“Nobody wanted to hire me because I had worked in the sex industry”

When people ask me how I got into the sex industry, I say it happened like this. To be honest, that scared the hell out of me. Following the trauma, my sexuality and my self-confidence were abysmal, and the idea that they suddenly became my main source of income seemed absurd. But I was desperate.

I wish I could say that I put on my latex catsuit and 6 ” Pleaser wedges, and grabbed my razor-thonged whip in the name of sexual freedom, feminism, or just because I’m a real one. badass. In truth, I started my career as a dominatrix with fear in my stomach.

I have a privileged status in this culture (I am white, cisgender, in good health) but I had difficulty keeping a job because of my immigration status and my mental health. I lived day to day, by my pay stubs, in a windowless room at the end of the L subway in Brooklyn. I had as many anxiety attacks as I had rats in my kitchen (which is a lot).

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My life was filled with gay parties and provocative art projects, but I had no purpose or purpose. It was the sex industry that gave me this raison d’être. In fact, my whole life has been transformed.

I couldn’t imagine the obstacles that this job would put in my way, but I was finally able to free myself from the anguish of seeing my credit card refused while trying to buy myself something to eat.

I moved to Manhattan, was able to afford my health care and finally be financially stable. And, although I spent most of my nights waiting in a dungeon for a guy to show up for me to stomp his waltzes for a few hours, I was much happier.

I was now a freelance worker, setting her working hours and limits, and I had complete control over my career. I started to see myself in a new light. I felt powerful and attractive. A great first.

But after a few years things started to go wrong. I had a burnout. The job itself was sometimes difficult, but it wasn’t necessarily because of my clients that I got there. What really affected me was the look and the attitude of the people, and the feelings of isolation and loneliness that it aroused in me.

I have become an almost unreal character in the eyes of others. For them, my job defined me entirely, and I didn’t feel respected in all my complexity. I was considered stupid for using my body to earn money, that I had no morals, or I was seen as an attraction, like a clown at a party.

All of this, combined with the fear of being arrested, injured or killed, made me feel like I was trapped.

I started browsing job boards on the internet to find a job that would help me get by. But it was after a terrifying act of sexual violence on the part of a police officer that I finally put a stop to it all.

Around this time, I started dating Nick. He too had had a difficult life. His father had been killed in prison after being wrongfully imprisoned, and Nick was paying the price. Yet it was a head. He hadn’t gone to college, but had learned everything on his own, from computer engineering to business management, and had risen through the ranks of the tech industry in New York City. He was kind, thoughtful, and super handsome.

It was a beautifully disastrous start to our relationship, a mixture of the energy of new stories and the deep depression from my old job. All my esteem for myself was based on my dominance, paid by men to be worshiped. And it turned out that adjusting to a more “normal” environment took time.

I fell further into the doldrums when some of my “friends” started to come out of my life. I was less interesting in their eyes and I could no longer afford to pay the bill. I also felt rejected by many of my ex-colleagues, as if I had committed the greatest sins by getting off the ship.

I looked for a new job to put my life and my finances in order. But wherever I go, even in “feminist” sex shops or progressive establishments, they didn’t want me. My CV didn’t matter. No matter how much emphasis I put on my business degree and eight years of management experience, the “hate of whores” haunted me.

Some of my friends would assure me that I could get a job at their workplace, but they would always come back a few days later telling me that, according to their boss, my previous job was a “drag”. When I picked up an interview, I quickly realized that the people I spoke to simply did not understand what my old job was. So I would explain to them what a dominatrix was, and they would scream in surprise or end the conversation immediately. It pissed me off: in a society where sex workers were constantly told they had to find “real” work, no one wanted to give me a chance.

Our society is obsessed with this environment, but we do not treat those who work there as human beings. We hijack their aesthetics, we use their services and we imitate their work, but we do not show them the respect they are due.

As my savings were quickly dwindling and all of my applications were being rejected, Nick encouraged me to think about what would make me really happy, what would really motivate me. I loved helping others, was intrigued by sexuality, and had personally encountered the issues our society had with notions of sex and shame. I dreamed of a career where I could allow others to have satisfying sex lives, a career that would allow me to redefine myself. I was someone who had learned a lot from her experience as a sex worker, and I was determined to question the sense of shame that the whole world placed on her.

This is why we created Wild Flower. In this space for learning about sexuality, we find resources and products promoting this discovery, in a non-binary, inclusive and homosexual-oriented environment.

At first, the task seemed insurmountable to me. But, with a few hundred dollars, hours spent creating educational videos and giant papier-mâché diagrams, a website designed and developed by Nick, and a desire to flourish and help others, Wild Flower saw the day, then prospered. Our business supports us financially, but not only: it is also a reflection of who I am and of what I consider to be my reason for being. You don’t have to be perfect or rich to be successful – this is what we hope to show everyone.

Running a sex toy business on a day-to-day basis turned out to be closer to my job as a dominatrix than I might have thought. The level of personal management and motivation is about the same, I work with the same tools and toys, and I show the same compassion as I continue to help others understand their sexual needs.

I also encounter the same difficulties: not overworking myself, maintaining my limits and avoiding getting too emotionally involved in my work. Even so, every day I appeal to a skill or knowledge I acquired when I was a sex worker and I am grateful for it.

I would probably not be so sure of myself and I would not have this charisma without this experience, without having fulfilled the sexual fantasies of complete strangers just minutes after meeting them. I’m also lucky that my job is reaching more people now, and to have been able to work with Nick, my partner in life and in business.

I am an immigrant, with no family support, no fortune and no network, but I attribute my success to my vulnerability and my determination. I am also very lucky. Without Nick’s support and a few hundred dollars in the bank, Wild Flower wouldn’t exist. And neither do I, I think.

My situation is not representative. Many workers in the sex industry, especially transgender and ethnic minorities, face further discrimination and abuse if they choose to leave the industry. Our society is obsessed with this environment, but we do not treat those who work there as human beings. We hijack their aesthetics, we use their services and we imitate their work, but we do not show them the respect they are due. Things must change.

By reducing the stigma that surrounds this industry and putting an end to “hate for whores”, we are giving sex workers more choices, ensuring their safety, giving them more power over their careers, and we treat them with the humanity they deserve.

Some labels seem to have such an influence that they overshadow every other facet of a person. As “immigrant”, “survivor” and, most importantly, “sex worker”. I hope to evolve this idea by showing that while these terms apply to me, I am much more than that.

This blog, published on the American HuffPost, was translated by Laure Motet for Fast ForWord.

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“Nobody wanted to hire me because I had worked in the sex industry”

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