Harlotry: The Very Annoying Girls Who Dabble Like Tourists In The Sex Industry

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One encounters a lot of tourists in the sex industry. While many clients are technically tourists–visiting from other cities, states, or countries–I’m talking about working tourists.

Work tourists are young women, usually either college educated or in the process of getting a college education, who hear about how empowering sex work is, and decide to jump on the bandwagon. They’re different from girls who strip or escort their way through college, in that that they don’t really need sex work. Their education is usually paid for by their parents or scholarships, and the income they earn from their erotic labor is usually money to go out with friends or buy designer bags and shoes. Sex work is a game to them, not a livelihood, and certainly not a career choice.

The tourists are the women who believe that all it takes to be successful in the industry is a pretty face and a nice body. They have no concept of sex worker stigma, beyond some fuzzy concept that stripping will be “cool,” “edgy,” “fun,” or worse, “empowering.” Sure, the industry is somewhat forbidden to nice girls like them, but their dabblings in sex work are all about not being a nice girl anymore–about going home for Thanksgiving dinner and thinking, “nobody knows I’m a sex worker” while they get a second helping of mashed potatoes from Uncle Jerry or Aunt Jane or whoever.

It’s very rare for these girls to go into more intimate fields of sex work, they generally go with stripping, or sometimes fetish work. They tell their friends what they do in hushed tones, and their eyes pop out of their head when they ask career girls like me how long we’ve been doing this and hear five, ten, fifteen, or even twenty years.

It sounds, great, right? These girls are probably unconsciously normalizing the industry! More nice girls means less stigma, right? Wrong. The problem with tourists is that they don’t want sex work to be destigmatized, because they benefit from the stigma. If sex work were viewed as any other service-oriented physical profession like personal training or massage therapy, there would be no rebellion. If sex work became just another job, they wouldn’t have a tawdry secret to keep at family gatherings or an aura of the forbidden for their friends to gasp at. The nice girls who infiltrate our profession don’t want us to be legitimized in the eyes of the world, and because they tend to stick with work that falls into, at worst, a legal grey area, they don’t really care about decriminalization. That’s a battle for the nasty girls who actually touch their customers’ unclothed bodies, or god forbid, fuck their customers–not nice, respectable girls who just want to have fun and buy a few Prada along the way.

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    • Maribel

      I’m sure that you knew where you were going with this article…and it is an interesting take on the industry. But, as a person who has not reaaaally encountered the phenomenon of “tourists,” it sounds a bit like you are pre-judging the intentions of those young women who become engaged in sex work. Not every job is for everyone–sex work has to have its share of people who aren’t going to excel, just like waitressing, lawyering, whatever. As an optimist, I suspect that many of these “tourists” who get involved in sex work leave with a greater respect for the industry, or with a more informed opinion on legalization and supports, or both. The sex workers I know who began as “tourists” each had a year or so of using sex work to give themselves an “edge,” but then soon after became professionals with a high level of involvement in sex work legalization movements. So…maybe lay off the unknown intentions of young women dealing with stigma from both their non-sex-work friends and their sex-worker colleagues? I just didn’t find this as compelling as most of your articles. Meh.

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        I apologize for the not-compelling part, but man, my experience of tourists is exactly the opposite. My last conversation with one consisted of me getting on my sex worker’s rights soapbox and her shutting me down with a “so what if it’s illegal. No-one can do this forever.” THAT DOESN’T MATTER! STIGMA KILLS!

    • Emma

      I usually really like what you write on this weekly blog spot. It is usually amusing, insightful, well written and full of perspectives about sex work and the people doing the sex work that one doesn’t often find in the media. However, I am really disappointed with your piece this week and while I was reading it my brown was furrowed in confusion. I see the point you are trying to convey but you’re article was full of generalizations, a lot of “they vs us” statements and judgement’s and not a lot of examples or your own experience. It was as though your voice this week was much angrier and spiteful than normal. What gives.

    • MrsEmmaK

      Didn’t like this article at all – who are you to judge who’s allowed to be a sex worker and who isn’t? Comes across as very catty and judgemental. I usually love your column but didn’t dig this article at all. Sorry.

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        Anyone is allowed to be a sex worker, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that people who enter the industry take it seriously.

    • MRMR

      I’m pretty public with my friends about the Dom work that I do, and how much I love it, and of course that causes a lot of my young female friends to inquire further and ask “So, how do I get into this?”
      As I’m sure you know and have personally experienced, I have mixed feelings about this (mostly negative, I’d say a good 80% / 20% split). I’m happy that I’m finding a lot of women are curious about this kind of lifestyle (and that they see it as “fun” “interesting” and “sexy”), but also annoyed that the misconception is that all you have to do is be hot and beat the shit out of men.
      It is VERY annoying to have someone inquire about working at my dungeon, I give them the info they need, and then when they come for training, they have the personality of boiled cabbage.
      No, being just a pretty girl will not a talented Dominatrix [or general sex worker] make. And dabbling in it because it’s oh-so-taboo and not because it’s work you believe in and will fight for means they’re hurting the cause and not helping.

