For most of my adult life I’ve lived a double life and straddled two worlds. In fact, I lived like this for so long I didn’t realize I was doing it anymore. It became my norm.
As a young mother I felt like I had no choice. There are no coming out stories for sex workers. We risk legal repercussion or worse, we risk losing our kids. I didn’t write about it in my memoir but that fear was always there, just below the surface.
Some days when I was dropping my son off at daycare, I’d wonder how the other mothers saw me, how the childcare providers assessed my clothing and my mannerisms. There were moments when another woman, diaper bag slung over her shoulder, her own hair swept into a messy ponytail would say hello, and I’d feel the possibility of a friendship in that greeting. I’ll admit I had pangs of desire for this kind of mundane, affirming connection—just two moms getting to know each other, swapping stories of bedtimes, baths, and getting our little ones to eat their veggies. However, I couldn’t afford to get close to that many people—if just one person found out about how I paid my bills, their judgments might tip my world into chaos.
I was a single mom and all my son had. It pained me to know that if he was ever taken from me, he would’ve ended up in a foster home. So early on I learned to lie to protect myself. I learned to keep things on the DL. I compartmentalized to survive. I don’t even know where the shame came from. The word sex invoked it…but the words sex worker and stripper carried a heavier dose.
I loved aspects of the lifestyle, too. The regular world seems so mundane and bland. Parts of myself that longed for expression came alive on stage, in scene and in photo shoots. It’s the same reason why people flock to Burning Man. There’s an unquenchable soul desire for expression. I guess I was lucky in a sense that I never stifled this part of me. She was too fierce and too demanding, she needed an outlet.
I remember a therapist told me almost 20 years ago something that that rang so true. She said if you leave this profession you’re going to need an outlet.
That outlet has taken many faces: I race motorcycles, I dive into projects, I challenge myself physically. One face has been the leadership and guidance I am able to offer others who want to find their own edges, who want more in their sexual lives, who want to be freer in the bedroom than they are anywhere else. I’ve become an holistic sex coach, assisting both the timid and brave to loosen up and be truly vulnerable.
I’m writing this now to help educate others about the realities of the sex worker’s life, even though I’ve eased away from this world, my passion and advocacy are stronger than ever. Sex workers are mothers and father, sisters and brothers, cousins and aunts. They/we cloak ourselves in half-truths and slight omissions because many of us are just trying to pay the bills: the student in college whose father left the family for another woman and doesn’t have time for his daughter’s challenges; the son with the ailing mother who doesn’t have health care so he’s turning tricks to pay for her chemo; the gay runaway who parents banished her from the house because she dared to be honest about her sexual orientation.
Of course, these are only some of the reasons people turn to sex work – some are grittier and less noble, but in the end, having to hide aspects of ourselves never helps anyone.
Putting Fetish Girl: A Memoir of Sex, Domination and Motherhood out in the world is another step in the long journey of bringing my two lives together. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s necessary, and it has its own kind of beauty.