Love & Sex Magazine

Calling

By Maggiemcneill @Maggie_McNeill

Given that most sex workers only stay in the profession a short time, why have you remained in it for so long?

CallingIt’s not entirely true that most sex workers only stay in the profession for a short time; I’d say a more accurate statement would be that most only stay in specific sex work jobs for limited consecutive stretches.  What I mean is, while there are certainly a large fraction of sex workers who only work for a few years (say, while attending university or after a divorce) and then never go back, there is a much larger fraction who drop in and out of various types of sex work at various times in their lives.  A woman might strip while in school, then take a straight job for a while, then do camming to bring in extra cash while married, then switch to escorting after divorce, go to another straight job for a while, then do phone sex on the side because that doesn’t fully pay the bills, etc.  Once a woman learns she can capitalize on men’s sex drives, she never forgets that she can dip back into that pool of cash whenever she needs to (and for as long as she needs to).

You are, however, correct in saying that most women don’t stay at it for decades at a time as I do (and I know some ladies who started around the same time as I did in the ’80s, or shortly before or after, and never took as long a hiatus as I did from 1987-97).  Even when I was married, I never really stopped; I thought of the period from July 2006 to July 2010 as a long gig for a single client, because the fact that I loved my husband was immaterial to the economics of the situation:  a man was supporting me in return for my companionship & sexual favors.  The reason I’ve stayed so long is simple:  this is my profession.  This is what I do, what I know, what I’m good at.  I’ve never done any other job for remotely as long as I have this one; the next closest approach was librarian, and it lasted only five years.  But it’s a little more than that.  Every profession has some members who are merely interested in the money, and others who consider it their calling.  Of course they want the money, and except in very rare cases they wouldn’t be doing it if they weren’t getting paid.  But such individuals derive gratification not just from the money, but also from an emotional satisfaction deriving from the job itself.  For example, there are physicians who take up medicine merely because it’s lucrative, while others are emotionally fed by the knowledge that they are healing the sick.  There are lawyers who go into law simply because they can make a lot of money at it, while others (especially criminal defense lawyers) are deeply committed to principles of justice and derive satisfaction from helping people escape being crushed by the gears of the State.  And there are sex workers who are attracted to the job simply for its good income and flexibility, while others also feel “paid” by the joy, pleasure and healing we provide to our clients; as you can probably tell, I’m in the latter group.  Now, it’s important to note that I’m not making any moral or qualitative judgments here; a physician who’s only in it for the money is not a worse human being than one for whom the satisfaction of healing is also a motivation, and a lawyer whose only motive is profit might still be a better lawyer than one who is driven to fight for right against might.  And a whore who is motivated only by income and nothing else might still be the right choice for a particular client.  However, it seems to me that people whose motivations extend beyond the purely pecuniary are more motivated to stick with a job (rather than, say, accepting a more highly-paid hospital administrator position); they’re also the ones who are more likely to be found doing pro bono work such as writing law blogs or doing sex work activism, because although those extracurricular activities pay nothing in actual cash (and indeed, may actually cost money), the individual who indulges in them may feel compensated in less direct and material ways.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)


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