Like most women, I’ve been sexualized more times than I can count, both with or without my permission. I’ve been told by bosses and supervisors to wear a skirt next time I came into the office —the shorter the better some would say, it was even more strange hearing it from women when I was in my 20’s. There were male managers who insisted on driving me home so they could have an opportunity to say or do as they wanted- even calling my mother when I still lived at home convincing her it was okay after being told no by me repeatedly.
Like many woman, I’ve sat in coffee shops with a book to relax only to find myself held hostage by some man, striking up what could pass as innocent conversation. Not wanting to be rude or assaulted, neither physically nor verbally, women engage with our harassers just as long as we have to. I’ve had glass bottles thrown at me as I walked to the subway in NYC for not stopping to talk to strange men on the street.
When I became a sex worker, I had a sort of ah ha moment: putting up with men was work, and I didn’t have to do it for free. Whether I was working as a table dancer in the Bronx, or as a dominatrix in New York City, the men were the same. No matter if it was a hole in the wall club in NY or an upscale establishment in Connecticut at some point they wanted me to sit silently and listen while they complained about their jobs, wives, children or just talked shit about an ex. I was therapist, marriage counselor, career advisor, priest and sex couch. The emotional labor men feel entitled to that women are expected to perform for free, I got paid for. And—unlike other service jobs or the real world—if a dude was particularly awful, security would step in while I walked away watching them thrown out on their asses.
I left for a while but later when I went back into sex work nothing changed; much of the job was emotional, rather than physical labor. The sex itself was not very different than encounters I’d had as a “vanilla “. Sometimes it was pleasurable, so much more often, unmemorable. Men’s needs took priority, whether I was engaging with them for free or was paid for my time. Having sex for money, had the benefits of being paid for the headache of it all, like many women, I’d had a lifetime’s worth of fucking and if I had to choose between being paid by the hour or having a “vanilla” relationship I’d honestly say there isn’t much of a difference except for the fact it’s easier to tell a customer that it’s going to cost extra to listen to his complaints.