• Tue, Feb 12 2013

Harlotry: Why I’m Not Better Than Sex Work

Harlotry: better than sex work

Cathryn Berarovich is something of a renaissance sex worker; she was until recently employed as a stripper but has held numerous interesting jobs in the industry (and she’s currently an excellent columnist on this very website). Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry.

Ever since I decided to be a sex worker, people have been telling me that I’m ‘too good’ for this profession. It started when I came out to a friend, it intensified when my mother figured out I was a sex worker, and it continued when I chose to briefly retire from the industry. When I returned, first to stripping and then to light fetish work, the protests, mostly from my family and commenters on my last few columns, only got louder.

I am somewhat anomalous in that I’ve been almost entirely open with my family about what it is that I do. While my parents are, for the most part, extremely supportive, they do not offer their support with total approval. My father calls my work ‘unskillful’ and my mother says it’s degrading.

The main arguments people make against my various forays into harlotry is that I am ‘too smart for that,’ ‘a remarkable young woman,’ and ‘better than things like that.’ This is all delivered in a disdainful tone, as if I were little more than a garbage picker or sewage worker (all due respect to garbage pickers and sewage workers, I could never do their jobs and admire them for it) the implication of all of such arguments is that sex work is degrading and degrading work is for people who are somehow less awesome than I. It’s flattering, and I understand that when people encourage me to quit the industry it comes from a good place, but it’s completely untrue that I’m somehow better than my chosen work.

I am not better than sex work, not even a little bit.

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  • Nikola

    I don’t understand why sex work is so badly viewed. I think we can all understand that sex is one of the most basic human needs. So why wouldn’t there be a profession that provides that for people? I just wish it was legal and regulated so it was safer for everyone, workers and clients.

  • http://twitter.com/AlsoBailey Corrine Gasiorowski

    Sex work is so often said to be “disgusting” because the worker is using his or her body/skin for money…is a massage therapist not doing the same? Is a manicurist not touching another person for cash? A topless fashion model? If sex is a basic human need, then there should be a legal way to service people with such a need. We pay other women to carry our children so as not to destroy our bodies, why not make it legal to pay someone to sleep with you, too?

    • Wendy

      Corrine’s comment made me think of something I’m kind of waiting to hear from Harlotry. (P.S. I’ve read every one since the beginning and look forward to them; I just haven’t felt the urge to comment yet). What does a sex worker do, Cathryn, if the client is just plainly gross? You’ve addressed when they’ve had gross behaviors before, but has anyone just been physically difficult to touch? I know that might be mean to say, but…I used to work in retail, and we had the occasional person who came in who smelled so awful that we had to open every window and door and Febreeze everything as soon as they left. That’s kind of the reason I’m not a dentist, or a massage therapist….or any of the things Corrine mentioned above. You seem to really care about treating your clients with dignity, so I am just curious if you’ve come across it, and, if so, what you did. And I’m not trying to be one of those mean zealots. I am really curious about it!

    • Cate

      To be honest, I’ve never encountered anyone who was that gross before.
      I’ve totally encountered guys who probably should shower a bit more often, and in the context of prostitution I generally suggested that we take an oh-so-sexy shower together before we got to the good stuff. It usually worked! If not, I just showered before I left (which I would often do anyway) and it was all good. In the other areas of sex work I’ve never encountered anyone who was just open-all-the-things, Febreeze-the-world gross before. I’m sure it happens, but I am fortunate to have never smelled it.

    • Wendy

      Thanks for replying! I love your column!

    • Cate

      Thank YOU for reading!
      I try to reply to all the nice comments (and sometimes the mean ones, I have a tendency to feed the trolls) and yours was indeed nice!

    • ll

      i am all for decriminalisation and labour rights for sex workers but like why are the majority of clients male and workers female(trafficking and porn aside)? there is a massive sexual division of labour going on. i would love it if the industry was the same as massage therapy manicures and haircuts but apart form the client professional exchange – its not, and in an ideal world what would sexual services look like?

