Trying to Go Straight

Friday, September 06, 2013

Question

Dear Patrick:

              Is it possible to get addicted to turning tricks? I had started working for an escort agency when my financial aid ran out and I had only one more year of graduate school to finish. Now I'm getting my career off the ground, and I want to put that life behind me. When I had to see clients, it made me a nervous wreck. I would get depressed about being in a financial bind and cry. But now that I don't have a couple of dates every week, I kind of miss it. There was something about the ritual of getting ready for a client. I had created this whole other persona, a woman who wore clothes I would never dare put on. She moved and spoke with so much confidence and sophistication. And the men were certainly appreciative. I loved being treated like some kind of sex goddess. Now it seems like it was very little effort for a high return. There are days when I have to stop myself from calling the agency to see if they'd like to have me take a few shifts.

            What's going on here? I hated being an escort (let's face it, a prostitute). But now I fantasize about the men with their expensive suits and beautiful cars, the restaurants we went to, the shows we saw, all that A List treatment, and the wild sex with no strings attached. In reality, I never had an orgasm with any of these guys. But my masturbation fantasies are almost exclusively about being spoiled but also controlled and dominated by a client who demands complete sexual intimacy but remains emotionally distant from me. That doesn't seem very healthy either.

            I don't think I need to tell you that this fantasy has very little to do with the actual johns, who were lonely men, often overweight, and usually lacking in basic social skills. It seemed to me that a lot of them really wanted a girlfriend but realistically speaking they didn't have what it takes to attract one who would stick around. They paid for dates because they were horny but it made them angry, and they were often sarcastic and mean to me when it was time for me to leave.

            I am having trouble finding a job in this economy, but I can't believe a woman with my credentials won't be able to find a better job than hooking. Long-term involvement in the sex industry seems like a bad idea. I met way too many other girls who had drug problems or wound up having dysfunctional relationships with former clients. Should I give in to my obsession and remind myself of how guilty and dirty I felt? Would that get it out of my system? Do I need a rehab program for ex-call girls? Or do I need to throw the guilt out the window, pocket the cash, and ignore the down side of it all?

Answer

             I think a lot of things are going on here—the main one being anxiety. You resorted to turning tricks the last time you hit a wall. You couldn't find any other solution to the problem of paying for school. Now you are having trouble finding the job you trained for, and the pressure to run back to the solution that worked before must be immense. But I do encourage you to find other ways to take care of yourself and ease that anxiety. A lengthy job search is the norm these days. The sex industry is a harsh employer, and it sounds like you are not one of the people who thrive on its challenges. Save it for a last resort.

            The same anxiety is probably the hook that turned hooking into a lurid and appealing masturbation fantasy. Ironically enough, when people have to be involved with sex in a stressful way, the psyche can step in to take off those sharp edges. By changing important details of reality, a fantasy is born that gives the whole thing a different meaning. But the part of your personality that selects just the right sex fantasy for an evening at home should not be trusted to decide how you will earn a living. Sadly, if you allow the stress in your life to exceed manageable levels, there are other things you'll be tempted to do to cope with painful emotions. That includes drugs and alcohol, or anything else that will allow you to disassociate from what's really happening. A clever sex worker who wants to survive to enjoy all that “easy money” (as if) needs all of her wits about her.

            Some men and women stay in the industry for most of their working lives, and feel that they made the right decision. I hope I'm making it clear that I don't want to demean the people who provide pleasure for payment. These jobs should not be illegal; that simply makes the workers more vulnerable to coercion or exploitation.

            If you have to go back to the escort service to keep body and soul together, don't hate yourself. Just do what you have to do to survive. Anybody who has a job they dislike can feel more cheerful and empowered if they start making plans for their next move. Use the resources you have to create other options as soon as possible. Don't just give up and behave as if the wrong job is a punishment you deserve and must endure. The sadness and fear you describe when seeing clients seem quite painful to me, so I hope you can find other ways to pay the rent and the grocery bill. Maybe even basic cable!

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