Image by @exotic.cancer
Sex work is HARD WORK, and it certainly doesn’t come with the same built-in worker’s right — or safety rights — that other full-time positions enjoy. When you are in the thick of full time sex work you can overlook how insanely demanding the work is. Taking care of yourself is an essential survival skill.
A job that takes such a mental and physical toll requires a lot of critical-thinking, self-maintenance, and support from fellow sex workers. During the seven years that I was a sex worker, I slowly learned how to take care of myself — both from personal experience and my SW Elders. Bottom line? These are increasingly fraught times. In the wake of FOSTA-SESTA passing, it’s become all the more difficult to ensure that the clients we work with, the scenes we agree to, and the working conditions we require will be safe and secure. So from me to you, here’s a list of things to remember in order to stay as healthy, fulfilled, and protected as possible out there:
Pay Attention To Red Flags
If you realize something or someone is affecting you negatively, don’t continue just because you need the money. If there’s even one red flag making you uncomfortable, ask the customer to stop. You are not obligated to do anything you don’t want to. ANYTHING. This is so important. I used to tell myself that there’s always another customer out there. Customers’ needs are abundant and diverse — you can always find someone whose needs match what you offer. You don’t need to stick with someone who’s pushing your boundaries.
Someone who wants to pay you less than what you are worth doesn’t respect you enough to be worth your time.
You’re The Boss
Do not, for even one second, let anyone question your worth. Often we are put into situations where people ask for deals or discounts. The truth is, if someone really wants your time, they will pay for it. Someone who wants to pay you less than what you are worth doesn’t respect you enough to be worth your time. On that same note, you can charge different prices than other people. If you cost more than another SW, that’s the customer’s problem, not yours.
You. Need. Time. Off.
Save money so you can take some much-needed time off. Don’t get caught on a hedonic treadmill with money. Make a budget to figure out exactly how much you need to survive, and then stick to it as much as possible. Be cheap. Shop at thrift stores. That two week vacation you take when you’re feeling burnt out is way more important than owning a Prada bag.
Beauty Procedures Aren’t Always Esteem-Boosters
Don’t over rely or invest in beauty products as a way to cope with flagging self esteem. Self esteem is a weird thing. One day I’ll look in the mirror and think “whoa, I’m totally hot!” and the next day I’m researching the price of 10 different products or procedures I want to get. Of course, beauty is fun, but don’t let Instagram ads for anti-cellulite cream lead you to staring at your thighs in the mirror for hours. I used to spend so much money on products that would end up just sitting on a shelf, or treatments that I soon after realized didn’t really improve my confidence one bit. Refer to the first rule on this list — you’ll thank yourself when you have the extra money.
It can be difficult to put yourself in a vulnerable place, but it’s so important to allow people into your life.
Let Yourself Be Vulnerable IRL
Becoming calloused will lead to your ultimate demise. You don’t have to be tough all the time. Sure, it’s our job to not let the silly and inconsiderate things customers say get to us, but when you’re outside of your work environment, talk to your friends openly. Allow yourself to express your feelings. Go on a date with someone you are genuinely excited about. It can be difficult to put yourself in a vulnerable place, but it’s so important to allow people into your life. I’m not saying you need to go get a boyfriend or girlfriend for the hell of it, but allow yourself to at least consider emotional support. You deserve to love and be loved, whether it’s in a relationship or an emotionally intimate friendship.
Respect Your Body
This one might sound obvious, but many SWs fall into a pattern of getting stoned or buzzed before work. Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs in order to get the job done. Nourish your body — it is, after all, your source of income. Cook at home, eat lots of veggies and fruit. EXERCISE. Yeah, I know. This is revolutionary advice. But seriously, you will thank yourself.
Heads up: It’s International Whores Day on June 2 – join us as we march with the Sex Workers Outreach Project in New York! Click here for the details and for marches in your city.
These tips aren’t meant to replace professional therapy you would receive for a mental illness; they’re simply to keep you from burning out. If you’re really struggling with a mental health issue and need professional help, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-NAMI to find an affordable clinic near you. If you’re in need of immediate assistance, you can call the suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-8255.
Molly Martin is a journalist living in Brooklyn, NY. A former exotic dancer, she hopes to bring attention to the rights of under privileged sex workers and educate to fight the stigma associated with sex work. She also loves long walks on the beach.