Clients are often reluctant to spend much time with sex workers, perhaps distrustful of people who trade in curated intimate experiences, and not wanting to be “taken for a ride”. Because of this, they often try to fit an inconceivable number of things into a booking (“I want to try this, this and this all in the space of an hour”). Sometimes a client will ask me if my service can include him orgasming three times in 60 minutes. “I don’t know, can you come three times in an hour?” I ask, to remind him that often it is our own body’s capabilities that hold us back from achieving our fantasies, not the other person’s desirability.
When clients book a BDSM-type session, they don’t factor in time for aftercare. If they pay for three hours in which they will tie me and another girl up and call us slaves while using sex toys on us, they want to milk every minute of that. They either don’t want to pay extra to chat afterwards or have to rush back to their work or their families. Over time I’ve learnt, through experience, about “sub drop”—the low that can follow when you’ve made yourself physically and emotionally vulnerable to someone. I’ve had to learn to self soothe after particularly exhausting sessions; to go home, have a bath, smoke a joint, watch a movie. These are things that are meant to be done alongside the person who has consensually humiliated or dominated you, but I have to do them solo. To be frank, it’s better than the alternative of lingering with a client who isn’t paying me—that certainly wouldn’t make me feel any better.
After being a submissive, sometimes all I crave is a hug
A few months ago, I was interviewed at a literary festival. While on paper it went well—the audience responded with applause, I answered the questions in a way I was content with—I was left feeling morose. What was it that dissatisfied me? It wasn’t until I called a friend and started to speak about it that I realised I was feeling the same way I do after an intense booking. I needed some sort of aftercare; I wanted to feel embraced and enveloped by the audience, just as after being a submissive, sometimes all I crave is a hug. I had exposed myself to a crowd by speaking about things that were difficult, and it felt similar to the times, in sex work, when I have done things that are sometimes not easy, while pretending to feel at ease and confident. And, unlike speaking engagements I’ve had in the past, because I was in a foreign city, I had no readers and followers coming up to chat to me afterwards, or friends to kick on from the event with.
This made me contemplate the two modes of work, and the exposure that different kinds of performances demand generally. Recently, I rewatched Etta James’s live performance of “I’d Rather Go Blind” at Montreux in 1975. At the height of both her heroin addiction and her truly incomprehensible singing powers, her face dripped with sweat. I couldn’t help thinking about how hard the comedown must have been from the high of that performance, and why it is that performers often chase that high afterwards, in other ways, and what it must feel like to step back into a subdued hotel room after giving so much of yourself on stage. Whenever I have made a spectacle of myself, whether through speaking about my book or through roleplaying with a client, afterwards I always desire a moment of connection outside the realm of performance. I wonder if that is common to all performances.