    • Cate

      Okay. there’s very little evidence that suggests the majority of sex workers are female. We lady sex workers do tend to be a bit more vocal I think, as we’re much more likely to be judged for our choices than male sex workers, but I don’t think we’re a very large majority, if we’re a majority at all.
      There IS, however, evidence to suggest that the majority of clients are male, and I’m pretty sure it boils down to the fact that it is way, way easier for women to obtain sexual services for free. While women’s erotic capital is socially determined mainly by a combination of attractiveness and willingness, for men it’s a lot more complicated and status-based. A super hot broke guy with little to no social power might get laid for free a lot, but an average-looking broke guy with little to no social power will have a much harder time. This is simply not true for women, an average-looking broke girl with little to no social power can totally get laid for free with very little effort. Therefore women don’t have nearly as much reason to go to a sex worker. Women also tend to approach sex and attraction differently; where men in general are more likely to think “hot. want.” women in general are more likely to consider other factors as equally important to attraction. This obviously is a huge generalization and doesn’t hold true for every man or every woman, but it’s not entirely inaccurate.
      Even if your claim was true, though, I don’t see what’s so wrong with it. Certain demographics are more likely to buy certain services, and that does, of course, affect the people who end up working in various industries. What’s wrong with the sex industry can pretty much entirely be traced back to the legitimately oppressive laws against a lot of sex work, the unfairly high taxes imposed upon even the legitimate channels of the industry, and the consequences of these absurd and unjust regulations that seep into how business is practiced, not the fact that men are the most frequent buyers of sexual services.

  • Nat

    The thing I don’t really understand is how sex work is seen as more degrading than working in, say, the food service industry or other such jobs. I work at a fast food place and, if I think about it, I absolutely feel degraded at my job. I make very very little money. Customers are rude to you, and demanding, and don’t care. Its not, you know, skill full work.

    • Breezy

      Exactly! I had a couple friends who stripped during undergrad and we would discuss this frequently. As a waitress, I made way less money and had to put up with being treated like shit on a daily basis. What can I say? I just didn’t have the body for the alternative.

    • http://www.facebook.com/alexandria.montevecchio Alexandria Montevecchio

      i did both. i worked in the food indusrty for a while when i was like 17 and moved into modeling, then nude modeling. It never got any farther than there, however after doing this as was stated i find it extreamly hard to take a real job now and i wont keep it if i do because the pay is terrible for hard work and pain. Not to mention you are treated like a slave. If i had to pick id rather take my clothes off and be told im beautiful and given money for it rather then slave over a hot grill for 10 hours a day to make minimum wage. just an opinion! Oh and btw the military… is easier then being a food service slave.

    • Guest

      It’s the person’s choice to decide what is degrading for themselves! I agree!

  • Cate

    I would totally reply to all of you guys individually, but it would basically be the same comment over and over in four different phrasings, essentially “Omg you guys, thanks for TOTALLY FUCKING GETTING IT!”

    I was sort of worried this post would spawn an embarrassment of “grow some self-esteem, lady” comments which I would then have to shoot down.

    • Jon

      You have a great group of readers! I love reading the comments almost as much as the articles:) I’m surprised the number of trolls have been relatively few. I agree with everyone above, why the stigma with sex work??? I have never understood that. Why are people so scared of their sexuality? Honestly where is the harm in one consenting adult paying another consenting adult for sex? And why should it be looked down upon? In my opinion the parasites on wall street who profit off destroying people’s lives are the ones who should be shamed by society. I hate these laws that only serve to push the irrational beliefs of the few on to the entire population. Who gets hurt by prostitution? Especially if it were legalized and regulated?

    • Cate

      I totally have amazing readers, yourself included!

