Sex work, mental health and sex addiction

maxgimblettFrom the show The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze by Max Gimblett

I found it interesting when a sex worker I am acquainted with wrote that her father, on finding out she was a sex worker, enquired as to how she was going to safe guard her soul.  He could just as easily have asked how she was going to protect herself from the mental health issues which are sometimes thrown into the interesting petri-dish of the wider sex work environment.  While I do not intend to imply that sex work causes everyone to need straight jackets, it is a situation affecting a small percentage of sex workers that can not be denied.

Obviously I am no psychologist.  I have however, worked in the sex industry for a number of years and kept a keen interest in and care for sex work when not in the industry, as well as suffered from a “mental health issue” myself – for the longest of years it was me versus severe anxiety (and no, I am not exaggerating for the purposes of this post).  While anxiety is no longer the monkey on my back, I empathise with those still suffering from any mental health issue which life has thrust on them to deal with at any given time, particularly if they are also trying to make a living from sex work where the work may seem routine, but any spanner can be thrown into the works on any occasion.

I’m not sure if the Internet, where one can suffer at the hands of others and where one can also even cry out for help so publicly, is a good place for the vulnerable, which sex industry workers and some of their clients sometimes are.  Like everyone, occasionally I see online behaviour which is clearly not coming from a healthy place, and most certainly not leading to a healthy place either.  However, since everyone has access to the means to express themselves or interact with others in this great digital municipality, often there is nothing that can be done but stand back and watch events unfold, (or of course choose not to if it is too much to bear).  The anguish of others often seems to cause pleasure to others – shouldn’t we all know better, if we have reached this stage called adulthood?

Some people can not cope with it and suicide can seem an attractive option, or even the only option or escape.  When a celebrity living in the southern hemisphere killed herself in 2014, many people blamed twitter, where she had become the object of attack by some people who enjoy that sort of thing.  Or maybe suicide was the only way she knew to stop a long conversation she had been having in her mind.  Pause for thought.

As with all walks of life though, there are some (I’m not sure of statistics) who are non-neurotypical while working in the sex industry.  The spectacle of everyday existence which includes constantly having to lie or cover our tracks or deal with being outed which could cause us to lose support from our loved ones does not help because society can not deal with the fact that this is valuable work and that we were born sexual in order to continue the human species and that we all “have needs“, (or maybe I’m being too simple and this argument is flawed?)

A deeply religious close family member of mine, who has made money from canny investing and share trading, refuses to put any of his money into businesses which profit from alcohol or gambling because he believes that alcoholism and gambling addictions destroy people.  Naturally he has also never invested in anything sex industry related.  I am aware as a sex worker that there can sometimes be a trench between men wanting intimacy due to skin hunger issues and those dealing with and trying to bargain with sex addiction.

I wrote trench rather than fine line because as with alcohol, most can drink regularly and even get drunk frequently without being an alcoholic.  So it is with whatever sexual activity gets your rocks off, for example, seeing sex workers, watching porn, masturbating: most can do it often without it being an issue, for others, it crosses over into sex addiction.  The distinction is, according to a recovery programme, powerlessness over addictive sexual behavior to the degree that lives are unmanageable.  For this reason, while many think they can judge whether or not someone else has an addiction of any kind and proclaim that they need recovery, really only the subject can decide from within their own lives and experiences whether or not they are powerlessness over addictive behavior to the degree that their lives are unmanageable.

I was recently contacted by someone who is now in a twelve-step programme to recover from what he identifies as sex addiction plus a second addiction: to gambling.  A recent major binge splurge caused him to ask himself some hard questions.  He got in touch with me to tell me he was on the road to recovery, which I am very happy for him about, as well as taking a break from contact with sex industry participants and stopping seeing sex workers, but he wanted to keep in touch with me because of my own experience with recovery and twelve step programmes.  (I advised him to check with his sponsor first.  There is a saying: if you hang around at the barber’s long enough, you’ll get a haircut).

If sex addiction or any type of addiction is an issue for you or anyone you know, or if you are just interested in knowing more about solutions to any kind of addiction, I strongly recommend watching the film, Thanks for Sharing.  I have an enthusiasm for and interest in films and film making – mainly because of the way my brain enjoys and interprets the layers of a story.  I recommend a lot of films to people but mostly I know that others obviously will not have the same response to these films as I.  However, if you have ever doubted that sex addiction, or actually any addiction, is a thing and/or recovery is possible, watch the damn film!

Thanks for reading.

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