Sex life: Working through my grief has been hard

Sex work is a customer service job. It isn’t easy to play pert and pretty when you’re struggling
May 10, 2023

I’m watching porn with my client as I sit beside him in bed at seven in the morning, knowing all my friends are kicking on from Mardi Gras. On the screen, a girl is writhing in a cage as someone zaps her with a low-voltage electric current. The client made me pick what genre I wanted to watch from his huge digital collection—as if I wanted to watch any—and I chose kink because the others felt too weird next to him or too close to my own tastes. He’s obviously seen these vids many times before and tells me facts about each of the actresses as I touch him. 

I’ve got nothing against porn in theory—I’ve dabbled in it and my close friend Sariah, who passed away a few months ago, was a porn actress. But it’s just not something I’m into, and I do think it’s dangerous when a man’s only relationship to women is through some form of media, whether that be manga or Bond girls or porn, rather than through interactions in real life. 

My client seems to be one of those men: “The brunette won Miss Germany 2008… it’s easy to forget that porn stars have lives outside of porn too,” he tells me, and I try to make a noise of polite interest rather than revulsion. Speak for yourself, I want to say. As if I—a prostitute—would ever forget that I’m a person, or that Sariah was a person too. His words feel especially unnecessary and cruel to hear during the pain of grief. He must think he’s paying respect to women in sex work when what he has actually been doing is dehumanising us and mansplaining my own experiences to me. I can’t argue back or defend my friend, like I usually would, because I have to stay professional and compliant. But every smear against porn stars feels like a dishonouring of her. 

I wasn’t able to work in the immediate aftermath of Sariah’s death. Sex work is, after all, a customer service job, and it can be draining enough playing pert and pretty on a normal day, let alone when all I can think about is that I’ll never see her again and that I didn’t pick up the last time she called me. 

I did try to work a week after she died. I had a nice client pick me at the brothel, and we had easy sex, and I came. Afterwards, I burst into tears—a post-orgasm experience that friends have previously  described to me, but that has never happened to me before. I apologised and said it had nothing to do with him, that I had lost someone recently, and he said, “Don’t even worry, cry it out,” and let me just speak about her for the rest of the session. I tried to explain to him the wave of guilt and confusion that hit me as I orgasmed: that I could be having this feeling that she, who loved sex, would never feel again; that I could feel something so sweet when she was dead. But I also felt relief, because my body had been holding grief in ways I didn’t realise, and I had needed that release, without knowing. 

After that, I knew that I needed to take time off—I was a liability in the room—and so I took a month. But here I am, in this hellish overnight booking, because the money was too much to turn down. 

I’ve seen this client a few times before. The last time I left him, escaping from the drawn curtains and artificial darkness of his bedroom to the screech of parrots and the glare of a November day in Australia, I had sent a WhatsApp voice note to Sariah, saying, “God, remind me to never see this client again. Overnights are just not worth the money, they make me so depressed. Seventeen hours with someone is way too long.” She had sent me a message back, commiserating, as she always did. 

Now all I want to do is rant to her again, and I can’t. I know she’d find some dark humour in the fact that I am here with him again, hating him and yet hoping that he’s saved some of her vids in his “Girls out West” folder, because all I want to do is see her, whatever the circumstances.