Archive for the ‘Q & A’ Category

I work for a large company which has many different contracts with both private companies and governmental institutions.  I wholeheartedly support most of the work we do, but I’m less happy with our association with law enforcement, which might lead to the abuse of innocent people.  Worst of all, in the past few years another division of the company has become involved with the trafficking myth pushers, and it makes my skin crawl.  But I’m not high enough in management to have any influence, expressing my views can only do me harm, and good jobs are hard to come by these days.  How can I reconcile my conscience with continuing to work there? 

blood moneyAs a whore, far be it from me to condemn others for taking “dirty money”; some of my clients were politicians, gangsters, drug dealers, ambulance-chasers and other lowlifes who got their money in morally reprehensible ways.  Money cannot be “tainted”, either by sex rays or anything else; as I wrote in “O Tempora!  O Mores!”, “if a thief buys food from a grocery store with stolen money, that transaction is the exact moral equivalent of buying food with money that was rightfully his; the grocery store owner is not morally responsible for the thief’s actions unless he somehow caused them himself.”  As long as your actions with regard to your employers are moral, it’s not your fault if the money they use to pay you comes from sleazy deals that you were not personally involved in.  Besides, it’s probably impossible these days to work for any company larger than a mom-and-pop that doesn’t have some questionable association.  If it continues to bother you, perhaps you could make donations to organizations committed to advancing sex worker rights; that way you’ll feel as though you’re helping to undo a little of the wrong your employers are helping to do.

I’m a woman who has never done sex work, and I have a male friend who’s shy and socially awkward; he’s still a virgin at 32.  He wants to lose his virginity with a professional, but has made a couple of mistakes and is now hesitant to move forward; one escort tricked him out of some money, and another turned him down when he said he was a virgin.  On top of that the higher class escorts all seem to require references which, of course, he doesn’t have.  I advised against blindly going to Backpage, but I have no idea what other advice I could give him; can you help?

Woman Talking to a Shy Man by Ravi VarmaWhat your friend needs is an established escort who is “newbie friendly”.  This means a lady whose screening methods are not dependent on references; she’s going to ask him for some kind of identifying information, and use it to be sure he isn’t a cop.  That’s one of the reasons he should pick only an established escort with a good reputation; it will help him to know she isn’t going to steal his money like that other woman did.  Do tell him that a regular escort in his city shouldn’t ask for money in advance; it’s generally only traveling escorts who do that, and it’s better for him to get someone local just in case his nerves get the better of him and it takes a few dates to accomplish what he wants to accomplish.  An older woman would probably be best for this; they tend to be much more patient with nervous first-timers and some of them really enjoy breaking younger guys in.  Point your friend to my column “The First Time”, and tell him to read the comments, too, because there are a couple from other adult virgins there; “Sensitive Guy” might also be helpful.  Finally, you might also direct him to my “Questions” page, which has many links to my answers to previous questions; the first two under “General Sex Work Questions” are especially important, and he might also find some that speak to him in “Requests for Advice” farther down the page.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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How can an escort be successful and completely avoid the hobbyists and their review system?  I usually attract the gentlemanly type who won’t kiss and tell, and after my first few interactions with hobbyists, I’m utterly shocked by their entitlement and crude behavior.  Since Eros and Slixa do authentication (so clients can be reasonably sure I’m real), is there any point to an escort putting up with hobbyist garbage?

The Courtesan and the Old Man by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1530)Most clients will respect a lady’s request not to be reviewed, and that is reinforced with time because an escort without reviews will tend to be avoided by the sort of men who are most invested in the review culture.  The best clients know that a large fraction of reviews are bullshit anyway, and will judge for themselves based on an escort’s website, the length of time she’s been around, and perhaps even non-review conversations on the boards.  As you correctly point out, there are other means of authentication, and if you’ve made it up until now without allowing reviews I don’t think there’s a need to start.  One thing you might do is get to know a few of the other escorts in your area who don’t allow reviews; a good reference from one of them would help you to know that a gentleman can be trusted to be gentlemanly.

I am just beginning in the escort industry and trying to find out which are the best agencies to work for in my area.  Also, do you know what agencies would be looking for as far as interviewing – things to be sure to mention or avoid, dress, etc? 

Though working for a reputable agency used to be a good deal, it has become much less so now that the internet makes self-advertising so easy.  And remember, this is advice from a former escort service owner!  Take a look at the “Mentoring” section of “Previously Asked Questions” and read the linked entries; it may help you to make up your mind, and most of the advice there will be useful no matter which route you take.  In the interest of providing a complete answer, though, I asked a friend who lives in your area if there were any good agencies, and here is what she wrote:

I would dissuade her from working for an agency.  Besides the cost factor, clients seem to be shifting away from agencies;  they are also becoming more and more targets of LE due to the “trafficking” hysteria (remember, to target an escort service police must arrest the escorts first).  I would tell any woman entering the business to consider finding a mentor, and working independently; it just seems to me to be safer at the present time.

