Sex Workers For Choice

Re-framing "demand" (part 1)

Part one of this very complex and diverse topic

"End Demand" has been a continuous topic among those involved in ending human trafficking.  The basic premise is: if you implement strategies to reduce demand for sexual labor, you'll end the need for supply.  Most of these efforts focus on increasing attention on the consumers (the "demand"), and the idea that if they can get more men to stop purchasing sexual labor, of ANY kind (even legal forms like porn and going to strip clubs), the incentive for the supply side will shrink, making it no longer profitable for traffickers to put effort to exploit laborers, and reduce the number of persons engaging in selling sex as a whole. We reached out to NYC escorts escort service to get their take on what drives demand in NYC for escorts and escort services and this is the feedback we got. Most escort services offer companionship only. Its the escorts themselves that engage in sex for favors by choice. By creating the environment where the client makes an offer and the escort accepting the offer is what propels the business. No agencies offer or promise to offer sex for favors. It is not implied although many clients believe that if they pay for company there must be something extra that comes with it. And while its not condoned or allowed sometimes the women go for it. Many escort use it as an excuse to do what they want to do anyway.

This theory probably sounds really good on paper to those that have never worked in the sex trades, but it shows their
naiveté (at best), and lack of true understanding about the real reasons people buy and sell sex, not to mention the flexibility and endurance of the sex trades as a whole.  There is more then one reason it is the world's oldest profession, and part of that is because no other industry is able to morph and shift to accommodate the demand...a demand that will be ever-present, regardless of attempts by moralists to force humans into a subscribed way of thinking or living.  Since our sex drive is one of the basic instincts of humans (to varying degrees, for sure, but a part of each and every one of us), thinking you can eliminate the desire to satiate that need is like saying we can eliminate other instincts, such as eating.  Considering that human relationships (whether intimate, sexual or otherwise) often involve a lot of complexity, including negotiation and societal pressures, it seems logical (at least to me) as to why outlets for immediate, no-strings attached, professional outlets will always be needed to some degree in society.  Even in a perfect world of everyone being able to find a suitable partner (free from social phobias, disabilities, and other hindrances), being able to openly communicate their needs and desires with willing and accepting partners, we STILL have amazing and creative brains that CRAVE stimulation, get bored easily, and strive to tinker with almost any thought and invention that comes down the pike.  This is part of what makes our species so amazing!  This is how and why we have come so far in technology, medicine and we came from inventing fire to sending men and women up into space!  There is always something more to learn, and new land to explore, and new way of thinking, and this is of course applied towards our instincts and thinking with sex.  Reducing the "demand" for sex to simplified arguments of exploitation ignores all of this, and in the process of trying to push that myopic viewpoint, runs the risk of creating issues elsewhere, and on far greater numbers as a whole.

And I'm not trying to disregard the element of misogyny and oppression that plays a part in there...  Certainly not all reasons for seeking out commercialized sex are about nurturing, exploration and consensual fantasy roles.  So the question then becomes: how to we address the things that oppress and exploit without taking away the things that are needed and helpful to others?   


Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 4/23/2012 10:52 AM | Add Comment

Prayer alone is not enough

Last week, Eve's Angels, a Grand Rapids based organization that does outreach to strip clubs and dancers to offer Christian-based spiritual guidance and support, organized a prayer vigil for the missing and murdered women of Detroit.  While I'm not a big fan of organized religion in general (to me, spirituality is personal and unique even if we all have a shared connection), I attended as I wanted to show my support to the families and community about what is going on up there.  I also expected that this would be a springboard for a plan for community action on how to keep the pressure on finding who is perpetrating these crimes (a possible serial killer), bring home the missing, and find justice for all the victims.  I showed up because I want to *do* something, and get involved.

While I can appreciate how prayer, and the church, can be a great tool in bringing the community together in situations like this, what was disappointing is that they had nothing to offer BUT prayer.  At the end, no discussions were had about ways to take our shared interest, and any inspirations, and turn them in to action.  We were told to just go home and continue to pray...and I'm sorry, but prayer is NOT enough.  Prayer must be turned in to action!  People showed up there, regardless of their spiritual beliefs or affiliations looking for leadership, be it from God, or from someone to lead the community to rise up and demand that justice be served.  An opportunity was missed to take the energy of that shared moment and turn it in to something bigger. 

I'm hoping that if there are any future prayer vigils, a greater effort is made to create a plan of actual action at the end.  Kalisha and Cherise (still missing), along with the families of Demesha, Renisha, Vernitha and Natasha all need our prayers, but they also need our action.

-Megan Morgenson 
Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 1/9/2012 9:30 AM | View Comments (6) | Add Comment

Detroit area murders not because of Backpage

Over the past month, 4 women have been murdered in Detroit, MI and another two have gone missing. 

Kalisha Madden went missing Nov. 28 after her shift ended at 3a at the Vegas Strip Club on Michigan Ave.  She was seen leaving with 3 males in a black car or truck.

Cherice Gordon, who knew Kalisha and had even danced with her at clubs and private parties, went missing Nov. 30.  Her mother said she got a phone call and left, and she has not been heard from since.

On Dec. 17, cousins Demesha Hunt and Renisha Landers went to a party at the Blackberry on Grand River.  They were reported missing when they did not return home by the next day.  Their bodies were found on Dec. 19 in the trunk of an abandoned car.

At 1a Christmas Day, Vernithea McCrary and another unidentified woman were found in the trunk of a burning car in another east Detroit neighborhood.

It is unknown at this time if the cases of the missing women are related to the recent murders, but the possibility certainly seems too unlikely of a coincidence.

Police say that 3 out of the 4 murder victims had profiles on Backpage.  Backpage has responded by reaching out to authorities to aid in the investigation, including helping to identify a number of other websites that the women might have had profiles on.