      A word on legalization and regulation, however, as I see Nikola brought it up too. Legalization and regulation are not really the answers in the case of prostitution. The brothel system in Nevada is, from what I understand, extremely shitty to work in, simply because it wrests control from the hands of the prostitutes themselves. The price the women pay for the supposed safety of a brothel is high, often around 50% of their total earnings in addition to far less control over how frequently they work, what their limits are, and how many clients they see per shift. This is partly because brothel owners have to make a profit, and partly because the taxes on the establishments are absurdly high making large profits (one of the main reasons why people enter the sex industry in any capacity, particularly a managerial one) more difficult to achieve.
      Unfortunately, if prostitution were legalized and regulated, it would likely be only under a similar brothel system, as that is the easiest way for the state to keep track of and make money off the sex workers. The taxes would cut into profits, causing workers to go independent and therefore once again outside the law. The answer is decriminalization far more than legalization.

    • Jon

      Yikes!! Thanks for explaining that:) I’m sure most of us were thinking that legalizing it would solve a lot of the negative aspects of sex work. I know I was thinking about Nevada specifically but did not realize the truth of it.

      Thanks for responding to all of us every week! It’s a lot fun fun getting to read the comments and your responses:) Definitely makes my day when I get a response!

    • Cate

      Naturally! I am a firm believer in responding to commenters. It’s great, I have fun conversations, you get questions answered, and it’s a small way I can reach out a hand of thanks to you, my lovely readers.

    • fungku

      all I hear is “boo hoo I would have to pay taxes on my income”

    • Cate

      Absolutely not, responsible sex workers pay independent contractor taxes (1040 Schedule C), and I am a responsible sex worker. The difference is the HEIGHT of the taxes. There is absolutely no reason why sex work should have an extra passle of taxes tacked on to it, but that’s exactly what the brothel system does.

  • http://SommelierinSneakers.blogspot.com/ SomminSneakers

    I’m going to take credit for this one, too:)

    xoxo thank you, pretty girl!!! That guy was so out there I just had to stop responding last week.

    • Cate

      Oh my god, I know. He TOTALLY IS that guy who goes to a strip club and is all, “you’re too pretty and smart for this, do something else!” while you’re just trying to do your job and sell a dance, and then he doesn’t even tip you.
      And then he commented again down there asking about money. Like a) I do really well for myself, okay? and b) it’s his business why?

      P.S. I found a dungeon I think I’ll be pretty happy at! Stories to come!

    • caryatis

      Cate, when you choose to write extensively about your personal life on the Internet, people are going to have opinions about your personal life. You have a right to expect that commenters refrain from insulting you,
      as I have done, but not every comment is going to agree with you. If you’re not comfortable with that, I’d suggest writing fiction.

    • Cate

      It’s not that you disagree with me, I’ve had a lot of great conversations on here with readers who don’t share my views, it’s your consistently patronizing and condescending tone that’s the problem.

    • caryatis

      Well, I’m sorry you don’t like my tone. Not something I”m very good at. For the record, I’m not opposed to sex work–I think it’s a reasonable job choice for some women. Just not most.

    • http://SommelierinSneakers.blogspot.com/ SomminSneakers

      God, every one of your comments just sucks on so many levels it’s exhausting to even try to show you how condescending, asinine and completely out-of-touch with your subject matter you are. When the hell are you just going to stop spewing stuck-up contradictory nonsense?

    • caryatis

      When people start insulting me, I always know that I’ve won. You’re telling me you can’t think of any rational response to make. It would be more polite to simply concede the argument, but I will forgive you.

    • http://SommelierinSneakers.blogspot.com/ SomminSneakers

      Yes, yes and yes. And he just doesn’t stop, boring! I’m trying to get home sometime this month- if Amanda doesn’t have your email you should have her dm me on twitter with it, that way I can hit you up:) Proud of you!

    • Cate

      Hey! I can do you one better. Since I’ve already posted my email in the comments here a few times and have failed to receive any hate mail (frankly I’m shocked at that part) I don’t see the harm in posting it again.
      I’m cathrynb1202(at)gmail(dot)com. I’d really love to hear from you!

  • Sam Fisher

    The only difference between sex work and working in the military is social stigma? Not only is that incorrect in itself (there are a lot of stigmas attached to those that serve…) but it’s ludicrous to compare your job to the military. How hard is it to take your clothes off and swing around on a pole? You’re not risking your life, working hard hours, using even the slightest fraction of mental effort…. Your father is right to call it ‘unskilled’. Sure, you’re free to do whatever you like, but you do it because it’s easy money.