Arrest of a Prostitute by the Police by Jules DavidWhat she said about client shifts and cop targeting is dead on; since agency owners can be branded “pimps” and “traffickers”, they attract a lot of attention these days from cops looking for heads to mount on the wall.  Though working independently is by no means safe from cop depredation, it may indeed be safer than working for an agency (especially if you’ve got a friend who will check you in and out).

If, however, you still prefer to work for an agency, interviewing is really not all that different from what you’d do for any other job interview:  dress nicely but not fancily, be friendly, answer the interviewer’s questions honestly and be prepared to provide whatever information they need; you’ll probably be asked to sign a disclaimer.  I preferred to weed my applicants on the phone and in the interview, but it may be that they’re using online forms nowadays.  If you’re attractive and present yourself well, it shouldn’t be difficult to get them to take you on; the real test comes later, because just like any company they’re going to rely most heavily on employees who are dependable and make the company the most money (in this case, by high customer satisfaction).  Girls who are easy to contact, professional and make the clients happy will get the most calls; those who are the opposite will find their phones ringing less and less.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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My boyfriend and I have been together for 6 years, but after a couple of years together I went on the pill and it completely killed my previously-high sex drive; during the 3 years I was on it I could probably count the number of times we had sex.  Once I realized the cause of the problem I stopped taking the pill and our sex life improved dramatically.  The problem is that my boyfriend become afraid to initiate sex with me during those years, so he always waits for me to initiate it; however, I’m sexually submissive and really want him to lead.  How can I boost his confidence after three years of making it worse?The Garden of Don Juan by Lajos Gulácsy (1910)

Since it seems to me that you and your boyfriend are very honest with one another, I think the direct approach is called for here.  Explain to him that now you’re off the pill, you’ve returned to normal…and that “normal” for you means enjoying being the submissive partner.  Promise him that you won’t turn him down unless you’re really sick or something, and encourage him to be the aggressor.  Also, it won’t hurt if you play up how excited you get when he takes the initiative; yes, it’s a bit dishonest but think of it as a “white lie” which will help to make him more confident and thereby result in better sex for both of you.  I’m sure you’ll eventually be able to dispense with it once he realizes that you really, truly do want him to be the sexually dominant one, because once he gets the hang of it he’ll see the results in your natural responses.  And I suspect it won’t take all that long for him to learn.

You answered my questions about heterosexual male escorts in “Vice Versa” and I’ve done a lot of research since then, but I have a follow-up question:  If you personally were to pay for a male escort, what is the #1 service you would like him to deliver to you?

I literally cannot even imagine a situation in which I would conceivably pay a man for sex.  That’s just completely alien to me, not only because I could easily get a man to pay me for any sex or company I might want, but also because I don’t experience spontaneous sexual desire in the way some women do, much less the way guys do.  And if I don’t need or even really want something, why in the world would I spend good money on it?

When a prostitute sleeps with a physically attractive (to her) client, does she enjoy the sex more or is it just a better-than-average work day?

Attraction and sexual pleasure are more complicated for women than for men, and more complicated still for whores.  Clients who are attractive and know it can often be a huge pain, because they imagine it should get them some sort of bonus or special treatment.  So while it’s absolutely true that some work sex is more enjoyable than other work sex, the reason may or may not have anything to do with a client’s attractiveness; it could be due to the way he treats the escort, a rapport they have, or something even less definable.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Last week I published a letter from an exceptional woman:  though she’s a Christian with a strong personal aversion to sex work, she has deeply considered the issues and realized that there are many, many problems in “anti-trafficking” discourse.  After my last letter she wrote again with more good questions, but her letter was so complex that I have separated out the individual questions not only to make this column easier to read, but to protect her privacy by eliminating personal details.  If you haven’t yet read last Wednesday’s column, you really ought to do so before proceeding with today’s.

A friend of mine belongs to an anti-trafficking ministry which gives out gift bags to ladies in brothels and tries to build friendships with them.  The gift bag includes shampoo and sometimes cookies and earrings, and also a packet of tissues, inside which they have slipped a hotline for getting out of prostitution.  Would you personally find such a message with a hotline number insulting?

trafficking soapMost sex workers would probably consider that more funny than insulting, because the idea outsiders have that we’re all “trapped” or “victims” or “slaves” is very amusing when it isn’t backed up by uniformed thugs.  But once the cops start smashing down doors, beating, raping and robbing sex workers before caging them and giving them criminal records that will follow them for life, it goes far beyond mere insult.  The idea that we’re “victims” is a symptom of what you mentioned in your first letter:  the refusal to listen.  It’s kind of like the way gay people are treated in some churches:  “I can’t understand how a man could be attracted to another man, so there must be something wrong with them.”  The old narrative was that sex workers were “bad” women, but over the past 800 years Christianity has slowly shifted toward viewing us as “fallen” creatures to be redeemed, and that became the dominant social discourse in English-speaking countries from the 1880s on (largely due to the influence of the Salvation Army and other groups promoting the “white slavery” hysteria).  After criminalization became the norm in the US (from 1910-1914), people naturally started seeing prostitutes as “criminals”, and that view persisted until the beginning of the present moral panic in 2004 (though several years earlier in Sweden).