There is a sense of déjà vu in the rush from the media and other online sources to vilify Backpage as some sort of co-conspirator in the deaths of these women.  The "Craigslist Killer" was the tipping point in helping shut down Craigslist erotic services section, and this recent string of events in Detroit will not doubt fuel the already strong campaign that is being waged to shut down the similar adult services section of Backpage.  What these critics ignore is that the true co-conspirator is not these advertising venues, but rather our society as a whole due to how devalued sex workers are, in part due to the laws that isolate us from the protections most others take for granted. 

What makes escorts, prostitutes and other sex workers a target for violence is not how or where we advertise, but the fact that violent predators know that those crimes against sex workers are often under reported, and if they are, they are not investigated or prosecuted as diligently.  Those that work in the sex trade are often viewed as criminals that some how signed on for such violence to be perpetrated against us.  Until we have equal rights and equal protection, the predators will continue to seek us out in any and every advertising venue available.  Backpage is not to blame, nor are any of the dozens of other advertising venues that the victims are said to possibly have had escort profiles on.  It is the violent predators that are to blame, and the focus needs to stay on the mark there, including why sex workers are often the target of their crimes. 
Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 12/29/2011 8:54 PM | Add Comment

Resources for Sex Workers: Self-care and Avoiding Burnout

Managing Stress; Balancing Energy: The Constant Draws Upon the Sex Worker 

Sex work, like any other intimate labor, or other professions that require an intense and personal connection with your work subjects, carries with it a higher rate of burnout than with some other jobs in the world.  When one works closely with others, in particular in ways that require both physical as well as emotional care, the caretaker can become depleted or “burned out” by the demands of the job.   When this happens, it does not necessarily mean the worker is not capable of the job, or that the work is somehow toxic or harmful because of the challenges involved.  What it does mean is that the worker is having a hard time finding balance, and perhaps boundaries in their work, and that if they are to continue in a way that feels consistent and rewarding, more attention must be given to maintaining a careful balance in these personalized service fields.  Other professions that demand similar challenges are fields like nursing, elderly care or day care, teachers, therapists, social workers and even law enforcement. 


Another key factor to burnout in our industry is the constant low-level stress that sex workers often face. We always have to be on alert against possible violence or arrest (especially if we are working in direct service fields, or independently), as well as also possibly having to hide what we do for a living from loved ones and family.  Again, this additional stress does not mean the work is inherently bad, as not all workers experience these conditions in the same way, nor do all workers have identical factors at play (i.e.: some workers may be open with friends and family, also known as being "out" to them).  These particular stresses mean that the work has specific challenges and considerations that need to be addressed for those working as sex workers.  This can be considered no different than what an undercover police officer, fire fighter, emergency room worker or other workers in high risk or high stress professions may go through.  While those within the same profession may not react the same to the challenges of their job due to environmental and other factors, it makes sense that the higher the stress one experiences, the more likely a person is to deal with burnout, including subsequent issues like health problems, addiction or personal relationship problems at homeYou can see a list of the effects of stress at the National Institute of Stress website, as well as other information about workplace stress.    Sex work is certainly not the only industry to have these possible hurdles arise due to stress, and care should always be given to look beyond the stigma that sex work is “damaging” to those working in the field.  The root causes of stress and burnout are shared by other, more socially acceptable professions, and are not at all unique to sex work.


Support Systems

For a long time, sex workers have worked in relative isolation, with limited places to turn to for advice or support when they started to feel taxed or drained by their work.  When I started working almost 20 years ago, there were very few books about sex work beyond titillating memoirs, and no real resources to explain how to work in the industry.  While I was lucky enough to start in the protected environment of a brothel-type establishment, and my friendly demeanor allowed me good working relationships with my peers, the underlying rivalry created in directly vying for customers and money prevented workers from offering assistance in how to work smarter or better, let alone offer any guidance about dealing with self-esteem issues that perpetually ebbed and flowed for me. For anyone that has worked side by side with other workers where customers make the choice right in front of you about who they are going to spend their money with, you are probably familiar with what it feels like when you have to deal with direct competition, sometimes at cut-throat levels.  The internet has shifted some of that now, as currently there are message boards, blogs and other ways to network and educate ourselves, market our respective businesses, and also find support.

Support is still not something that is as accessible as it is to other professions though.  For instance, there is no section at Borders devoted to sex work business management and development, or self care in the sex industry. But it is getting better as other sex workers create resources to fill the void and provide manuals about exactly how to stay safer, work efficiently, and employ standard marketing techniques used by most other mainstream businesses.  Audacia Ray created The Red Umbrella Diaries as a way for sex workers to have an outlet to speak for themselves about their work experiences, but it goes beyond being  a mere resource for authentic and diverse stories of sex work by also providing an avenue for sex workers to connect and realize we are not alone in our experiences either.  The Desiree Alliance conferences provide an opportunity for networking, skill building, and empowerment that incorporates a variety of sex worker backgrounds and perspectives.   Also, my long time friend and colleague Crysta Heart and I founded the OPC (Original Pussy Cartel): an escort and erotic service provider education and empowerment group that is run completely by its members. (Note: we do not have any public websites for discretionary reasons, but you can contact o.p.cartel[at]gmail[dot]com for more information.  Be sure to include your work experience information with your inquiry.). 


While the mentioned peer outlets provide frank, straightforward information about the industry, the criminalized status of some areas of sex work still makes it difficult to give advice without fear of legal repercussions for all involved.  Even beyond the short-sighted competitive nature of some sex workers, there will always be limits to information sharing as long as our work is stigmatized and/or criminalized.  We must guard what we share, and with whom, in order to protect ourselves.  This makes it difficult for someone that is completely new to find a mentor that will be totally candid with them about the ins and outs of our work.


