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.
It wasn’t very long ago that I wrote about taking an indefinite hiatus from the sex industry, possibly retiring completely. At the time I felt as if I was unable to handle the difficult emotional burden that comes with employment in the sex industry. Back in January I was pretty sure sex work–the work that had saved me from the pits of misery–would destroy me. I wasn’t sure I’d ever go back to any kind of sex work; though I missed it horribly, I wasn’t ready to test my newly recovered emotional strength by plunging back into an industry that (for all its excellent qualities) is capable of draining the life out of a person, taxing one’s mental strength, and leaving you tired, bitter, and brittle.
I’d taken a hiatus to get my head together. By this February, it had been nearly six months since I’d done anything that could remotely be considered sex work. I was still in the process of recovering from the aftermath of my relationship with Stanley and the abuse he’d subjected me to throughout the course of our time together. It was difficult enough to consider the possibility of a normal, unpaid sexual relationship, I knew it would be impossible to get myself into the headspace required for any paid encounter of even the slightest sexual nature.
When I was suspended from Heavenly Creatures, I realized it was more than just the hostile work environment that was taxing my resources. I doubt I would have been happy there even if I’d been in a better place emotionally, but as things stood, I was a gaping wound, all exposed nerve endings and scabby edges and the toxic work environment was slowly but surely infecting me. Stripping can be, in my experience at least, the most brutal of all indoor sex work and I was in no fit state to deal with that.
Taking a hiatus was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. During my off time I was able to look at myself, lick my wounds, and slowly put myself back together. I scabbed over and scarred over, and gradually nerve endings started to grow back and I was able to think of myself not as a little animal, but as a human being.
Once I’d recovered a bit though, I began to miss my work terribly. I felt as if my brain was rotting, turning into a beige, spongy mass. I also knew my money wouldn’t last forever, and I’d have to figure out something pretty soon.
I had no interest in returning to prostitution; I’d been there, done that, and found it to be more boring than it was worth. Besides that, I was no agency bimbo and working as an independent is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous; it was a hassle I had no interest in dealing with. Stripping was no longer even an option for me. There was no way in hell I’d be going back to Heavenly Creatures, and the clubs within Chicago city limits are, for the most part, either completely unappealing to me or not the kind of place that would hire a skinny, pasty girl with as many bad tattoos as I have. I briefly considered porn, but so far my two attempts to get into fetish porn had only served to get me in touch with one total creep and one extreme flake.
I found myself looking at Backpage.com almost compulsively, poring over the advertisements for various types of fetish work and thinking about how nice it would be to not only be financially secure again, but also to be back to the hustle.
However, while I was beginning to feel comfortable with the idea of returning to work (or, more accurately, anticipate it eagerly) there was the complication of my newly attached status.
During my hiatus, I had managed to find an incredibly wonderful man, and while he was aware of my past as a sex worker and my interest in returning to the industry, I knew all too well that it’s much easier to think you’d be okay with dating a sex worker than to actually be okay with it in practice. To say I was gun-shy would be an understatement, but I had also solemnly sworn to myself that I would never, ever, ever again compromise my quality of life at the whims of some man. While I didn’t want to lose Daniel over something so silly as my choice of profession, I had also been badly burned the last time I tried to quit sex work for a significant other.
And so, when I found two advertisements for different fetish houses in the city, I asked Daniel how he’d feel about me working as a pro-domme and resolved to determine if he was open to the idea. I admit the question was something of a test.
While I’m not sure what I would have done if he’d vetoed the concept, I know my trust in him and his respect for me would have been deeply shaken and his “no” would have been enough for me to at least seriously re-evaluate our relationship if not actually end it.
But Daniel did not veto the idea, in fact he was incredibly supportive.
“Why would I have a problem with that? The only reason I’d ever want you to stop would be if it made you unhappy. As far as I’m concerned, you’ll be doing a public service. That’s great!”
I started to wonder if I’d accidentally started dating Prince Charming himself, and sent off two emails.
I got interviews at both houses. With my relatively vast sex industry experience, I wasn’t terribly surprised, but boy was I ever excited, particularly because the dungeon I was most interested in scheduled an in-person interview right away.
I was in the process of nursing a horrible head cold when I had my interview, and I nearly fell and died as I walked over the ice in four-inch heels, but I got there safely and on time. I answered a few questions about why I wanted to work there, what I hoped my average weekly earnings would be, and what I absolutely would never, under any circumstances do, had a nice chat with the Madame, and set a date to start my two week training process.
As I walked out the door, I felt light-headed and it wasn’t just from the double dose of cold medicine I’d taken in order to appear at least somewhat healthy.
I was back, I was going to be working again, and everything was perfect.