‘Coming out’ as a sex worker can be wonderfully empowering or absolutely HORRIBLE. Every time you do it, you learn at least one thing you wish you knew beforehand. So, why not save yourself some trouble and learn from my mistakes?
When I ‘came out’, I started by telling some friends. Then I told my parents and siblings. Today, I live in a world in which most people in my life are accepting of sex work or are sex workers themselves.
Explaining sex work to people is exhausting. It shouldn’t even be necessary, but how else will people know if you don’t tell them? Over the years, I’ve learned ways I could have handled the ordeal of ‘coming out’ a lot better.
Being an independent escort (or a sex worker of any kind) can be really isolating. If you work from home, you only interact with clients during the day. This can create an environment in which you feel really, really lonely.
On top of that, stigma and discrimination can wear you down. You start to notice how many people in the world hate and misunderstand sex work. You see friends or family laughing at dead hooker jokes on TV shows you used to love, and you feel so, so sad. You feel like no one gets you.
I’ve been there.
And then, an attempt to fix my loneliness and build connection, I’ve told those people that I am a sex worker.
There’s nothing wrong with this. But coming out is NOT a solution for loneliness. It is not a bandaid that you can whack on to fill the void. And telling someone out of desperation to feel connection will not get the result you desire.
If you are feeling lonely as a sex worker, you need to pin down WHY. Is it because you don’t spend enough time outside talking to people that aren’t clients? Go outside and spend time talking to people that aren’t clients. Is it because you find the burden of stigma overwhelming? Do some therapy and work through that.
There’s nothing wrong with craving connection or wanting to tell people that you’re a sex worker, but it isn’t a quick fix for all of your emotional problems.
Once the information is out there, you no longer have control of who tells who and who says what. The information is no longer yours.
Of course, if you want to tell people that you’re a sex worker, you will have to relinquish control at some stage. But have a long think about what you are trying to achieve and how this could impact your life, rather than impulsively telling a friend on a drunk night out because you are lonely and desiring human connection.
Remember, you always have the option to tell someone, but you can’t take it back once you’ve told.
When I told my best friend and my mum that I am a sex worker, I was terrified. I thought they would reject me, and I would never hear from them again. Instead, told me they loved me and are proud of me, and moved right along.
Others reacted in a variety of ways, ranging from extreme support to nonchalance to never speaking to me again. For the most part, every expectation I had was wrong.
You can’t know how people will react every time, or even most of the time. Instead, put your effort into preparing for various responses. Ask yourself what you’ll say if someone hates you, loves you unconditionally, or just don’t care. Consider the reactions that anyone could have. I know it’s scary to confront the possibilities, but you’ll be much more confident if you have a strategy to handle the tough situations.
We all know the depiction of sex workers in the media – sex workers are either desperate, disgusting and conflated with trafficking victims OR they are high-class companions who simply chat to men for thousands of dollars. EITHER WAY, sex workers are ruining feminism and objectifying themselves and must be deeply, deeply damaged.
You know the schtick.
You will be hurt and shocked and devastated that people you love and respect believe these stereotypes wholeheartedly. People will say things to you, and make assumptions about you, that will break your heart.
I try to remind myself that most of the time, people are doing the best they can. People don’t believe stereotypes because they are bad people. They believe stereotypes because they are plastered everywhere – TV, movies, advertisements, songs, on Instagram and YouTube. These stereotypes are played out, again and again, by the media, until they are ingrained in people’s heads.
It hurts. And while you don’t have to forgive people for hurting you, it personally helps ME to remember that it’s not necessarily their fault that they believe these stereotypes. It’s a much deeper issue, and I’m probably not going to fix it in one conversation.
When I realised that many people in my life believe horrible things about sex workers (and therefore about me) I got really, really angry. I spent a few years being angry. I felt angry at the people around me and angry at the world. Everything seemed so unfair. How could people think that I was so bad, just because of my work?
It took me a long time to work through that anger.
The thing is, sex work will change your view of the world forever. You can’t go back and un-see the stigma and discrimination that is enacted towards sex workers.
It might take you a while to work through that anger too.
This is not a one and done type of scenario. New people will come into your life, and you’ll have to decide whether or not you want to tell them. You don’t have to advertise your sex worker status over a loudspeaker, and you certainly don’t have to tell everyone you come in contact with. But chances are, you’ll have to come out more than once.
This can be frustrating and feel unfair. But I can promise that you’ll get better at it each time.
STRUGGLING TO COME OUT TO SOMEONE IN YOUR LIFE?
I’ve got you covered with my FREE guide. Click here to download your free copy of ‘Coming Out: A Guide For Sex Workers’.
Photo by Unsplash.
Disclaimer: I cannot, and do not, speak for all sex workers. I speak from my experience of working in a legal brothel and as an independent escort in Australia. Where possible I try to be inclusive. However, I can’t relay every experience of sex work – especially if I haven’t experienced it myself.
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