    • KaluzaKlein

      I have mixed feelings about this. I guess because I was pretty close to your description of a “tourist” when I started and was probably labeled as such by my a few of my early co-workers. Now I’ve been a dominatrix for over 4 years, it’s my full-time job, my business is my baby, I don’t get money from my parents, and I have no intention of quitting any time soon.

      Although I did vary from your typical tourist in some important ways. I was partially supported by my parents, but not to the point where I could eat or pay rent without additional income, which was very hard to come by for someone with a very short resume immediately post financial crash. And I did try out full service. I dabbled in a whole lot of different types of work before settling into domming, and kept my fs clients until I was at a place where I could support myself from domination alone.

      I’ve also experienced being on a very tight budget at a school full of rich kids, and it sucks. So I can’t really begrudge doing sex work for non-cafeteria food and the ability to go out with your friends.

      I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to try sex work briefly and quit if you don’t like it. Sex work isn’t for everyone, and sometimes you have to try it to find that out.

      As much as I’m defending them here, I have met touristy workers, and yes, they were annoying, mostly for the way they treated other workers. And I have had a lot of non-SW friends ask me a lot of questions about possibly doing SW and almost none of them ever followed through, which bothers me a lot more than tourists who actually do try it out.

      Lastly, I’ve noticed that domme safety stuff tends to get brought up in the weirdest of places. Not that it’s not important — it’s very important — but I don’t really see how it’s relevant here? I always hear Dommes bring it up when they’re whining about extras girls, and I don’t get why giving handjobs is relevant to whether or not you know how to hit someone. And now I’m hearing it as a complaint with tourist workers. It’s not like I’ve never met a tourist worker who was bad at safety — I have — I just don’t think it’s a problem in any way specific to them. I’ve met Dommes from poor backgrounds who thought it was a good idea to pick up a singletail for the first time and start whipping a client. Lack of concern for safety is a characteristic of asshole dommes, not rich ones, poor ones, non-lifestyle ones, or ones who have more sexual contact with clients than is acceptable to whoever’s doing the complaining.

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        You sound not so much like you started out as a tourist, as someone who started out in sex work without being sure if it was for you, and if it was, what area was best for you. That is absolutely not tourism! That’s trying to find an area where you excel at, and longtime readers will see that I had a really similar experience. I started out looking for a side job with high earning potential, and eventually found a good fit for me in fetish work.

        I also agree with you on the safety thing. While I’ve encountered more tourists who are bad at safety than longtime sex workers, it isn’t as if they’re they only ones who make horrific mistakes. And I really agree with you on the topic of more intimate services, as long as everyone is being safe and protected, there is really no need for outcry, it’s a personal choice.

        On a somewhat related note, good for you building what sounds like a pretty awesome business!

      • KaluzaKlein

        Ha. I’m actually one of those people who wanted to be a sex worker from a pretty young age. And I am from a comfortably middle class family. And I totally did get off on the thrill of being a “bad girl” and seeing peoples’ reactions — although I was angry about the stigma against sex work long before I ever became a sex worker. I’d also read A LOT of sex worker memoirs. I probably should have mentioned all that in my original comment as those seem like they could be “tourist” qualities.

        I’ve rolled my eyes at a couple tourists, but I sympathize with them a great deal. Now that I’m thinking about it, I can definitely think of an incident very early in my career where another worker got annoyed at me for being a tourist. So I do err on the side of being non-judgmental when it comes to young ladies from posh backgrounds dipping their toes into sex work.

    • Carolina A

      Thank you all for those disliking comments about her latest “work.” Wow you have definitely impress me with your so called professionalism and like the other comments below WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE? You probably were one of those girls she worked at a strip club( sound like a stripper) they business got slow and decided to look for a job and to came across being a domme. You have been working as a domme for like 8 months and all of a sudden think you know it all, well I hate to break it to you probably those girls who have been working there longer have never been like you are now and trust me this cattiness won’t take you anywhere. There is nothing wrong with someone trying this kind of work, out of pure curiosity, or silly because they think its fun and interesting, and also there is nothing wrong with them having “regular” job and wanting to work in the fetish industry because they want to make more money. That is pretty much what the sex industry is for. It annoys me of how much of a professional you say you are when in your so called blog you show your unprofessionalism. I feel bad for those girls working with you instead of the other way around. I would out you in your place.