I have seen sites that quoted (at least they claim) comments from clients about prostitutes, 95% of which were horrendous.  So why do clients come to you?  Is it really that men who are willing to buy women are often aggressive and do not respect women in general? 

Those “client quotes” are totally cherry-picked.  The idea that men pay good money to spend time with women they hate is about as absurd as anything I can think of; it’s related to the radical feminist notion that all intercourse is rape.  The fact is, I was often treated better by the men who paid me than guys who just dated me, and that’s a very typical experience.  The majority of sex workers’ clients are either horny or lonely, and that’s it.  They’re not looking for women to “objectify” or “abuse”, and the only people who can believe otherwise without being lied to are people who believe the Marxist foolishness that all economic transactions are innately exploitative, or those who believe that all sex not sanctified by marriage (or all heterosexual sex, period) is bad.  The only reason they pick on sex work is that when they try to apply those ideas more universally, most normal people mock, shun or ignore them.  Sex workers have been turned into a pariah caste against whom rhetoric that wouldn’t last five minutes when directed against anyone else, suddenly becomes palatable.  The most common form of prostitution these days is probably GFE escorting, where GFE stands for “girl friend experience”.  In other words, the majority of clients want a girl who is nice and friendly and chatty and sweet, just like a regular date.  Yes, there are bad clients…but that’s true of every business in the world, as anyone with experience in retail or waitressing can tell you.

Do you not mind when a man comes to you only for your body, with no interest in your personality, your soul, your mind, your history?  Although if I must think of sex work as normal work, I suppose it would be as ridiculous as if I asked an office worker, do you not mind that your boss has no interest in your personality etc and that you are reduced as just a working cog in a cooperation.  In an office, ideally you’d find a caring manager who does care about your well-being – and I guess there are clients who are similar?

sex dollAs I explained above, most clients are.  If you talk to sex workers who have had “straight” jobs, you’ll find they usually felt far more objectified in those than in sex work.  People who talk about “bodies to be used” must have a very low opinion of men, to believe that that’s how men see sex.  In fact, one of the most annoying client behaviors is when they go on about “I want to give you pleasure” and “what would you like to do?” and that sort of thing, which many of them do.  We hate it because it makes it much harder to satisfy a customer who won’t say what he wants, but as you can see it’s exactly the opposite of that “objectification” jazz.  When I was an escort I advertised myself as “the thinking man’s companion” because I have a hard time “dumbing down” my conversation and wanted to attract men who liked that…and there were plenty.  You were talking about reviews earlier; you know who gets the worst reviews?  Girls who just lie there like a “body to be used”.  What prohibitionists claim men are looking for, is actually the thing which will probably kill a sex worker’s business faster than anything else.

My anti-trafficking friend never says “prostitute”, but rather “ladies in the sex industry”; she also never gives out their names “in order to protect their confidentiality”.  But if sex work is just work, what difference does the word make?  And why wouldn’t prostitutes want people to know their names?

If sex work were completely accepted, normal and legally protected, I would agree with you that there would be no need for aliases.  But that isn’t the way it is, and it won’t be in our lifetimes.  Your friend is wise to be discreet.  As for the term “prostitute”, it’s a very legalistic word that has acquired  considerable negative baggage.  So while I myself use it because many outsiders with whom I discuss it (especially lawyers & politicians) see it as a neutral term, it is in fact pejorative and should be avoided.  “Sex worker” is considered the most polite term; “prostituted woman” is the most insulting and demeaning because it casts us as passive, inert victims without intellect, will or agency.

I’m uncomfortable saying that sex work should be okay and treated as any other job, but I’m also uncomfortable with criminalization because everyone has the right to choose what they will do and how they want to live their lives.  How do I resolve this conflict?

Now we’re getting into the philosophy of harm reduction, which is quite complicated but here’s the nutshell version.  I personally think cocaine is awful; I hate the way people act when they use it, I hate the way it makes their noses run and their mouths get crusty, I hate the weird fantasies they have when they’re on it.  Eventually I got to the point where I’d refuse clients I knew were using it because I didn’t want to deal with it.  However, the harms that result from cocaine aren’t nearly as bad as those that result from attempting to suppress it, such as the establishment of a surveillance state, empowerment of police to violate civil rights on a massive scale, bloody cartel wars, bad (even fatal) reactions to tainted drugs, the attraction of criminals to the business, the vast waste of money and the highest incarceration rates in history.  I don’t have to like cocaine or approve of its use to recognize that its prohibition is a horrible thing and the wellspring of myriad evils, and you don’t have to like or approve of sex work to have the same view about its prohibition.  And considering that it is the prohibition of sex work that is the chief enabler of coercion, I would think that every moral person who is truly concerned about that would join with the UN, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many others in calling for the decriminalization of sex work.

