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Archive for the ‘Q & A’ Category

Managing Resources

I’m really a terribly vain creature, so I love compliments and being described with adjectives like “magnificent” and “incomparable”.  But there is one word I often see applied to me which, while it might have been true in the past, certainly is no longer:  that word is “tireless”.  Yes, it’s true that I’m still churning out a column every single day, but compare the average length today with the average length in 2011 or 2012 and I think you’ll see what I mean.  And not only are the columns shorter on average, they’re also less complex and I’m increasingly shying away from labor-intensive columns like harlotographies and reviews.  Furthermore, I no longer do written interviews because they take far too much time and effort, and while I’m flattered by offers to contribute to essay collections or present papers at academic conferences, I’m afraid those are far too time-and-labor intensive for me to be able to handle any more.  The truth is, I’m tired, y’all; in fact, exhausted would be a more honest appraisal.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to call it quits just yet; I figure I can handle another three years at my current pace before I need to take stock again (though of course, that’s little better than a wild-ass guess based on my rate of decline over the past eight years).  But if I’m going to last even that long I’m going to need to manage my steadily-shrinking resources.  In my twenties and thirties I was nigh-inexhaustible; I could keep going at whatever task I set myself until it was done, and was notorious for knocking out short academic papers in one or two sittings.  Even in my forties I was able to marshal my preternatural levels of nervous energy to create the monstrous edifice of prose you’re visiting right now; as I wrote six months ago,

When I first started The Honest Courtesan, I was releasing a decade of pent-up self-expression and trying to distract myself from a disintegrating marriage by burying myself in work (which is pretty much what I always did back before I realized what a tremendously stupid idea absolute sobriety was); now I’m older, wiser, sadder and wearier, and I just can’t maintain the pace I could then (which, to be honest, wasn’t really healthy back then either).  I’m worn thin and threadbare, and I need to devote more time and energy to paying work and to self-care (which includes spending quality time with people who love me)…

I’ve done pretty well on that account in the ensuing half-year, to the point where I’m giving myself permission to generally stop writing by midnight so I can get stoned, and even taking entire days or clusters of days off (though to manage that I need the excuse of spending it with someone I love).  And because I have been doing better, the change to my procedures heralded by this column isn’t quite so big as most of them have been in the past; I’m just going to ask y’all to please be more succinct when emailing me to ask for advice.  I understand that the problem motivating you to write may be a very painful and thorny one, and that you may feel the need to explain it in great depth; however, the longer the letter the more of a sense of anxiety I experience upon opening it, and the greater the anxiety the more likely I am to procrastinate in reading and answering it.  As a rule of thumb, if you can’t see the beginning of your email by the time you reach the end, it’s probably too long; I’m much less likely to feel overwhelmed by emails which fit neatly within a standard computer screen, and that in turn means you’re much more likely to receive a timely answer to your question.

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While I am in total agreement about the decriminalization of prostitution, there is one area that leaves me unsettled.  Indoor sex workers are out of view and can cause no real adverse ramifications on any that may be nearby.  But outdoor workers could create discomfort to those within their view and certainly can result in problems for nearby businesses.  I have never been a fan of the police and certainly do not like what they do to minorities or the socially disadvantaged, yet as a business owner I can also understand their views as well.  Is there a compromise?

Humans living in close quarters always have adverse impacts on each other; there’s little that can be done about that unless both parties are willing to sit down and talk things over like reasonable adults who respect each other’s rights.  Of course, that’s not encouraged in our society, because if we did that instead of asking Big Brother to violently intervene, it would give Big Brother fewer excuses to meddle in everyone’s business, and we can’t have that.  When I was young and living in a small town, most people had little respect for the kind of whiny tattletale who calls the cops on other people instead of trying to handle disagreements themselves; however, that kind of attitude has gone the way of party lines and black-and-white television sets.  Nowadays, most people’s first impulse is to call in armed thugs who inevitably make things worse even when they don’t maim or murder someone or otherwise destroy their lives.  I’m willing to bet that if a business owner took the time and trouble to talk to street workers rather than talk about them to power-mad busybodies, it might be possible to reach some sort of compromise.  But once the pigs are whistled up, any chance of that is gone; would you trust the sincerity of someone whose first impulse was to send heavily-armed, emotionally-stunted, rapist thugs against you instead of talking like free adults?  Because I know I wouldn’t.

Lest you think me unsympathetic, please remember that I’m a property owner and businesswoman myself.  But while I understand people worrying about possible damage to their livelihoods, what does selling sex have to do with that?  You mean to tell me if a bunch of, say, loud drunks from a neighborhood bar were always pissing in your alley, or students from the local university were having non-commercial sex against the side of your delivery truck, or rude uptown types were letting their mutts shit on your doorstep, that you’d be somehow less impacted than if any of those people were making money from their activities?  There are already laws against vagrancy, indecent exposure, littering, loitering, etc that can be used to discourage those who don’t respect others’ rights and won’t respond to clear communication; it isn’t necessary to have a separate law criminalizing their motives for the annoying behavior.

(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’ve been seeing my favorite lady for two years.  We have a great rapport; she enjoys hard, fast thrusting and can achieve multiple strong orgasms.  However, I am uncircumcised and struggle with premature ejaculation, so I have to go very slow for a good while until the sensitivity dies down, and then I can engage in more energetic thrusting without risk of going too soon.  But my lady friend has become increasingly demanding that I perform energetically from the beginning; in our last encounter, she even told me that I was “killing her” by taking her so close to orgasm and then backing off (which I had to do to keep from orgasming myself).  I want to tell her that I need to take things slow for the first 10-15 minutes, and that I can give her the kind of sex she wants later if she can only be patient.  I know I shouldn’t say that I’m paying for the time and she should do it how I want, and that’s not how I feel anyway.  But on the other hand, I can’t help but feel that she is prioritizing her pleasure above my own, and that kind of hurts my feelings.  How do I broach the subject with her in a manner that won’t offend her?

You’re absolutely right that as a professional, she’s there to give you pleasure and not vice-versa, but at the same time I understand that y’all have developed a relationship in which you value her feelings and needs as well (and most men also find the idea of making a sexy woman orgasm to be satisfying in itself).  So I have a few questions for you.  First, is penetration the only thing that makes her climax?  Because if she can also come from clitoral simulation (oral, masturbation or vibrator), you could certainly give her a couple of orgasms that way and then proceed to take care of your own needs.  Second, what do you mean by “too soon”?  A lot of men labor under the misapprehension that all women want to be pounded for a very long time; you mention 10-15 minutes, which believe me is a very long time.  Though there are certainly some women who want to be penetrated for that long, most women prefer an extended stretch of kissing, touching, oral sex and other foreplay (a term which isn’t really correct because it casts penetration as the “main event”, which it doesn’t have to be), followed by maybe 5 minutes or so of penetration.  So unless your lady has expressed disappointment at your “coming too quickly”, her vocal urging may be intended to get you to fuck harder and faster for a shorter time.  I know that long, slow fucking sessions exasperate the hell out of me; in my teen years I once snapped at a guy, “Are you going to actually fuck me or just fuck around?”  (It was a bad strategy because the poor guy lost his erection right there & couldn’t get it up again).  It may not be easy for you, but you might try asking her outright if she’d prefer a shorter but more vigorous pounding followed by a quick orgasm on your part, or a longer, more languid session such as you’ve been doing.  Her answer may surprise you.  Third, you haven’t mentioned your age or refractory period; if you don’t take an exceptionally long time to recover, the answer might be as simple as starting your sessions by going at it very hard and coming quickly, then enjoying an extended period of touching, kissing, etc until you become erect again, followed by another bout of fucking (most guys take a lot longer the second time).  If you’re past 40 that second erection may take a while, in which case it might be better for both of you to book longer sessions in which you have more time to recover.

In any case, I think it’s very important that you include her in the discussion rather than attempting to fix it all by yourself (you can show her this letter if you like).  Good communication is essential for good sex, and it would be a rare sex worker who was offended by a client telling her clearly and without criticism what he wants, and asking her clearly what she wants.  We have to be good at such communication to do our jobs, but we aren’t mind readers; I think it far more likely that she’ll be relieved than offended when you bring up the subject.

(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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Two days ago, Dan Savage shared this letter on Twitter and asked a number of sex workers he knows for their input: 

There were a lot of answers you might find interesting, and a lot of interaction between posters; you might like to check out the thread.  But this column has limited space, so I’m just going to reproduce two answers here.  The first is from my dear friend Mistress Matisse, who saw the tweet an hour or so before I did:

It’s not about “fair”, that’s a false equivalence. It’s about: what do each person needs to be happy, and can the other person support that.  Polyamory is not supposed to be a strictly tit-for-tat situation (no pun intended).  If this man feels that he wants to be polyamorous, then he should do that, and his partner should decide whether she’s OK with that or not, and either stay or go.  If this lady wants to do sex work, and it has nothing to do with polyamory for her, then she should do it.  And her partner can decide that he is or is not OK being partners with a sex worker.  But these two people are comparing apples to oranges, and they need to unhitch these two completely different concepts from each other and work them out separately.  Because you can’t pretend they’re the same.  To me (and this is just me) being reluctantly monogamous OR polyamorous because your partner wants it is right up there with having a kid when you don’t really want one, but your partner does.  It’s not really fair to anybody, and it’s just going to poison the whole situation.  And as you may well imagine, I don’t think anyone has the right to tell you that you may not use your body to make a living in any way you see fit (short of violence) just because they bought into some meaningless societal dictates that have been force-fed to us all.

The rest of the column is my answer:

I really like Matisse’s answer to this, but I’d like to add that I see both parties being unreasonable here in different ways.  He clearly doesn’t see her work as work, but as recreational, and that’s going to cause problems down the road NO MATTER HOW they resolve this situation.  I absolutely guarantee that whether she quits working or not, he will at some future time hold her sex work over her head, because 1) he clearly equates it to promiscuity, and 2) he thinks of promiscuity as something “lesser” if not quite “bad”.  Furthermore, what’s her alternative if she quits sex work?  Doing some shit job in an office working for a boss for far less money?  That’s going to breed resentment.  I quit sex work TWICE for “love”, and it was a bad idea both times.  At the same time, I don’t think she’s really being reasonable either.  So what if his reason for having other partners is different from hers?  Setting up a hierarchy of motivations (“My reason for doing X is more acceptable than your reason for doing a not-dissimilar thing”) is also a recipe for resentment in the relationship.  People are different; they have different views and different priorities, and comparing them to one another is just as damaging to a relationship as demanding that both parties get exactly the same thing out sex or other cooperative activities.  As a woman who has a lot of difficulty achieving orgasm, should I demand my partner not climax until I have, and that each of us has to have sex for personal pleasure and only for that reason each time?  Of course not; that would be unreasonable and sabotage the relationship.  Yet our culture worships “mutuality” in sex as though it were a cultic totem, even though it’s as undependable and ultimately meaningless as “love at first sight”.  So what I’m saying is, as Matisse pointed out, each person has to conduct themselves as they feel they want and need to, with honesty and without unrealistic expectations of some kind of parity.  And if the other person is OK with that, then the relationship will work.  But the second either of the parties starts bean-counting or saying “you can’t do that”, or “if you do that I’ll do this”, or “it’s not fair!”, that relationship is headed for a really rocky road without a spare tire.

(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 man who grew up in a very conservative, sex negative atmosphere; the most I’ve ever done is kiss a woman, and that was several years ago.  I’ve had pretty extensive health issues that largely keep me homebound, and porn just makes me feel lonely.  I’ve engaged in cybersex with women I met online, but I always lose contact with them because the only time I want to talk is when my horniness overpowers my embarrassment; I’m very uncomfortable seeking this stuff out even online, and I’ve had a few women that I cut off because they wanted to move much too fast, and expected me to just ignore all my boundaries.  For the same reason I’m not comfortable with sex-related online communities.  On top of that, the women I talk with don’t get much from the situation; the most I’m comfortable with is voice chat and I need to be eased into that.  Paying is not a financial possibility for me right now, and TBH I don’t really have any desire to do sexual stuff with a woman who only is there because I pay her.