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        Your comment doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, but let me try to address your points as they come up.

        Firstly, longtime readers will know that I actually started out pro-switching and, after quickly discovering that professional submission wasn’t my bag at all, moved on to independent domming, and shortly after that, fetish-friendly escorting, I was essentially a prostidomme. In addition to that, I have a lot of private, personal experience with kink on both sides of the paddle. I know what I’m doing, and domming is not new to me.

        Longtime readers will also know that I stopped stripping for reasons totally unrelated to business. It was a personal choice to take a hiatus from sex work. When I returned to the industry, I chose fetish work because it is and was the field I’m most personally passionate about.

        Never, in this article, did I imply that there’s anything wrong with working a straight job while being a sex worker, I simply mentioned that tourists frequently have other viable sources of income. Also, I never faulted anyone for starting in the industry because they were curious. I think that’s how most of us start, what IS a problem is people working in this industry in order to have an adventure. The sex industry is no less serious an industry than any other service profession, and to treat it as nothing more than a fun adventure does a massive disservice to those of us who take our sex industry careers seriously.

      • Carolina A

        No. No. you are changing things from what you actually say.

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        If you actually read the article you would see that I’m actually just reiterating the points I made there.

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

        Wow, mis-placed jealously much?

      • Carolina

        No, not at all. I am doing my hardest to defend those who think tourist are not good enough for this business. I a pissed about this article because the writer is prejudging these so called tourists. And She is making it seem that just because they don’t see this as a long run career, they’re tourists? If I’m correct everyone starts doing this for money.

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

      Sorry there is such a huge negative reaction to this week’s column. Though I do think that tourists have a right to try out sex work of all kinds, and stopping when they realize that it’s not for them, I don’t think there is a single point you are making about the resulting consequences for full-time, long-time, and professional sex workers that isn’t correct. I think the overall message of your piece this week, which has been a long-time message in a lot of your work, is the realities and risks of sex workers needs to be far more publicized, un-stigmatized, legitimized, and a massive societal acceptance, not just tolerance, needs to happen. This piece is just a small side affect of the current state of sex work in America. Also on that point, the fear I had at being a pre-fifty-shades Domme, when inexperienced girls told me how hot it was to be tied up after reading the book: ‘oh my goodness, what about your little wrist bones and delicate nerves?!’

      This all being said, I do believe that it IS possible for you to pen something I’m not pleased with, just hasn’t happened yet ;).

      France is crazy. That is all.

    • blh

      If course you can walk away whenever you want. Don’t be ridiculous. No ones making you do this. You can get another job any time you like.

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        Can I? I’ve been a sex worker for five years, which also happens to be my entire adult life. I worked as a bartender for a short period of time, and then quit so I could return to sex work. A lot of the jobs I’ve held have been illegal, and those that aren’t illegal are still not things you’d put on a résumé.
        I have no interest in finding a “straight” job, but I suspect that if I were to apply for one I would be hard pressed to explain why I have such a huge gap in my employment history. I suspect I’d also have a lot of trouble explaining why I went to mortuary school, but have only ever worked in a bar.

        Again, I have zero interest in leaving the industry, but if I changed my mind tomorrow, I think I’d be hard pressed to find a straight job at all, let alone one that pays me enough to keep my bills paid, a roof over my head, and food in my fridge without making me resort to getting a roommate or asking for help from my parents.

      • B

        If I am hiring someone that has been an adult for 5 years (~23), employment history would not be a factor in applying for ‘straight’ jobs.

        This is unbelievably naive.

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        Are you based in a large city?
        Because I am, and when I did attempt to exit the industry (for a man, huge mistake) pretty much everything but the most menial jobs required either a bachelor’s (my mortuary science degree is just a technical degree) or wanted some kind of work experience.
        Oh, and before you suggest getting into the mortuary field, there is a reason I’m not an embalmer/whore. Getting your foot in the door of a largely family-run and male-dominated industry is nearly impossible, and I’m not committed enough to the idea to make that extra effort.

        I’m not looking for pity here, I love the sex industry and I plan to stay in it as long as possible, but it’s pretty hard to leave once you’ve been doing it for long enough.

    • lalaland

      My problem with this article, Cate, is that while it is a running theme in your column that you wish sex work could be taken like any other job, in this article you end up drawing a distinction btw sex work and other jobs by making it appear unique- there are people in EVERY SINGLE profession that dont know what it entails and are use it as a stepping stone to something else, or theyre temping through it while looking for a job more suited to their tastes. And these “non serious” people demonstrate their ignorance in other professions and bring them into disrepute just as much by not being as competent, efficient, or just plain serious, as someone committed to that profession. Sure, theyre annoying to deal with, but it should surely make someone like you happy that there are people willing to dabble in sex work like any other job?