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I’m passionately against sex-trafficking, and on the whole I do not support sex work.  If the existence of the sex industry hides trafficked victims, which it does, then I’d rather there’s no sex industry at all, because while the willing sex worker is able to do other work, the trafficked victim has no such choice.  I was an advocate of the Swedish model until a Swedish friend of mine sent me a blog post that explained how it’s making life worse for sex workers (even coerced ones), contrary to what the Swedes and well-meaning Christian community might have us believe.  I’ve also keenly noticed that in all the sex trafficking discussions and films I’ve seen, nobody – absolutely NOBODY – asked the prostitutes, the very people who know what it is they need, and what the situation is really like on the ground.  So I’m interested knowing what, in your opinion, do sex workers need?  What kind of system, law, or facility should be in place to better protect and help sex workers?  Is it possible to help and rescue trafficked victims, whilst not interfering with willing sex workers?  What would actually help rescuers identify and free trafficked victims in the sex trade?  Finally, why have YOU chosen to be a sex worker?  I’m asking not to judge you or to preach or change your mind.  I just want to hear the other side.

I’ll try as best I can to answer all your questions; if I miss anything, please reply and ask it again.  You may not like everything I’m going to say, but you seem like someone who’s genuinely trying to understand so I hope you won’t reject uncomfortable truths out of hand merely because they do indeed make you uncomfortable.

Amerikaz Most wantedThe first question you need to ask yourself is, what is it about sex work you don’t “support”?  If you merely mean that you can’t envision yourself as ever being in a position to either sell or buy sex, the statement makes perfect sense; I could say that “I don’t support the rap industry” because I don’t like rap and therefore contribute no money to that segment of the music business.  However, my powerful dislike for rap does not give me the right to deny that it undoubtedly gives pleasure to those who do like it, and provides a creative outlet for people who nonetheless could do “other work” under far less satisfying conditions and for vastly less money.  Nor would it be right for me to demonize rap and blame it for things that derive from the nastier portions of human nature; these problems would still exist even if rap could somehow be eliminated by establishing a totalitarian state whose police had the power to violate people’s rights at will in order to further the War on Rap.  It is never right, moral, justifiable or even possible to stop people from pursuing peaceful, consensual, private activity, whether that activity involves music, books, sex or drugs.  You mention the prohibitionist myth that the sex industry “hides” the existence of coerced workers, but this is no more true than saying the agricultural industry “hides” the existence of coerced farm workers or the domestic service industry “hides” the existence of coerced domestics.  The sad fact is that some human beings are willing to directly subject their fellow creatures to coercion, and most human beings are willing to allow others with fancy titles and interesting costumes to inflict coercion as long as that violence achieves results they like, whether those results be enlarging their country’s territory, filling the state’s coffers, inflicting their moral agenda on strangers or producing cheap food and consumer electronics.  Most people who position themselves as enemies of “sex trafficking”, yet seem relatively unconcerned with other forms of coerced labor, do so for two reasons: first, that they do not themselves buy or sell sexual services; and second, that they wish to stop others whom they do not even know from doing so.  If these same people were constantly calling for the abolition of other industries in which some degree of coercion occurs (such as agriculture, domestic service, textiles, electronics and the prison industry), their position would at least be logically consistent (if naively Utopian).  But that is not the case:  they are perfectly willing to accept exploitative and coercive, even quasi-slave-like, treatment of agricultural laborers, domestics, sweatshop workers and those arrested under prohibitionist laws; it is somehow only sexual exchange, coerced or otherwise, which inflames their ire.

I am really pleased that you recognize the necessity of listening to sex workers; that is the major point of my essay “Let Me Help”, which I think would answer most of your questions.  It contains links to other essays of mine (and to resources outside this blog) which will help you to understand not only that very few sex workers are coerced in any meaningful sense of the word, but that most of the people “authorities” label “trafficked” are not the helpless victims in need of “rescue” that they are painted as being in exploitation films and prohibitionist propaganda.  These people themselves say this over and over again, but as you pointed out nobody wants to listen because the truth conflicts with the narrative they prefer to impose upon it.  And one thing upon which virtually all sex workers agree is that decriminalization – the removal of all laws which treat sex work as somehow magically different from all other forms of work – is absolutely the best way of dramatically reducing the harms which plague the industry under criminalized, semi-criminalized or quasi-criminalized regimes.  My recent essay “Treating Sex Work As Work” sets out the case in exhaustive and thoroughly-cited detail, explaining how every attempt to control sex work by criminal law results in causing far more harm than it prevents.