Support systems are key to helping find balance in our profession, but make sure they are truly *supportive*.  Family and friends can be either great forms of strength, or something we cling to, hoping that some day they will magically shift into the unconditional love and support we fantasize about.  If your family and friends judge you, judge the work, or are in general just not very positive and supportive, consider limiting how much you share with them and how much you rely on them for support.  It doesn’t mean you have to stop loving them…just be realistic about what their capabilities are, and understand that sometimes it takes time for people that care about you to understand why you might be making the choices you sometimes do.  They also may have their own underlying hang-ups that come in to play also when discussing sex, or working in the commercial sex industry.  Keep in mind that sometimes telling a loved one can actually be a burden to them, and create undue stress in their lives due to excessive worry, or if they have a job that is in conflict (like a government or law enforcement job) or could otherwise be effected by your activities.  It may not always be the right choice to come out to those people, and other sources of support must sometimes be sought.


Network with your peers, develop work friendships, but by mindful of boundaries.  Sex workers have a tendency to fall quickly and deeply into friendships with other sex workers due to our shared experiences and need for understanding and acceptance of our work.  We can share our most difficult moments with other sex workers, as even if they have not had the exact same thing come up yet, they are almost always an empathetic and non-judgmental place to vent.  Cultivating friendships among colleagues is great, just be mindful that if you are craving emotional support, you are sometimes not as discerning about sharing too much, too soon.  Jealousy and competitiveness can turn workers on each other quickly, and someone that you confided in with personal details and secrets may be in a position to potentially use those things against you later.   Developing solid friendships takes time.  Make sure you really get to know each other and assess how someone handles different situations or other relationships before you start giving them any of your more intimate details or secrets.  Consider how grounded or stable a potential confidante seems, and take the time to measure how consistent they are in how they conduct themselves.  Start with public meetings for coffee or drinks, then work up to things like inviting them in to your home or introducing them to significant others or family (if that is what you choose to do). 


If someone pushes to get too involved in your life too quick, don’t be afraid to assert your boundaries and tell them you are mindful about how you develop new relationships, and prefer to take things slow.  A fellow sex worker can be the best friend you ever have, or they could be the most hurtful friendship gone wrong.  Keep in mind that not all friendships are meant to deepen and become fully entrenched either, and some friendships are better left at work, not invited fully in to your life.  Keeping boundaries on work friendships will NOT detract from meaningful and rich connections with those colleagues. 

Also remember that it is ok for each of our work experiences to be different, even if we are working side by side, or offer similar services.  You may be in sex work because you enjoy the lifestyle and adventure, and do it by choice, but someone else working at your club or agency might be there out of circumstance, and may not process things the same way.  And just because one thing works for one person a certain way does not mean the same method will (or won’t) work for you.  When a work colleague or friend extends advice, be sure to listen to your own instincts and inner voice beyond all else in every choice you make.  Not the voice that says, “I need to make my rent, so maybe this will help” either, but the one that says “Yeah, glad that worked for you, friend, but not sure that is how I want to do my business…”  Always honor your own sense of self, and your own individual needs and values above what others may try to dictate for you.  When you find someone that is willing to show you the ropes or offer advice, they sometimes can be a little too helpful, and may try to get too involved in telling you how they think you should be doing things.  Sometimes this is from a nurturing and protective instinct. Sometimes it is out of a need to control others.  Sometimes it is because they think they are an expert, and they probably are in their own life, but that doesn’t make them an expert of yours.  Or sometimes because they have a personal agenda you may not see.


And while friendships are, in my opinion, an essential part of avoiding burn out, they are not the only tool to have in the tool box.  Be sure to cultivate other strategies to use while you are taking the time to make new friends, or if you are on a time out with one of your main sources of support. Mini-vacations, self-pampering, mediation and exercise are all other ways to stay in touch with yourself, and replenish your spirit.  Also, remember that there are some things that we can only do for ourselves, so support and nurturing is not always going to be from an outside source, which can sometimes be inconsistent or outside of our control.  We have the power to create rituals and healing for ourselves too, without anyone even helping us.


Self examination, ritual and self care

If you work in sex work for any length of time, expect to have things come up that require periods of self reflection. How can we not examine ourselves when every aspect of what we do, from our bodies, skills and service, to our morals and values, is under a microscope?  When we work in such intimate ways with others, where our boundaries are challenged and butted up against every day, this provides an amazing opportunity for personal growth if one chooses to recognize and cultivate these opportunities.   But be warned: ill prepared, short-term thinking can leave a person vulnerable to deep-seated issues sneaking up them, and possibly becoming overwhelming.  One of the first places we will have to take a look at ourselves, and be honest about what we see, is when we experience burned out.  This can be hard, because it is not easy to admit we are not made of steel, and that we have frailties like anyone else.  Often times we are defending our profession to others, so it becomes a habit to put on a brave face, say everything is fine, and ignore the fact that no one, and no job, is perfect.  Hopefully when some of you read this and understand some of the outside factors that contribute to burn out, it will help you see that it’s ok to feel this way, and there are ways to work through it.  Expect to have past issues you hadn’t thought about in awhile get dredged up also, but new ones may crop up too. 


Personal relationships can become strained, and there may be times that these contemplations make it difficult to engage with your partner.  Burn out and its surrounding issues may affect your work, and your ability to engage with your customers the way you are used to.  You may need to take time off in order to allow the space for processing without having the work confuse things further or distract you from your feelings.  There may even be things that arise that shift your ability to work as a sex worker from that point forward (and that’s ok!).  People come and go out of sex work for a variety of reasons, and if the work is affecting you in ways that you are not able to cope with, do what you can to get out and stay out.  It does not mean you are weak or incapable of the job…it means that it’s not the job for you, or at least, not the job for you right now in your life.  That being said, I realize that not all have that luxury of choice, and that options may be limited or virtually non-existent, for alternate employment.  For you, please see my blog piece on Finding Empowerment in the Circumstance, and continue to do all you can to find support and take care of yourself until other options come your way. 

