Escorting Was Good For Me
the best thing to happen to my sex life, really
I’ve been poly for over ten years and it’s been largely great. I’ve never regretted or doubted being poly, and plan to be poly for the rest of my life.
But much as the structure of monogamy can sometimes lead to unhappiness, I did have one poly relationship that was pretty psychologically damaging for me.
I dated this guy who I loved deeply, but his sexual preferences revolved around novelty and very beautiful women. I had sex with almost nobody else while we were dating (by my own preference), but he had sex with dozens of other women. This was fine, except the other women tended to be much prettier than me; I would watch women with adorable young makeup-free faces enter our apartment and hear them moaning in our bedroom. He and I were rarely having sex; partially due to sexual incompatibility but partially due to his lack of interest. At one point (after I asked) he told me the sex we’d had at the start of our relationship had come from an overflow of affection, but that he’d never actually found me sexually attractive. This combination of things - not having sex with him, him finding me sexually unattractive, and watching him have sex with lots of very beautiful women - destroyed me.
Our relationship only lasted a few months longer, but shortly after the breakup I moved into a group house with friends, all of them single men (one of them my ex). Their life revolved around dating - discussing which women to go on dates with, who was cute or not cute, and so “the male gaze performing evaluations of women” was part of my daily environment, loud in my attention, and every time one of my friends rejected a woman I thought was prettier than me, I sank a little deeper into the hole. I was having cystic acne breakouts and when I looked in the mirror my face repulsed me and I wanted to die. I was surrounded by evidence that I was a biological failure, that I’d come out of the womb with a physical body that would fail to secure the love I wanted.
You might find this ridiculous - I’d been a successful sex worker for years. But this didn’t really matter - online, you can carefully control your appearance with lighting and makeup, and it felt like a lie to me. “Don’t worry Aella, lots of men like your meticulously posed photos online” was zero reassurance.
My confidence was gone. I became pitiful, I developed a helpless fury at men that could go nowhere because I knew it wasn’t their fault, really. I cried a lot, I got really good at avoiding looking into mirrors.
Around this time I needed more money, was sick of camming, and so decided to try escorting. It was scary in the beginning, but it took only a few appointments to acclimate, and business started booming.
The business wasn’t the healing thing - the repeat customers were. If someone saw my carefully-posed pictures and booked a session with me, this didn’t necessarily mean much. But if they saw me once and then bothered to see me again, this was strong evidence that they found me attractive. About 60% of my appointments were with someone I’d seen before.
Turns out this was the perfect salve for my wounds, and within a few months the existential panic inside me was gone. Really, deeply gone. Escorting showed me that I had a place in the market, and maybe it wasn’t as number one, but I didn’t have to be number one. I just had to be wanted, a little bit, somewhere.
Maybe if I’d been more impressive I could have arranged myself in a way where being constantly exposed to picky men didn’t hurt me so much, but I was not that impressive. In hindsight, I don’t think I had the capacity to handle that environment without it doing some deep updates to my beliefs about my sexual worth.
2. Enjoying Casual Sex
While escorting wasn’t about my sexual preferences really, I found it freeing. In normal life, getting laid is riddled with social concerns for me (and I suspect many other women). Some part of my brain is wondering what it means that I’ve chosen to have sex with this person; do they have a good reputation in my community? Am I being taken advantage of? If people find out I decided to sleep with this person, will they think less of me? (This is one frame I find is useful to explain why women tend to bang powerful men; there’s no risk of reputational damage to their sexual value)
Escorting obliterated all of this anxiety. Escorting was clear cut; I wasn’t ashamed of the job, and the meaningfulness of the choice of who I was banging was completely removed from me. In this it was really freeing; I was able to have casual sex without it being any reflection on myself, and this was super great. When escorting, my rate of new casual sex with people in my personal life dropped a lot.
The structure of escorting protected this for me. I had to maintain really clear boundaries - I left on time, I didn’t make any special exceptions even for people I really genuinely liked, I didn’t give discounts. Blurring any boundaries would have triggered that anxiety, suddenly made it personal, and destroyed my ability to enjoy the experience with them.
3. How Escorting Cured Me From Using Sex As Validation
As a teenager, I noticed that my behavior was really different around different people - alone, my parents, and my friends, I was like three separate characters. For a bit I was confused about who the true me was, but eventually decided there was no true me - or rather, the true me lay in my reactions to different environments. None of them were fake, they were just “who I am in connection with this”. Many characters suppressed some of my “natural preferences” - who I was around my parents suppressed knowing what I wanted. When I worked at a factory, my character there suppressed my awareness of my desire to stop working.
Maybe I shouldn’t say ‘suppression’, maybe I should say ‘compartmentalization.’ I view compartmentalization as neutral, sometimes bad, but often useful. We ‘set aside’ active knowledge of our preferences in order to function, all the time. We do it to raise children, or to interact with difficult relatives, or to wake up early to work on a project we care about. This is normal! If you were in full contact with everything you wanted all the time, it would be impossible to function. If preferences are like strings controlling our behavior, we temporarily cut the strings to some preferences so that we can better operate in our environment.
Escorting was a new environment with new social dynamics and incentives, and thus I found a new character emerge. I was there to please, and so my character compartmentalized my own preferences. I didn’t lay there actively hating the experience; I simply became someone who enjoyed it. If the experience was too hard to enjoy, I became someone who didn’t mind enduring it. I didn’t force myself to be authentic, but I actively looked for ways to express authenticity if I could without disrupting the character I was inhabiting. For many clients this was easy - I would often lay there feeling myself love them. Sometimes I cried with them. I let my heart move. To this day I feel like pieces of my soul lie with a few clients I’ve seen, and I’m happy for them to have it.
But as a sexual being, the part of me that tracked what I wanted in sex completely shut off; those strings were cut. These experiences weren’t about me or what I wanted, and if a client’s preferences overlapped with mine that was purely accidental.
This was fine; the problem started when one day I was having normal, personal, unpaid sex, and I realized that I was in my escort character. Or, even worse, I realized it had always been this way.