  • caryatis

    I don’t see much mention of money in this article. It’s great to have work that you enjoy & are good at, but will you make enough at it to allow you to be financially independent and to save and invest for your future? Right now, sex work and writing are the two things you’ve found you’re good at, but don’t close off your options. You could get used to a “normal” work environment if you had to–other former sex workers have. And the people skills you learned doing sex work can be used in business too.

    • Cate

      While my financial situation is really none of your business, and I didn’t address it because it doesn’t bear mentioning so long as I’m happy, this is what’s up.
      I live alone in a two bedroom apartment in a major city. I have a wardrobe made up almost entirely of clothes from the 1940s and 50s. I go out frequently. I am twenty two years old.
      Take from that what you will.

    • caryatis

      Sounds good. (Although are you saving?) I do think that you should have mentioned money in the article–women in general are not focused enough on financial self-sufficiency. I understand you’re trying to combat the stigma against sex work, but in doing so you’re giving an overly rosy picture. It’s great that sex work worked for you, but for most, it’s an unstable, dangerous, and poorly paid profession, which does little to prepare people for a career.

    • Jon

      Hmmm… if you have been reading the entire series I don’t think you come away from it with a “rosy” picture of sex work, in fact far from it. Cate has been very honest in what she has endured and the sacrifices she has had to make to continue her career in sex work and writing. My take away from the series is not a glamorous life filled with unicorns ballroom dancing with Leprechauns while champagne and gold rains down around her. Sex work sounds like a very difficult life that would scare the crap out of me:P But I admire the shit out of her because she has taken charge of her life and is living it on her terms. I never had the courage to take charge the way Cate and many of my friends have. The fear of the unknown is too much for me, I opted out to be assimilated by the collective and got a soul crushing office job with a major company(the borg) so I could have the 401k, health insurance and all the other shackles that keep me bound to my desk day after day. So I have crazy respect for Cate for being brave enough to forge her own path.

      I understand you being concerned for her financial security but what is this, “women in general are not focused enough on financial self-sufficiency.” That sentence makes no sense to me and might be a bit offensive? Oh unless you’re from an alternate reality, then that totally makes sense;) It’s ok, you don’t need to worry, here on Earth women are actually pretty darn financially responsible.

    • http://twitter.com/sfmistress maxine doogan

      Its great to be concerned about women’s financial security especially when women make 76 Cents on the dollar in the US. Financial security is very real issue and what you can do to help those of us in the sex industry address this issue is to decriminalize prostitution in general and support our call for anti discrimination legislation in financial institutions where our earnings can be considered illegal and not subject to even the most shaky financial protections that the general public has. Too, we’d like to see anti discrimination legislation extended to housing, employment, education and child custody where the constant threat of being outted subjects us to financial extortion.

    • caryatis

      Actually, Jon, there is a lot of evidence that women have a hard time managing their financial lives, probably because of social pressure to seem unselfish and refrain from thinking about money. Off the top of my head, I would refer you to “Money: A Memoir.”

    • Jon

      To me you’re making a SWEEPING generalization about a couple billion people and using one book as a reference. Statisticians can make their numbers say anything in order to prove their point but rarely do they tell the whole story. I do agree that women make less money than men do for the same job but it sounds pretty damn condescending to say that women are worse at managing their money than men are. Are they worse at managing money because they get paid less? Or with divorce rates the highest they have ever been are women worse at managing money because they typically get stuck with the kids so they have more expenses? I really doubt that females are some how inherently inferior at saving money up.

    • caryatis

      “Inherently inferior” is your phrase, not mine. I think that women’s disinclination to think about money, ask for raises, or generally act as if money matters is largely socially determined. And one book as a reference is a lot better than the zero books you have cited to support your contention that there is no gender difference in the way people manage their money.

    • Pixie

      So, I’m interrupting that idiot below to say that I love you even more now that I know you wear vintage. I adore your articles and I’ve learnt so much. Seriously lady, you’re rad.

