostly because I'm unable to shake the memory of his deterioration, knowing that eventually he would succumb to that disease and be no more.
Another client I met once also had Parkinson's disease. He was divorced with a young son. I remember him sitting on the bed, his voice cracking a little as he relayed to me his worry about his condition deteriorating by the time his son reached adolescence. That was one of the saddest sessions I ever took part in, and he was an extremely nice man.
Another sad date that stays with me was with a middle-aged man, never married, who was so painfully socially-awkward that he was afraid to date or to go around women. He was a very large man, body-wise, and this affected his self-esteem greatly, as you might imagine. We had dinner and talked before going back to the room. I won't say much more there, though I left with the distinct impression that this man may have been contemplating suicide. Never heard from him again, so I couldn't say, but he was oh-so-sad and lonely. I regret that it didn't feel like there was much I could do for him, and this continues to trouble me years later.
I've held grown men in my arms and listened to them speak of fears, torments, past regrets, pain and suffering from losing loved ones, vaguely distressed mentions of wars they'd fought in. It used to surprise me how candid people could be in the privacy of a hotel room with a strange young woman, but now I see it as a blessing that so many felt safe enough to share with me. Undoubtedly many escorts know what I'm talking about here. These dates weren't always fun or playful -- indeed, plenty were difficult to get through and left me crying in my beer later in the night once nestled back at my bar. I continue to think about them, to wonder how they're doing, how their families are holding up, how their lives have changed, for better or worse.
What a contrast all of that served against the spoiled, arrogant, boastful and/or hypercritical manner so common to plenty who participate in our "hobby." The two sides of the same coin couldn't be more different, to where I came to see the "hobby" as just that: a schizoid blend of participants involved for varying reasons spanning all across the spectrum. I personally preferred to spend time with those who were humble and appreciative, which in turn brought out my own humility and a desire to care for and nurture them. Might not have done the best job of it, but I was new to so much that I was being exposed to as an escort. Changed me forever, that I do know. Maybe my efforts provided some comfort. I don't know. All I know is that when in a position to help people in need of company it felt exactly like what I ought to be doing.
These are my mid-December thoughts...
The Value of Fantasies
A number of thoughts have been on my mind recently, some relating to and expanding on my last post.
One such thought is how as long as a woman is in any way dependent upon the earnings brought through escorting, she's not at liberty to be 100% honest and upfront. This is probably why it's taken me over a year to come back here to display to the world my lingering feelings of anger, resentment and confusion, because now I am no longer dependent on prostitution (which is what escorting is, regardless of the semantics popularly employed for legal protection), nor am I concerned with whose feelings might wind up hurt by the truth.
This is a game belonging in the realm of fantasy for clients. Clients create the demand, and it's an escort's job to cater to the fantasy and to protect it from the harsh light of day. I used to think about that when out and about in town, grocery shopping or the like, wondering what would happen if a client recognized me when I wasn't all dudded up. Would his fantasy be crushed to see me without makeup, acrylic nails, or attractive clothing? How would his opinion change if he knew the fantasy projected has little to do with my everyday reality? And what if he found out I wasn't at all like he thought I was?
Well, I found out the answers to some of this once I reached the point of no longer being able to stomach this business and began speaking out, asking difficult questions, and even occasionally crying during sessions. Yes, I admit it, not that it's probably a secret thanks to your crazy review sites and back-channel men's groups. But whatever -- I'll tell it as I see it now.
Men I'd known for years didn't care to hear my truth or to acknowledge how this business was affecting my life. The people who repeatedly proclaimed themselves to be "friends" backed away when they learned a little about where I really came from and how I've come to feel about this sordid 'lifestyle'. A very few stood by me on platonic terms while I sorted out my emotions.
Typically, my anger brought out clients' self-righteousness, which further fueled my indignation, and around some of us went. Feelings were hurt on both ends undoubtedly. Fake bonds were exposed for their lack of substance and men for their lack of heart. That passion they touted as so remarkable in me became a threat when it spoke toward truth rather than superficial bantering.
But it's okay now, because I've stepped so far back and looked over these past several years with a critical eye and am better able to see the situation for what it is and always has been. I no longer lament damaging those supposed bonds because they never truly existed outside of a mutual fantasy. All a person can do is take away from this lessons learned.
