04 November 2017

Vice - Sex Work Empowers Me as a Disabled Woman

Sex Work Empowers Me as a Disabled Woman

I never thought I'd be able to find a job that worked for me, but being an escort allows me to work around my health issues.

Hayley Jade

Oct 25 2017, 7:51am


Photo via Flickr

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

When people talk about sex work, the consensus from those who don't do it is often that sex workers must be desperate for money and that clients must be losers. Let me clear up both of those assumptions right now: One, I live on permanent disability benefits and never have to work again; and two, the clients I get are handsome business professionals who don't need help in the dating department. As an independent escort with the neurological disorder dyspraxia, I've always had trouble keeping a job because of my poor working memory, processing speed, and anxiety from sensory overload. Now, I get a high knowing that wealthy men will pay me more than I've ever made to take me out for steak dinners, have sex, and tell me how amazing I am.

I started sex work because it intrigued me, and I wanted some extra money. I joined a sugar daddy site about a year ago when a man invited me to his hotel room to play with my feet. My career in sex work slowly progressed from there. Having disability benefits to cover my rent and bills every month allows me to make sure I'm not doing anything I'm uncomfortable with. By working independently, I have all the power in terms of who I see, when I see them, how much I charge, and what I do when we're together. It's harder than working for an agency, but because of my job history, I know that I work better alone.

I'm good at this job because it's all about getting to know people and enjoying my sexuality, which are two of my favorite things. I've never felt degraded doing sex work—but you know what has been degrading? Every single time I lost my job because I wasn't "picking things up fast enough." Years of not being able to support myself shattered my confidence. Now, I'm regularly meeting new people, having new experiences, and learning new things. Sex work is both challenging and rewarding, and for the first time in my life, I'm doing a job that makes me feel empowered.

But as much as I enjoy it, it's still work. Clients pay me to be the best version of myself—not complain to them about how tired or sick I might be feeling. It doesn't matter if I spent all day in bed because of anxiety or would prefer to spend my night binge-watching Netflix as opposed to having a threesome—if I booked those hours, I'm headed to work like any other job. The best part is when I'm in an Uber headed home, exhausted from the past few hours, and my anxiety has disappeared because I was forced to get out and have some fun. If I need to take a break from work because I'm burned out, I'm fortunate enough to do it because I work for myself and just made a wad of cash that will cover me for a while.

Sex work has taught me that my time is valuable. While there's no price tag for someone's worth, I'm practiced in declaring what my companionship costs. I never thought I'd be able to find a job that worked for me—but being an escort allows me to work around my health issues and save up for when I'm not feeling well. Sex work has provided things for myself and my loved ones that I never thought would be possible while only surviving off of disability benefits—like Christmas gifts and traveling. And because I'm legally able to work while living on disability, I'm happy to report my earnings just like anyone else would.

Through sex work, I've been able to build up my self-esteem and reclaim my self-respect. While in the past I've had more experiences than I can count where men I've dated tried to push my boundaries, with clients, I've learned to be clear about what my boundaries are from the start—and pushing those boundaries costs money. He wants to do anal? That costs a lot more. He wants me to stay out longer? That costs even more. He wants to try to remove the condom when I'm not looking? Good thing I made sure he paid me up front, because I'm out of there and keeping his money.

Because of the nature of this business, checking references is crucial. If I'm going to be spending intimate time with someone, I need to know who they are. If someone isn't comfortable showing me their identity, I'm not comfortable making an effort to see them. Lots of clients want to be discreet, but that doesn't mean being anonymous. I've been lucky that all my clients so far have been incredible gentlemen, and many have become regulars. One of my favorites was a man in his 40s whose girlfriend couldn't have sex because of pain. She gave her blessing for him to see me—and instead of just wanting to get to it, he wanted to spend most of our time having good conversation. Another was a man in his 30s who was lonely and going through a breakup. Sure, he wanted sex—but he mostly wanted to take baths, cuddle, and watch Netflix. Not only does this line of work empower me, but it empowers clients to feel the connection they've been missing.

There's a stigma that johns are terrible men who victimize women—but all my clients have treated me with more respect and chivalry than most of the men I've dated. They've pulled out my chair, bought me flowers, cooked me dinner, and complimented me because they wanted me to feel comfortable and enjoy myself. They've never forced themselves onto me or made me feel like a sex object—in fact, most of them are shy at first and want to take their time with me. It's not about getting off quickly and leaving—otherwise, it would be cheaper to just masturbate alone.

Companionship is a completely normal need. Some clients are too busy to find the time to date, or their wives don't want to have sex anymore and seeing me helps them stay in their marriage. I'm not here to judge. In my own relationships, I often feel like a burden because of my disability. When I'm not escorting, I don't always show my best self, and too often I'm the woman who's worrying about my health instead of being someone's fantasy. Why don't I feel good? How can I feel better? Let me remind you again that I really want sugar, but it makes my anxiety worse. Sometimes, people don't want to fuck their long-term partner they're often a caretaker to and just want something uncomplicated. Different people can provide different things—which is why I'm happily polyamorous. In my dating life, I'm upfront about having a disability and doing sex work, and I'm lucky that my partners are supportive and excited for me.

There are so many types of sex work—porn, stripping, webcamming, financial domination, phone sex, etc.—and so many types of ways for women—and men, and trans people for that matter—to make money. I thought I was stupid because I couldn't hold onto a job, but now I make more money in a shorter amount of time than any of the jobs I was fired from, and I no longer feel that way. I'm able to work on my schedule and take breaks from working when I start to feel too anxious.

Of course, sex work isn't for everyone—but anyone can do it.

Follow Hayley Jade on Twitter.