Shit Sex Workers Say
When I first started out, I enjoyed the sex. I’d go to work and ‘have sex’. Now, I don’t have that association as much. But my clients seem to think that being a nice guy means being a good lover. They do things to me that they should do with a girlfriend. Like they ask me what I’m into, and apologize for coming too soon! So I need to play along. They apparently have no idea that the best client is the one that comes immediately.
"Amanda", sex worker. Elizabeth Bernstein. 2005. “Sex Work for the Middle Class.” Sexualities 10(4): 484.
The model that I have always chosen in doing this work has actually been a psychotherapy model … As a therapist, in order to continue working with repetitively traumatized children, I had to be doing a ton of behind-the-scenes work so I could hold my ground and have something to give them of value … Because of my training as a therapist I knew, intimately, how to do that; so, I brought that to sex work too.
"Zoey", escort worker. Elizabeth Bernstein. 2005. “Sex Work for the Middle Class.” Sexualities 10(4): 481.
I worked at a place once in a sort of gourmet neighbourhood in Berkeley – alternative but ritzy … But even though they acted like we were a co-op – they expected us to do all of the cleaning and answering the phones, and required us to do the laundry during our shifts, stuff that a madam would normally do – all they did was come in and collect the money … They also made us come to staff meetings in addition to our regular schedule. These meetings were unpaid, a waste of our time … I finally left when I got a chance to open my own place in the City.
'Amanda', escort worker. Elizabeth Bernstein. 2005. “Sex Work for the Middle Class.” Sexualities 10(4): 476.
The first time I did massage, I was green, green, green. I don’t think that there was a hell of a lot of camaraderie or direction shared amongst the women. I know that there was male ownership or at least male management and I don’t think that the commissions were fair … [It was] not an empowerment situation … I do remember one phrase, ‘greasing down pigs’. I remember always thinking about the oil, and touching, and thinking of the men as pigs. So we’re not talking real true-blue pleasure here.
'Diana', erotic masseuse. Elizabeth Bernstein. 2005. “Sex Work for the Middle Class.” Sexualities 10(4): 478.
I had recently met these women who were sex workers … and I saw that this looked easy, like an easy way to make lots of money … I was working on my dissertation and I had to teach and to take out huge student loans. That was like a huge factor in deciding to do sex work because I felt like I couldn’t afford to go into any more debt. So yeah, I started doing sex work at this agency where my friend worked. And then eventually I started working from home.
Escort worker. Elizabeth Bernstein. 2005. “Sex Work for the Middle Class.” Sexualities 10(4): 476.
A year out of school I was very burnt out on the low pay, and really wanted to make more money … My boyfriend at the time had a good friend who had been doing sensual massage for many years and had found it tremendously lucrative … And so, I thought, oh, this would be a great ground for me to, you know, skip over years of torturous low pay [laughter] and actually then, to practice things that were truly dear to my heart.
San Francisco-based erotic masseuse. Elizabeth Bernstein. 2005. “Sex Work for the Middle Class.” Sexualities 10(4): 476.
I just looked at [rape] as not getting paid.
Street-based sex worker. pg 350, Dalla 2000: Exposing the Pretty Woman Myth: A Qualitative Examination of the Lives of Female Streetwalking Prostitutes.
I started getting the crack and it was getting out of hand, out of hand. Because I could meet someone out here on the street, a girl and we could have a smoke, or you’d meet. I know it sounds silly, you could be just sat anywhere, it were always. I’ve always been around it, always, and if you’re around it, I was out there 24 h a day. Or to the point I was doing one [client], going buying a stone, going back doing one [client] and then buying a stone. Rapid, rapid. I was going through £300, £400, £500 a day.
Outdoor sex worker, King’s Cross, London. pg 374, Cusick & Hickman 2005: Trapping in Drug Use and Sex Work Careers
Customers like to think they were getting someone young and fresh. It was weird; they went to a place like Butterscotch’s [a strip club], as dank as it was, and they expected to find their girl-next-door Dulcinea amid the filth. But if we really /were/ that innocent, why would we be working in a place where we made money by watching men masturbate to us? The kind of girls they all wanted were daycare teachers, professional cheerleaders, librarians, or nurses - or they were in college studying something midrange and practical like marketing or communications. […] [I marveled at] the massive cognitive dissonance necessary for men to believe that the women they’d paid to perform sexual acts were actually /doing/ those sexual acts of their own volition instead of for the money. The whole virgin/whore question wasn’t about which one they wanted - the secret was that they wanted both, at the same time, in the same girl. That was their ‘fantasy girl’ - a female they could pay $60 to jerk off to then take home to Mom. Every customer wanted to pretend that his cock was the only one we’d ever seen. But at the same time, they had to know that if we’d take their money, we’d take anyone’s.
prostitute/stripper, pg 88-9, “Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections.” Melissa Farley.
It’s like you sign a contract to be raped.
legal brothel worker in Nevada. pg 34, “Legal Brothel Prostitution in Nevada: Making the Connections.” Melissa Farley.