The first words ever uttered to me in session were, “Get undressed, bitch.”
I am a fantasy, I thought. This isn’t real. I’m not me. He can’t get to me. “Yes, master,” I replied calmly. He saw what he wanted to see: a pretty little girl doing his bidding. His kink was to be powerful. To be obeyed with no hesitation.
I existed as a mirage for years, a lucid fantasy concocted in the deep psyches of men. Half-real and half-dream, floating in and out of the consciousness of my clients. I’m probably still tucked away in some corner of their minds as a blurred image, a whisper, a tug. Well – not me, I mean. Her.
When I tell people I worked in a dungeon, half of them reply, “Oh – you mean that whips and chains stuff?” I don’t. I personally never used a whip; they take a remarkable amount of practice and skill to use without incurring unintentional injury. I have used chains in session, though mostly to hook handles to the ceiling so I could pick myself up and swing my heeled boots deep into someone’s testicles.
People are really surprised when I tell them that most of my sessions in the dungeon were more like therapy. If a serious masochist came in and wanted to be tortured, we weren’t a good fit – my heart was never in hurting people, and there are a million instruments and toys I just never learned how to use. I didn’t wear a lot of black leather or bark orders at anyone; there are a LOT of women who do this exquisitely, and I am not one of them.
Likewise, while I thoroughly enjoy pain, I can only handle so much. And I have no desire to be verbally humiliated – even if I’m being paid for it. There were clients who came to see me who pushed my limits in ways I explicitly told them I didn’t want them to, and I never saw them again. She never saw them again.
The clients who came to see her again and again were ships lost at sea who were looking for a safe harbor. They were mostly people stuck in marriages with spouses who either didn’t approve of their kinks or worse, didn’t care anymore. Even though the services I provided were ostensibly kinky in nature, they never felt like a media portrayal or performance of what mainstream culture thinks of when it thinks of kink.
I wore slinky dresses, kimonos, or lingerie, made a lot of eye contact, asked questions, spoke in a soothing voice, listened. I never feigned interest in a client who was sincere. What I did felt more like somatic therapy – a gentle caress, a loving beating, an acceptance and normalization of wants and needs. This is what I excel at: empathy.
Don’t get me wrong – there were beatings and bondage and worship (oh my!), role play and anal play (I also excel at finding a prostate), but the vast majority of my sessions were with people who were looking to connect with another human on an intimate level who wasn’t going to shame them. Many of them just wanted to be seen and heard and cared for earnestly.
Sex workers are therapists and care takers. We meet clients where they’re at and walk alongside them… or inside of them. It’s hard work. Emotional labor is labor, and I was shaken badly by a couple of sessions. But mostly, my clients brought joy and relief through surrender into my life. They also taught me everything I know and made me a better kinkster. I learned on the job from my clients, and that’s why I can now teach The Engineer how to use a cane properly. Their impact (see what I did there?) on my life reaches far beyond our sessions, and I hope my impact on them does as well.
P.S. For every hour session I did, I worked another hour of prep and clean up. Tip your sex workers, people. Sex work is work. Especially those of you who write out entire dialogues and insist on going back and forth via several emails going over every single detail of the session before going into it – that takes time and effort.