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        No, simply because tourists, unlike people who pick up sex work to achieve a goal, and then leave when they either figure out it isn’t for them or achieve their goal, use the very stigma that makes our lives so much more difficult, to give their image a gritty reboot. They are intensifying the view of us as “bad” women, and that is a huge issue.

    • disqus_bDe5wbBEVO

      What about girls who pick it up as a side gig, fully capable of walking away at any time, yes only doing it for some extra spending money – but do believe in the stigma and want sex work to be more legitimized?

      I’m speaking, perhaps obviously, about myself – I started camming last week, and I’m still not sure if it’s for me, mostly because I am terrified about it affecting a future career or the possibility of my parents/friends/little brother finding out. A lot of the girls on the site I’m on are career girls, but that’s not what I want. As a pro, would you prefer it if girls like me walked away and never came back?

      • http://toyboxkiller.tumblr.com/ Cate

        No! Using sex work as a supplement to your income isn’t any different than using waitressing as a supplement, it’s just a bit more naked. My problem isn’t with ladies picking up sex work as a side gig, or using it as a means to an end (paying for school, starting a business, whatever) my problem is with the women who pick up sex work as a side gig with no concept of stigma, it’s damage to us, the career girls, and how important it is to fight it, and instead USE the stigma to make themselves seem edgy. I don’t think everyone needs to make a career out if sex work, but I DO think everyone who gives it a shot needs to be prepared to at least cheer on the fight for legitimacy, if not contribute to it themselves.

      • Katana_X

        But the act of having your middle class run-of-the-mill girl-next-door take up sex work, even as a whim, actually DE-STIGMATIZES sex work. It becomes something that your friend does (or, eventually, something your MOM did), not something that only scary strung-out ladies with loose morals do.

      • MadeiraDarling

        Except no, they do it to be edgy, they don’t do the hard parts and they undercut our prices

      • Katana_X

        Undercutting prices is a legit complaint but I didn’t see it mentioned in the article. And at the end of the day, that’s the cost of having sex work destigmatized. It won’t be such a rare occupation when it loses its negative associations, and therefore it won’t be so lucrative. Thems the breaks.

      • MadeiraDarling

        The thing is, it’s not an unskilled profession (especially my area of sex work) and dabblers in the field are inherently annoying, and as stated the mystique and allure of it (which they play up when they talk about it) are why they do it. You are wrong on so many levels I cannot even.

      • Katana_X

        You’re having two very different conversations simultaneously. If you want to talk about de-stigmatizing sex work — well, having women of all walks of life participating in sex work will do just that. If you want to talk about how privileged women taking on sex work economically hurts the women who are in the business because they have no other recourse, that’s a legitimate conversation too, but it’s not the SAME conversation. De-stigmatizing sex work will, ultimately, economically hurt the men and women who take up the profession because they live on the margins and that’s the only way they can scrape by. It’s a complex problem, and it sounds very frustrating.

        I’m sorry you’re doing things you don’t apparently want or feel comfortable doing just to make a living wage. I think legalizing prostitution would make the industry safer, fairer, and less vulnerable to abuses. But legalization and social de-stigmatization are two different things as well. Society’s views on prostitution restricts the labor supply, and it’s one of the reasons why it’s a more lucrative job than working at a Burger King — where it is impossible to make a living wage, even if you bust your ass 80 hours a week.

      • MadeiraDarling

        Tourism in the sex industry by the rich is the opposite of destigmatizing. They do it because of the stigma, and thus benefit by the continuation of the stigma.

      • Katana_X

        Again, it DOESN’T MATTER WHY they do it. Once they participate in sex work, society’s reaction to it is out of their hands. The fact is, something your Aunt Gertrude or Grandma Ruth brags about doing isn’t cool or edgy, even if that thing is sex work. It just serves to make that thing seem less threatening and more common place.

      • MadeiraDarling

        The thing is they’ll stop bragging about it when they have careers and relationships it could damage.

      • Katana_X

        It’s very naive to assume that kind of knowledge just evaporates when it’s convenient. Just because they stop talking about it doesn’t mean the people they know will stop talking about it.

    • MadeiraDarling

      I’m a prodomme, it’s my main source of income, and I have a mortgage and a disabled husband to support. Honestly, I cannot stand people who pick it up for a fun rebellious lark. I have to pay 500 dollars plus in medical bills a month, plus insurance (which ain’t cheap) plus the rent on my dungeon, plus mortgage and food and everything else. If you’re not doing it as your profession get the hell out of my industry little girl.

      I’ve been using the toys, and working here for years, I built up my own business, run my own dungeon.