• Mon, Jun 3 - 11:30 am ET

Harlotry: Sex Work, Discretion And Writing

sexy typing hands

Cate is something of a renaissance sex worker; she’s currently employed as a pro-domme at a fetish house but has held numerous interesting jobs in the adult industry. Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry. 

Being both a writer and a sex worker is hard.

It’s not a question of time, nor is it a question of money; it’s really a question of discretion. My work requires so much secrecy. I keep secrets for my safety, for my co-workers’ safety, and for the protection of the men who pay us. I don’t write under my real name because I don’t want to incur the wrath of the law. I can never be entirely truthful because so much of what I do is at least legally dubious, if not downright illegal. Saying too much could absolutely ruin my co-workers, my clients, and even myself.

I wish this wasn’t true. Telling true stories of the ho life to a wide audience and showing that sex workers are not the flamingos stock photos portray us as, but are actually real people who stand on two legs and have normal lives is one of the things that will gradually bring us greater acceptance. Being unable to speak openly and freely does no favors for us.

As a sex worker, I am constantly forced to lie. I tell little lies to clients about how busy I am (there are no slow days for me, every day is jam-packed with sessions) how I have made my passion my profession (I totally get off on what I do, always and no matter how unpleasant the client is. Payment is just a formality) and big lies to people like my boyfriend’s family (I write a sex column for a women’s website, nothing they’d be interested in, their son/brother/nephew isn’t dating a whore).

Even here, where I am so naked, I tell lies. I change names and dates and little details. I change just enough in the story of my arrest that my writing can’t be traced back to me, so clients won’t stumble on it by accident and find out why we were closed for a few days, and competitors won’t find a reason to diss us to the sexual service-buying men of my city, “Oh, Dolorous Delights? Yeah, that place just got raided; it’s burned down. Come here instead.”

I want to tell my clients all about my arrest and ask them to please use their power to help decriminalize my profession, to donate to SWOP, to lobby for me and mine, to run the world the way they ought to run it, but I can’t risk scaring them away by telling them the place got raided and they might be in danger.

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  • Jen

    I just graduated college and I’m working at a sex toy store. To me, it is a fairly tame gig, but because of the negative connotation I find myself telling my family/ professors/ even some friends that I work “at a little boutique” or “just something retail for now.” Even legal jobs dealing with sex are frowned upon. I want to live in a world where it’s okay to work in the sex industry, if that means it’s at a sex toy store, as a stripper, as a prostitute, or anything in between.

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

      Oh man, the level of titillation that comes from working in a dungeon, vs working in a toy store, is surprisingly the same. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve never had anyone outright put me down for learning what I used to/did do, but I’m sure the conversation behind my back is very, very interesting.

      p.s. Cate- 9am, oui?

  • LynnKell

    My perspective on what’s like to be a whore has dramatically changed since I started reading your column. I realised that it’s not about daddy issues, not directly related to drug or sexual abuse; it’s just a work field, with it’s pros and cons. I think now I respect even more strippers, prostitutes, scorts, etc, male and female, than ever because I’ve read your anecdotes, your thoughts and preceived your feelings and I can imagine what it’s like. I’m not saying “i feel you sis” but i can relate to you. I feel you more as a friend that a faceless phantom, and probably all the readers that eagerly wait for your updates on mondays feel the same.

    Here’s a quote I really liked by Patrick Rothfuss in his book “The name of the wind”
    “Call a jack a jack. Call a spade a spade. But always call a whore a lady. Their lives are hard enough, and it never hurts to be polite.”

    It was said by the protagonist’s father when they ran into a “house of ill fame”.