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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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Student To Sex Worker: My Life As An Escort

Student To Sex Worker: My Life As An Escort

As a kid, when people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d answer with something different every time. Sometimes it was an actress, or a waitress, or a marine biologist (this was for about a week after a trip to the aquarium). Never once did I say sex worker, and yet by my 19th birthday I was neck-deep in the sex trade.

Struggling to pay the rent while working at a boring, minimum wage job, I wanted something more. On a particularly bad day I went job searching and came across an ad in the paper for receptionists for an escort agency. Knowing nothing of the industry or legality, I called to apply. The woman on the phone seemed apprehensive but invited me for an interview, though she wouldn’t give me the address – just a crossroads. I was to call on arrival, which I eventually learned was a way to ensure people were serious before giving away our location.

At the interview I learned that escorting was sex for money, and I’d be booking the appointments. Our service was outcalls, meaning women went to the client’s location, so I’d have no face-to-face contact with the clients. I was to set up appointments, collect money, screen clients to ensure they were serious, and to document every call so we had a track record. Amongst our documentation we would note all details about any dangerous or violent clients. The book that we stored these clients in was bursting at the seams.

Over the next few months, I got into the job and spent most of my time working. I learnt about the industry and began to get infatuated with the money and the lifestyle. I distanced myself from my regular friends, instead choosing to spend time with my coworkers and boss.

Eventually, the time came that we had a call booked and no escort. The client had seen all the girls and we needed to send someone new. After mulling it over, someone suggested that I go. Immediately my insides began to churn and I felt terrified…but I was asked as a favour, it was framed as a pleading request, and how could I say no after all that they had done for me? We agreed that I would not have sexual interactions with the client, it would just be a quick massage. I went home to change, threw up, and left for the call.

After a terrifying hour, I got back into the car, still shaking but happy from all the praise my boss was giving me. She said she was grateful for the one-time thing. Six hours later, they asked me to do it again.

Slowly my job shifted into part-time escorting and eventually full escorting shifts. I was then accountable for paying all of the same fees as the escorts paid – which, if I wanted to profit, meant doing sexual services. Somehow, this was not a problem – I simply went through the motions. There was never a time I enjoyed it or felt any emotion other than apathy mixed with fear. Clients faces became a blur, I couldn’t remember them after I left their house. There was never a “what am I doing” moment because I simply didn’t allow myself to think of it that way – I liked the money and the atmosphere, I liked sneaking around at night and being told I was pretty.

My shifts were basically on-call, going out whenever there were calls to go on. I also worked reception shifts, which meant sitting awake and alert at the office. In theory, working on-call was great – you could relax at home until you were needed. In actuality, we were so busy that I rarely saw home, and when I did I was too exhausted to waste time showering, cooking or doing laundry. I slept at the office on an air mattress most of the time, going home once every few days. Days off were rare – maybe once a month, and even then if I was needed for a call and didn’t go, I would be punished.

Immediately after I started escorting, I began experiencing violence and sexual assault regularly. A client chased me out of the house, grabbing me by the hair as I got into the car – as we drove away, my hair ripped out of my head. Another kicked me so hard that I had a boot-shaped mark on my butt. A client, high on cocaine, held me against a wall and punched me square in the mouth. My breasts were constantly bruised from the rough gropings clients gave me. I was raped, had my purse stolen five times, was chased and hit more times than I can count. Clients would phone back threatening to rebook under another name or address, only to kill me when I arrived. Every call was a threat to my life.

There were benefits, of course – the money was great. Working in such an isolating industry, I loved having my coworkers to vent to and chat with. We would have pizza nights at the office, watch movies, go out to brunch or go shopping. It felt like a family – we fought a lot, but at the end of the day, all we had left was each other. Working at an agency introduced me to a wide variety of people that I would not have met otherwise, both good and bad. I went everywhere from trailer parks to five-star hotel suites to closed-down auto shops to gated mansions. I met everyone from students from rival high schools to gang leaders to professional athletes to ninety year old Army vets. It was a strange, but interesting life, and I became addicted to the adrenaline.

After a particularly bad day in which a client choked me, pulled my fake nails off, bit me (I still have the scar), and stole my purse, I was finished. My body was exhausted from being on call for a hundred simultaneous hours, I was sick of being treated like a punching bag, and I wanted to reunite with my friends.

I quit and spent an entire week in bed. The following months were incredibly hard – getting back into the “real world” was a challenge, and I developed PTSD from the trauma. I enrolled in school but skipped frequently, because I would stay up all night experiencing flashbacks. My interpersonal skills were completely shot from spending years regarding everyone with suspicion and waiting for them to attack me. Getting a “real” job was useful as it kept me productive, but it was always tempting to run back to what I was comfortable with.

Working with an agency was a great way for me to start in the sex industry, and I learnt a lot, but ultimately I realized that I couldn’t maintain that. These days, as a student with a regular job, I am still a sex worker, but on my own terms. I work very few hours, and see clients that I choose. Am I making the right choice by continuing to engage in sex work? Possibly. As a student, I made the choice to continue this lifestyle in hopes of having a smaller debt when I’m done. I am able to stop working when I need to, but still have the option open. In some ways, I do wish that I’d never opened that door, and had to carve my own road the “straight” way, but now that I have, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop.

Submitted by an anonymous contributor