I chose the job that suits my needsIf you want a longish answer to your last question, you should probably read my three-part “Genesis of a Harlot”; however, I can give you a much shorter answer which is at the same time more universal.  I chose sex work for the same reason about 98.5% of all sex workers do:  it was the best fit for my needs at the time.  Sex work is both more lucrative and more flexible than any other kind of work available to most people; in its most basic form it requires no special equipment, starting capital, intensive training, licenses or tests.  And though those characteristics are attractive to many people, they are especially attractive to members of certain marginalized populations – including, ironically, women with prior prostitution arrest records – who find it difficult or impossible to secure or maintain conventional employment.  In other words, the more laws, rules and regulations a society allows government to inflict upon it, the larger the fraction of people who will be driven into underground economies by their inability to get other work.  The more a government tries to control people’s work, movement and lives – including their sex lives – the larger the sex industry will become; prohibitionists are therefore their own worst enemies, because the more they crack down, the more people they push into conditions under which sex work is the best available means of support.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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I love my wife and we have a great life together, but I resent the hell out of her not being more adventurous in bed.  I have a cuckold fantasy that I would never follow through on because fantasy is often more fun than reality, but I want some occasional dirty talk in bed about other men she was with before we were married or would like to be with now.  She’s too uptight to actually try anything kinky, but I don’t see how talking and fantasizing is an unreasonable expectation. I would do anything for her; I’ve begged her to tell me her fantasy and I will make it happen.  But her response is, “I don’t really have any”.  Who doesn’t have sexual fantasies?  I’ve bitched about it plenty of times to no avail, and I think she would do it if I demanded it, but that would be a hollow victory; that she won’t do this willingly makes me feel unappreciated.  I also don’t want to cheat, so how do I get her to come around?  Or can I?

Freud with cheeseburgerDespite what the anti-sex crowd likes to pretend, sexuality is not a mere “choice”, something dropped on top of a person’s personality at the last minute like pickles on a cheeseburger; it is a deep and intrinsic part of the human psyche, rooted in the hindbrain and woven throughout the psychic fabric.  Though we use the word “libido” colloquially as a synonym for “horniness”, it’s a lot more than that; Freud defined it as “the energy, regarded as a quantitative magnitude…of those instincts which have to do with all that may be comprised under the word ‘love’.”  He considered it part of the id, the unconscious structure of personality, and therefore no more a matter of choice than anything else springing from that tenebrous region of consciousness.  Now, we’ve learned a great deal since Freud’s day, and most psychologists feel he was wrong about a lot of things.  But this isn’t one of them; if anything, we have reached the collective conclusion that some aspects of a person’s sexuality are so deeply embedded as to constitute major structural elements of that person’s character, because such elements derive from idiosyncrasies of the brain architecture itself.  Homosexuals and bisexuals usually report feeling same-sex attraction from an extremely early age (mine goes back at least to my earliest distinct memories, about the age of four), and other sexual traits (such as my fascination with bondage) can start just as early.  Other aspects are not quite so deep-rooted, but still develop as interwoven components of personality development.  Sexual repression is in this zone; though people are not “born uptight”, the repression develops concurrently with sexual maturation.  The adage tells us, “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree”; though it isn’t possible to stop the tree of sexuality from growing, it certainly is possible to bend, warp and stunt its growth.  For example, though it isn’t possible to teach a child not to be gay, it is certainly possible to fill his brain with such fear, shame and self-loathing that he can never have a healthy sexual relationship with anyone, male or female.  Buried sexual feelings don’t die; they just rot in the dark, decaying into something unwholesome or even noxious.

What this all boils down to is that it’s very, very unlikely you will be able to get her to change.  Oh, you might be able to get her to do what you ask, but she won’t like it, and will probably resent it.  Women who can be coaxed into stepping outside of their sexual comfort zones are generally those who were inclined to do so anyway, and merely need help to overcome their reservations or get “permission” to be “bad”.  The latter is one reason so many women enjoy submission or rape fantasies; they allow displacement of responsibility for being sexual.  And though it’s true that some women do indeed become more sexually open-minded and willing to experiment over time even without coaxing, they’re generally ones whose bent is already in that direction; they just need time for growth to catch up with inclination.  If you doubt what I’m saying, let’s try a thought experiment:  imagine it was your wife who was my reader, and she said described the same situation but ended with, “how can I get him to stop feeling this way?”  Just as you can’t help feeling the way you feel, she can’t help the way she feels, and the fact that yours is an urge while hers is an aversion is neither here nor there.  And while I am in no position to figure out why you have the kind of fantasies you have, it doesn’t take a latter-day Freud to guess why they make your wife uncomfortable.warped tree  Furthermore, though you are skeptical that your wife has no sexual fantasies, I can assure you that it is very possible that she has desires which never gel into fully-formed fantasies, or that she actually means A) “I have no fantasies I’m comfortable sharing”; B) “I have no fantasies which you could help me to realize”; or C) “There is no way I would ever want to make my fantasies happen”.  You should certainly understand “C” (the “good fantasy, bad reality” principle) because you yourself feel that way about cuckolding; what you may not grok is that for some people even the fantasy may be uncomfortable, however much it may arouse (I have some like that myself, of which the less said, the better).

