Sex life: I sometimes wonder if sex work has made me asexual

I used to feel ashamed when I was having good sex at work and not in my private life—but I’ve let that go
September 6, 2023

I’m on top of a podium at four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, looking across the dancefloor of a club while the sun shines down on me, when I feel horny for the first time in a long time. Convenient, because I’m in a club with darkrooms where you can have sex on the premises. Inconvenient, because there’s no one that I actually want to fuck here. As I describe the moment to a friend afterwards, I realise that it wasn’t seeing other people half naked and making out with each other that set me off. It was feeling like I was the hottest person in the club; it was feeling into myself. 

The podium is the perfect momentary ego boost; everyone gazes up at you as you dance, slightly out of reach and knowingly unattainable. Most of the time I like to feel anonymous in a club, to pass through the crowd unnoticed and disappear in the mass of bodies, but when I feel particularly powerful in myself, I’ll invite the stares of others by wearing heels or climbing up to a higher vantage point. 

The fact that I felt aroused in that moment, something I haven’t felt in ages, makes me wonder if I’m autosexual—if I’m sexually attracted to myself. It is true that I have to feel hot in order to feel horny, which is a form of self-appreciation. But I realise that what I was really getting off on was other people getting off on me—the imagined desiring gaze. 

I’ve read feminist theory about how women live under a constant male gaze, the one that they’ve internalised. I think I’m living under a constant female gaze; my imagined desirer and observer is a woman. “How will I appear to a dyke I want to fuck right now?” I contemplate as I do anything that requires incidental nudity, such as cleaning my house naked or stepping into my shower. The only time that I’m catering to a male gaze is when I wonder if my outfit will go down well with the gays at a party, or if this dress that I’m wearing will get me booked at the brothel. 

For long periods of my adult life, I have wondered if sex work has made me asexual, that rather than being touch-starved I have been over-touched. I sometimes worry that I have experienced an excess that has drained me till I have a sex drive deficit and can’t imagine seeking out more of what I do so much of already for work. But perhaps it’s more likely that asexuality is a spectrum that we can all move in and out of across our lives.

The only time that I’m catering to a male gaze is when I wonder if my outfit will go down well with the gays at a party

Trying to regain my sex drive has felt like a lost cause; I’ve worked so much and for so long that maybe a sex drive is something that I don’t even really need to regain. I’m not lacking anything if I don’t have a craving for sex, because I still get fun and satisfaction from it. I learned recently about spontaneous versus responsive sexual desire and realised that I’ve been without the former, but that doesn’t affect my enjoyment of sex—I can’t be bothered to seek it out but, once it starts, I’m often into it. Is feeling horny as I dance on a podium, revelling in my body and the regard of others, simply another expression of responsive desire—my own arousal precipitated by and in reaction to my assumption of the arousal of others? 

I’ve also let go of this idea that it’s somehow sad to be having good sex at work if I’m not fucking anyone in my private life. I used to feel shame if I was only being satisfied by clients, as if I was compromising an innate part of me, my sexuality, by only engaging with it in circumstances where there was a financial incentive, not out of “pure”, uncorrupted sexual desire. These days I’m just grateful when my body feels pleasure that I can lose myself in—aren’t we lucky to even be feeling that? I had some hot bookings with women recently and I’m glad of it—so what if it was a client that facilitated it? I so rarely have the energy to make these things happen myself; it’s normal for me to go six months without sleeping with anyone in my personal life. I suppose, like with all things over time, I’m having to adjust my perception of myself. Okay, maybe I’m not the libidinous person I imagined I would be, but I am sexual.