sex work helped me realize i'm a sadist

Lately I’ve been in a good place.

It’s nice to announce that to you, the people who read my column. A year ago, when I started writing for The Gloss, I wasn’t in such a good place. I was miserable, and unsure of why I was miserable, slowly sorting through the baggage of abuse and rape and general lack of clarity. I was doing work I hated for money that wasn’t worth the struggle of putting on the clown paint that looked good in the dark, and I didn’t know where I was going or how things could ever get better.

Things are so different now; I’m doing work I love for money that makes getting up before noon more than worthwhile. I look forward to going to work almost every day, I look forward to seeing my co-workers, and it’s rare that I see a client I don’t have fun with on some level. I feel warm and happy towards everyone, and I have the luxury of sitting back and looking at who I am, not just as a woman, but as a woman who is also a sex worker. This has brought me to the not-entirely-comfortable realization that I’m quite a sadist.

I think I’ve known this for a while. As a child I always wanted to play medieval torturer with my friends. I’ve always been fascinated by pain, both mental and physical. I’ve never been much of a masochist, as submissive as I am in my private life, I have almost no pain tolerance: I can’t handle more than a hand spanking, and even that is sometimes almost too much. But realizing that I’m actually a sadist is something different.

For me, sadism isn’t a sexual thing. I get a rush out of it, but I imagine it’s closer to what I’d feel if I went bungee jumping or skydiving than anything else. The feelings I get from burning my initials into a man’s shoulder are like what I feel when I hold a tiny baby bunny. I have the ability to crush that little bunny, to pull her tiny head off and end her short little life, but why would I? To do such a thing would be terrible! When I’m burning the initials of my work name into a man’s flesh, I have the ability to keep going, to burn through the skin and cause damage more serious than just a scar, but why would I? To do such a thing would be terrible.

But there are degrees to my sadism. My friend and co-worker Sadie and I recently saw a sweet man from Colorado who travelled to Chicago specifically to see us. He was older, in his sixties, with long grey hair and a sweet, mild face. From the neck down, he was covered in scars. For years and years he’s been seeing mistresses around the country and paying them to burn him with cigarettes. As Sadie and I burned a cat face, hearts, stars, and peace signs into his skin, he looked up at us and said sweetly, “I love you.”

He later explained that this was not so much personal, as something he says to all people. He brought us flowers, wine, chocolate, and cigarettes, and when the session was done, he chanted to us. It might seem cruel to cover such a sweet man in cigarette burns, to put him at risk of infection, and to inflict horrible pain on him, but in this context it was anything but cruel. As I sucked on the cigarettes I held to his flesh, making sure they burned as hot as possible, and inhaling his smoking skin, I felt so connected to him and to Sadie. The pain I was inflicting–and boy, I know how much cigarette burns can hurt–became this sweet, affectionate gesture. It was like a kiss or a hug, a tender action based on mutual trust and care.

Three hours later, when Sadie and I were airing out and cleaning our session room, I felt elated. I had smoked almost a whole pack of cigarettes in the session time, something that would normally have made me feel sick and dizzy, but instead I felt warm and loving and golden. It wasn’t because of the money I’d made–that barely occurred to me–it was all about the connection I’d made, not only with my friend, but with this sweet man upon whom I’d inflicted tortures that the Geneva Convention would consider war crimes.

Inflicting pain isn’t always so warm and fuzzy, though.

Some of the men who come to me looking for torture are so unpleasant that I want to make them not only hurt, but actually suffer. A week before the sweet man from Colorado, Jerry, came to see me and Sadie, I saw a man named Jim who frequents the dungeon. He goes on binges, getting drunk and high during the day and coming in for a dose of abuse. He wants to be an ashtray, he wants to be humiliated and called a little bitch, a toilet, and a pathetic slave among other things. He wants to be forced to drink, told to do drugs, and completely and totally physically destroyed.

There is something about this man that is not sweet and not loving and absolutely and utterly repulsive. I want to make him suffer, not because he enjoys suffering, but because something about him seems to call for abuse and persecution. I want to make him bleed, I want to make him cry, and I want him to question why it is he came here in the first place.

I have problems with these feelings. I am not a mean person. I’m a very nice, warm, sweet person, and nice, warm, sweet people aren’t supposed to ever want to inflict (only somewhat consensual) pain on people who’ve never done them wrong. Nice, sweet, warm people aren’t supposed to enjoy it when men seem as if they’d be calling “red” if they weren’t piss-drunk and coked to the gills.

I have trouble reconciling my image of myself as a very nice person who hates hurting feelings unless it’s for a good reason with this angry bitch who likes to hurt people for the hell of it.

I’m not sure how the two sides of me can co-exist, but self-discovery is part of what sex work is to me.