Talk therapy might be helpful for some navigating particularly deep-seated issues, but be sure your therapist is sex worker “friendly” (not just tolerant), preferably having a history of providing therapy for other sex workers, so they have some frame of reference to the lifestyle.  This is again where asking for professional references from peers can come in handy, but also understand that finding the right therapist is as much about chemistry as anything else.  Don’t be afraid to say someone isn’t the right fit for you, and look for another until you find the right one.  You will know it when you find them, and without the right therapist, you will find it harder to move forward, grow and heal as needed.

Informal support groups can also be found among peers as well.  Some sex workers will create worker-only events, outside of the work place and away from clients, to gather and share information or simply enjoy other activities that don’t involve sex work.  This is a great opportunity to talk candidly about work, but also to find emotional support from others that may share some of the same issues or challenges you have come up.  This can be anything from child custody or divorce woes, to legal problems, or how you handle work with family or significant others.  While these outlets are not a substitute for seeking out professional help, they can be a band-aid until you find the right therapist.  If you are really in a difficult place, contact advocacy groups for sex workers that might be able to help you find the outlet of someone to talk to.  The Sex Workers Project continues to expand a listing of resources for workers across the U.S., as does SWOP.


Be aware that if one has a habit of self-medicating through drugs or alcohol, sex work provides many possible triggers to escalate that behavior.  If what was once “recreation” becomes the focus of your existence, all your other goals may become overshadowed.  Excessive drug or alcohol use can also leave you vulnerable to being taken advantage of (i.e.: boundaries pushed, activities you normally wouldn’t do, money shorted or stolen) or sloppy and perhaps not as desirable to some clients.  And if you “need” drugs or alcohol in order to work, you should consider what that means to you or about you, that you can’t do the work being fully present.  If you have to numb out in order to do the job, you could find yourself quickly on a merry-go-round of using to work, and working to use.  Let’s face it; sex work can be a bit of a rock-n-roll lifestyle sometimes, and the fast pace can sweep you away before you know it.  Being mindful of where you want your boundaries to be upfront will help you later if you get caught up in the party lifestyle.  


Non-traditional therapy, as well as other self care rituals, can also be effective in helping you move your energy, and reground yourself.  Tantric or reiki healing sessions can help shift energy and get it flowing again in a positive direction.  Body work like massage or yoga has benefits both physically and mentally.  Finding a church that you feel comfortable with, or developing a meditation practice can help center you spiritually.  Journaling or writing on a blog can help purge pent up emotions and help you move forward (be mindful of how many personal details you want to share through a blog that is shared publicly).  Even just going to the gym will help work off some of the stress we carry around.  Copy and hang this poster by Annie Sprinkle and Norma Jean Almadovar to remind you of ways to handle burnout.


Even when things are good, you still need to consider what steps you need to take to keep them that way.  Implement regular breaks, pampering/spa sessions, vacations, walks in the park, or anything that will help remind you of a world outside of sex work.  Cultivate a hobby or find a volunteer position to develop perspective and remind yourself that you are more than what you do for a living.  Have a plan before you spiral into a funk for possible strategies to pull yourself out of it.  I cannot stress this enough!  Think about what has worked for you in the past, and make a list of these, as well as new ideas, to pull out in a time of crisis.  I guarantee you will not be of the mindset to problem solve when you can’t figure out how to get off the couch or out of bed, so having this list made up in advance will help you move forward, when you are ready.  And just FYI-it’s really ok to just lay in bed for a weekend sometimes also…just don’t let it turn in to a week, or longer…  The longer you stay immobile, the harder it is to pull yourself out of it.


Remember that ours is not the only profession out there with challenges to navigate.  No matter what type of sex work, no matter what gender, and no matter what circumstance or choice brought us to the field, we are on the front lines of the most intimate and complex areas of the human condition.  We provide services that not everyone is capable of, and use skills beyond just our bodies to do our jobs well.  Some people are not cut out for the work, for sure, but just because one is going through a rough patch does not mean one has to quit their job tomorrow or risk being permanently damaged either.  Save for a rainy day so you can take breaks as needed, or better yet, plan for a hiatus whether you need it or not.  Work regular “down time” into your schedule. Have a vacation fund stashed away, and use that time to do the things on your bucket list.  The list can include modest stay-cation ideas, as well as ideas for more exotic locales.  The more pro-active you are in your self-care, the less burn out you will run up against.


Self care and Business Administration: Reduce Stress by Setting Yourself Up for Success

Most tips and advice on burn out are centered on the emotional demands of our job, but what about just the day to day hassles that also contribute to low energy, lack of patience, and difficulty working?  If you are working for yourself, keeping your motivation going is a struggle all independent business owners and independent contractors have.  Besides your immediate day to day operations, you always have to be thinking about the big picture and how to keep jobs coming in.  Keeping your energies balanced and your morale high helps you focus your attention where needed in both short and long term ways.


An essential part of navigating the challenges of sex work starts with setting up your business to work with your own personal flow and style.  Trying to be something you are not for the sake of making money is the fastest way to burn yourself out, as well as possibly a way to create a negative self image.  No one really wants to feel like they are selling their soul to make a buck, be it in the sex industry or anywhere else.  For some office workers, getting coffee for their boss everyday might make them feel like they are not fully valued or appreciated, and could compound other issues that arise down the road.  Some people have issues with any “service” type job, be it sex work, working as a waiter or waitress, or as a housekeeper.  Make sure that you really think about where your boundaries are, what types of activities you do and don’t enjoy, then set up your business and services offered using as much of what you enjoy as possible.  Think about what type of clients you want to attract, what your financial goals are, and how many hours a week you want to work, and then structure your business to fit within these confines.   Write these things down, and keep them someplace safe where you can periodically take them out and look at them to keep yourself on track and focused on your goals and clear on where your lines are drawn.


