It’s the reason I’ve always loved sex work.
No set hours. No schedules. No rosters. No prescribed start times. No alarm clocks blaring.
No bosses. No one telling you what to do. No rules you have to follow.
No responsibilities. Nobody relying on you. No commitments.
Sure, there are clients who book months ahead with deposits and managers at brothels who will send you annoying texts if you skip a shift. And let’s not forget strip clubs with their late fees and house fees and shift fees and the-manager-definitely-made-this-fee-up fees. But, in the sex industry, everyone expects you to be flakey.
Don’t come for me. It’s true.
That brothel manager has seen hundreds of girls come and go. Don’t show up for your shift? No big deal. They’ve seen it all before.
And private clients? Trust me, their expectations are extremely low. If you send polite email responses within 24 business hours, they’ll be utterly impressed and singing your praises.
I’m telling you, there’s something about the transient nature of the sex industry that makes it so incredibly freeing. There’s always another brothel, another client, another dollar. Stuff everything up and make a nightmare of your brand? No problem. Smoke bomb, delete everything, chuck on a wig, have a new photoshoot, pick a new name, and you can completely recreate yourself. Where else in the world can you do this?
When I was 18, the freedom of the sex industry suited me to a T. I was in a bucket load of debt, but I was also slightly chaotic. Sure, all 18-year-olds are chaotic, but I had a sprinkling of mental illness that I was sorting through, making it all the more difficult (I’m sure there’s more than one sex worker out there who can relate). At the time, it felt impossible to hold down a job, let alone a full-time job. I jumped around from job to job. It’s not that I couldn’t do the jobs; it’s that for me, the idea of full-time working seemed suffocating, stifling, unbearable. Sex work was one solution.
I could handle several brothel shifts a week and earn more money than the full-time minimum wage I would have otherwise been making at the time. It was perfect. Later, I started working as a private escort, which required slightly more responsibility in terms of managing my own bookings and advertising. But in those days, you could flick an ad up on Backpage without much bother.
Without sex work, I’m not sure what I would’ve done. Sex work gave me a leg up, a chance to succeed, even when other things in my life weren’t going so swimmingly. It enabled me to afford the treatment I needed and time to heal. It enabled me to afford an apartment, a car, groceries, health insurance. It enabled me to focus on pursuing education without needing to worry about money. It gave me a chance to follow my dreams, to travel overseas. Sex work has given me many opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Ten years later, at age 28, I’ve spent most of my adult life working in the industry. Yes, I’ve had other jobs here and there. And I’ve studied (a lot). But, until recently, sex work was really the only job I’d done properly. The only job I’d enjoyed, committed to, put effort into. It was the only thing I’d stuck at for a long time.
I’m coming to the end of my postgraduate degree, which, in the past year, has involved full-time placements. Coming into the degree, I knew the commitment I was making. While I don’t feel comfortable revealing my field of study on the blog, I will say that it’s not for the faint-hearted. Gone are the days of ‘full-time’ undergraduate study, swanning in at 11am for a 2-hour class before having a leisurely afternoon coffee with classmates. No. This is more of an up-at-5am-for-an-unpaid-full-time-work-week-before-coming-home-to-write-my-thesis type of degree.
My point is, I knew that by taking on this degree, I was making a commitment to a different kind of life. I wanted to start to build a life – a career – outside of the sex industry. And still, I struggled. I went back and forth in my head – should I do the degree full-time or part-time? Would it be too much? Was I really ready to give up my freedom? What about my long lunches? My midday pilates? My ability to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted? I struggled for months before the degree started. I didn’t want to lose my freedom.
And when I started, I still struggled.
For the first time in my life, I had to be truly responsible and reliable. Sure, I’d had other jobs before, but not like this. People relied on me. I had to make phone calls (a modern-day escorts worst nightmare!) I had to show up. If I didn’t show up, there were actual consequences to people’s lives. I couldn’t just send a text to cancel. I had to be there and do the work. And the work was hard. There were tears. But there was also something else.
There was growth.
In my new degree and my new role, I pushed myself. Every. Single. Day.
I was in situations I felt uncomfortable in. I had to show up when I didn’t want to. I threw my heart into my new role. And all of a sudden, it felt like the world was opening up.
For so long, I used sex work to keep myself comfortable. It was a safety net. For me, a lot of the time, it came easily. But it didn’t push me. It kept me safe, but in the same way that avoidance keeps your anxiety safe – it feels good in the short term, but is it really helpful in the long term? For a long time, I needed that safety. But when I was ready, I started to push myself, and a different kind of freedom started to open up.
No, it wasn’t the kind of freedom that allowed for weekdays filled with long lunches and midday pilates classes. But it was the kind of freedom that made me realise that I could do whatever I wanted with my life. And, to me, that type of freedom is the most valuable kind.
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