    • Cate

      You’re so sweet!
      I’m really glad you’re gleaning something from my work besides just fascination with the lurid world of sex work. I worry about that sometimes.

    • Greer

      Your financial situation becomes everyone’s business when you post an internet comment about your minimal “regular” earning capacity. You’re not having private conversations out here. As Liz Taylor said in “Butterfield Eight”, you can be young without money but you sure as hell can’t be old without it. Your high-earning days are limited in this business so learn as much as you can about investing and be self-diciplined about doing it. Don’t count on a profitable marriage to fix this long-term problem. Good luck, Catherine. Please don’t have kids.

    • http://www.facebook.com/awilliamscdn Allison Williams

      I’m a trapeze artist and writer. So I also have a job where I’m dependent on my body being in a certain condition in order to be able to do my job (you know, like construction, the military, or pizza delivery). And I’m self-employed (like, say, Bill Gates, Beyonce, Donald Trump, any real estate agent and most massage therapists and hairdressers).

      Being self-employed is being self-employed. It doesn’t matter if what you’re selling is houses, haircuts, blow jobs or circus acts. All independent contractors take the same kind of financial responsibility and make the same kind of decisions about hours and fees. You set the highest price the market will bear, and you change your marketing or your clientele if it’s not enough money to keep you happy.

      I know more about the circus than I know about sex work, but I suspect the same assumptions are made in both cases – “I think your job is low-status, therefore it must also be low-paid, and you must not be smart enough to plan for the future.” The circus artists I know have IRAs. When they’re injured, they coach or teach until they’re fit again.

      I used to be a college professor. When I was a professor, I had health insurance and a retirement plan. Now, I have to fund my own health insurance and remember to drop money in my IRA. The trade-off for higher income, flexible hours, and being my own boss is well worth it, and a 5-minute act at a large corporate event can pay as much as a whole week of reading undergraduate papers and sitting in committee meetings.

      To me, your comment about “you could get used to a normal work environment” sounds like someone saying to a computer programmer, “Sure, you’re good at making video games, but why not sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day and trade your creativity, cash flow and independence for someone telling you what to do all day and firing you when you no longer meet their needs?”

      The mindset of the independent contractor is not for everyone, but it’s pretty similar across the board no matter what the product or service is.

    • Cate

      Hello, you’re my favorite person ever right now. I mean, you’re really a trapeze artist? Holy shit.
      Also, everything you say is true.

    • http://www.facebook.com/awilliamscdn Allison Williams
    • Cate

      DAMN LADY. DAMN.

      Along with Stoya, you are my other inspiration to take aerial classes.

    • caryatis

      Yes, I pretty much agree that sex work is similar to other forms of self-employment–these jobs tend to be risky and, although you can be financially secure in such jobs, you have to be pretty damn responsible to do so. Not saying it’s never worthwhile to be in such a field, but people should know the pros and cons. And, as you point out, when your job involves your body, injury or aging becomes especially problematic, and you need to be prepared for such a risk.

    • Greer

      Very well put.

  • http://twitter.com/sfmistress maxine doogan

    I’m sorry to hear your parents are discriminating against you. These types of statements are the result of negative stigma the likes of which has resulted from 100 years of criminalization and marginalization. Your parents ought get some ‘my daughter is a hooker pride’ and think about starting a support group for friends and family of sex workers to heal themselves and the larger community of this negative narrative.

    • Cate

      I half agree with you and half don’t. On one hand I do really wish my parents could ‘get it’ and figure out how to be proud not just of me, but also of what I do. On the other hand, I’m really glad I have a sufficiently strong and respectful relationship with my parents that they can support me and my choice to be a sex worker while also voicing their disapproval in the context of a mutually respectful dialogue.
      I really didn’t mean to make it seem as if my parents are discriminating against me, though. While they totally do not understand why I would ever do sex work, they are proud of me as an individual and proud of my constant insistence on marching to the beat of no drum but my own. I love them and they love me, and while we may often disagree, we disagree respectfully and maturely.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bella-Robinson/100002390332708 Bella Robinson

    This article starts off with “there is 1 1/2 million victims of human trafficking last year” and of course they don’t bother to tell you that this is JUNK SCIENCE created by the abolitionist that want to abolish all porn and prostitution. Even the US anti prostitution pledge stops other countries that won’t oppose all forms of prostitution from getting federal money for HIV, so the abolitionist are willing to let millions of people die of AIDS just to keep up the moral witch hunt against consenting adults under the guise of human trafficking.