My advice to you is not dissimilar to that I offered the reader in “Late Bloomer”:  while it’s possible therapy might help her to get over her hang-ups, I’m not really sanguine about that because the right therapeutic alchemy is difficult enough to achieve with two people, let alone three.  Keep gently trying to get her to open up, but don’t badger her and for Aphrodite’s sake please don’t utter anything that sounds remotely like a threat, because that will only poison the good parts of your relationship.  If your need to explore your fantasy is so strong that porn won’t fulfill it, that’s what whores are for; just be sure you pick a good, dependable one, be discreet, and visit her only as often as you need to scratch that special itch.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Kony 2012I like to consider myself a level-headed, rational person; someone who isn’t easily swept up into fervor or misled by the charismatic.  Being on a major college campus has certainly put these traits to the test.  Massive emotional appeals rock the campus constantly, and appeals to donate to many organizations are commonplace; my lack of unconditional support of every such endeavor has damaged some of my relationships.  However weak the premise, I can never effectively reveal the falsity of the claims; to even try is to be ostracized.  Lately “sex trafficking” hysteria has become more and more prevalent here, and speakers are coming to ply their trade.  How I should try to educate my peers?  I loathe misinformation in all its forms, but I am not so charming a person as to be able to sway the opinions of the passionate.

Many beside yourself have commented on the sad fact that the modern university campus is not only inhospitable, but actively hostile to free speech and rational thought.  A whole organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, exists to fight the top-down abuses, but unfortunately they can’t do much about peer-to-peer behavior.  You didn’t mention your course of study, but even if you’re in the sciences that doesn’t protect you from the irrational belief-systems of everyone else; even science students and some full-fledged scientists can be incredibly irrational about subjects other than their own (during my time at UNO there was a tenured chemistry professor who was a well-known creationist).

Don’t feel bad because you aren’t able to fight disinformation single-handedly; though there are a few people who can do that, they are driven in a way that most of us simply aren’t.  Even the most dedicated and skilled campaigners need a support network, others who see things in at least a similar way and will fight alongside them.  A lot of people view me as larger than life, but in truth I need that support just like everyone else does; if it weren’t for the readers who praise my work and the fellow-activists who brace me up in areas where I’m weak, I might have quit long ago.  So in order to effectively oppose “sex trafficking”, other moral panics and the host of other ridiculous beliefs which infest modern Western culture, you need a group of like-minded others.  I’ll bet there are a lot more students (and faculty) who feel the same way as you do than you might imagine; the reason you don’t know about them is that like you, they don’t want to be ostracized.  Human beings have a powerful need for the approval of peers, and fanatics take advantage of that to silence their critics; what you therefore need is your own group of peers who will “have your back” when you’re attacked.  Does your campus have a skeptic’s society or the like?  If so, you might consider joining it, and if not, why not start one?  You may still have to fight “sex trafficking” beliefs even within such a club, but at least there you’ll have the advantage of dealing with people who can be reasoned with,NYU Human Rights Day poster and who can be swayed by presenting facts from the many academics, activists and other writers who oppose the panic (there are many good articles on my Resources page).  If your group is large enough, you can probably come up with the means to print flyers or posters to counter prohibitionist claims, and perhaps even get your own speakers to counter the hysterics’ “trafficking” porn.  I’m not telling you it will be easy, but with enough help and support it will at least be possible.  And though you won’t win overnight, time is on your side:  moral panics have a limited life span, and as time goes on you’ll find increasing numbers are listening to the truth rather than wallowing in hysteria.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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What would be the ideal mate for a sex worker be like? I would think honesty and trust would be a big deal, but what else? 

Venus and Adonis by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (after 1800)I don’t believe in “ideals”; every person is different, and needs different things in a mate.  That having been said, there are some qualities which tend to be necessary in every relationship: you mention honesty and trust, and those are certainly important…but isn’t that true of every relationship rather than just those involving sex workers?  The same could be said of qualities like understanding, patience, loyalty, fairness, etc.  If there is one quality that the partner of a sex worker needs which isn’t necessarily indispensible in other relationships, I would have to say it’s the recognition that sex is neither special nor magical.  While the myth that sex equals love  and/or vice versa is a destructive factor in most normal relationships, it is highly destructive in those involving sex workers for reasons which require no explanation.  When both partners believe in the myth and continue to provide sex to their spouses, or the extracurricular activity of a partner who doesn’t believe the myth is never discovered, the negative effects alone are probably insufficient to doom the relationship (“if you love me you’ll take constant no for an answer and never look for sex anywhere else” is a related but slightly different and more complex issue).  But in a sex worker’s relationship, it is a ticking bomb waiting to go off at some unpredictable time.  The person who loves a sex worker cannot ever afford to allow himself to see current professional activities as “cheating”, or past professional activities as some sort of ritual pollution or moral failure, because such feelings will inevitably rise to the surface during arguments (and we all have them) with catastrophic effect.

