Friday, November 13, 2009

Real work is sex work

Today, is my 30th birthday.
There are huge things changing and shifting and moving and happening in my life, and this birthday is in many ways a catalyst and a hallmark.
but that's not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about the birthday gift I gave myself.
You see since I started getting a pretty decent salary I've been going to the Spa. I always go to the same place and I love it there. It's the one on Bank, near 3rd.
Usually I go for utilitarian lady things. Not typically "fun" or "relaxing" but self indulgent.
Over the years I've started venturing out and splurging or more enjoyable treatments too. The occasional massage, pedicure and facial.
But this year, I got the Scrub.

Let. Me. Tell. You.

It starts by this big joyful full figured woman, leading my slowly into this warm candle-lit room. I undress and crawl under the covers of a massage table.
After a short pause she comes in and touches my head softly. She invites me to breath in beautiful aromatic smells.

She starts with one a leg at a time. First she rubs it gently with her fleshy bare hand, as she warms up my cold rough skin; eases me into to all the contact and touching, which feels foreign to my skin. She drizzles warm oil and sugar up and down my leg.
Then she rubs, massaging the sugar into my skin. Not just in a "enn enn, get to work, scrub the tub", kind of way, but in a "oh yeah, get in there mmhn mmhn" kind of
She continues this way over my entire body. She places a warms damp cloth over my breasts and works on my torso. She lifts it up to reach under and scrubs between them and all around the nipple. Then up the neck, down the arms.

I flip over. My back and ass. My rubs my whole body.

It was during this first phase, when the motto, "sex-work is real work" entered into my real everyday life for the first time ever. Many people I know advocate for sex worker rights, some of them are sex workers themselves. But up until that moment, I had never really thought about how all of that applied to my life. I've never been able to imagine paying for sex. I don't do that. I don't want just anyone, doing things to me - It's just not my style. no sir-y, not for me.

But lying there, totally turned on, having this woman caress my largest sexual organ, my skin, I go it. I lied there and t
hought to myself, you know if she just reached down under that folded sheet, that would be just right. She could reach down there, get me off and that would be so perfectly appropriate right now. As if it were just the next obvious step in the Aveda treatment training manual.

Obviously that did not happen. However the next phase of the process, 15 minutes of private time in the hot sweaty steam shower, no doubt intended for detoxification, was apropos.

Following this, she lathered and caressed my body in a buttery soft cream. Then she massaged my head and my face. She covered my body back up with the sheet and gently patted my body down before letting me go. I thanked her, to which she replied " I love doing what I did to you"

After resting I got dressed, and went upstairs. I paid and tipped her handsomely and I was on my way.

As I walked out, I felt pretty damn good. I realized that hiring the services of human contact, of touching and rubbing, was an essential part of Strong Single Woman Sustainability. It was this empowering reminder that I didn't need to be dependant on anyone else for this contact, and that the hiring of such services was nothing to feel shame about.

Does all of that mean I'm going to hire a sex worker? I doubt it. but I get it now. I get it on a whole other level. I understand the injustice and the hypocrisy. My real-worker gets a salary and benefits and a really great work environment. Her clients feel it is a privilege and a treat to hire her. She provides me with sensual, invigorating and arousing touch. Afterwards I get dressed and I pay her. We don't cuddle, in fact that would be totally inappropriate. She likes doing it, and I don't feel like I have used or mistreated her.

But if she had just added the step of reaching her hand down under my sheet, which frankly I think should be added to the Aveda instruction manual, everything would be different. Her work would be socially stigmatized. It would be illegal for her to work in a house or building. She might have to work outside, leaving her susceptible to violence and abuse. Even the threat of death. Her customers would be criminals for hiring her services.

Obviously the life and industry of sex-work and sex-trafficking are complex and I know so very little about them. But I do understand the spa, and in my mind, they shouldn't be so different.

This blog post has since been referenced here:

Ickaprick & IronPussy and cross-posted on


Nico said...

Beth, have you considered a career in marketing for spa services?? Your post makes me want a sugar treatment RIGHT! NOW!

Who, me? said...

Ditto that. That spa is walking distance from where I sit typing this comment. Suddenly thinking I should take a looooong lunch.

mae callen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Who, me? said...

I promise, if I go, I won't rat on you :-)

feral geographer said...

You're awesome, and this post is awesome.
Happy birthday!

J.S. said...

Hi, I found this post via
I find it very interesting, indeed! I have a friend who went to get a massage and at the end the worker would ask him if he'd like to finish off with a genital scrub.
Can you clarify an apparent contradiction? You wouldn't want to get a sex workers services, but you would like to get that final part from the massage worker? So maybe you would take a sex worker's service if it also included massage?

mae callen said...

Hey J.S.
This post is a reflection of my process of changing my mind about how I understand sex work, for me, in my own life. Prior to this experience, the concept of hiring a sex worker seemed unfamiliar to me, in my own understanding of how and with whom I have sex. However as I wrote in this post, after reflecting on this arousing experience, in a setting that was familiar to me, was I able to make a personal connection, and thus a better understanding.

Sex is personal, and my choices around who I sleep with and why are also personal. That I doubt I would hire a sex worker, has more to do with my relationship with sex and less to do with whether or not I pay for it.

But what I do know, is that in the moment, had I been offered the "genital scrub" like your friend, I probably would of said yes.

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