Staying focused is the number one key to being successful at anything, and having something concrete to refer back to helps keep the original plan from getting muddied.  If you are in sex work for short term goals like paying off debt, buying a new car or house, or starting another business, make sure you have a schedule of weekly and monthly goals for income to keep you on task.  Outlining all of these things will give you a frame of reference that will allow you to fine tune your plan later.


Since sex work will no doubt expose you to an endless line of options for different ways to make money, always think critically about each additional avenue you might pursue, or change you make in the services you offer.  Making the move from exotic dancer to fetish model or porn actor carries with it choices that cannot be taken back, namely - having your image published for the world to see.  You cannot un-ring that bell, and must be prepared for your family, friends, and significant other to know what you do (if they don’t already).  If you have children, or hope to have children, you have to think about when/how you will tell them, and the possibility that they may find out through other sources first, and how that will affect them.  Someone looking to expand into working as a professional Dominatrix needs to make sure they take the time needed to learn important safety guidelines and be properly trained by a mentor before seeing clients for anything beyond light role play scenes.  Weigh your own preferences and comfort levels, your long term goals in those decisions, and talk to others that are experienced in the areas you are looking to move it to with any questions or concerns you might have.  If you are not thinking about long-term effects, these decisions can create stress and influence your emotional well being, contributing to burn out.


So maybe you know what type of work you want to do, but what about the administrative tasks required of any business?  Yes, there is more to sex work then just showing up at work and getting paid.  You work for yourself now (even if you are working for a club, agency, studio, etc.) and there are certain tasks you will have to do outside of the actual “job” to maintain your business and stay focused on your goals.  If you have your head in the sand and do not address these things, eventually you will wonder why you are still doing the work a year after you originally planned, taking calls with clients you don’t really like, and maybe working more then you want, leaving less time to focus on school or spending time with your kids.  All of this will burn you out and make the work turn on you, so make sure you consider budgeting time for admin duties, or pay professionals to help you (booking agents, accountants, etc.) if you don’t have time to handle certain duties yourself.  Many sex workers already have a high amount of prep and maintenance time they spend every week to keep in shape and ready for work, and we cannot do it all.  One only needs to read the E-Myth Revisited to understand how one person can never be the entrepreneur, the manager, AND the labor for any business, all on one’s own…sex work included!  Yes, it can be tricky finding “sex work friendly” accountants and such, so ask your colleagues who they use to find resources that are already broken in and won’t be shocked about how you make money.  Also consider all the tech and software options out there available to help organize your finances and schedule.  The less time you spend on admin duties, the more time you will have for taking care of yourself, and enjoying all the things you enjoy outside of sex work that keep you from getting lost in it.  If you allow all the tasks involved to take over your life, it becomes hard to see yourself as anything BUT the sex worker self, and we are all much more than that.


In closing, remember that life is malleable and ever changing.  We have the ability to exert influence over what direction most of it goes, even when influences are beyond our control, and the greatest success in life is found when we plan ahead and visualize the outcome we want.  There will always be bumps in the road, but anticipating potential problems and listing possible courses of action will help you cope better, or even avoid some of the pitfalls.  Sex work is a complex and challenging industry, but with the right tools, you can find success and make it what you need it to be for yourself.   Understanding the possible challenges upfront, building a good support system, creating pro-active strategies for avoiding stress, and having a plan for how to take care of yourself when you don’t feel like you have anything left to give will help you stay on track, realize your goals, and make your experiences in sex work positive ones.

Written by Megan Morgenson
Contributing editor, Lucidity Lambert

Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 9/6/2011 10:42 AM | Add Comment

Men that hire sex workers: are you ok with being portrayed like this?

I have a long list of comments about this article, but I do not have
time to write them out now. (stay tuned for that...)

In the meantime, it's important that consumers of sex work understand
how they are being portrayed, and how this will continue to shape laws
and policy making in the era of human trafficking as a hot button
issue. If you do not agree with the portrayal Farley and other
abolitionists/end-demand folks put out there, it's important that you
find ways to voice YOUR experience and thoughts about why you hire or
procure sexual entertainment, how you feel that has effected your life,
and how you feel about the people doing the work.

My follow up will include the *major* problem of only identifying men as
consumers, but also only identifying cis women as workers (trans women
have different issues re: why violence is perpetrated against them as
sex workers), and the obvious lack of objectiveness in the research and
article...but in the meantime, here is one outlet for you to share your
own views:

Daniele Anastasion, a producer for National Geographic Television, is
looking for clients of sex workers (all genders) to interview about
their experiences in seeking out direct erotic services. From what she
told me, they are looking to put together an objective, anthropological
look at prostitution (this is not a full spectrum documentary about all
sex work-only focused on prostitution), representing both sides of the
debate. I am planning on interviewing with Daniele for this project
myself, but for those considering participating, please be sure to ask
whatever questions you need in order to feel comfortable with the scope
of the project and how your information might be used.

You can contact Daniele at through this email:

Please retweet and pass among your respective networks and appropriate
mailing lists.

Megan Morgenson

*Direct #:* 866-843-6873

/*I should have a voice, and a choice
Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 9/1/2011 3:08 PM | Add Comment

An open letter to Ashton Kutcher @aplusk

Dear Ashton

Let me begin by saying, I applaud your efforts to end sex trafficking in the US and abroad.  I believe you got involved for the same reasons many get involved, as it is hard to not want to protect the innocent and defenseless of the world.  It is admirable for you to step up and want to do something, and I believe your intentions to be good.  Kudos to you and Demi.

I have been a sex worker for almost 20 years.  I started of my own volition at 21 out of financial necessity, but returned to sex work out of choice.  Simply put, it has allowed me to live a comfortable life, while still having time to enjoy the things I love.  I have worked in various areas of sex work (not all of which involved direct contact with patrons by the way…), but also have worked in other jobs outside commercial sex work.  For half of my career I worked for agencies or other people, but in 2001 the internet allowed me to start working independently and autonomously.  God bless the internet! 

