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Sunday
Dec042011

Isolation in Sex Work

"Working in the adult industry, especially when you are an independent provider, is an isolated lifestyle disconnected from common culture" Phone Sex Secrets

I began escorting at an agency. I went to sit with the other girls on each of my shifts rather than waiting at home for my pager to buzz (yes, it was pagers back then!). I went not because the agency was centrally located but for the company. What began as a means to learn the ropes of the sex worker industry quickly became a desire for camaraderie. Even when I developed a number of regulars, I still wanted to make sure I had some time to hang out with my sex work sisters. Decades later, I'm only more aware of that need.

On the average, folks don’t accept sex work. Our families, whether innate or married and our friends all have reasons why we ought not subject them to our choice of occupation.  This forces the necessity for sex workers to lead double lives. 

While our silence may begin as a gift to those we love, at some point it becomes a gag.  Even the most sex positive and open minded friends really can't grasp what we do. Existing long enough without a support system who can listen, commiserate and really comprehend what our days are like can lead to feeling misunderstood, unappreciated and unaccepted. These emotions can lead to deeper feelings of depression, resentment and withdrawal.

Our careers themselves add to the isolation. We grow wary of being ousted, unsure of who to trust. How long will they be in this work? Who do they know? And, truth be told, we are a competitive lot, especially if we are independent professionals. We have to be because we are in competition with one another in many ways, at least in terms of separating ourselves from the rest of the pack. Even the ease and affordability of the internet and other digital technologies render us more alone most of the time. The results are that we don't wish to share too much about our private lives, our professional experience or knowledge, ourselves, winding up even more entrenched in our state of seclusion.

I'm sure many readers are acutely aware of these feelings of isolation in their personal lives. But some may silently suffer from more and more burn out, summing it up to demands of the job.  While sex work is far more demanding than most people realize, it's not the only factor in losing interest. In fact, it's only half of the equation. The other half is a good support system.

The more demanding the sex work is, the greater the need is for a support system.  But how do you find or create one in the sometimes harsh and difficult circumstances of sex work?

Forums and online groups for escorts, PSOs (phone sex operators) and other sex professionals are good places to start. Even forums for erotica authors can be welcoming places, especially when you dabble in offering custom erotica. Often, however, you'll find yourself avoiding personal and professional questions alike in these online communities -- for all the reasons mentioned earlier. (I always do recommend exercising caution in online communities.) At least that's likely how you'll feel at the start.

Over time you'll find yourself conversing more regularly with a few people, hopefully building a virtual friend or two. Virtual friends help, of course! But even if you want to meet, schedules, etc. may not allow for it. At least not as often as you'll need.

Another way to begin building a support system for yourself is by getting out into the world meeting other people who work in the adult industry. One of the best ways to do this, honestly, is to get involved in some sort of activism. I, naturally, recommend joining some sort of group working for sex workers rights, or at least a sex-positive organization. Not only because I believe working towards an end to the stigmas of sex and sex work will lead to less isolated lives for each of us as individuals, but because when you do "out" yourself as a sex worker, you're likely to be understood and respected. Plus, working towards a goal larger than yourself gives you a healthy dose of perspective.

You can always begin by forming an online alliance or virtual working relationship before participating in any real world gathering. And, if you are worried about being identified in your home town or base of operations, locate groups with meetings and events you can attend but which are not in your own town. 

Another place to look for like minded folks in similar situations is at the book signings and readings of works by erotica editors and human sexuality authors. I find there are always a great number of sex workers in attendance at these events and the bigger the name of the author or editor, the bigger the crowds. Start following some of the most recognized names in these publishing genres (which often is just plain good sense for business, anyway), and you'll soon find yourself sipping drinks with folks with similar i­ssues in their lives.

College and university campuses also have forums and events centered on sexual topics, from lectures and workshops, to screening of adult films and documentaries.  There are even places online where you can find or start "meet ups" for sex workers. Don't look for clients at these events; but you can find friends.

Most of these events, especially those on campus and book related, are most commonly held in larger cities. Escorts and companions who travel might find this is the best of both worlds: out and about socially yet not in your home town. But smaller towns have them too.  Just like sex workers, sex positive events and folks are out there. You just have to go looking for them.

Written by Guest Author for Geisha Diaries, Phone Sex Secrets

Reader Comments (3)

This is a great post, and really hits the nail on the head. Even doing mainstream work online can be isolating, when the lines between work and home blur. Add sex work to the mix, and the phrase "double life" truly sums it up for me. It's like I"m all these fragmented pieces, with no one to show the sum of the whole to.

December 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Suffer

Great post, and very timely as well. I also remember the days of pagers, and started out working in a house of ill repute with a whole bunch of girls from my university. I've been keeping in touch with a lot of them, but as time goes on and they retire, they eventually stop calling. I know it's nothing personal, but it kind of hurts - it's as if they have nothing more to say, they're done with the industry and hence done with everyone in it, myself included :(

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMadame X

Madame X - I empathize with your words. Unfortunately, it's human nature that people move on as new chapters in their lives unfold. Or, perhaps in just an American thing. Nonetheless, it stings when friends fall out of touch whether due to leaving an industry/profession or moving away. :-/

December 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterGeisha Diaries
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