Not everyone is chill the first time they meet a sex worker, especially if it’s a casual social setting. Dominatrix Mistress Eva recounts seven stages of a first civilian-SWer encounter gone wrong. Civilians, take note.
Sometimes when I crawl out of my sanctuary, I go to dinner. Occasionally, this is with people who have never met a sex worker (SWer), also known (in the SWer community) as “civilians.” These encounters usually remind me why the majority of my friends are in the sex industry. The seven stages of a civilian-sex-worker encounter below illustrate my frustrations. Please read, hopefully chuckle, but also try hard not to go there.
Dinner with people who have never met a sex worker can be tricky on a good day. But on a bad day it can end in horror, prying questions, detailed reports on the sexual histories of strangers, and an ever-increasing social divide. The concept of sex work can be contentious, and meeting a personification of it can be confronting for those outside of the industry. (I have my theories on how the legacy of religious sexual oppression informs this panic.) But even in well-meaning, less judgemental individuals there is a tendency to prioritise their beliefs about sex work before hearing from the sex workers themselves.
The seven stages of encounters—that I’ve experienced—with civilians who have never met a sex worker include:
#1: I represent all that is evil with the world
The saddest stage. I like to keep things simple these days as it keeps me saner. So I say “I am a Dominatrix” to those who ask the usual get-to-know-you questions. The days of exhaustive cover stories are largely behind me. But with honesty can come loathing. People still have a lot of hangups about sexuality and power, and quite a few civilians aren’t too happy that you’re empowered or free enough to transcend and monetise sex—let alone to be successful doing it. It can make them question their perception of sex work, and not many people are ready to do that. They can’t comprehend my contentment and lack of guilt. This is definitely the least pretty of all the scenarios, and leaves me the most deflated. I can gently share what I know about the benefits of decriminalisation, how sex work has helped my personality feel settled, or how it enables me to live like a retiree in my mid-30s. But there is not much potential for a shift in perspective in cases like this.
#2: I realise that I “know” the husband
When worlds collide! The first time this happened, it was with family—extended family that I hopefully don’t need to see again—during a weeklong gathering. He was such a familiar height and shape. He also fiddled with his pen in his pocket in a particular way. But it was the abject terror in his eyes that ultimately reminded me of that time in Hong Kong which gave the connection away. I wasn’t out to my family about work then and he clearly wasn’t out either about his love for licking high heels. So I shifted my cadence, avoided his gaze, sat tight in my cover story and by the end of the week he began to question if it was really me.
In sex work, the scheduled, packaged, and paid-for time can signify a certain compartmentalization—a way of indulging parts of ourselves that we may sometimes like to keep away from our other parts of life. So if we are not “out” about being a sex worker, or seeing sex workers—and the worlds come together unexpectedly, it can be quite the dance to navigate. I have been screening dinner and especially group-trip attendees more thoroughly since this incident.
#3: “What’s the weirdest thing?”
The inevitable question that takes place at every dinner with people who have not yet met a sex worker. This is also the simplest way to make me immediately feel like an outsider. Thankfully I now have a standard response: “What I find most ‘weird’ is that the majority of the vanilla population don’t ask for what they need to achieve satisfaction. Each BDSM exchange or sex work encounter usually begins with an frank discussion about desire. ‘Weird’ has no place in the world of genuinely connecting with another and believing that it is what they truly want or need. There are only issues of incompatibility.” At this stage, the majority of vanilla civilians side-eye their partners and then go silent. I wish it were different.
#4: I become well versed in their battles with herpes
When I began escorting I quickly learned that sex workers are better versed in STD prevention and testing than the civilian population. But this fact is not well understood amongst civilians, so when they hear “sex work,” their minds leap over to “sexually transmitted disease.” And soon after this association is made, a detailed account of their sexual health history emerges. They assume that I have experienced a variety of STDs as a result of my work, and they see this as an opportunity to overshare. I hear about their colourful rashes in warm places and their unidentified burning sensations after sex. It is a level of detail that I didn’t encounter at first dinners prior to being out as a sex worker. I also do not appreciate the incorrect correlation.
#5: I am there to solve their lifelong sexual hangups
Please don’t make me the agony aunt. On the one hand, I find the sense of openness and intimacy endearing—that is, when it starts and ends with a shared moment of vulnerability, a sweet first dinner kind of moment. Not when it seeks to turn me, a new-to-you person, into your therapist. I don’t know how you could bridge the divide between yourself and your husband, who is sitting further down the table; I don’t want to share a solution on how you could come out about your foot fetish to your girlfriend, who just went to the bathroom. I am also not here as a sexual tips and tricks dispenser. You are not paying me enough for that level of engagement—in fact, you’re not paying me at all. Why am I here?(!)
#6: I am their “God/dess”
Sure, I am a Dominatrix and you may not have come across it much. And yes perhaps you are a submissive and it might speak to your fantasies in a way that hasn’t yet been fulfilled. But it doesn’t mean that you can suddenly look to me to fulfil it. Domination is my job and there is an application process. Do not kiss my shoes during dessert. It is not that kind of party. You need to apply everyday social boundaries to this moment, please. Thankfully this scenario occurs a little less often than the others. It happens when a particularly horny and under-satiated submissive with little self-awareness has been invited. Their social graces tend to go down with the blood flow to their crotch, and their desperation doesn’t help. I’d love to prescribe them a virtual trip to Fetlife, suggest that they attend a few munches and then pay their dues to the community so that they can find someone welcoming of their attention—but their entitlement may not hear what I was saying.
#7: My existence threatens male dominance
The fact that I am female and make a living off of being dominant over mostly men seems to rub some men the wrong way. I’ve come to think that this is because these particular men have a shaky sense of their own place in the world. They buy into the paradigm that men need to display machismo to advance in the world—and anything that rewards something different threatens their hopes for masculine success. As aggressive as this scenario can get, it does amuse me how creative these types of men can get when confronted with a Dominatrix. Sometimes they try to aggravate me through gaslighting or other truly novel techniques. I have heard, “you are way too cute to be a Dominatrix” to the classic “you don’t smile enough.” They will try to get members of the table to agree, and they might even go to the length of spilling wine or throwing food at me when their desperation runs high. But I have learned that the most aggravating thing for them is if I don’t retaliate as they expect. I hold a gentle smile on my face and let their comments look like they were barely understood. Vulnerability mixed with the confidence to express it with control frustrates them deeply. As nasty as this stage may get, I am glad that I’ve figured out a way to enjoy it. These are the times that I allow my emotional sadism room to play outside of session.
Dinner with civilians definitely doesn’t need to be so painful. I realise that other sex workers will not experience the stages like I do above. But I also realise that what makes these scenarios so lucid for me is that I am dedicated to creating the most rewarding experience for the people around me. Civilians included. Now, this is what makes me good—if not great—at my job. I can often see conversations coming, even silent judgements and potential internal reactions. It makes navigating people and satiating their desires instinctual. But it is also the bane of my existence. I am good at dancing with and directing the emotions and thoughts of others, it fills my bank accounts, but it also tires me. If I were configured differently, my ability and the scenarios above might not deplete me. Instead I may have been able to relish in the confrontation, the potential and the rush of coming up against dissimilar minds. But that is not me, and although I am skilled at meeting these scenarios and turning them into positive experiences for the dinner table—the process is exhausting. I believe that this is why I tend to stick to those who share similar experiences and lifestyles with me rather than challenge myself too much further. It is okay for me to decline dinner with people who haven’t yet met a sex worker. It is okay that I try to share my personhood here in these words instead.
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