While working for others, I was never forced to do anything I didn’t want to do, and all in all, had no complaints about the people I worked for, I just had the ambition and skills to take my business to the next level.  I felt I could benefit in multiple ways, including financially of course.  Little did I realize at the time how much effort one must apply in order to have any long term success working on one’s own as a sex worker.  Little did I know about how much business management was truly required, and how it was like having 2 full time jobs to keep the phones ringing and the emails coming in.  While I have been able to handle my own business and find rewards in that, not everyone has the time or skills necessary to handle all of those tasks.  Support staffs, such as booking agents, managers, drivers and security are just a few options for how workers manage their business and safety, but often these positions are unfairly categorized and criminalized as “pimping” because they are “profiting” (aka: getting paid) to provide these services.  This is just one example of how the "experts" you have relied on for your information have actually contributed to harming sex workers, as often times the anti-trafficking policies being introduced have little understanding of how to distinguish between an actual trafficker and the support staff that is providing a legitimate and essential services to the worker.  Blindly following those organizations without gaining a greater understanding of our industry's needs will also have you contributing to workers options being limited, and therefore putting us at risk to not only be trafficked, but also robbed, abused and in some instances murdered.  I know you couldn't possibly intend to put others in harms way in your quest to help true victims, and I hope you consider all the possible outcomes of the platforms you choose to support as you move forward in your activism.   

My profession has been one of the most challenging AND rewarding experiences of my life.  It has empowered me; it has enriched my life and broadened my understanding of the human condition, and I am not alone.  I would not dream of making guesstimations about the ratio of workers that operate from the non-trafficked perspective (choice or circumstance) just because that is the majority of what I have come in to contact with over the last 18+ years.  I would not dream of discounting sexual exploitation and trafficking within my industry just because I know hundreds of workers that have relayed stories of vastly different, and overall positive, experiences.  In my world, the majority of workers are not being coerced.  But that is just in my world, and perspective is always subjective, based on what we choose to surround ourselves with.   If you wish to truly understand the complexities of our industry, you need to talk to more people than just those that have been victimized.  If you wish to have some true credibility about the issues of sex trafficking, you need to respect the perspectives of those of us that are not trafficked.  If you want to truly do all you can to stop sex trafficking in the US, you will include input from sex workers in those efforts.


Megan Morgenson 
Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 7/7/2011 9:10 AM | View Comments (1) | Add Comment

The Future of the Pro-Choice Movement

With the recent House vote to defund Planned Parenthood due to federal money "indirectly" funding abortions, pro-choice reproductive care is once again front and center in the spotlight. 

As I read one of many articles, blogs, tweets and the like today on the subject, I came across this piece by the Harvard Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review that cited a Washington Post op-ed piece by Francis Kissling, former President of Catholics for Choice and visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.  It reminded me of an interview I listened to with her from a show on American Public Radio on this past anniversary of of Roe v. Wade.  Of the many things she touched on in that interview, one of the things that stuck out for me was her call for a different approach on how to get the pro-choice movement unstuck (if you will...), sentiments echoed in the articles linked above.  You can listen to the full interview from the public radio broadcast here .

After active participation in the pro-choice movement for close to 20 years, I have come to enjoy and understand how to have calm, rational debates, and avoid over emotional ones, no matter what the topic.  Good listening and reason is more difficult to come by in an elevated emotional state.  This is but one of the many gifts I've been given working in the abortion field, and one I have applied in all areas of my activism.

But given the high emotional impact on opposing sides of the debate, I often find it difficult to communicate about abortion in many everyday settings.  Maybe I'm burnout on the same circle of dialogue, but part of it is that I'm also not interested in trying to change anyone's mind about the issue necessarily...I believe what I believe, and live my life accordingly.  I respect others' rights to believe differently, and feel it's as pointless for me to try and change their thinking as it is for them to try and change mine.  

But the rub is, we have to talk about abortion in order to defend the continued erosion of reproductive rights.  If it was simple morality judgments at play, I would care less about those conversations happening.  Not that I would be apathetic to the impact judgment has on the overall stigma we are constantly battling, but if public policy and rights were not at issue, it would not rate as important for me.  The antiquated approach and talking points do little to energize and shift the movement with the times, a shift the anti-choice movement has had no problem making.  I would like to develop new ways of discussing abortion, one's where we can get more people to engage in, and one's where we can all hear each others points.

I believe that most in our society support abortion rights to some degree, and I think (as Ms. Kissling does) that most viewpoints are more moderate then what those of us that work for abortion rights ideally strive for.  I am still contemplating some of Ms. Kissling's points, but I agree that the conversation must change if we are to try and regain some of our losses.  For one, issues of spirituality and choosing abortion, to me, are a huge untapped conversation that leads to much of the vilification that hurts our movement.  

How will we change the dialogue?  How will we find a way to appeal to the moderates without conceding too much?  I'm not sure, but here's to hoping that conversations like the above will help stimulate that much needed change.  
Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 2/21/2011 5:00 PM | Add Comment

Effective strategies for rescuing children from sex trafficking: it's not incarceration

A news story out of Texas popped up in my Google alerts today.  In it discussed issues surrounding the difficulty in finding housing for children rescued from trafficking, and the frustration expresses by some law enforcement for not being able to arrest children under 14 on solicitation or prostitution charges (as they feel  that is sometimes the only option for intervention).  But what is wrong with this picture if the only way to intervene in an at-risk child's life is to subject them to arrest, detention and the court system?  How effective is that to reaching kids that have already been through hardships and horrors, and has already probably been let down by "the system" in the first place? 