One such lesson is what I referenced above, that escorts aren't inclined toward open honesty while employed in this sector. That goes for porn stars, strippers, models, etc. Anytime a woman is dependent on this arrangement for her income, if she is a wise businessperson she learns to conceal the truth artfully, to omit what might make her clientele uncomfortable, and to bend the truth where it suits the situation and presents her in a favorable light. Men don't like guilt-trips; they don't like being called out for their role in all of this. Smart escorts know this.
What's particularly on my mind right now is how common it is to defend the business and the clients tooth and nail against scrutiny that might make the men cringe, or worse, cease participating in this form of exploitation. When I worked as an escort, it was common for me to tap-dance as well, saying what I hoped they wanted to hear. I too defended this industry against the naysayers, and still do when they offer up weak arguments from naive, outsider perspectives. I too pretended this is a wonderful way of life that I was so fortunate to be a part of, nevermind that my options were limited. Like so many others, I offered up the Libertarian defense which claims a person has a right to do with their own body as they see fit, nevermind the conditioning that went on behind the scenes or the economic incentives offered to young women before they've come to deeply understand themselves or their own sexuality. I'm guilty for having played the game right along with everyone else here.
My point this evening is that I've learned over time not to trust the words of sex workers when they're speaking in a public forum, because indeed they are biased by their need to keep up appearances in order to protect the fantasy. So, to the outside world looking in, it may appear that we're a happy family, that we've figured out how to make this work in the best interests of all involved. But this is a lie. It's an act, albeit sometimes a very good one, going so far that surely some of the sex workers are themselves convinced of its validity and have long forgotten any other way of looking at the situation. That's the problem in a nutshell: the dependent individual has a vested interest in protecting that which she depends on. Hence why so much of the bitching and complaining that does go on is restricted to "safe" spaces, like women's groups or in-person communication between women. To state out loud and publicly the unsavory, the frustrating, and the harsh truth is professional suicide.
Thankfully I've shaken off that dependence and am able to speak up, loud and clear, without concern for any financial ramifications. That's not intended to put down those who are unable to escape dependency on this business, as it's true that we have a great number of aging, single mothers among us. And it's true that this industry provides better wages for the amount of time and energy expended compared with other lines of work. But I'm questioning why that is. Why can't we be paid living wages doing something other than catering to men's sexual fantasies? Why must it so often be a trade-off between living paycheck to paycheck or learning to play this game well? Why does what we claim to value wind up inverted in our economic hierarchy? For example: providing childcare, household maintenance, meal preparation, and agricultural production are all services we as a society value greatly, yet we pay service workers, childcare professionals and farmers far less than they deserve and can get by on as individual earners. But useless CEOs ruthlessly ransacking the government and economy become billionaires. Why?
The beauty of escorting, as I see it, is working within the Midwest where the clients tend to treat escorts better than what's reported in the East, West and Deep South. Why this is, I do not know. But still, the fact remains that we have a conundrum where women are made well-aware that providing sexual access will garner much higher income than using one's skills, abilities and time for more productive uses that greater society could benefit from. Instead we cater to men with money in order to earn a living and justify it anyway necessary.
How sad of a situation we've created here, not only in the sex industry but also in wider society as a whole, worldwide. What people are willing to pay for is in no way a direct reflection of what is of genuine value and importance.
At the end of the day, it comes down to those who hold the resources that others desire being able to command them, to make demands of them. And just think, those of us who cater directly to the middle and upper-middle classes are considered the lucky ones, the workers who supposedly have it the easiest and shouldn't complain. Funny how those comparisons run...
On Sex Workers' Rights and the Nature of "Guilt"
In continuing my thoughts to Beverly on the subject of sex worker activism, which I'll repost here:
"I do agree with you, Beverly, that sex worker rights deserve more attention from within escort ranks and also among those who've retired. My issue is that I've looked into various sex worker rights groups over the years but found myself inadequately represented in their messages. For example, the "sex-positive" feminist aspects trouble me with their blindly hedonistic approach that runs contrary to my own view of human sexuality and social responsibility.
"Maybe that "guilt" or sour feelings some of us experience is warranted and not simply a result of archaic religious traditions ingrained in our psyches. Maybe that's not a fair assessment to begin with and there are deeper reasons for a person's discontent and unwillingness to promote escorting as just another profession, no different from working in other sales and service jobs. I personally feel escorting to be a very unique line of work unlike anything else in terms of the psychic toll it takes, the intimacy involved, the stigma attached, the potential risks, etc. It's not the same as anything else, and I can understand that others might not wish to paint it as belonging right along with the rest of the greater workforce (even though sex workers' civil rights clearly deserve to be protected as much as anyone else's).
