I’ve never claimed to be a happy hooker and actively talk about the bad sides of it. So much so, sex workers can sometimes get annoyed because they fear I am playing into the hands of abolitionists. Yet, there is no pretending sex work is always fine and dandy, especially when working street, or driven from a place of desperation. However, there is a lot I do like about it. If it was 100% bad then I wouldn’t keep doing it. Although I’d say more bad than good, the goods can be very good and that’s what keeps me coming back, even if it does sometimes feel like a trap. Sex work can be a true blessing for some, and there has been times where it has felt like exactly that to me.
We all know this is perhaps the main reason for becoming a sex worker, at least, it has been in my experience and that of friends. Money makes the world go round; gives us freedom; allows us to have greater choices in our life. I am not in love with money, but we all need it and enjoy having some – I am no different. Working indoor, I was blown away by the money at first, I couldn’t believe it. I began questioning why doesn’t everyone do this? It seemed like a very quick solution to a problem that has effected me my whole life – poverty. Although the fear of being chronically poor has never left me, I know the option is forever there to prevent destitution.
I studied International Relations at University because I was interested in the connections between states, the history of how we got to where we are today and who made it that way and why. However, the more I dug deep, I realised just how fucked I was as a poor person. Book after book reminded me that poverty is structural, and very few escape it. To rub salt in the wound, they say that social mobility has never been so bad and the rich rely on the poor, thus, there will be always be poor people. Growing up in a large family of eight, I was aware of my socioeconomic status in the world, and it wasn’t good. Sex work felt like breaking free of that. I was no longer chained to the feeling of being poor all the time, because I knew I could simply just earn more money.
As every sex worker will tell you, the thought of going back to a ‘normal’ job feels daunting. Why? Because in no other job can you earn £80 in half hour, or £130 an hour. The thought of going back to a job we don’t enjoy, with colleagues we secretly detest, dealing with work politics and not having much time for a personal life isn’t very appealing. Capitalism works in opposition to sex work in some aspects. For example, capitalism demands you work more and more, in which you will be rewarded greater. Sex work on the other hand, means I can work less and be rewarded equally. Isn’t this what we all want? Of course, there is much more complexities between capitalism and sex work, but it flies in the face of the dominant discourse of get a degree, get a good job, work hard, ruin your family life, retire rich.
This isn’t perfect of course, and there are many jobs I’d happily do other than sex work. The issue is that they don’t pay as well. The critique is of capitalism, not of the workers.
Money feeds largely into the topics below, particularly freedom. Money dominates everyone’s lives, it is the common theme for us all. If you don’t feel it dominates your life, then question why you have a job to begin with, and then imagine yourself having no money and high debts – the thought should induce panic. It does for me too, and is exactly why I became a sex worker, because that panic was constant and wouldn’t switch off. It kept me awake at night, left me in more desperate situations and feel worse off for it. It ruined my sleep, my health and general wellbeing, sex work solved that feeling.
This ties closely with money, but sex work gives me a lot of freedoms. The freedom to be financially independent is the most important to me. Nobody is controlling my income, and I am not accountable to anyone either. I can spend what I like, and regardless of whether you see sex work as work or not, it pays my bills, keeps me housed and fed. I don’t feel accountable to anyone, and provided I have enough to pay my rent and what not, then I’m okay. Anything else is up to me. Money gives you freedom and choices, and I have been grateful to have them. Whether it was during a time where it saved me from absolute destitution, kept me away from an abuser, or allowed me to buy a sofa. This is why I will never support the Nordic Model because regardless of ideology, I do not believe in restricting anyone’s income, because it harms their freedoms, autonomy and choices.
I have so much freedom with my time, and this can feel quite liberating. It has been a long time since I’ve felt rigid and tied down to something, and feeling like I have to commit to anything. This allows for so much spare time, because I don’t have to work often to earn the same as I would full-time elsewhere. I never appreciated this before, usually because I was so busy with other things that were bad. Now, I have time to pick up hobbies, I spent time doing counselling, I now have a part time flexi job. I catch up on my housework without pressure, am able to cook my meals rather than batch cook for the week. I can grab things I need without it being a big chore to do after work. I love it, especially cause the shops are not as busy in the daytime.
For the first time in my life, I have bought houseplants. Before, I never bothered because I didn’t have time, and if they died, I didn’t care. I never used to read, do hobbies or actively take time to look after myself. Now, I have the time to do these things and I know sex work is to thank for this.
