When you’re a sex worker, sometimes it can feel like no one truly understands your professional life—even your close friends—which is why one British escort organized her own ‘bring your BFF to work day.’
He asked for an audience, so I brought him one.
“Not a professional,” he said. “Someone normal. Ya know, a civilian.”
I still had a few normal friends left—remnants from a life when I was seemingly more respectable aka less openly a prostitute. I clung to these friends like good luck charms, relics of my former life. Even these ostensibly respectable friends knew about my sex work, but very few of them could ever conceive of it in a way that didn’t make me feel uncomfortable in some way. They’d listen and nod, but still trotted out the same basic questions: “Are the guys all fat and gross?” Etc. At the pub I’d overhear them joking around, saying things like, “God, I’m such a whore!” I have my doubts about whether it’s even possible for someone to appreciate the complexity of selling sex until they’ve actually done it.
But one friend, Emily, got closer than any other to reconciling what she thought of me with what she thought of my job, and I loved her enormously for it. She was a housemate, and a friend from university. She had felt like an academic equal, back when we both thought we knew everything. I’d ended up abandoning the office job I hated for sex work, while Emily was still, at least in principle, attached to the notion of a career. A male writer would tell you that she was beautiful in a way that was impossible to disguise, regardless of what she was doing or wearing. I liked her so much that I wasn’t even jealous.
She was broke, though—the result of three days a week spent working in production while getting a masters degree. So when he asked for an audience, and offered far more money than a waitressing job ever could, I thought of her.
“You wouldn’t have to be naked,” I told her. “And you wouldn’t have to touch him. He just wants you to watch for about 30 minutes.”
She said yes quickly—too quickly, in retrospect. I think because she needed the money, but also because everyone wants to see inside brothels and prisons. I remember deciding that I’d done a nice thing, that I’d helped out a mate. I never told her why I’d really asked.
As we got closer to the day of the session, she asked, overly-casually, for more info, like a child trying to glean information about her christmas presents: What should she wear? What fake name should she use? Would it be funny? The thing she never said was that she was nervous.
But of course, I had been scared too, the first time I’d brushed up against the solid edge of selling sex. Like the time, as a gauche 21-year-old, I’d sat upstairs at a parlor—the parlor I’d eventually end up working in for 6 months—for an interview with the manager. After 15 minutes we were interrupted by the doorbell—an atonal electronic jangle that I would grow to loathe during my stint there—rung by a client who had arrived early. The manager showed him into the sitting room, and he looked at me—or mainly at the awkwardly slutty outfit I’d chosen to wear for the occasion—for several seconds too long. It would be months before I’d learn how to return that gaze of male desire, forcefully and devoid of fear. But that day I tried to sit still on a jauntily-rotating bar stool, smiling weakly and feeling my stomach twist. Now here that same feeling was, shining in Emily’s eyes, and for a moment I wondered if I’d made the right decision by inviting her. But of course, this was the point. This was why I had invited her, after all: I wanted her to see the truth of this; the truth of me. She might be a little scared, but I wasn’t.
On the day of the session she arrived at my incall in an awkwardly slutty outfit (hashtag solidarity). I gave her some wine and told her everything that likely would and wouldn’t happen. I told her she was going to be brilliant. “Imagine it’s a play,” I told her. “Like you’re watching a piece of art of whatever.” She nodded mutely, as the gap between knowing and realizing began to shrink.
Exactly what went down during the session is all a blur to me now. The client was on the younger side— French, skinny, and a little awkward. A natural sub, who liked to be controlled. I stripped him naked and positioned him at the foot of the bed. He blushed a deep, hot red as I escorted Emily into the room, and asked him what it was like to be so exposed in front of two beautiful women. I continued a steady, sotto voce stream of vaguely humiliating epithets as I bent him over, inspected him, snapped on gloves and examined him. Emily remained on the bed, motionless, answering tersely whenever I directed sing-song questions her way:
“This is what he needs, isn’t it?” I’d say. “To come to our room to be examined. Do you think he’s good enough for us?”
“Mmmm, yeah,” she’d reply, instantly deflecting back to me.
I thought there might be a moment where she found her feet in the role, but no. Maybe there wasn’t enough time. Before long I was stepping into a harness, drawing his attention to the parade of dildos I’d lined up on my desk, asking him if he could guess which one I was going to use. I used this trick a lot. (After a while, even the best performer recycles old material.)
He’d asked me in advance to peg him. I’d told Emily this was going to happen, but as I fastened the dick into my harness and looked over to her, it was obvious that she wasn’t expecting this. I pushed him forward, face down into the bed, and behind his back I offered her an inquisitive thumbs up, like “You OK, hun?” She nodded, smiling in a half-amazed-half-bewildered way, and I tapped my watch brightly (i.e. the international sex worker signal for “we’re nearly done”). Then, as you can probably guess, I fucked him while she watched.
After we finished, Emily waited for me in the kitchen. “Did you enjoy yourself?” I asked him sweetly.
“Oh yes. You were both amazing.”
By the time I gave Emily her money, she was back in her street clothes. I asked how she was doing. She laughed in this sort of amazed-slash-proud way, instantaneously constructing what she’d just done as some hilarious dare. Louis Theroux at the Orgy. A story to impress people with.
“You were amazing,” she said. “I just could never do that.”
I probably should have told her that yes, of course she could. Pandering to men’s sexual whims is comparatively easy when you’ve been raised on a diet of patriarchy and pornography. But then, I had waited a long time not to be invisible—for her to say something like that, something sweet, that showed she really understood, and to really mean it. So I just said thank you. Tell the others, I thought. But she never did.
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