I decided I wanted to be a prostitute when I was seventeen. Most people assume I made this decision because I had seen Pretty Woman too many times, because my parents didn’t hug me enough, or because I was somehow coerced into my decision. None of these assumptions are correct. I’ve always been prone to viewing my life more as a story or a series of discrete experiences than as an actual life of connected events. However, saying I decided to join the oldest profession to advance my story is also overly simplistic.

During my teen years, almost all of my friends were older than me and many of my female friends were sex workers. Unlike my civilian friends, my sex worker friends never worried about rent, yet almost always had money for nice things. They weren’t rich by any means–most sex workers aren’t–but they were secure. They were also incredibly cool. Of course, I wasn’t so stupid to think their jobs were easy: the fact that they could juggle both the outside prejudice and the layers of euphemism (even deceit) their professions required was… inspiring to me.

Still. Despite my admiration for the sex workers I knew, I probably would never have become one myself if it weren’t for my friend Leslie.

Leslie was slightly closer to my age than most of my other friends. She had a kind of luminous sensuality and an ability to manipulate men that I admired . She had a regular job at a trendy shoe store that I wished I could afford to patronize, and she took appointments with what she called “Mr. Spankys.” Mr. Spankys were men who paid girls to lie across their knees and get spanked. It seemed sort of glamorous. Better yet, they usually paid her between $150 and $200. The more she told me about it, the more attractive the idea became.

…But I figured I was too young. One day, I shared my sorrow with Leslie and she just looked at me.

“Um, they don’t card or anything, you know?” she said.

Somehow–despite the fact that this was all organized via Craigslist and although I had been buying cigarettes since I was fourteen–it never occurred to me that I didn’t necessarily have to be of age to be a sex worker. With that, all of my problems were solved! It didn’t matter that I was a little girl with an armful of bad tattoos! I would be able to move out of my mother’s house completely! No one would ever be the boss of me again!

My enthusiasm for the idea of being an unstoppable sex worker team was really all it took to convince Leslie. She called me the next day to tell me that she had convinced a new Mr. Spanky to see both of us at the same time. He would pay us $500 each, and was I free that weekend?

In the days leading up to my first sex job I was horribly nervous. I kept going over all the things that could go wrong and all the horror stories I had heard about young women being sold into slavery. My legs were shaking as Leslie and I rode the elevator up to the hotel room and it occurred to me that I didn’t even know this guy’s name. Then… nothing awful happened. Leslie and I entered the hotel room, exchanged awkward pleasantries with a good-natured old man, got paid, did some schoolgirl role-play, and then we each got spanked while the other counted out the blows. It was so clean. So neatly, beautifully transactional. The whole experience was almost boring.

It’s worth mentioning that the hotel room television was turned to the news and the anchor was in the midst of exposing the Eliot Spitzer scandal. The irony struck me, of course.

More striking than the scandal itself, though, was the quantity of money exchanged. I knew I couldn’t bring in the thousands of dollars Ashley Dupré made, but I was certain that something as universally desired as sex would pay at least as much as I’d just made for getting spanked. …And would certainly pay more regularly than even the most popular fetish.

It took me a few months to work up the nerve to post an advertisement. In the meantime I got spanked a lot, gave a few footjobs, bought a lot of shoes, and considered the pros and cons of going all the way to real prostitution. By the time I actually put up my ad, I was eighteen. I settled on three hundred dollars per hour for my rate and ‘Sexy Suicide Girl Wants to Please You!’ as my tagline. The response was overwhelming! I managed to pin down two appointments within an hour. It was surreal, all I had to do was get on my back and suddenly everyone wanted to hire me? Why hadn’t I done this earlier?

As I looked forward to my first appointment, I alternated between feelings of serene power and terror. Half the time I was romanticizing my new profession and imagining all the money I’d be making. The other half, I was panicking over the myriad things that could go wrong. None of my sex worker friends were official prostitutes, the most any of them did was give a paid blowjob here or there, and most of them didn’t even do that. I had no-one to ask for advice. What would I wear? Because I marketed myself as a Suicide Girl-type, I knew guys wouldn’t be expecting a polished supermodel to show up at their door, however I wasn’t sure if they would be expecting me with my wardrobe of ragged plaid skirts and dresses made for obese children. You can only take the Lolita fetish so far.

It may seem strange, but I wasn’t concerned about the sex. I was already having mediocre sex with near-strangers regularly enough that I viewed prostitution as just getting paid to refrain from kicking the asshole out of bed. Beyond the aesthetics, I was sure I was more than prepared to become a whore.

Cathryn Berarovich is a bit of a renaissance sex worker; she’s currently employed as a stripper (and writer) but has held numerous interesting jobs in the industry. Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry.