Crying in a phone box, I looked up at Hot Black Cathy. Posing with her tits out and her thong peeking out the top of her low slung jeans, she looked happy. She looked powerful. She looked at least like she had her shit more together than I did. I snatched her business card down and shoved it into my tattered coat pocket. I’d toyed with the idea of sex work for a long time, and sat in a stinking puddle of what I hoped was just rain, Cathy’s seductive smile had felt like a sign. “Fuck it,” I thought “I’m going to be like Hot Black Cathy. I’m going to have sex with strangers, and I’m going to pay my rent!”
Weirdly, becoming a prostitute isn’t easy. In all the films and documentaries I’d watched, women stood at the side of the road, opened their massive coats, and within seconds of them revealing their stockings, a car would come hurtling round the corner to pick them up. Instead, it took me a solid eight hours of internet research, scouring Gumtree, Craigslist, OkCupid, SugarDaddies.com and countless other websites for something that looked safe. I finally found a viable option, a sort of Just Eat for escorts; customers can search for girls based on their location or vital statistics and vice versa, and a rating and review system mean neither party is going to be ripped off.
My hands shook as I typed in “Bethnal Green” and scrolled through a list of willing men. I e-propositioned SilverJohn [name changed] and within an hour was in a taxi along Roman Road.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t Silver John. Around fifty years old is a generous estimation, he opened his flat door and immediately tried to kiss me on the mouth. My eyes must have betrayed my horror, because he began to look visibly ashamed of the semi flaccid penis peeking through the crack in his stained dressing gown. “Sorry, you’re only here for two hours” he’d rasped “I didn’t want to waste any time”.
We briefly spoke about my “limits” – a word I later realised was just a polite way of asking whether I’d mind him not using a condom (I did mind) – and then we were down to it. While I kissed his wrinkled mouth, I thought about how this was going to pay my rent. While he touched my vagina with the grace of a 14 year old boy, I thought about how I wouldn’t have to ask my struggling mother for money. While beads of his post-orgasm sweat dripped into my mouth, I thought about how I could afford to buy food. John needn’t have worried about time, because I was in and out within an hour.
John was the first of maybe seventy to one hundred clients, and I’d be lying if I said he was the worst. There have been times where I’ve feared for my life. I remember arriving at a flat in Islington, I’d stupidly arranged to meet up with a man that had no website feedback. Within minutes of being in his house, I knew I needed to get out; his breath was thick with the clawing smell of cheap alcohol and he referred to me as “slut” only. He pressed down on my throat and spat down my throat while we were kissing, his eyes were hungry. Thankfully, I managed to make a dash for it while pretending to go to the bathroom, and I realise how lucky I was. I’m putting myself in dangerous situations on a weekly basis, but I’m also clawing myself out of a the danger of poverty.
I’m not ashamed of who I am, but I have to keep it private because people often don’t get it. People have sex for money all the time, why can’t I? I bet nobody asks James Deen whether he was abused as a child. I bet nobody asks Stoya whether she can afford years of counselling. It’s a job. Sex work is legitimate work. Why can’t people understand that?
Being a prostitute is by no means a dream career, but it does allow me to live my dream lifestyle on my own terms. I used to steal jewellery from Primark, now I have bracelets from Pandora. Where I used to make packets of pasta go three meals, I could now eat three meals at an upmarket restaurant. I make the rules.. and I make the money. It’s a cliche, and maybe I shouldn’t glamourise an incredibly dangerous profession, but I feel empowered and, most importantly, I’m happy. This isn’t the case for every sex worker, so I recognise that I’m in an incredibly privileged position and I try to do everything in my power to smash stereotypes and quash the stigma around escorting. I’m a human being. I’m a sex worker.