Like a fair share of sex workers, I have a chronic health condition, one that puts me in hospital from time to time, and is at times difficult to manage. Becoming a sex worker allowed me work my life around my medical condition and when I ended up in hospital, I had nobody to add to the stress. I didn’t need to bring myself to ring my boss, riddled with anxiety, to tell them I can’t make it to work because I am currently in hospital and will be for the next 2 weeks. I had nobody to answer to, and I loved it. Of course, I wasn’t thinking this at the time, but in hindsight, I am grateful for it.
The biggest benefit was, I also didn’t have anyone pressuring me to go straight back to work either which I did in previous jobs. I allowed myself to heal, recuperate and generally get back on the bandwagon when I felt comfortable to do so again. Although I was poorer for it, I had made my mind up that my health was more important at the time. It was worth it, and I don’t think I’d have been able to allow myself 2 months off work for an adrenal crisis and sepsis recovery in any other job. This may not sound like a big benefit of the sex work, but imagine yourself having to ring up your boss and tell them bad news about your health, and that you can’t work. Then, whilst you’re off, you’re being pressured into returning, or being involved in work stuff when you’re supposed to be at home resting.
Health extends to mental health, and at times mine has been awful. I do feel sex work is partly to blame, but I was having problems long before I became a sex worker. There are times when days are bad, and that’s okay, but it means I don’t have to work when those days happen. I don’t lye in bed feeling horrific, and then think about commuting to work when I would rather crawl up in a ball. I can manage my work around my mental health, rather than the other way around. It also allows me time to schedule in counselling sessions, attend my GP appointments and various other things with regards to health. The opposite is trying to squeeze these things in after work from your 9-5, or letting things get so bad until you finally have to see someone, because you neglected it due to work.
A sense of belonging is important to everyone; it’s almost fundamental. Whether that comes from being part of a family, a friendship group, a religious group or hobbyists. Being a part of a community is even more important when you’re stigmatised, and you know you can’t be open about it with others. This is what I love about sex work. I have met some incredible people who I truly admire. I have seen brave sex workers out themselves in the hope of making better services for others, in the hope of breaking down stigma. I’ve watched support workers relentlessly advocate for sex workers, be the first in the line to defend us against some of the nastiest vitriolic abuse. Above all, sex workers themselves are usually the first to lend a hand.
Internal stigma is a thing, and something I will admit to having. I held it deep and dearly, nurturing it more than I ever wanted to. However, I started meeting other sex workers for the first time and it was like a breath of fresh air. Before you know it, I’m slagging off clients left, right and centre and we’re laughing over sex work *whoops* moments and blowing up condoms. I can’t do this with anyone else, they just wouldn’t get it. They would find it weird, not be able to relate and perhaps keep their distance from me. The stigma feels less when it is shared, and we can laugh about it. Not being judged by your peers is important, and gives you a true sense of relief.
There is a solidarity amongst sex workers, and I believe it’s because we have had to rely on each other for support, as we are often excluded from others; whether the ‘others’ are services, counselling, friends or pushed out by our families. When COVID19 happened, it was SWARM and allies who set up the Hardship Fund to help sex workers. It was during some of the most difficult times in my life where sex workers were the first to help me. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to do street sex work without the friendship and kindness of other sex workers. They looked out for me and my safety; they mothered me a lot; I was taught all the best places and punters; and they helped me find my unleash my inner anti-client.
I didn’t even know what feminism was until I became a sex worker, let alone the different types of feminism. The sex work community has taught me so much and sits at the heart of my politics. Never have I learned so much about theory, feminism, politics, Jess Phillips, borders, states, immigration and whatever else. I am grateful for it, because it has shaped who I am, what I believe and what I am passionate about. I was always a left-winger, but never for the reasons that I am today.
As much as I bash sex work, I will always find myself coming back whether I like it or not. It’s not because I love the job, but because it solves a problem and gives me a practical solution. Until you put money in my hand, give me an equally paid job, ensure I will never be poor, or pay all my bills, then I will never turn my back on it, or listen to an abolitionist who wants me to leave. It has helped me when nobody else did, and sex work has ultimately got me to where I am today, even if it has been a shitty journey! When my sofa arrives and I feel carpet under my feet, when I buy my favourite dinner or meet my friends in the daytime, I have sex work to thank.
I always keep blog posts free but if you wish to support me, please consider: