Boundaries in Sex Work

Apologies for lack of posts this week! It’s been crazy. Also, apologies for brevity and possible typos as I am typing from my phone!

I had the concept of boundaries come up in various ways last week, in relation to sex work…

First, my new supervisor asked me to step down from my involvement in the support group for sex workers that I just recently got up and running. It has been interesting for me to navigate this conversation, over email. I’m not definitively stepping down yet, although it looks like I may have to. I’ve done all I could so far in asserting my preferences. The confluence of sex work and professional boundaries is interesting, for sure, and I’m intrigued what may lie ahead in terms of creating a safe space for sex workers at my place of employment.

I also was interviewed by a fellow worker about how I view stripping and sex work. In particular and most relevant to this post, she was curious about how I identify (as a sex worker, stripper, etc) and what kinds of boundaries I’ve asserted with customers. The mental and emotional boundaries I have around my personal identification with sex work feel like a moving target, like I can’t quite grasp them. Needless to say, it made it difficult to explain to her that at times I’ve identified as a sex worker, stripper, and dancer for different reasons.

Most recently, I was approached by a customer to engage in some nonsexual escorting: he wants a muse, someone to tease him and turn him on, but he also wants this person to hold firm on his boundary of not having sex (because he wants to remain sexually monogamous to his wife). In the past I have been very clear with myself and customers that I keep my business at strip clubs, but this particular person piqued my interest. So I’m exploring what it could be like. Tonight we are mini golfing and getting dessert.

More to come, on all of this.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a piece that I adored; it’s a concept I have thought much about, and illustrates how social norms and boundaries from monogamy influence intimate partner violence and how sex workers are treated :

Jealousy Is Not An Excuse: Monogamous Norms and Partner Violence Against Sex Workers

 

Sex Club Etiquette

What do you do when you go to a sex club or swingers club for the first time? What behaviors are expected? How do you interact with someone that invited you, or with others that you meet there? We don’t grow up learning scripts for sex clubs (generally speaking!) so it’s up to our adult selves to learn how to navigate these new social/sexual situations. Hopefully this piece sheds some light on some generally accepted modes of behaving.

Many sex clubs have sets of rules that will help guide members’ behaviors. Club Sesso in Portland offers the following list:

  • No Cell Phone Use (including texting or swapping phone nunbers)
  • Ask Before You Touch- Ask Once and Only Once
  • No Means No
  • Do Not Stalk People
  • Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect
  • Do Not Open Closed Doors or Curtains
  • Do Not Interrupt Others
  • Do Not Be Creepy
  • Do Not Masturbate Outside Play Areas
  • Clean Up Your Own Mess
  • Use Common Sense!

The list seems pretty intuitive, right? It’s surprising how many people I’ve seen break the rules, intentionally and unintentionally. On the whole, though, I’ve witnessed respectful behavior and good communication at Sesso.

But what about the more subtle and complex interactions for which rules aren’t made explicit or posted?

Or what about when you meet your long-time sexy friends at the sex club and you or they end up hooking up with new people before you have a chance to check in?

What happens when you meet a new friends with benefits at the club and they end up hooking up with someone else?

We once brought a woman as a guest, who I had met on a dating site and had a date with. I didn’t expect us to have sex and I knew she was interested in socializing and checking out the space. And yet, when she ended up going into a room with a couple she met there, leaving us to wait for her for an hour until she was done so we could drive her home, I ended up feeling a little resentful. Not because I felt like I had a right to have sex with her, but because the communication between the two of us was sorely lacking.

Communication is key. Proactive communication is the best. Have conversations with your partners, new friends, potential new hook-ups, etc before anything happens: flush out who, what, where, how, when, why. Make agreements before entering a social/sexual space so that you have a foundation from which to explore. This does get tricky when you are going with a new date or meeting them there, as perhaps those more explicit conversations wouldn’t naturally take place yet, so it’s even more important to buck up and talk about your expectations, desires, and comfort levels. Part of navigating a social/sexual space like a swingers club is social intelligence, too: what would it tell you if someone you brought left your side to go hook-up with someone else without an explanation? That kind of exclusive behavior can signal a lack of interest unless there has been some explicit verbal communication to provide more robust information.

Options:

“Hey, you’re really cute! I’d love to play tonight if we get the opportunity, so let me know if you’re up for it!”

“Hi friends! We’d love to play tonight, but we’re also open to playing with the new people we met here tonight. So if we don’t play tonight is that okay with you?”

“I know we’ve only had one date, and there is definitely no pressure for us to do anything, but I would love to hang out more and have some time to talk with you more while we’re here together.”

How do you navigate sex/swingers clubs? How does it feel different operating as a couple versus a single person? Have you encountered especially tricky situations, or can you imagine what some might be? How did you resolve them, or how would you want to?

 

Surprise Me in the Shower

I was waiting for you, but I didn’t plan my time well. I’m naked, sweaty from my day of working out and being in the sun, standing in the shower, hanging the shower curtain back up. I know you are coming, and as I have my back to the door, I think I hear something. I think to myself: it would be so crazy if he was standing behind me, naked, ready to pounce.

My head slightly turns, as if my nervous system perceives you before the rest of me does. I yell in surprise, laughing at myself. And you are how I imagined: naked, ready to pounce.

We make out in the shower, you kissing my neck and ears, me stroking your cock and feeling your body- your ass and stomach and back. After just a few minutes I want you even more than before. I turn around and bend over and you slide your cock inside me and start pounding away. It feels so fucking good, and I’m yelling more and more. Eventually (ten minutes later maybe?), we need a change of furniture, and move to the bedroom.

I get on top of you, riding your cock, faster and faster.  You grab my stomach and my tits hard- just how I like it. I come once and then twice and then a third time. Each time I feel more and more immobilized, my body in orgasmic shock. I roll off of you and you pound me in doggy style again, grabbing my shoulders and hair, eventually shooting your load deep into my pussy. 

We’re both sweaty. We take another shower, this time lightly kissing and massaging, breathing deeply, our bodies calmed.

I love surprises.

Radfems, Harassment, Survival Sex

Links to share this week; most are pretty long, but totally worth it:

What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.

Response: Op-ed: An Open Letter to The New Yorker

Next Time Someone Says Women Aren’t Victims Of Harassment, Show Them This.

You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?

On Surviving Sex Work

Infidelity and The Powerful Juxtaposition

Roller Coaster

The past couple of weeks have been so full and so good.

!!!

I was offered my supervisor’s job last week and I’m doin’ it! I start officially in a week! Pay raise, more stuff to do… it’s going to be great.

We got our floors done in our house and they’re gorgeous and we moved our furniture in!! It feels like we are living in a house instead of camping in a crummy structure! I’m in love. I don’t like feeling “in love” with stuff, but after so much time and work, I feel in love with the labor and end result.

I love the summer and the beach and baking cookies every week and sexting with new sexy friends and snuggling and skin and sun and my puppy dog and starting a new program in the fall. I love that my mom is coming to visit this weekend and that my little sis started med school and that one sister in law is starting rotations and the other just finished residency. I love that J takes care of himself by calling in sick when he needs a day off and that he is so meticulous and thorough and energized when it comes to doing house projects and up for having fun outdoors and indoors with friends. I’m just really loving my network and my life right now. Being on the upswing of things feels damn good. Remembering my upswings is helpful for the downswings- it always changes.

Relationship and sex wise… The night J and I moved all of our furniture in we had really hot, raunchy sex. It’s like the psychic space cleared up once our physical environment felt in order. I loved it! And it totally re-emphasized to me the importance of physical space and energy as a barrier or supporter of mental clarity and sexual energy… A new friend has been making my heart race which is delicious! ;) And other new friends are fun and bubbly and make us both smile. I’m excited to continue to explore all of these.

Life. Is. Good.

Loss & Comfort

A woman I went to high school with, but was never friends with or connected to, lost her husband this past week in a car crash. She’s been on my mind ever since I saw the news. Imagining her grief has brought me down the past couple of days. I just can’t imagine my life if something like that happened to J.

I have had to fall asleep the past couple of night channeling my inner Byron Katie; it has been keeping me up and distracting me throughout the day. He shouldn’t have died. That couldn’t have happened. It wasn’t time yet. And it’s not callous or un-empathetic, but my soothing response to myself is: He should have because he did. It could have because it did. It was time because it was.

It was a devastating reality check for me: I really cannot control much of how my life runs its course. I can control my thoughts and beliefs (and even that is up for grabs) and how I behave. That’s about it.

Imagining going through that kind of unexpected, unfair, and traumatic loss makes me feel so small, and it also makes me feel so grateful for the time I do have with the people I love. Hold your people, show them you love them, and stay in the moment- it really is all we have.

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What is Empowerment?

One of my biggest life lessons from the past year or two has been learning how to hold multiple, coexisting truths that seem to contradict one another.

Recently, I was listening to and reading conversations by other dancers about empowerment in the strip industry. A few argued that the industry itself is disempowering and controlling, and so how could strippers themselves feel empowered by their work?

I would agree that the industry and system itself does not provide strippers a foundation from which to feel empowered. It’s set up to benefit employees, most of whom are male. It does cater, largely, to male eyes. It was created within patriarchal and sexist cultures, times, and places.

AND. I personally have felt empowered as an individual working within that oppressive system. I have felt in control over my body and actions, been able to feel a true ownership over my body and time, and for the first time, felt like I could truly support myself financially. My brief stint working at a gym two years ago gave me none of that. That job was disempowering.

That being said, I know that not every sex worker or stripper feels empowered by their job, and I know that I haven’t felt “empowered” by stripping every time I go dance. If customers aren’t there or aren’t tipping, when I have to tip staff out, when customers are rude or disrespectful- that chips away at my feeling of agency and personal power. And yet: I, personally, have a choice as to whether or not I engage in this oppressive system. And, I know that not every worker has this same choice. My education, other employment, whiteness, and class make my choice a true choice.

Excellent points were also made regarding the fact that sex workers have an incredible amount of pressure from media, friends, and family to say that they feel empowered by their work, in order to justify their participation in such a taboo job and industry, even if it’s not true that they feel that way. Workers of other jobs are rarely forced to justify their work as empowering.

I have also been mulling over the issue of race in sex work conversations that I read and am part of. I am disconcerted by the fact that so far in my support group (which doubled its attendance this month! wahoo!) we are all white, activist-y types, engaging in sex work that has quite a bit of autonomy attached to it. I am disconcerted by the fact that there are very few women of color voices in the stripper forum I am part of. I am aware I am missing a perspective that has been historically much more marginalized, oppressed, and disempowered than where I have come from. I am a stripper, but I am white. This piece is worth reading.