I figure I should be up front right away and tell you: I sell sex. And I don’t mean that in a metaphorical way in that I model, strip or work for one of those phone sex lines. I don’t sell the idea of sex. I literally sell sex.
Long story short, I’m a broke college student with little family support who is juggling two degrees, an internship and a shitty research job that’s supposed to pay my $50,000+ tuition. I lost my virginity when I was 15, and I quickly discovered 2 things about my sexuality: 1) I love sex and 2) I’m really fucking good at it. I’ve always been very independent and figured that my openness, coupled with my age and seemingly “exotic” ethnicity, would serve as the perfect foundation for being an escort.
Huffington Post ran a story not too long ago about college students paying off their debt by becoming sugar babies. I never would have thought to even look into it until one day I was clutching a Sallie Mae loan payment bill in one hand and gaping at the $80 balance in my checking account. My Asian parents taught me to fear debt and avoid it at all costs; I don’t even own a credit card. The idea of being so far into debt sends my heart races and makes my chest tighten up.
So, I decided to sign up on the site and see what kind of offers I would get, if any. Within 2 days, I had approximately 65 different messages in my inbox. I sorted through the messages and replied to ones that had proper grammar and didn’t sound overtly creepy. I decided on my first sugar daddy after a week. He was a lawyer who lived a little outside of the city who had a penchant for nipple clamps, bondage, and tea bagging.
Throughout our email exchange (with a fake account of course), we settled on a fair “allowance” ($450) and a general outline of the fantasy he had in mind (daddy and the naughty stepdaughter). I met him at his place and he seemed shyer than I was expecting; after some brief small talk I learned that he was recently divorced and his ex-wife and child moved out of the country. I spent most of the hour with my eyes shut trying to separate myself from my natural response to sex by thinking of how quickly I could shower and get dressed before meeting my friends for dinner. I figured if I kept myself from orgasm, I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty about lying and cheating.
After the hour was up, I came out from the bathroom to find a wad of 23 $20 bills on the couch waiting for me on my way out. On the train ride home, I clutched the bills in my purse until my knuckles turned white while trying to wrap my head around the idea that I had just been paid for sex. I was officially a whore.
Most of the men I meet on the site are actually very polite and welcoming. They talk to me openly about their personal and work lives. I’ve been offered jobs and internships because many of them work in business and government. I’ve been taken on long weekend trips to Miami, Cabo, London and St. Barts. Many of them even consider me their girlfriend and enjoy talking to me about politics, science and literature. Sometimes during an appointment, I think of how surreal it is that not one of them even knows my real name yet I know some of the most intimate details of their lives.
I know that sex work is a touchy issue and a lot of people disagree with what I do, but I love my job. I really do. I don’t know of any other job where I could choose when and where I work, and whom I work with. I never looked at sex work as a demeaning profession, because in the end, I decide what I will and won’t do.
But, as much as I say these things to myself, and want to truly believe them, I’m really just a big fat liar. No one in my life has any idea what I do. I sneak off at odd hours and between classes and tell my roommates that I’m headed off to my job. I keep rolls of cash hidden in my socks and make sure to carefully deposit only certain amounts into the 3 different bank accounts I have in monthly intervals. I make up elaborate stories for my friends as to where I am, and how I could afford to buy a new bike once my old one broke. The other day, my boyfriend kissed me and took a whiff of my hair and commented that I didn’t smell like myself, and my heart sank.
The feminist in me constantly wants to defend all sex work in the name of independence from the patriarchy (yes, I’m one of those women). Which would be a terrific argument for me to make, if I actually believed it for myself. But the reality is that the job that was supposed to liberate me from my financial woes has done nothing but alienate me from all of my relationships.
I constantly flake out on plans with friends because I need to make that extra $500 to make my tuition payment. I lie about how much I make at my real job so I can justify some of the purchases that I make. And to top it all off, I’m truly a terrible girlfriend, because even though I’m getting paid, I’m still cheating on my wonderful boyfriend.
I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing this. I’m constantly torn about how I feel about what I do. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like I’m stuck in a state of ennui and I just venture through everything without any thought or emotion until I find myself clutching my knees and crying in the shower when my emotions erupt out of nowhere. That might be enough to stop most women from pursuing sex work, but I just view it as a part of the job. Like I said, I’m a whore. I’m willing to sacrifice some of my future sanity for present financial security.
Every time I slip into my Michael Kors pumps and DVF wrap dress, I make myself forget that I bought the dress in some thrift store for $7 when my bank account statement was $200 for the month and I needed a dress for an interview. The wacky plum colored glasses I picked out with my dad in 7th grade disappear for contacts that open my eyes and make me look like I’m about 14. The hair I’ve gone 4 days without washing because I was cramming for a midterm is shampooed, curled and teased for a man that likes to pull my hair in bed. And the lips I kiss my boyfriend with are painted for some stranger who likes me to leave lipstick stains all over his body.
As I sit across another stranger over dinner, I laugh at his jokes and try to be exactly the girl he wants me to be. I quickly figure out what he wants, and give it to him in a way that will get me out an hour or so early so that I can I rush home.
And when I do, the layers come off, I kiss my boyfriend goodnight and wake up, back to me.