I’d always secretly wanted to be a sex worker. I just didn’t think I could actually do it. While most people who say this are squeamish about the idea of paid sex with strangers, what I actually meant was, “I don’t think anyone would want to pay to have sex with me.”
My self-esteem wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I’d found my niche in the queer community where I felt hot and sexy and desirable. I just didn’t see myself as having the kind of body that straight men — normal dudes out there in the world — would be willing to cough up for. I had hairy underarms, hairy legs and a completely untouched pubic bush. The hair on my head, however, was cropped short and partly shaved, done at home using pube-clippers (which never got any other use). My arms were tattooed. I rarely wore makeup, and when I did, I had no real idea how to apply it. And I wasn’t exactly fat, but I certainly didn’t have a flat stomach or toned calves or a long, lean runner’s body. I wasn’t a clear candidate for the glamorous sex worker image I’d conjured up in my head.
When I did finally bite the bullet and take it up, it was because a woman I was seeing, who also happened to be a sex worker, suggested it. She was a total babe, but not stereotypically so. “If she can do it, so can I,” I reasoned.
My lesson in body image started with my very first client. He was looking for someone curvy and hairy. And to my surprise, I wasn’t curvy or hairy enough. He reluctantly agreed to see me, but only because he hadn’t been able to find anyone else fatter or hairier than me.
I saw several other private clients, all of whom didn’t bat an eyelash at any of the things I’d been concerned about. From there I moved on to working in parlors. During my first phone interview, I nervously whispered to the receptionist that I… ah… didn’t really shave… anywhere… which she interrupted with, “Oh honey, we don’t care. Just channel your inner goddess and they’ll love you.”
And she was right. On good nights at the brothel, when I was feeling sassy and cheeky and confident, I would have client after client lining up to see me back-to-back through my shift. On bad nights, when I was tired or distracted by things happening in my personal life, I would sit in the corner for my whole shift without getting a single booking. They say that confidence is your biggest asset, and it’s true. Confidence is sexy. Humor is sexy. And in my industry, sex sells.
At one place, I often worked the quiet shifts with just one other worker, a French woman in her mid-60s. It was impossible to predict who would get chosen between the two of us. Much to my surprise, it was not uncommon for hot young men to come in and choose her over me. She was gorgeous, sure, and she had a sexy accent, but she also had something I didn’t have — maturity, and lots of sexual experience.
At another parlor, I worked with a young woman who was a real tomboy, even in a short skirt. Another misconception I had was that straight men only want the girly-girls, and sure, for many, this is true. But a lot also liked this worker with her tough, boyish looks.
This is not to say that there weren’t the clients who favored more traditional ideas of beauty — the workers with long blond hair, slender bodies, perky breasts and lots of makeup. The workers who fit this stereotype generally got the most business, this is true. However, there were also many, many clients who were looking for someone just like me, and there were also many clients who turned me down because I wasn’t fat/hairy/old enough for their tastes.
I was lucky enough to work in brothels where they didn’t police your clothing or makeup or choice of shoes and where a wide variety of body types were welcomed. Many establishments are not like this, and I want to acknowledge that the sex work industry does definitely appear to favor people with certain body types and looks.
But what sex work did teach me is that everyone has a type, and it’s not as homogenous as you’d think. You are someone’s type. I am someone’s type. And we are beautiful just the way we are.
A version of this story was published in June 2018.
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