One Escort’s Journey Through a Minefield!
This is a speech I gave at the 2007 Desiree Alliance convention.
In my series, Book #4 will discuss relationships and retirement. Retirement is a big issue for me. When I retired, I discovered that I could find no information on retiring. No one else had written or was blogging about it. Since every escort will eventually retire, it needs to be discussed.
This presentation is based on my casual observations and own experiences. I haven’t conducted any formal interviews on retirement, nor do I know much about the retirement issues of sex workers other than female escorts. Some of the issues are probably universal, but I’m betting the details are different.
I’ve often referred to escort work as my perfect job. As far as I can tell, it is. However, I realize this is not true for every escort, so some of my retirement issues may not apply to those who dislike the work.
My boyfriend requested that I refer him as bigfatloozer (his discussion board handle – it’s a joke; if any of you are familiar with discussion boards). While I discuss my retirement, I’m also aware that I had extra issues not everyone will have: a move from Texas to California, and the dismantling of one life while trying to start a new life and career from scratch.
The Retirement Myth
How many of you believe the myth of retirement? The myth goes something like this: an escort retires when she takes down her ad and stops seeing clients. That’s it. The switch goes from “on” to “off.” Bigfatloozer and I both bought into this myth because we didn’t know any better. We were unprepared for the real issues of my retirement.
3 Common Reasons Escort Retire
- A relationship with a man.
- They’re sick of escort work.
- Escort work was a secondary income to meet a specific a financial goal or they worked on building their primary career/attended school.
Dating a Client
Dating a client is, of course, a huge taboo for all the sex workers I’ve ever encountered. It crosses a dangerous line. Being a sex worker and having a relationship is hard enough. Dating a client raises even more issues. When I began escorting, I decided I would not date clients.
Well, I met a client and we hit it off; obviously and mutually. After a few months we decided the relationship had become personal. We continued seeing each other once or twice a month. These visits were always intense, we were totally into each other, always relearning each other and there never seemed to be enough time. Since he lived 1800 miles away and was married, I was having my cake and eating it too. I thought this was the perfect relationship.
All that changed.
He proposed that I retire to pursue the non-profit and writing projects I was always talking about. He would pay my basic bills until these projects took off. Escort work was a full-time job for me and I knew I would never be able to fully immerse myself in my new projects as I wanted. And I knew a relationship decision was forthcoming anyway. I kept thinking about him when I was with clients. So I said yes and made plans to dismantle my life and business. I’m a Texas native and had never lived anywhere else, but was about to move to a small town in California.
I knew I would have to live on a strict budget. Hey, I’ve been a college student with a part-time, minimum-wage job; I know about living on a budget. Instead, having my income taken away and living frugally made me feel impoverished and emasculated. My income meant freedom/independence and control over my own life. Those things are gone and I’m depending on someone else for the first time since I left home to go to college. I don’t like that. (Guess I wasn’t meant to be a housewife.)
Strangely, money has become a huge, looming issue in my life now that I don’t have any. It wasn’t an issue when I was an escort. (It was an issue as a stripper because I was always working hard to make more.)
I’ve discovered: having my own income makes me happy. Having my own income positively influences my sex drive.
Which leads us right to…
I’m not monogamous and have never tried to pretend that I am. (This is a major reason why escort work suited me so well.) But I retired to embark on a serious monogamous relationship. Whiplash, anyone?
This is not my first monogamous relationship. But I never factored in how much sex work affected my sexuality. I enjoyed the outlet and constant stimulation of new partners (or in the case of stripping, the constant tease). I realize not every escort will have this same issue. This is a personal issue that was thrown out of balance with my retirement.
Before you ask – swinging is not an option. He’s against it (he’s a monogamous-minded person, remember?). Nor is it really my thing.
Where does that leave us? Not in a great place. It’s a problem that isn’t often covered in self-help books and is something without an easy solution. I think a large part of our problem has been that we both bought into gender-sexual stereotypes in this society.
Sense of Self
My sense of self has been in limbo since I retired. I stupidly thought I would jump from escort work right into being a homemaker/writer/whatever. Instead I’ve been adrift.
I was raised with a very strong work ethic and have held a job since I was 15. My sense of self is strongly tied into what I’m doing to earn an income. I’m always very devoted to my work. Work defines my place in the world.
Because I don’t feel like I’ve been producing work, well, what have I been doing? I don’t know. And so I feel nebulous.
It’s an unsettling feeling. Things have come into focus over the past year, but I’m still not back to feeling like a productive member of society. I don’t have my foundation back; the ground is not under my feet again.
This goes hand-in-hand with my new sense of isolation.
I work from home in a small town with no disposable income of my own. I’ve moved away from everything I’ve ever known and have lost touch with old friends. To say that this has been isolating is an understatement.
I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed the daily interaction with my clients until I stopped escort work. It’s made me realize I’m more of a people person than I thought I was. Although I enjoy the Internet, it’s not a substitute for real human interaction.
I haven’t made a lot of new friends. Most of the new friends I have made have been other sex worker activists and only within the past year.
One of the reasons for lack of new friends is that I don’t really have a social life anymore. The other is that for the first time ever, I’ve felt the need to hide my sex work. I just don’t want to deal with the questions and stereotypes in my personal life. Not to mention that I’m no longer a sex worker. Yet I’m not really anything else either. I’m in a state of career-limbo, unsure of my place in the world.
Positive Things About Retirement
I’ve gotten to travel to Europe. I’ve learned new skills, like Web design. I’ve learned a lot about nonprofits and the publishing industry and am learning every day. I have the free time to devote to learning new things, like speaking French. And I have a free and open schedule, which is something I’ll always love!
Retirement has also given me the free time and distance to really look at certain issues. Because of that, I’ve realized something I call…
A sexually free, independent, happy, non-desperate woman is very attractive to men. A woman who doesn’t “need” a man is very compelling to men. (Likewise, a self-assured, self-reliant man is appealing to women.) However, the major difference between the sexes is that a man gets an independent, sexually open woman and the first thing he wants to do is make her monogamous and dependent on him. Men really cannot tolerate a sexually-free partner.
I didn’t have this perspective while escorting. Retiring for a relationship caused me to take a much harder look at male/female relationships, gender roles and expectations in American society. Money plays a bigger part in this than most people like to admit. I’m becoming very aware of how these issues tie together.
There are no easy answers and I’m not proposing any. All of these issues seem to stem from one fact: I’m a female who is attracted to men.
Gender roles seem to require that I change my life and make the sacrifices. Being aware of these things doesn’t mean it’s easy for me to act differently. I am part of this society. I don’t live in a vacuum.
Would he have done the same for me? No. It’s not part of our gender roles to do such a thing. Nor would it have occurred to me to ask him to give up his job and his life to move across the country to live with me because I was uncomfortable with his work (which I now believe was his real motivation).
Giving up their independence and sexual freedom seems to be a decision female escorts are forced to make, often way too early in the relationship. It’s relationship blackmail initiated by the man’s dislike of or insecurity with her independence and sexual freedom. This is why a lot of escorts “retire” on an almost yearly basis. These relationships (whether with a client or not) don’t work out and she’s back to escort work until the next relationship comes along. Obviously, the woman in the equation is not getting her needs met.
Some have the perception that a man has to “rescue” an escort from her work. This was not the case with me, I did not want or need to be rescued (nor was this how bigfatloozer approached it). But I was disturbed by the number of other escorts who congratulated me on “getting out” and being “rescued.”
Why Did I Do It?
At this point, you may be wondering why I retired. At the time, I was quite madly in love and quite happy with my life. I didn’t imagine retirement would be much different. I just thought I’d have more free time to explore new interests. Nor did I have any other experiences like mine to learn from. I had no idea of the problems that would arise.
Thinking about retirement while escorting is very different from actually being retired! None of the scenarios I imagined have happened and I didn’t expect what has happened.
The process has not been easy, as you can tell. It’s required: dismantling my entire life, moving away from everything I’ve known and entering a long-term commitment (scary!). Not every escort does these things upon retirement; except for the commitment thing (if they retire because of a relationship).
I did it because I felt I found a special person. Yes, we’re still together.
I’m sure I haven’t answered every question you have, but here are two you’re probably thinking:
Why not dump him and go back to escort work if I like it so much?
It’s not that simple and easy. I am in a relationship and my life has changed. I would no more be in my comfort zone by leaving him and trying to re-build my life again (as an escort) than I am right now trying to build a publishing business. I’m moving down a new path and want to see where it ends.
Would I do it all over again?
Perhaps. If I did, it would certainly be on a different timeline! I would be much more cautious about so easily giving up my financial and sexual freedom.
Every sex worker will retire at some point, often for a relationship. I have a feeling that many of them will face the same basic issues I’ve faced. Although I can’t assume everyone will react to their retirement the way I have, or that their situations/personalities will create exactly the same issues I’ve faced; sex, money and personal identity are core issues for any sex worker. It would make retirement easier for both parties if they could have an idea of what they’ll face.
Retirement is not as simple as just not taking any more appointments.