    While the author did not give any factual research, I am prepared to do just that.

    http://geishadiaries.com/home/a-brief-history-of-prostitution.html

    Here how and why we really created the Mann Act of white slavery in 1904 it had nothing to do with trafficking, it was about stopping white women from fraternizing with black men, and they used the same claims that women were being forced into prostitution to get the Mann act passed and the Man act also was why they formed the FBI, and the FBI is only suppose to get involved when a person crosses the state line for an illegal sex act.

    Rather than listen to factual research…..
    Article written in 2010 by a professor and PhD student at UNLV. Why Decriminalizing Sex Work is Good for All Women
    http://msmagazine.com/blog/2010/11/01/why-decriminalizing-sex-work-is-good-for-all-women/
    The War on Sex Workers – Reason.com
    An unholy alliance of feminists, cops, and conservatives hurts women in the name of defending their rights.
    http://reason.com/archives/2013/01/21/the-war-on-sex-workers/singlepage
    They chose to listen to those who want to HARM SEX WORKERS.
    VS
    Instead they listened to Dr Melissa Farely who has out and right lied and her research is junk science.
    http://deepthroated.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/compliant-filed-against-melissa-farley/
    Some Problems I Have with Melissa Farley
    http://jessienicole.net/main/melissa-farley-jn/
    OR
    http://www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-sam-olens-georgia-attorney-general-for-exaggerating-sex-trafficking-to-get-grants?utm_campaign=action_box&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition

    The US spends 250 million a year stalking escorts, and they still can’t police even 1% of the sex industry on a good day. Criminalization has created the prefect playground for predators, pimps and bad cops to continue harassing, beating, raping, threatening, exploiting and murdering sex workers. Anytime you take away a persons right to report violence crimes against them its a HUGE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION.

    The reason they have this 2 1/2 million as a number is because all prostitution is counted as human trafficking.

    To learn more about the myths and misconceptions surrounding sex work, please join us at
    http://www.coyoteri.org/index.php

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/coyoteri/
    http://www.policeprostitutionandpolitics.com/
    http://www.americancourtesans.com
    esplerp.org/ (Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational and Research Project is a Non-Profit 501-(C) 3

    • Cate

      Hey, I thumbs-upped your comment because everything you say is true, but I’d still like to point out that I absolutely did not start this article by saying there were 1.5 million victims of human trafficking last year. Obviously I am against human trafficking, as any sane person is, but I also totally realize that almost all of the data on human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, is blown out of proportion, sensationalized, and generally useless.

  • Maria

    Hi Cathryn,

    I was just curious about the point in the article where you say that you could never be happy doing a “normal job.” I don’t think that a job needs to be completely fulfilling. Do you think that you just are drawn to these two fields because that is what you have known for a long time? Or do you think it is what like because it interests you? I am a computer science major and I firmly believe that if I had not grown up with questions about computers or my parents instilling ideas dealing with computers when I was younger I would not be on this career path. I’m very certain I would find it uninteresting because it can easily be perceived as a dry field. If you had perhaps read about some other career field or just simply gotten an idea of a different path, do you think you would be on a different career path? Do you think you could influence your thinking now with perceiving a field in a different light? Perhaps if you went into a full-on study mode of a different field you might be more drawn to it and less drawn to harlotry in order to save yourself from all the confusion and pain that it seems to be causing you. Please note that I have nothing against harlotry as it is not my business or concern what people do to enjoy what little time we have on earth. However, my curiosity piqued when I came across this article and I was wondering if you had forced alternative ideas and how that worked out for you. I apologize for this rant-y post.

