Feminism and sex work
Sex Work and Feminism
Exploring the differences between a Dominatrix, Escort and Client
As a sex worker, I have been thinking about the word ‘feminism’ and what it means for quite a while. I hear the word bellowing from defunct latrines from a communal trench in the deadened earth, and only being used for emergency situations... ‘sex worker’! It feels that way, it shouldn’t.
At art school, I was asked “what makes you a feminist?”
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure. It was undeniable, but I didn’t have the answers and I’m still not sure if I do. But it feels like it’s something inside of me that sways feverishly.
How can I be intelligent, a feminist, and a self-employed performance artist... and still choose to be a sex worker?
“Equality”... I pondered... “freedom!”
Although I didn’t feel so free, perhaps trying to decompress being a ‘nice girl’ - into becoming somebody I could meticulously study, and actually live with, all by myself.
The definition of feminism
‘A range of social movements, political movements and ideologies that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal and social equality of the sexes.’
Sex workers across the world are incredibly diverse in ethnicity, race, gender, class, faith, sexuality and disability.
It seems that throughout history, sex workers have had a hideous time of it. They have endured wretched judgements and a lot of suffering, and still to this day are put on trial. I’m also quite sure they do this to themselves enough. You feel like screaming from the bonobo tree tops, ‘please just let them be!’
I feel my loyalty may lie more on the side of the sex worker, because undoubtedly they must have experienced hardship, they live through a constant unease, and still they choose this and to roam wildly.
In my practice as a performance artist and dominatrix, I see a lot of men and hardly any women, even though I advertise for women. I see a cross-section of interesting and complex men, mostly in high earning careers, riding around visiting and acquiring a whole world of different services from sex workers. The women work from their homes, apartments, dungeons and Airbnb’s, doing what they need to do to survive.
So why are they there, are why are we here? I don’t have the answers but I do believe that every woman has an important story to be inscribed, whether it’s a poem, a ditty or a prayer.
I like to imagine opposite worlds sometimes, roles reversed; a world where successful women drive around to visit male sex workers for their pleasure, we couldn’t even begin to imagine they could ever deliver.
Can you imagine them dusting-off their Christian Louboutin 7-inch heels, studying the female anatomy insightfully, and leaning that a woman actually has as much erectile tissue as a man, and that we can get a boner! Who knew?!
Can you imagine them finding time to purchase sex toys for every female orgasmic eventuality, regularly working out, taking account of hairy, weathered and wearisome wobbly bits, and booking themselves onto a female orgasm tantra course? And all while yearning desperately for the exquisite feeling of giving a woman a full-body orgasm, while studying psychological theorists and writers. Understanding the complex dynamic of sadism and masochism, most likely without a relationship and children, renting on the hopscotch with the faint melancholy of the word ‘family’, while earning half the salary of their female counterparts. It would never happen... period!
The reality is that a woman sells her body, skills, maturity, intellect and sublime femininity for half the daily wage of an AGA service engineer.
So my feminist question to you...
Why does it feel that women put in double the effort and live half the pleasure?
Perhaps deep sexual satisfaction is my gripe. A woman is capable of achieving 14 different orgasms. Yes, 14!
I watched a documentary called ‘Sexology’ recently, featuring Gabrille Anwar and her friend. They both go on an emotional and spiritual journey to find their orgasm, gaining insight from sexual experts, tantric masters, and everyday women to unearth full female potential, full body orgasms and awakened sex lives. Gabrille says ‘if I don’t get to experience my full sexual potential when I am hard wired to feel this deep pleasure before I die, I don’t want to live.’
In the documentary, the sex therapist says, ‘for a woman, letting yourself being penetrated by a man is a deeply intimate, deeply vulnerable, deeply spiritual, deeply scary thing. Before physical penetration, there is emotional penetration, psychic penetration, spiritual penetration, where we feel a man and how stable he is. To be penetrated we have to make ourselves soft.’
Imagine being a female escort. To negate these facts and close your eyes and your mind to such truths, a shutting down must occur, with an opening to something ‘other’... and that ‘other’ is a place of immeasurability. It is a place where boundaries aren’t agreed, freedom doesn’t exist, distress signals are never heard - or want to be heard. In summary, it is a vanishing. And I’m not saying pleasure can’t sit there, because it sometimes can.
I’m sure male sex workers would never live this conundrum. I’ve met some and they don’t have to stretch this impassioned gum that is stuck to every soft gooey part of them. They just seem to ‘get the job done’. There is no female treachery surging inside them.
Women must be so adaptive in this industry, yet there is something that irks me more than other things - the infamous GFE, or ‘Girlfriend Experience’.
I do not and will not understand how a man can think he can pay for a ‘girlfriend experience’ that’s supposed to include French kissing, cuddling, and generally being cutesie. There are two types of sex - sex worker sex and relationship sex – GFE, the customer will simply receive a deluded, compensatory, wrung-out, dank version, because – newsflash! - you don’t hold their hearts.