I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I have no advice to give you.  Surely you understand that nobody is going to give you something for nothing?  You simply can’t expect random strangers to give you free sexual interaction, completely on your terms, without expecting anything in return.  That simply isn’t the way human dynamics work.  What you are looking for, whether you like it or not, is a sex worker.  You want someone to fulfill your desires on demand while staying completely within the boundaries you set, but who won’t ask anything for herself or expect romance or whatever.  That is about as good a description of a sex worker/client relationship as one could wish for; a sex worker is only looking for her fee, nothing else, and as a professional she will proceed at your pace and leave you alone when you aren’t paying for her to do otherwise.  I’m perfectly willing to provide the service if you like, and there are phone sex services, cam girls, etc available on the internet.  But if you are willing to provide your phone partner with nothing, I’m afraid nothing is all you can expect in return.

(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 visit my regular lady about 6-8 times a year.  I recently told her that I’d be passing through her town soon, but wouldn’t be able to schedule a regular appointment.  She then said that we were going to meet for a drink or a meal.  I asked if the drink/meal would be a work occasion for her, or a purely non-work get together.  She replied, “Non work, just some nice time out of work”.  I don’t want to presume that she doesn’t expect to be compensated, but since she did not mention anything about compensation, I do not want to offend her by bluntly asking how much she would like.  What would be a good way to bring up the matter without insulting her?

I wouldn’t bring it up at all.  Most providers have a social rate, posted on their website; for example, mine is half of my regular rate.  What I would do if I were you is look up that rate on her site, put it in a greeting card telling her how much you appreciate her, and discreetly give it to her at dinner.  Even if she wasn’t expecting anything other than your treating her to a nice meal, it’s a generous gesture and she will appreciate it.  Also:  make the restaurant an especially nice one.  She’ll appreciate that too!

(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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The Anxiety Trap

I have intense fear of socializing and being vulnerable with other people, especially other women; men can be “intense” for me and so I fear them too, even though I know it’s irrational.  This may seem stupid, but I feel helpless and trapped.  Do you have any advice?

I’m sorry I’ve taken a week to answer you; I’ve been pretty rushed and I wanted to take the time to give you a proper answer.  Well, that’s not entirely honest; I haven’t just been busy, I’ve also been suffering from pretty severe anxiety and feelings of sorrow.  I’m telling you this because I want you to understand that you aren’t alone.  Many people, even people you respect and think of as wise or heroic, suffer from these kinds of feelings.  Now, the feelings aren’t always directed toward the same things; for example, I have no problem at all with socializing, but like you I have a great deal of trouble with allowing myself to be vulnerable with people I love (so forget it with strangers).  The feeling persists even with people who have never done anything to justify it; it’s a feeling born inside of me, fed by decades of frustrating social & familial interactions dating back to my childhood.  And yes, I feel very stupid about it, especially because everyone thinks I’m so strong and tough and they can’t imagine why I should be this way.

But I’m here to tell you that it isn’t stupid, not at all; it’s the way you’re wired.  I don’t know whether this is due to trauma or biochemistry (some anxiety disorders are neurological & have nothing to do with life experiences), but in either case I think you could probably benefit from therapy.  I’m not promising you it will be easy to find one; you may have to try a few before locating one who will understand you and whom you can trust (this is even more so for sex workers).  But I think it’s worth the effort.  The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has a list of “kink-aware professionals”, and at the bottom of that list you’ll find other links that may be helpful; you didn’t say you were kinky, but most professionals who are non-judgmental of kink will also be non-judgmental of sex work.  If you can’t find anyone on that list you might also try AASECT, but please be aware that many therapists in that list are NOT sex-positive despite setting themselves forth as therapists specializing in sexuality.  It’s also possible that medications may help; some people benefit from daily anti-anxiety medications, while others do better on take-as-needed medications like Xanax (or even cannabis, if you have a consistent source).  But even if you and your doctor decide meds are not the best option, just being able to talk to someone non-judgmental can do a world of good.

I wish you all the best, and I sincerely want you to write me back to keep me posted on how things go for you.  Above all, please understand that you aren’t alone, you aren’t weird, and your suffering isn’t hopeless.

(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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