    Thanks,

    • Cate

      I apologize for getting to your comment so late, but I didn’t see it until I went to look at Pixie’s reply to my comment.
      Firstly, I’m not really sure where you got the impression that sex work is causing me confusion and pain. I do this work because I love it, not because I haven’t been exposed to other options.
      The thing is, I don’t want a job that isn’t completely fulfilling. It may be naïve of me to expect that I can have a job that means more than just a way of paying the bills, but I’ve achieved that so far and I don’t think it’s unrealistic of me to expect that I can continue to do so.

  • Greer

    Catherine, I’ve always enjoyed reading your “Harlotry” instalments. In the past, they’ve been decisive and confident but lately you seem to be vacillating. When someone starts to defend her choices, it’s usually because she’s begun to feel some degree of doubt about them. I’m not going to compliment you on your chosen profession. I think you’re an exceptionally intelligent woman who’s taken the lazy way out.

    You admit that the big downside of sex work is the negative social stigma, then you go on to say you don’t care about social prestige. I have to call you on that. Humans are extremely social animals — we live and die by the approval of others, whether or not we want to admit it. Admitting that you do care but that you’ve willingly made choices that put you outside the realm of social acceptability is, on some level, a declaration of hostility: “Fuck you civilized society, I’m not playing by your rules!”. Society’s condemnation of sex workers is a justified response to such a declaration.

    In most parts of the world, sex workers are lousy citizens. You want to live in a civilized society and benefit from its advantages — safe roads, safe tap water, garbage collection, etc. — but what taxes do you pay? Nil, I imagine. While I’m happy to hear that you vote, that’s the very least that should be expected of any reasonably intelligent person living in a democracy. If you want to live on the inside and you’re capable and intelligent, you should be paying for it like the rest of us. My husband is Dutch. In Holland where prostitution has been legal since 1811, both prostitutes and brothels pay taxes. That said, it’s still like really, really well-paid waitressing — there are plenty of ways to cheat the tax man and therefore your fellow citizens.

    If you were alone on the planet, I’d believe the claim you make about being indifferent to the opinions of others, but you’re not alone, so you can’t be indifferent. I’m sure you genuinely don’t care what total strangers like me think, but knowing that your parents disapprove of your choices must be troubling to you. They’re your parents and if they’re still an important part of your life, then their opinions matter. If you love and respect them, on some little-girl level, you must want them to think well of you. I think you’re whistling in the graveyard when you claim not to care.

    You say that sex work has ruined you for regular work because you can’t stop thinking of how much more money you’d be making if you were naked. Will you still be raking it in when you’re 60? When I’m 60, I’ll be collecting a generous pension, my due after 30 years spent doing regular work. Sure, when I was 30 my hourly wage was probably inferior to yours, but averaged out over the course of our lifetimes, I’ll make more than you and I’ll be able to look back and say I only had sex with men I found desirable. How great is that? There have been highs and lows in my career and I wouldn’t have done any of it if I hadn’t been paid, but I’m sure you’d probably say the same about sex work.

    My final objection to sex work is based on an evolutionary argument. It’s a bit of a stretch, but evolution is a long road. Unlike the bone penises many mammals have, the human penis requires positive feedback in order to get hard and serve its reproductive purpose. If a dude isn’t getting positive feedback then he shouldn’t be getting laid. In other words, he should have to earn it. If unattractive, socially inept or just plain miserable men have sex with prostitutes, what incentive have they got to improve themselves? None of them deserves to be swimming — or thrusting — in the gene pool. Masturbation, the booby prize of evolution.

    My mother raised me and my siblings on her own. As hard as it must have been for her, she loved all of us immensely. I loved her back but grew up knowing I didn’t want to be poor forever. I knew that education was the surest way to get what I wanted from life and I financed my university years through a combination of scholarships and student loans. Sure, I spent the first decade of my career repaying those loans, but all in all, it’s worked out well for me. Yes, much of it was a hard slog and I do have to work more than an hour and a half each day, but if I can do it, so can most other women. You obviously weren’t raised in the gutter so I can only guess it was sheer laziness that propelled you, by default, into sex work. Never too late.