This afternoon I was reading an article on coming out as a sex worker and all the consequences that derive from that decision. In many countries prostitution has not yet been legalized. Apart from all the stigma sex workers are at risk of being arrested on the job. Girls who have been confronted with violence are reluctant to file charges out of fear not to be taken seriously or to become subject of laughter. It is still considered a sollicitation to be victimized by violent behaviour when selling sexual services. To be honest, in past situations which would have been appropriate to file charges, I also chose to stay away from the police. Even though prostitution is legal in the Netherlands.

Now what about all the commotion in the news about violence against police officers or rescue workers. Let me clarify first that I do condemn any kind of useless violence. But just for the sake of argument one could state that they have willingly chosen a profession which brings them in high risk situations including acts of violence. We all know they are only doing their job of enforcing law or delivering medical aid to victims.

Sex workers are also only doing their job delivering a service which is a regular sale or business transaction if you like. Why would you then imply that we are setting ourselves up to be mistreated. We never ask to be hurt. Being in the industry for a while, we even develop capabilities to avoid violence or to avoid escalation. Professionalism and experience have taught us people skills and techniques to master situations without violence. As long as universities do not offer degrees in sex work, we will have to educate ourselves.

‘A double life can be a choice’

When there comes a time that we retire, with our skills we may still do some work as mental coach, psycho analyst or social worker. Although it may be wise not to disclose the origin of our skills.

Prostitution has been legalized in the Netherlands and some other countries. However, for many situations it does not seem to make any difference other than not getting arrested for conducting sex work. Still there are banks and institutions who refuse any kind of service to you as a person with ties to the sex industry.

An asset of many sex workers is, in my opinion, the will to survive. This is developed during many years of emotional and sometimes physical self-defence and standing up for your rights. So, with some creativity, improvisation, and power to convince – which essentially is our job – we can come a long way. All that is left is the nagging feeling of being discriminated by our own country and fellow citizens. In the end we choose to accept in order not to let it control our lives or well-being.

From a personal point-of-view it is my private life that proves more challenging. Starting to work as a sex worker will tell you which of your friends and acquaintances are for real. You may choose to completely hide your line of work and lead a double life. It is often seen that a pro-forma job is used to have a ready answer to questions from your direct surroundings. There are many fake nurses. A handy choice because of the possibility to do night shifts. But then there are waitresses , bartenders, dancers or office personnel in companies noone ever heard of. Or you can have a small meaningless freelance job which you present as being your main source of income.

‘My job was known only to my inner circle’

Another option is to openly disclose your occupation. Still, you can choose to open up only to your closest friends. Or to only hide from your relatives. When I started my real job was only known to my inner circle consisting of less than a handful of people. It was not welcomed with enthousiasm by everyone, but real friends accept you for your personality, regardless of your  choice of work. I was lucky that my best of friends were open minded and no strangers to the erotic scene. But then again, that shall not have been a coïncidence.

As time progressed, and work took up more hours of my days, things became more challenging. I always prefer the term ‘challenge’ rather than ‘problem’. Ties with my family and relatives have been broken years before when I was fed up of not living up to their standard. Until today I hardly have any contact other than the occasional hello through online channels. They have not seemed to be too interested in my life for a long time. It has however, come to my attention that they seem to wonder how I maintain myself despite of their degrading maledictions in those days before I left. Which, by the way, had nothing to do with sex work or anything remotely related.

Directly outside my inner circle, friends and acquaintances did not all reject me for my choices, but accepting my job as actually being real work was too much. I received little understanding when I did not join them as much during the evening hours or when I had to decline invitations because I had to work. They did show empathy for those who worked night shifts in regular accepted jobs.

“Don’t be like that, just come over and visit us! It doesn’t hurt to skip work for tonight!” was a regular message. Sure, it was never a problem to have a night off, but on the long-term it really began to annoy me. I started to invite others to visit me or to have a drink somewhere during the day. Only to hear them say  “No! You know I have a job! I can’t just take time off!”. When I took turns in saying “Don’t be like that! Skip work for today!” they actually got angry.

‘It doesn’t hurt to skip work for tonight!’

Why would it be obvious for me to take a day off when someone wants to hang out with me? With their jobs, they are still being paid when they leave for a day. It is apparent that my job is not taken seriously. That it is some kind of obsessive disorderly hobby. Some even seem to think that I do not work at all, leading a happy-no-obligations-spoiled-leisure-life. Just because they see me drive a car, own a house and treat myself to the occassional holiday travel.

As far as I know, I am a self-employed business owner running a business following all the official regulations here in the Netherlands. I take care of advertising and marketing, customer relation, management, accounting, logistics and planning. Even when I am not on the road I spent time keeping the business healthy. My schedule is never fixed and I need to be flexible at all times. Only a few remained who understand and respect my work and my lifestyle.

Another issue sometimes hard to deal with is not being able to share experiences or stories, good ones or bad. Not just because of the taboo on sex work but more out of discretion. Talking about clients or about the conversations I had with them is absolutely not done. The quality of your service relies heavily on that. It is simply a golden unwritten rule with no exceptions.

‘Starting as a sex worker is easy. Persisting is a whole different story!’

After many years of hide-and-seek, or using cryptic descriptions to tell the truth without actually revealing it, I was totally fed up with it. I did not feel like I was lying to people about my job anymore. Instead, it had started to feel like I was lying to myself. An inner voice becoming louder in protesting against it. I had managed to support myself for many years by then. And created enough freedom to live and do fun things that I enjoy doing. And frankly, I do feel proud having achieved that. It really hurt myself to always degrade myself to cover up the reality of my source of income. It was about time to stop doing that.

Well, it was a nice idea! It proved harder than I bargained for in my obvious sillyness. The world is not ready yet to handle such information. The attempts of people trying not be shocked were downright amusing. There were few who reacted nicely or just neutral. Some instantly felt sorry for me. Or they panicked like I disclosed having a contagious virus. The really nice exceptional moments were when a person seemed to gain strength and admitted they had once also been active in sex work. But usually, those people had their suspicions for a while.

All together, situations still remain, in which it may be wiser to stay in the closet. Simply because it will be in your disadvantage. Starting off as a sex worker is easy. Persisting in the long-term is a whole different story.