There are a couple of other columns you may wish to read for on this subject: in “May Q & A” I answered a reader who was curious about how sex workers could still be interested in partner sex after a day at work, and just a little over a month later I published a two-part interview with my husband which used questions supplied by readers; the latter will allow you to get some feedback straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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I’m a 24-year old woman who considers herself rather “sexually stunted”; though I’ve had a few partners, masturbating makes me more uncomfortable than turned on and when I actually do have sex I find myself constantly second-guessing how much I’m actually enjoying it, or whether I’m “doing it right” (even with masturbation!).  I honestly doubt that I’ve ever had a orgasm.  Though it sounds like your mindset was very different, any advice on how to start exploring my sexuality?

Cosmopolitan March 1987My mindset is not as different as you think; the main difference is that I’m almost a quarter-century older than you are.  When I was your age (in 1990) there was no internet to tell me what my sexuality “should” be like; of course we had women’s magazines, but I decided that those were dumb while I was still in high school, so I was blissfully unaware of people who would almost certainly have told me that I was doing it wrong.  Almost from the beginning of my sexual experience, I thought of sex more as something I did for other people than something I did for myself, a way to have adventures, to manipulate men, and to trade for favors or presents or money; I reckon you could say I was a born whore, however much prohibitionists may deny that’s possible.  As a teenager I masturbated about twice a week, and even that seemed like too much to me; in my twenties it decreased to about once a month (and then only during celibate periods), and the last time I did it spontaneously (i.e. not as a show for a client) was just before I became a stripper in the late ‘90s.  As I’ve explained before, I rarely feel what most people think of as “lust”, so though I’m quite responsive I just don’t feel the need to masturbate, and even by my late teens I was dreadfully bored with it.  As I’m sure you can imagine, I didn’t always orgasm from it, and like you I often wondered if what I felt was “really” an orgasm at all because it was usually nothing like what my sex partners (male or female) seemed to be experiencing.  That’s why I learned to fake well at a relatively tender age; for me, the chief enjoyment of sex has always been about pleasing my partner (whether for love or money) than pleasing myself, and had I believed in Robin Morgan’s asinine statement that “rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire,” I’d have probably given up on sex at 17.

Fortunately for my relationships, for my bank account and for many men, I think Morgan and those like her are idiots, and kept at it in spite of not really getting much physical pleasure out of it.  And soon after my 17th birthday I discovered that my chief erogenous zone was between the ears rather than between the legs, and that the right situation – in my case, being held down or tied up – did a helluva lot more for me than any combination of kissing, licking, rubbing, twiddling or other purely physical techniques (I later discovered that getting paid had a similar, though less pronounced, effect).  Nor am I alone; the majority of women are far more aroused by mental and emotional factors than by physical ones, and the right situation has a far greater effect on sex drive, satisfaction and even orgasmicity than any mechanical or biochemical stimulus.

What this is all leading up to is, you probably just haven’t found your “trigger” yet.  Ignore those who tell you that there’s something “wrong” with you for being functionally anorgasmic, semi-anorgasmic or quasi-anorgasmic; I’ve been that way for long stretches of time, and it only ever bothered me was when I listened to people telling me what I was supposedly missing.  Orgasm isn’t only about “doing it right”, sexual satisfaction isn’t only about orgasm, and nobody has the right to define the parameters of “good sex” for you, or to tell you why you “should” or “shouldn’t” have sex.  My advice to you is, first, to stop doing anything that makes you uncomfortable; if masturbation is in that category, don’t do it (trust me, you won’t shrivel up into a prune without it).  Next, try to stop analyzing your sexual experiences; as long as they’re pleasant or otherwise rewarding (emotionally, socially, etc) it doesn’t matter “how much” you enjoy them in comparison with other women or some imaginary gold standard.  Once you’ve done those things, a lot of the pressure will evaporate from your mind and you can start paying attention to things like, “What turns me on the most?” or “What situations or activities make sex better for me?”Gamesters of Triskelion  Don’t limit this to personal activities; a lot of my early sexual feelings came from watching TV shows like Star Trek which contained situations that most others wouldn’t view as sexual, but which made me feel “funny”.  Even today I sometimes have idiosyncratic sexual reactions to things I see or read, so this isn’t something limited to childhood or relative sexual inexperience.  Whenever you run into something that makes you feel sexy, or a sexual activity that turns you on more than others, follow up on it; don’t be afraid to ask a boyfriend or girlfriend for help, either.  And don’t be in a rush about it; though most people understand that (in general) women need to take their time to warm up during a sexual encounter, few recognize that this is usually true of a woman’s entire sex life.  I’m sure you’ve heard the claim that a woman’s sex drive peaks at 35; that isn’t because of any physiological factors, but rather because it just takes the better part of two decades for most women to get really comfortable with their sexuality and to learn what works best for them as sexual individuals.  So you shouldn’t consider yourself “stunted”; a lot of women don’t even start thinking about this stuff until their late twenties, so in comparison with them you’re actually ahead of the curve.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Mother and Child by Pablo Picasso (1921)I’ve been married for ten years, but have felt disconnected from my wife for about the last 8 of them.  When we were dating she seemed to share my interests and to be sexually open-minded, but now I realize that she was just playing the devoted girlfriend, a role she has since exchanged for “Mommy”.  Though we both wanted kids (we have two), we had originally planned to enjoy time as a couple for a while before starting a family; instead she started to pressure me after a year of marriage, and we argued about it every month until she got pregnant.  After the second child, she grew even more distant and I went into a deepfather fragment depression and started therapy. Since then, I enjoy what you might call “family life”, but not my private life; my wife wants me to be happy, but with her way of things, not by actually trying to make me happy.  We only have sex when and how she wants it, which is seldom and perfunctory.