Kids are rarely plucked out of loving, nurturing environments and forced into the sex trade.  They are the vulnerable, at-risk youth that fall through the cracks of the inadequate child welfare system on our country.  If we are to make inroads on protecting our children from becoming vulnerable to sexual exploitation, it must start there.  If we can reduce the number of children that need assistance in the first place, by providing them the protection they deserve, we will not have to worry as much about scraping up housing and rehabilitation services for them later.

In the meantime, let's not subject them to further trauma by making them feel like criminals, even if the intention might be to separate them from traffickers or an unhealthy home environment.  Again, it is a sad state of affairs that we do not have a better developed child welfare system to address the needs of these children as they become identified, and more efforts need to be made to provide immediate care in a safe environment, not further exposure to criminals or a system they may not trust in the first place.  The move made by states like Texas, New York, and Illinois to enact Safe Harbor laws that recognize trafficked children as the victims they are, not criminals, is certainly a step in the right direction on the road to recovery.

While rescue and restore programs are a necessary part of addressing the issue of child trafficking, when are we going to start addressing one of the root causes for these children becoming victims in the first place?  We must improve the child welfare system in our country, including (but not limited to) expansion and better oversight of our foster care program, and safe houses for runaway youth.  Without addressing these issues, we will continue to just be spinning our wheels regarding child trafficking.     
Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 2/21/2011 8:18 AM | Add Comment

OH S.B. 235: Support Anti-trafficking, but beware of broad scope of application

Senators Fedor and Grendell are to be applauded for their sponsorship of legislation that will (finally) increase the penalties for sex trafficking to be a stand alone charge as a class 2 felony in Ohio.  While the penalties are still not strong enough (in my opinion) for what is deserved for those that kidnap, coerce, threaten and intimidate, or for the damage inflicted upon victims of sex trafficking, it is at least a step in the right direction.

I do have one concern though, and it is a concern that seems to be shared by Sen. Seitz, who has offered amended language to the bill during it's time in committee.  Not all individuals hiring sex workers are traffickers, and blanket judgment and penalties should not be extended to include those customers involved unless the prosecution finds evidence to deem it as the same.  The following is Sen. Seitz proposed amendment to the language:

Seitz Proposed Amendments: Sec 2905.32

(A.) No person shall knowingly recruit, lure, entice, isolate, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, or maintain, or knowingly attempt to recruit, lure, entice, isolate, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, or maintain another person knowing that the person will be subjected to involuntary servitude or be compelled to engage in sexual activity for hire, engage in a performance that is obscene, sexually oriented, or nudity oriented, or be a model or participant in the production of material that is obscene, or nudity oriented

(B.) No person shall be convicted of trafficking in persons solely for using the services of a person who is a victim of trafficking in persons without evidence of some additional involvement in the crime.

(C.) For a prosecution under this section, the element "compelled" does not require that the compulsion be openly displayed or physically exerted, but may be accomplished by psychological means. The element "compelled" has been established if the state proves that fear, duress, or intimidation employed by the defendant or his accomplices would have caused a reasonable victim's will to be overcome

(D.) The enactment of section 2905.32 does not limit or preclude, and shall not be construed as limiting or precluding, any prosecution for a violation of any other section of the Revised Code for the same conduct alleged to have been committed by the offender in the violation of section 2905.32. However, if the offender is found guilty of a violation of section 2905.32 and any other offense based on the same conduct involving the same victim which was the basis for the conviction under section 2905.32, the two offenses are deemed to be allied of similar import under section 2941.25

(E.) Whoever violates this section is guilty of trafficking in persons, a felony of the second degree.

Yes, there certainly ARE clients that are complicit, or even seek out minors and other being exploited because THEY ARE PREDATORS...predators that should be punished right along side of the traffickers controlling the victims.  But that is not where MOST consumers of sex workers are coming from, and they should not be subjected to being lumped in with those that are truly some of the most despicable creatures on earth.

In my 18+ years of sex work, the most pervasive and consistent undercurrent of what I've come in contact with from clients (some that have hired me, some that have only sought my advice...) is that they crave more then even just a consenting partner, but a willing that enjoys their own sexuality, and enjoys sharing that with others.  Why? Because their partner at home no longer is interested in sex (for a variety of reasons...), and/or because a willing partner makes the client feel like they are desirable, therefore giving them an ego boost.  The furthest thing from most of the minds of those hiring sex workers is subjugating another person to an non-consensual act.  Most would loose any sense of excitement or arousal immediately at the hint of actual force or coercion.  I know this is true because I've heard direct accounts of concern from some of these clients over what to do when they have suspected someone was in trouble.  Is it fair to categorize these individuals in the same manner as the person(s) involved in the actual intimidation, control, and sale of non-consenting males, females or transgender?  I think not, and hope Ohio residents consider supporting Sen. Seitz's reasonable request for rewording to this important bill.

Below are contacts to help voice your opinion.  Thank you for taking the time to read this note!

Senator Seitz

Phone: (614) 466-8068


Senator Fedor

Phone: (614) 466-5204 


Senator Grendell

Phone: (614) 644-7718 


The bill is currently in the OH Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.  Members can be seen here:

Other important contacts re: this legislation:

Senator Bill Harris                        614-466-8086

Senator Tom Niehaus                   614-466-8082

Representative Armond Budish     614-466-5441

Representative Matt Szollosi         614-466-1418

Representative Bill Batchelder       614-466-8140

Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 11/21/2010 3:45 PM | View Comments (3)

Finding empowerment in the circumstance

This morning, I came across this post from an anonymous escort describing her despair in doing a job out of circumstance, and in a particular client seeing her lack of true enthusiasm, disrupting his fantasy and leading to a bad review.  Her words were candid, touching on her inability to warm to certain clients touch, or covering her lack of interest with smiles and dirty talk, and I think her story conveys an often under reported experience of the gray area of sex work: the worker that is there out of circumstance.  These workers may not have many, or any, other options available to them, so the "choice" of sex work is not truly a choice of lifestyle, but perhaps one of being a means to an end.  Their story is one that is where lines get blurry...about objectification, about how the perspective shapes the business decisions in sex work, and about what effects the experience may or may not have after they move on.  For those that have never worked in sex work-you will never really understand any of have to really live it to understand it, because there are so many levels to the conflict of doing sex work by circumstance.  But in those conflicts is a type of introspection you can't get anywhere else.  One has the possibility presented in these questions to shift to a place of personal growth and empowerment, and to find a greater awareness of the self in navigating personal boundaries and comfort levels...


