After working in the sex trade for around seven years, I met a guy I sort of liked. He had a major problem with what I did for money. Getting to know him stopped as soon as it started. That’s when I knew: I no longer wanted to sell “the girlfriend experience,” as we called it in the industry, in other words, selling sex but acting as if the guy and I were on a “real” date. I wanted to be an actual girlfriend. I wanted to use the academic degrees I had worked hard to earn. For me, I realized, sex work and the “straight” life couldn’t mix. I wanted out—just like so many critics of the sex industry would advise.
That wasn’t so easy. I faced a constellation of challenges that made transitioning out of the trade incredibly difficult. It took me multiple tries to leave sex work for good. When I left in 2007 to become a public-school teacher in New York City, I ultimately lost my job after blogging about my past. Today, in honor of International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, I’m here to tell you about another kind of indignity sex workers face—not on the job, but when they leave the trade.
Whether sex workers love, hate, or feel ambivalent toward their job, most don’t intend to work in the industry forever. But the complicated reasons people enter the trade—including but not limited to economic factors—are the same complicated factors that make it difficult to leave.