"An organization I've been donating to for over a year now is GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services), located in New York and dedicating to providing services to young girls (12-21) who have been/are being subjected to sexual exploitation by adults. This organization pulls at my heartstrings, and I appreciate all the work Rachel Lloyd (a former prostitute) has put into it. I first learned of the organization while watching the film "Very Young Girls" and can recognize the need for services of this sort in our sex- and youth-obsessed culture.
"I also take many opportunities to talk about the escorting lifestyle with others out here in civilian society. Civie women can be pretty judgmental, more so than men I've found, and especially those claiming to be feminists. But it remains worthwhile to engage in dialogue and not attempt to sweep the past under the rug, which I would be incapable of anyway.
"But joining an organized group and calling public attention to the rights of sex workers? That holds little appeal to me personally. I speak for myself and from my own experiences and wouldn't wish to try to speak for others here. Furthermore, I'm of the belief that the best course of action is decriminalization, not legalization, and I in no way support the latter.
"Stigma is reduced through connections, through knowing people personally and appreciating them as individuals more complicated than stereotypes suggest. A political movement alone can't give us that -- a lesson I'm learning through my involvement with the peace and social justice movement. Attempts to legislate morality, even when it's nobly intended to reduce discrimination, doesn't actually penetrate beneath the surface and may lead to unforeseen backlashes cropping up elsewhere (one might argue that the celebratory embrace of porn and the sex industry followed closely on the heels of second- and third-wave feminism in response to attempts made by women to level the proverbial playing field).
"So, I guess my question becomes what exactly is being sold to us here? The notion that sex work is just like any other profession under the sun and deserves as much recognition and equal protection under law? That argument ignores the deeper implications of the work we do/did. Sex work is NOT like any other form of work, even though it is work and we do deserve protection from violence as much as anyone else. Pretending that what we do is no different than clocking in at a factory, to me, ignores so much and paints an inaccurate portrait of the realities sex workers face."
That's what I said so far, and here are additional thoughts I'd like to add:
Working as an escort caused me to question the types of work people engage in, generally speaking, and the competitive economic climate we've all helped create, so that's where I focus my energy nowadays. In my thinking, sex workers don't represent one unified voice in the crowd, but rather a collection of varying opinions and life experiences that have much to say about the economic realities people are faced with today all across the globe. Should we be trying to legitimize a profession built on, and catering to, social and economic disparities born out of a patriarchal legacy? I don't personally think so.
I'm more interested in figuring out why we do what we do, why the demand exists as it does (for what it does), why exploitation takes so many forms and is specifically geared toward the young and financially-strapped, and why we women go along with it and claim to feel "empowered" as a result. What's so empowering about accepting stigma and differential treatment? What's empowering about being sexualized at too young an age and thence groomed toward providing sexual favors to strangers later on, some of whom care nothing for us or our own frustrated desires toward self-determination?
Sex work has potential, and theoretically I support anyone's right to choose to do with their own bodies as they see fit. HOWEVER, what seems like following one's own volition at age 21 looks very different years on after much learning, pondering and gaining direct experiential knowledge. I'll speak for myself here when saying the arguments I held at age 21-23 are NOT the way I see things now at 29 after 6.5 years of working as an escort. My youthful idealism crashed into disturbing realities, leading to unavoidable introspection. My studies in the social sciences only accounts for part of my perspective change; mostly I blame lessons learned through personal and professional experiences. My Libertarian ideals were taken out of the abstract and brought down to ground level, so to speak, where they've been forced to undergo a transformation (or radicalization, if you prefer, which means to strike at the root).
Sex work, as it is commonly carried out here and abroad, is one symptom (among many) of larger social ills that plague societies. The problem isn't with having sex or with exchanging money, per se -- it runs far deeper than that.
This reminds me of past conversations with hobbyists who admitted they'd wish for "better" for their own daughters than the life of a sex worker, even as they help create demand for the prostitution of other people's daughters (and, in some cases, sons). This hypocrisy, expressed in various ways, hit me like a ton of bricks and shattered the illusions that allowed me to befriend my clients.
