People often ask me why I choose you. Some wonder if it is Stockholm Syndrome, others think that I must be manipulated by you, enticed by shiny diamonds and the allure of your glamour. People ask me why I stay, or, perhaps, why I let you stay. They tell me it is a toxic relationship, that I should kick you to the curb, find my own freedom. They don’t see that this is my choice – they don’t see what you have given me. That through the ups and downs, this is why I choose you. You aren’t my barrier to freedom. You aren’t even my key to freedom. You are my freedom.
The job has taught me about my own boundaries and how to assert them. What was once uncharted is now familiar terrain. And it is through experience (some more pleasant than others), that I can now speak my mind and stand my ground. I am not a victim, but a fully-fledged person capable of protecting myself and my space. I am no longer afraid to slap away a wandering hand on my thigh, to glare back at an ogling man, even to toss somebody out of my room. And you have seen me do all that. My voice may waver, but my boundaries no longer do.
Through you, I have gained community. Not through the clients I met, but most of all through the friendships with other sex workers and allies I have crossed paths with. The love and acceptance I have experienced, the reassurance that none of us are alone, and the knowledge that each of our individual stories make up a greater, diverse tapestry – these are what keeps me warm on long lonely nights coming home to my own empty bed after trading intimacy to yet another lonely soul.
No relationship is perfect, and neither is any job. So don’t get me wrong – as much as this isn’t a break-up note, it isn’t a lovey-dovey heart-eyed love letter either. I see you for all you are. The good, the bad, and yes, the ugly. And it gets ugly. Being in a relationship with you is not easy. I often question myself and you – I wonder if I’m good enough for you. Am I pretty enough? Am I special? What do I have to offer? Will you leave me for someone else? The self-doubt eats at me. I get self-conscious, criticise the spots on my body, wonder if every little flaw will make me less worthy of you.
Nobody sees the unglamourous side of the job, largely because most of us sex workers are skilled at maintaining an illusion that we tend to not speak of. People don’t see the labour that goes in, the emotional toll, the physical strain, the fears, the loneliness, the strength, and the courage. Still, you’ve shown me that, for as long as I desire, I will have a place with you. No doubt our relationship has evolved and will keep evolving, but through it all I know that there is a space I can carve out for myself here, with you.
Some days, it isn’t so much the job, as it is the things people say about it, that get to me. You’re not perfect, but you are a part of my life. That is what people don’t understand, and I suppose people seek to judge, to exclude, to punish what they cannot understand. Some people see me as a victim, manipulated and used by you, while others see me as a villain, using and corrupting you. The truth is, I am just like any other. We make the best choices we can with what we have, and we fight to survive and be happy.
I can’t say that I will be yours forever, and I know that neither can you promise you will be mine for good. This isn’t that sort of a love note. Perhaps I neither love nor hate you. We just are. I see you for everything that you are, and you see me for everything that I am. What does the future hold? I don’t know. But I have no regrets for being here today, and for that, I have you and me to thank.