“Men used to pay you for your time and company, so why wouldn’t other women?”
“I hadn’t quite thought of it that way.”
I sat in meditation pose across from my spiritual mentor. We both sat on floor cushions in her Venice beach apartment, smelling like a sweet mixture of Palo Santo and Florida Water.
Back then, I was still in many ways holding onto shame around my past as a sex worker, questioning myself and my validity as a coach and whether women would pay me for my services.
I unconsciously sought out the mentors who would give me permission. Living in a society where prostitution is often viewed as shameful, sinful, and unholy, it was as if I wanted someone to see me for all of it and tell me, “You’re not bad after all.”
It was a pivotal moment in time.
I now can say I coach women I absolutely love, and I genuinely look at my chapter as a sex worker as a gift. It shaped me into the bold, compassionate woman of depth I am today. As I express more and more of my truth, it’s undoubtedly granting permission to the women who have also been held back by feelings of inadequacy around their shame-filled secrets.
When I first stepped foot into the sex industry in 2004, I had just graduated from high school, too young to fully comprehend what I was getting into. I was a girl with a big vision but didn’t see many options for getting there.
The community and circle I grew up in weren’t talking about what colleges they were going to. They talked of selling drugs or working in a strip club to put themselves through college and buy their first car. The conversations were just different.
In many ways, I felt I was conditioned to head down this path, but I always knew it was a gateway to lead to something better.
I remember feeling so anxious, with a pit in my stomach, as I prepared to have my first appointment as an escort. The girls I worked with at the time gave me a soda bottle filled with watered down vodka that I sipped on throughout the day to help ease my nerves.
I never saw myself going this route. It just all came together and fell into my lap as if I had been here before in past lifetimes.
What started off as a drama-filled initiation into the industry eventually turned into my new comfort zone. My experiences became more and more refined. The cheap hotel rooms and late-night appointments with men who had alcohol on their breath turned into fancy hotels, an assistant, and afternoon chats with regulars who felt more like friends.
Immersing myself in that world completely changed my perspective. On the surface, you would think that it’s just a simple exchange of money for sex, but in fact, what I discovered was so much more gray area.
Things just aren’t that black and white. At the core of it is usually a desire for connection.
Many of the men I saw just wanted to feel something. To feel what it was like to be in the presence of a beautiful woman. To learn how to speak to a woman. To vent and unload the stress, the expectations, the responsibilities of their day-to-day lives.
Many had deep insecurities and intimacy issues that prevented them from being in a healthy relationship.
Many men just wanted to be heard with no judgement.
Physical touch alone can be incredibly healing, but having an outlet to speak openly with someone who has no direct connection in your life can be therapeutic in so many ways.
I gave them advice on women, advice that I read in books at the time, daily practices for them to try. I, too, learned so much from them. It wasn’t just a sexual exchange, but an exchange of knowledge and one that I’m still grateful for.
In many of my sessions, I felt less and less like an object of desire and more and more like a trusted advisor, a coach, and a friend.
Interestingly enough, once I started sharing more openly about my past with my coaches and mentors, I learned that I’m not the only former sex worker to also become a healer or coach. I’ve also had coaching clients drawn to work with me that I later discovered were former strippers or escorts themselves. Many women who have found themselves in that industry are truly healers at heart.
You could speak to someone else and receive an entirely different perspective, but I walked away from it, believing that sex workers are artfully skilled at holding space, at listening, at feeling into the subtleties of a person and what is currently present for them in that moment.
As a sex worker, your comfort and safety with someone depends on you being highly in tune with your gut and intuition. You begin to see past the illusions and masks of the exterior and start to see people more clearly. As I reflect on my experiences, I’m led to believe this industry can cultivate a deeper awareness and skill set that crosses over into other areas of life.
It’s easy to project ideas onto something that you don’t fully understand and haven’t stepped foot into yourself. Society often paints a picture of the women in prostitution as street walkers and drug addicts; our media isn’t entirely accurate, and our world lacks a deeper understanding of the intricacies of what this work actually entails. The long held narrative that sex workers are victims and disposable is still seeped in the minds of our culture, which keeps many of these women in the shadows and within deep isolation.
I can recall many times feeling a sense of disconnect with those around me and an innate fear of being “found out.” But what I’ve learned through my own healing and spiritual development is that when we cast some part of ourselves or our lives into the shadows, we also disown parts of ourselves that are beautiful and powerful.
In the book, Pussy A Reclamation, author Regena Thomashauer says, “So many of us were taught to keep a lid on anything and everything outrageous. To just turn it off. We turn off our life force, turn off our feelings, turn off our sensuality, and as a consequence, we turn off our power.”
I believe we are in a period of reclaiming that power.
As I mustered up the courage to have vulnerable conversations about my past with family and friends, I felt the biggest release and expansion into more of who I am. These truth-telling conversations often started with knots in my stomach and a bucket full of tears, but then ultimately led to deep compassion, understanding, and unconditional love.
The moment I confessed to my partner is one that we’ll both never forget. We sat on the floor in our dark, candlelit room and sobbed for hours. I was plagued with thoughts of whether or not it was over and he was going to run for the hills. I’m blessed to have a partner who sees me for who I really am and not the stigma of one chapter in my life. His love has helped heal any remanence of shame I once felt and empowered me to have more conversations like this one.
More and more, I started to embrace that my past as a sex worker doesn’t define me or reduce my capacity for love, and even more importantly, that I get to reframe the context that it lives in my life.
Am I saying that I believe this industry is completely justified or right? Certainly not. There are many things about it that are out of integrity, out of alignment, and not healthy by any means. I undoubtedly learned many hard lessons, and my values have since gone through a major overhaul.
But instead of telling you a story of trauma and victimhood, I choose to view it as a triumph and a jump off point for even greater transformation.
It’s become my commitment and desire to help break the stigma and criminalization of this industry and be a reminder that these women are also human beings. To instill the message that sex workers are multidimensional women and can evolve into many other chapters, professions, and versions of themselves.
I know deep in my heart that sharing my truth, as vulnerable as it may feel, is the most empowering thing I can do for myself and for women. In an era where we are probably more disconnected than ever, we are being called to use our vulnerability as a healing balm for the soul and to create bridges that didn’t exist before.
Our lived experiences and stories are what give color and depth to our work and contribution in the world, whether you are in the coaching industry or not. In a time where certifications are so easy to come by, our scars are the embodied wisdom that sets us apart.
Imagine if we all could look at our wounds and perceived flaws as the wisdom and magic that they truly are.
My past as a sex worker is something I’ll always be grateful for. Once a chapter that kept me shackled to shame is now a source of some of my greatest power, inspiration, and intimacy.