One can crash and burn.  Maybe digging themselves out of that conflict later, maybe not...  One thing that  is never helpful to someone in this position is to judge them, or tell them they need to find another job if they are not happy.  It's not helpful to make someone feel like they aren't capable of doing the only job available to them or the only one that offers them the money or schedule that works in their life at that moment.  If you ever meet someone that is conflicted, be kind, be understanding, and respect their choices.  This does not mean you can't offer conversation about other options, but listen to what they are saying to you about why they choose sex work, and don't assume that because YOU might not be able to push through the conflict that they don't have the ability to find that path in their own way. 

I offered what I felt was appropriate advice for what she shared, and I am copying some of that response here in an effort to catalog, or perhaps further, the conversation about the gray areas of sex work, and in finding ways to support workers struggling to do what they need to do without judgment upon them or the industry.  Sex work is challenging work for even those of us that choose it as a lifestyle, but that is also part of the reward.   

May we all find what we need in life, and respect our individual paths in how we find those things.

I think when one is operating out of necessity, always looking for when that exit door is finally going to present itself, it's difficult to think about your business in long term strategies.  What is important is the immediate, and usually short sighted.  You may have specific goals, so you may have tunnel vision there keeping you from seeing the big picture...  You might be able to see the long term consequences of bad reviews, but do you see the long term consequences of how you operate your business today, and on a day to day basis?  Here are some things I've learned about what creates success and longevity in escorting.  These are things that have worked for me, but that does not mean they will work for everyone.  Take what seems to speak to you as truth, and leave what doesn't. <img src=

1.) The happier you are providing, the more money flows in your direction.  The opposite is also true...  Abundance flows to those that figure out how to be happy in life, however you manage to convince yourself of that.  When one gets funky or depressed, it's like the universe knows it and stops sending business your way.  You have to find a way to stay as much on the right side of this universal law of attraction to keep money and business flowing your way.  You cannot fake it to the universe with a smile and forced  have to figure  out how to recognize and honor your own boundaries, and possibly expand them...but only at your own pace and comfort level.

2.) There are so many possible options of ways to market yourself, you should be able to cater your services to be about what YOU enjoy and still make money at it.  You need to do some deep introspection here to figure out where your boundaries are, what your likes and dislikes are, what type of clients you want to see, and what type you want to avoid.  You have the power to set up your business in any way you want, but you have to know where these likes/dislikes are before you can implement them through your marketing and screening.  If you do not take your own comfort level/boundaries/needs into account, you are doing yourself a disservice and treating YOURSELF like nothing more then an can you expect anyone else to treat you different if you don't honor yourself first??  If you  have moral upbringing in the back of your head judging yourself about doing this job, tell it to fuck off...  You are  doing what you need to do for yourself, for whatever reason, and it takes STRENGTH and COURAGE to do something you would rather not for the sake of necessity or survival.  The rub is finding a way to make it  work for you and not take you down in the process...find that balance.

Now if you've got sexual issues to work through, this *can* be difficult to navigate.  Our job requires we give of ourselves in very intimate ways, and some of this can trigger old wounds or trauma.  But this is also a place where we can redefine and own our sexual experiences, and it is a place where one can find healing and empowerment also.  If you want to talk more about this, contact me through the info in my review profile.

3.) Learn to say "no" to some money.  Some money is just not worth it...whether the guy is an arrogant ass that is going to treat you like a cheap piece of meat, or it's someone that wants you to do things you really aren't in to...  The damage far outweighs the immediate and short lived rewards.  Trust that you will be better off, and that better money and experiences will come to you instead.  Repeat it like mantra when you are turning away those other clients, and keep saying it until you believe it.  

4.) Never underestimate the power of a good support system.  If you are living a double life, that is DRAINING.  Ever day you are lying and telling half truths, trying to keep in all woven together, and constantly fearing being found out.  This is one of the biggest contributors to burn out.  If you have friends that love you unconditionally that you can confide it, do it! (but only if you know you can trust them implicitly...)  Even if they don't understand everything you are doing, it helps to know that people love you unconditionally and are there for you.  Also cultivate relationships with other ladies in the business where you can vent and get feedback.  Be mindful that it's easy to want to jump in too deep too fast with other providers because we can be so starved for a place to be completely honest about what we are doing...  Close friendships take years to develop, and this should also be considered in escort friendships.  Networking is different then friendships, but both are a means of support.

5.) Set realistic goals, and celebrate them when you get them.  This helps you see you are moving in the direction you want, not just spinning your wheels.

6.) Find ways to stay balanced and grounded outside of sex work.  Whether it's taking a yoga or pottery class or just taking time to take a walk in the park, find something that is all about YOU and make time in your schedule to do it.  Since we are using our body in our work, be sure to find ways to nurture and replenish ourselves with self care, pampering, massage, etc.

I hope this helps  you in some way.  I realize that some of what I say may not fit your circumstances, but I am a firm believer that we can flip our perspective to make our experiences whatever we want.  While sex work may not be the job you dreamed of, there are benefits and rewards to our work that are not found in most other industries, including the ability to be complete autonomous about every decision we make.  You have the power to set up your experience the way you want it, and I think many sex workers feel they have to cater to the market instead of focusing on finding their niche and comfort zone.
Posted by Sex Workers For Choice at 11/19/2010 11:15 AM | Add Comment
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