I don’t know what to do.  I don’t want to lose my family because I do treasure it, but I feel (and my therapist agrees) that I can’t live like a monk the rest of my life and still be happy.  I’m reluctant to try a professional because my employer has a “zero tolerance policy for human trafficking”; if caught I’d be fired on the spot.  And as you’ve said many times, amateurs can’t be trusted not to destroy the family life that I do love.  I do love my wife, and do not want to leave her or my family.  Your thoughts and advice on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

My cousin Jeff used to say that the tragedy of relationships is that women want men to change, and they don’t, while men don’t want women to change, and they do.  The truth, as much as nobody wants to hear it, is that Western people have been sold a lie.  Marriage was designed in ancient times not for companionship, but for social, economic and political expediency; it would still work just fine if we remembered that.  But somewhere along the line people started wanting to pretend that the hormonal rush we experience from being strongly drawn to someone is the same thing as love, which it isn’t; we even started calling it “falling in love” (which, again, it isn’t).  As if that weren’t bad enough, some two centuries ago we decided for some absurd reason that this temporary neurochemical derangement was in and of itself reason enough to make a lifelong commitment to someone, without any concern for economics or personal compatibility.  In fact, within the past century we completely departed from rationality by deciding that this quasi-inebriated condition was the only valid reason for marriage or (some believe) even having sex, and went so far as to create social institutions (such as anti-prostitution laws) to enshrine the fallacy as Divine Truth.

trilobite fossilBut that feeling of romantic love, though very powerful and as real as any feeling, is by its very nature ephemeral; it usually lasts no longer than two years, and almost never longer than seven.  Even couples who swear that they’re still “in love” after 20 years or whatever aren’t being entirely honest; what happens in the best, healthiest modern relationships is that the feeling of romantic love is gradually replaced by the stronger, sturdier type of affection we feel for our friends and children, just as the tissues of a fossil are slowly replaced by minerals.  The original shape is thus maintained, often perfectly, but the fossil is not the same as the organism it replaced, and never can be.  Sometimes the copy is as good as or even better than the original, but at other times the resemblance is superficial at best.  And if one of the couple just adores the fossil while the other feels it stinks, we arrive at a situation like yours:  your wife thinks it’s just wonderful that what was once living flesh has turned to stone, while you grieve for the living thing you lost; worse still, she can’t comprehend why you don’t prefer the nice, clean fossil which doesn’t crawl around or eat or get sick or anything messy like that.

I’ve written four times before about situations not dissimilar to yours, in “There Ain’t No Bad Guys“, “Late Bloomer“, “On a Mountaintop” and “Familiarity Does Its Thing“; you may wish to take a look at those, because elements of each might prove helpful.  The good news is, you don’t need to choose between a fulfilling sex life and a rewarding family life; the bad news is, you do need to choose between getting what you need and obeying the perverse and arbitrary dictates of your busybody employer about what you can do with your own life and money when you aren’t on the clock.  You wouldn’t obey a boss who told you that being a vegan or a teetotaler was a condition of employment, would you?  No, you’d talk the talk when necessary so as not to lose your job, then do what you wanted when you were off the clock because it isn’t any of their damned business.  Obviously, you need to be careful; in my examples it wouldn’t do for you to be caught in a bar or a steakhouse, so massage parlors or street girls are an absolute no-no for you.  Do your research, find a mature and established escort with a reputation for discretion, pay her what she asks and maybe a little more, and then as long as you’re careful you can have the advantage of a mistress without the emotional attachment and resultant risk of exposure.  You will get what you need, your wife will assume you’ve adjusted (as long as you keep trying her defenses regularly without actually harassing her), and both your family and your sanity will survive intact.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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