An important lesson I've learned over time is that there's no such thing as no-strings-attached sex. It's a myth. Because strings may not be readily apparent to both parties involved does not mean they do not exist. Those "guilt" feelings it's become fashionable to tease escorts for having speak to these invisible strings, the toll on the individual's psyche to submit to that which does not deserve submission. I don't feel guilty for having had sex or made money in the process. I do, however, feel guilty for having petted the egos of egotistical bastards that did not deserve my attention and affections. And I do feel some guilt for not being a better guardian of my body and mind, having relied on myself to act as my own internalized parent since my early youth (due to reasons that aren't the world's business). I feel guilty for not having known any better than to equate sex with acceptance, to mistake fucking for having intimate value (both as an escort and in my personal life), and for naively trusting wolves in sheep's clothing time and time again. Though plenty of young women fall into this trap, we shouldn't so easily dismiss it as youthful trial and error when we live in an undeniably exploitative culture bent on taking advantage wherever opportunities are presented.
Vultures circle and look for the weak, the unprotected, the innocent. This is true in the sex industry just as in regular civie society. My grooming began long before becoming an escort, and by that time I had internalized that way of thinking to where I willingly went along, believing myself to be in control and making the best decisions considering my circumstances. And, to an extent, I still feel that way because I can't imagine having gone down another avenue. But I have come to understand that people who were deprived of affections and stable, loving conditions as children have a tendency toward seeking redemption in the empty promises of predators and scoundrels. This is not an indictment of the hobbying community specifically; I only acknowledge that it overlaps with what I'm speaking of. Certainly there are exceptions, though I don't believe nearly as many as claimed. The problem is in our mindsets, speaking categorically here of Americans (that being the only country in which I have lived, though undoubtedly the problem extends globally).
To me, it does come back to values, and we're not talking religion here. Values transcend religions. What do we value anymore? Is nothing sacred? Youth are actively corrupted, adults are turned into cogs in corporate wheels, honest intimacy is reduced to pornographic caricature, legislation determines morality for many, and televisions have replaced reading and thoughtful inquiry and wreaked havoc on our interpersonal relations. I can't stand what I see around me in this world I was born into. What do we value any longer? Is "post-modern" just a fancy way of saying diabolically nihilistic?
These are questions that eventually came to bear on my mind during my twenties. Before we speak of rights, I'd prefer to come to terms with what exactly it is that we're defending.
With winter right around the corner...
Long time since my last post on here. Retirement doesn't deter me from occasionally wishing to voice an opinion or two on this blog. Because escorting is in the rear-view doesn't mean that I don't still reminisce and reflect.
Still glad to be moving on. I do harbor some regrets, but overall my experience in your "hobby" proved worthwhile and thought-provoking. Can't escape its impact on me considering much of my 20s were devoted to that line of work. Still say it beat working for a bank or waiting tables, though that's not saying much. Those years taught me a great deal, in conversations with clients and also in learning life lessons, such as trusting my intuition as a guide when necessary. It also allowed me to examine socioeconomic disparities, gender dynamics, spiritual impoverishment, and the virtues of intimacy -- all up close and personal. For that, my time in the industry was worth its weight in gold.
It's proven to be a life-altering occupation, in both positive and negative aspects. Met a number of good people whom I still keep in contact with, but so too did I meet plenty of posers, liars, blatant hypocrites, and even one member of the clergy by outright deception. The industry provided a glimpse into mainstream America right along with those on its fringe, now that the Internet has brought escorting and the sex industry onto everyone's personal laptops and cellphones.
I'm left with ambivalent feelings about my past job. It truly depends on which day you ask me as to how I'll respond.
Much of my free time alone nowadays is spent pondering and reading, occasionally writing, and sometimes watching films. Books I've been reading this year pertain to the duality in humans' hearts and minds in terms of "good" and "evil," or if you prefer, fruitfulness vs. fruitlessness. I am not a religious person, nor will I ever be, but morality does matter to me and always has. Abrahamic religions hold no monopoly on morality or, much less, in seeking truth. Curiosity drives me as always, along with a desire to discern what it means for me personally to lead a meaningful life.
For some reason, I feel the need from time to time to pop on here and remind others I'm still alive. lol So, yes, alive and doing fine. Better, anyways. Just wanted to put that out there.