Harlotry: The Retirement Age For A Hooker Isn't As Young As You Think

Mamma Roma (1962)

Cate is something of a renaissance sex worker and has held numerous interesting jobs in the adult industry. Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry.

Lots of people see sex work as a complete and total dead end. They assume that, especially for women, the clock of your desirability ticks down so fast that you’ll have to retire by the time you’re thirty-five.

I used to think this too, back when I was a baby hooker who’d never worked in a group environment other than a sleazy strip club where the oldest woman was 32 and looked at least 50. There is such a premium placed on female youth, and advertising and media are so adamant about this that youth and beauty have become practically synonymous. Therefore, it’s only natural to assume the time one can be a sex worker is limited.

The reality is not that simple. Of course most women don’t end up doing sex work at sixty and, like most physical labor, retirement does tend to come sooner for most sex workers than it would were they working some kind of office job. Nevertheless, it isn’t as if you become automatically disqualified from whoring once you’re 35. We all age at varying rates and grow into ourselves differently. One woman might reach the peak of her beauty at 18, for another it might be 25, and for another it might be 35. Then there are those inexplicable goddesses who just seem to get more beautiful every year and will probably only be stopped by death–and this is only when you’re talking about conventional, socially endorsed beauty.

The things men are looking for when they hire escorts are often much more complex than just youth or beauty.

Yes, beauty helps to get clients in the door, but it’s much more helpful to be personable, skillful, and intelligent when it comes to keeping those clients. The most radiant beauty in the world isn’t going to make up for a woman who can’t hold a conversation or lies there like a dead fish. Sure, some clients are just trying to get laid or see what it’s like to be with a woman who isn’t their normal type, but in my experience, as rates get higher the things clients are looking for become more complex. The girlfriend experience they’re looking for becomes more involved, they want conversation, dinners, something closer to a genuine connection, at least for the time they’ve booked with a worker.

The anti-sex work crowd loves to spout myths about how the average age of entry into sex work is thirteen (or it might be twelve now, it seems to get lower every time they decide to spout new statistics) and all clients are looking for the youngest possible worker, but this has not been my experience at all. I’ve certainly become more successful as I get older, partly due to the fact that I’m savvier about my business decisions, partly due to the fact that I’m growing into my face, and partly due to the fact that a lot of clients just don’t want to hire women under twenty.

Some of the most successful sex workers I’ve ever met have been in their thirties and have no plans to stop working any time soon. During my time at Dolorous Delights, a woman named Angela was not only the oldest woman on staff, she was also one of the top earners. Of course, Angela also runs marathons, is in better shape than I am, and is also just generally so beautiful it’s hard to believe–but if clients were really just looking for the youngest woman possible, I highly doubt her truly impressive level of physical fitness and general loveliness would have much of an effect on their choice.

Especially in the fetish industry, clients often hire older women specifically because of a greater level of experience, and this seems to hold true for escorting as well. Younger women might be adorable and all, but older women have grown into themselves, and believe it or not, most clients respond to that way more than they respond to a cute face.

Our culture wants to see women of a certain age as sexless. We like to pretend that your hotness expires after a certain date, as if it’s that simple. The belief that you can’t be a successful sex worker after some arbitrarily determined birthday is a symptom of this. The men who hire us when we are supposedly too old and the women who work well into their forties, fifties, and sometimes even sixties know how ridiculous it is to suggest that the expiration date on sex work is the same for everyone.

Of course everyone has to retire at some point, and like most self-employment and all illegal work, sex work provides no pension other than whatever the worker puts aside on her own. Retirement from sex work is often later than most civilians believe it to be, but that doesn’t change the fact that in many cases, our work really can be a dead end. Yet, while our profession is less stable than it could be, it is still important to recognize that sex workers aren’t just a bunch of eighteen year olds and twentysomethings sucking dick for dollars. We are people of all ages, races, and genders, and we are all beautiful, if not in the eyes of society, certainly in the eyes of the people who pay us for sex or companionship.

It’s silly to suggest we sex workers can only fit within one narrow definition of beauty, because what two different people find sexy can be so incredibly varied. In a culture that values only the beauty of youth, and nothing more, it’s easy to use the myth of the young retirement age to write off all sex workers as silly children who don’t know what they’re doing to themselves, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.