There comes a time in a sex worker’s life when, despite the lovely harem of men who are her willing clients, she sometimes thinks that she has had enough of fucking for money. It may not be a feeling that comes on suddenly, like an epiphany, instead it may be a slowly evolving feeling of job dissatisfaction. We all have off-days, but if the off-days are more than the on-days, it may be time to consider other options.
Please note – I MYSELF AM NOT YET RETIRING FROM SEX WORK! However when people say things like “it can be hard to leave” or talk about how some sex workers, whoever they are, should leave, there is obviously more to consider, and often it does not happen overnight.
I have seen a few people leave sex work for good in the short time I have been back so I thought I would share some ideas and options for those wanting to put it all behind them, (off the top of my head – clearly I am not a careers advisor).
My previous exit from the industry came after a sudden event which made me feel that my life could have been taken from me. I had had a couple of other scary events, but with the naivety of youth, had taken those pretty much on the chin, although I’d be lying if I pretended they did not affect my overall anxiety levels. But with the one where I was literally in the presence of a mentally-unbalanced man who expressed an intention to do me harm, in fact to kill me, I had a bit of a wake-up call. I was not in a position financially to leave immediately but sex work was never the same for me or my clients after that.
As well as that I had other parallel issues, (addictions) that I knew had finally reached the end of the road for me, so I set about calling on my rainy day cash stash (money I kept at a safe deposit box at a bank) and gathering the rest of the funds needed to relocate back to New Zealand where the first port of call was an addiction recovery centre, following the suggestions of a good friend of mine, a sex worker who had had a disguised heroin habit for seven years, (in other words you couldn’t tell from looking at her that she was an addict and functioned well as a high-class escort), who had managed to get clean (and is still clean).
After I returned to New Zealand, two other friends of mine died of heroin overdoses, both men who had nothing whatsoever to do with the sex industry other than being friends with sex workers – one a famous celebrity whose loss was publicly felt and the other one whose family refused to remove his body from the morgue so a working girl friend of mine paid for his cremation and related costs. While I was not a partaker of heroin myself, my own chemical addiction issues were just as life-threatening. My first attempts to get clean failed dismally, my last failure being especially spectacular, but I kept going back towards recovery and I’m happy to say that I have had over twenty years of “clean/sober days” since then, taking it one day at a time of course.
(I’m just writing this to suggest that some sex workers have other issues they need to take care of before they are ready to enter the straight world as a job-hunter. While this stereotype is by no means relevant to everyone, it would be remiss of me to omit it from my particular story).
This time around I have a different exit strategy, bearing in mind that as a mature sex worker, I have a limited shelf life left for actual sex work anyway. I still have another creative occupation, plus another actual job, but since the earthquakes in Christchurch, this has not given me an effective way to earn a living as it is sporadic.
Many full-service providers don’t exit completely but head sideways towards sex work which does not include actual sex, that is, offering different specialist services such as sensual massage or domming. Sensual massage is a great option and there are many ladies willing to share their skills as well as courses you can take. The hourly rate is still great and while clients can look, the sensual masseuse controls the amount of touching or any extra services on offer. Although it is hard, physical work, sensual massage is a service many ladies choose because it is always in great demand.
As glamourously as it is portrayed, domming is certainly an experience of the extremes when it comes to the wide range of kinks out there. I don’t believe it is something that anyone can step into, even though many sex workers include mild domination as part of their service, as it is rich in opportunities for the theatrical, what fun. Serious dominatrix work requires months of training and a secure understanding of the psychology of dominance and submission and there are a few excellent examples of dommes in New Zealand who are experienced in this.
A good friend of mine, who was a dominatrix in Melbourne for 15 years, told me she gave up domming though because it became too dark in her head, and also because she became sick of cleaning up after clients’ ass-inserted implements, as she felt there was nothing domme about that. When I asked her why she didn’t get slaves to do it, she replied that cleanliness had to be of the most superior order, and slaves may not do it properly or may not put things back in the right place. When it comes to being a dominatrix, one thing that is stressed is that there can be nothing slap dash about keeping the tools of the trade sterilised.
However, if the stigma of the sex industry is something you are trying to escape from, sensual massage and domming are still under the same umbrella.
It is worth remembering that sex workers who are good at what they do are not lacking in transferable skills. For example the hospitality industry uses similar skills, including the underrated gift of dealing with sudden upsets or client surprises while still smiling, and is easy to transition into without giving up the great income of sex work, as part-time positions are reasonably easy to come by. Before long, extra practical skills can be earned, such as barista and bar skills, which can be moved to other hospitality positions elsewhere. Other jobs which need great customer skills of this nature are in the real estate, sales and marketing industries, if that’s your cup of tea.
Another thing you may need to consider, depending on what you wish to do, is obviously full-time study, to get qualifications of course as well as something to put on your CV to fill in a period of time. When people ask what you are doing, saying you’re a student is quite a respectable answer. At the beginning, when your study timetable is lighter, you can still do sex work to get enough to live on with little advertising if you have regular clients.
Often until you’ve lived a little though, it’s hard to know where your interests really lie, what to study and how you can really use your natural resources to make a difference in the world, your community, your family or even what makes your own spirit soar. Someone I know spent years studying law, rose in the ranks to become a partner in a great law firm, before deciding that “being a lawyer” was not actually what he wanted to do. If only he’d known. Luckily he was able to salvage another great career with those qualifications. If sciences are your thing and you like the hooker with a heart of gold aspect of sex work, maybe nursing would be an interesting step. If you’re a creative geeky sort, I know of a few working girls who have studied web design, although I have heard that the new frontier of IT is still quite male-dominated and not necessarily willing to include or employ women except on a token basis, (this is based on anecdotal observations by someone within the industry), although you can always work for yourself.
It’s difficult to get ahead working for wages, and some people resent the renumeration they get for the effort they put into working to build someone else’s empire, isn’t that easy to complain about? We each have skills, aptitudes and interests unique to us, and even if we are not sure about what we want to do, a business course (I think even technical institutes offer Bachelors in Business Studies) could be something to do which can be used in any business in future, your own or managing others’.
A book I recommend to anyone wanting to get out of sex work but not quite knowing what to do, is What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles. There are also government funded organisations that can help with job-hunting, and according to the NZPC (another great resource of non-judgmental ex-sex workers who also have counsellors), sex workers leaving this career do not have to suffer through the normal stand-down period that WINZ impose for job-seekers voluntarily leaving a job and signing up for a benefit, given that due to emotional or safety issues, immediate departure from sex work may be essential.
The main issue I found difficult to deal with in the real world was the terrible money-management skills I had. Although I had been brought up to be reasonably prudent with money, understanding well things like the magic of compound interest, my years of earning too much and not being able to do anything with it (due to sex work being illegal) caused real problems with my acquired champagne tastes once I was back on a beer budget (which is ironic, being a non-drinker). This is where organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau, who offer non-judgmental budgeting services, are fantastic. Ideally to plan a transition to the real world, services like these could help a working girl with a budget, advise on taking care of outstanding taxes if any are due, and secure an interest-earning nest egg to make transition to a non-sex working life easier.
Sometimes the transition to a new occupation takes some time as it does with any career change. Luckily because sex work is legal here in New Zealand, there is no need to fear that any assistance from government departments which offer these kind of helpful services will negatively affect sex workers reaching out. Perhaps other countries who want to stamp out sex work could take a gentler and more understanding approach rather than trying to enforce a blanket ban on something which is sometimes the only way people know of as far as how to make a living goes.
I wish anyone who no longer enjoys sex work the courage to leave and all the best with their new life.