GFE? I say GFY and, no, I don’t mean good for you!
I do consider that there are men whose wives no longer want sex with them for many varied reasons but where do these men turn, and also for women in a similar situation. There is a place for this but it seems all too consumed with men of a more undesirable nature perhaps a sex worker can only withstand so much.
I feel a dominatrix can be choosier and it feels like they are in a more privileged position than escorts even though an escort gives her entire body. Escorts don’t cover up what they aren’t and they have nothing to hide behind and they must always be respected. I feel what they do is in line with passing over their soul, regardless to what country they are from or what conditions they may live in, they are still passing over.
A dominatrix however, may work on a deeper psychological level and can really help a submissive explore many layers of their sexuality and many become devoted to their mistress. The mistress can provide guidance, friendship and give the submissive a deep sense of belonging and their servitude can and often does last a lifetime. There is a beautiful alchemy to this, done right.
Finding the right mistress is key, you will know when you find her!
Sex work and mental health
I want to talk a little about the mental health of sex workers.
Former escort Mitzi Poesner worked in a pub before turning to sex work and had to deal with sexual harassment there. Later, the clients she saw as an escort reminded her of the men that used to frequent the pub. It all became too much for her to bear.
In an article called ‘How being a sex worker affected my mental health’ she says “Contrary to the popular view of sex work, it’s not a one way ticket to a breakdown, but it’s not utopia either. What drove me to sex work was a need to exist without aching poverty, to see my many doctors, work on my health and to be able to claw back my life from the jaws of a zero-hours contract and a gaping overdraft.”
Is there a correlation between capitalism, aching poverty and transactional sex?
Feminist writer Selma James writes, “For women who do want to believe that sex with their men - husbands, boyfriends or lovers, exist in a similar transactional context are oblivious... It is easier for some women to write-off prostitution as an intrinsic violence than to accept sex within capitalism is inextricably gendered, inextricably politicised, but until capitalism in abolished, there will be people who sell sex to survive.”
There are terrible stories of sex worker exploitation and trafficking. And on the other side, men are being exploited and feeling defenceless against the firm clench of the seductress/sex worker. In the middle ground, there’s a genuine need for release and to cultivate some inner bliss and restore some temporary peace in a healthy and consensual way.
As a sensual dominatrix, my practise is generally a connective and restorative one, and I take elements from domination, tantric massage and talk therapy to offer something which is increasingly holistic. The sessions are generally blindfolded and my aim it to make them restorative and for the client to go more inside of themselves. I enjoy this aspect of my work.
I call my own shots and it has given me time, space and so much art, but it feels like there is still a charity shop price tag permanently hanging from me, and I wish there wasn’t.
We face very real issues. Sex work isn’t fully legalised or legitimised. Sex workers don’t have the same rights as other workers. As a sex worker you live on a higher level of anxiety and there isn’t much you can do to remedy this.
Is there an alternative?
If I were to make some changes, I would like men to find novelty, not just in a woman’s body but to look inside themselves, learning and nourishing their own capability and truth, to lead a life true to themselves, without fear of being judged. As women, we can support you to do that.
The human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25, so we we must try and protect it as much as we can. I don’t just mean watching less porn, I mean visualising the brain as your Earth. It’s precious.
Consider the human emotional imprint of these exchanges. We are a species hardwired to bond and create deep lasting relationships. We can’t fight oxytocin and dopamine any more than we can fight the virus. There is no vaccine for being human.
I sometimes ponder….. Do we lead illusionary lives, tell visionary tales and yet continue to dream still births?
I would like to see a world where a woman doesn’t feel the need to turn to sex work as her normal job. If she chooses this, let it be for the right reasons for her; for her own pleasure, mastery of the art form, sexuality and freedoms that come with it.
I’d like to see plentiful opportunities for women who want to transition out of the industry, to enable them to build sustainable, high-earning careers.
For society to understand that sex workers deserve compassion and understanding, as well as for some of the men that visit them, and for them to view each other in that same way, and for both parties to acknowledge that emptiness can exist.
We would, when we all could, take time out. We would take holidays where we go without technology, meditate, do yoga, swim naked in the warm ocean, lie and feel together silently, the sun and nature would feed us. To live more simply and to question what we really need.
Ideally, we would not compromise, we would stand firm, with the right person with whom we could vanish together whenever we wanted. Isn’t that worth holding out for? To be alone with our aloneness isn’t easy, I know.
My biggest lesson of them all is one that I would like to impart to you.
For love to endure, an opening must occur, an affirmation to our authentic self, trust felt, an ability to grow, and grace is present, only then can we awaken, and only then can we can awaken you... but we are waiting for you, don’t you see?