I have been fascinated by sex workers since I learned that the most ostracizing act that prostitutes can commit is finding pleasure in the act. The world of sex workers is a huge underground mega structure that encompasses millions of lives. It makes more money than the entire 10 largest technology companies combined, (think Microsoft, Google, and Amazon). On the internet alone sex work and related sales and content occupies at least 12% of all internet traffic. Every second 28,000 people are viewing adult content. A new pornographic video is being released every 39 minutes. The pornographic industry earns over $97 Billion dollars per year world wide, with the US reporting close to $14 Billion.(check out more statistics).
If this hidden economy is not mind boggling enough, consider how many women make their living in sex related industries. Between street prostitution, strip clubs, phone sex, legalized brothels, high priced call girls, pornography players and models, sex clubs, sex parties, and internet sex workers, we are supporting millions of lives with our collective consumption of sex. If this proves only one thing, it is that we, as humans are driven by our sexuality and that many of us are driven to this underground megalopolis to have our sexual needs met.
The stories of sex workers is as far reaching and varied as the population of people who make their livelihood, selling their bodies for sex. Call me naíve, but I could never have guessed that a woman’s husband or mother-in-law would place her into a brothel and act as her pimp. I would never have imagined that young, wealthy Ivy League graduates would pass up jobs in their chosen fields for the “power and excitement” of high end tricks.
On Second Life, a computer game of avatars where people buy and sell things as though they are real, sexual favors sell for anywhere between $2- $20 real cash. With six million players in that game alone, it has altered the concept of fidelity. “I think people who have online sex don’t see it as cheating. It’s morally okay, a pocket they can put those desires into where they won’t threaten their real-life relationship.” Even if it costs $20 bucks.
The sex workers of all these levels reflected on their work as a customer service profession. They feel responsible for the people who come to them, and often bad for them too. They believe that the people who come looking for sex with them have nowhere else to go. One of the $3000/hour girls reflected on how she was being screwed in this man’s penthouse apartment with a photo of his blond wife and two small children looking on. Sex workers are perhaps the most skilled customer service professionals in the world, many boasting the ability to fake orgasm and bring any man to climax.
I have met many men probably just before they go on to their internet trysts or whatever sexual compensation they can justify in the context of their relationships that are desperate for their women to make love to them. “What can I do? ” they implore me, looking at my wares and wondering if there is some secret magic bullet up on my shelf that will bring them the physical connection they crave. I have heard this same lament from women. While I do have some good products that can help recharge the libido and wake up the arousal mechanism, they will do nothing without the will to succeed at physically loving.
Without question sex work is probably the single largest paid profession for women worldwide. Although hard to track, in this country alone, sex work has probably impacted close to one in ten of us. A recent modern love column, gives an insight into what it is that drives this industry. The author laments that there is not much to like in sex. That its fascination quickly falls to boredom and that really there are much more interesting things to do. I feel for her husband, but even more for her, because to not have any deep connection to our sexual nature and this mysterious bond that continually transforms relationships is a loss beyond measure.
My twelve- year- old asked me, “Do you think she really doesn’t like it, or is she just afraid of it?” By her admission, I think it is fear. “Except one time, on a May night, through the open window, warm liquid breezes poured over our naked bodies, and then he touched me just so and I tipped into the orgasm and was grasped. This was different from whatever I’d achieved on my own. This was softer, gentler, full of a wide-open love, a deep falling-down love. When it was over, I hated him. I hated that man (that boy, really). The intimacy was too much, too wrenching and shameful.” Fear of intimacy is what makes sex work the viable industry that it is. It is easier to buy the energetic release that comes from nameless unattached sex than to give ourselves over to the depths of being seen and known in our most vulnerable, animal state.
My fascination with sex work has had some unforeseen benefits, it has helped me turn up the heat in my own relationship. Granted, this might not be as challenging for me as for women who are not interested in sex, but fantasizing about the millions of ways that women earn their living with their sexuality has surprisingly fueled my own ability to access desire and willingness to act from this primary relationship between us. Of course my marriage’s multi layered responsibilities, history and common ruts invade our sexual relationship. Yet, owning a small part of the sexual worker in each of us might just satisfy our relationship in ways that nothing purchased will.