Scottish-based sex worker
15th May 2020
12.45– I just got up. I’ve never been much of a morning person, but these days there is less reason to wake up early than ever. I woke up feeling groggy, but at least I wasn’t feeling anxious this time. I applied for the self-employment grant yesterday so I should get a payout into my bank account within a week – it turns out all these years of bothering to do my tax returns was worth it. I should be getting over £2k which is a relief. I’m down to my last £200 and been scraping through, contacting companies to get bills deferred and cancelling direct debits that I can’t afford anymore. I’m so damn worried about money all the time right now. Worrying about money has been a feature throughout my entire life – it’s the main reason I chose to do sex work. I’m incredibly lucky at this point though that I have other resources to fall back on, and I’m remembering to tell myself to be grateful for those.
16.00 – I feel sick. My Internet access has been unreliable for weeks. I can't get a landline installed until July because of lockdown, so I’m limited to using my phone to hotspot (4G isn’t strong enough for video calling where I am though) or my next-door neighbour’s Wifi. They were kind enough to share their password with me last week and I was overjoyed because I thought the problem was solved. But it has failed a number of times while I have been on important calls, and it’s actually been surprising how upsetting this has been. Being alone in lockdown has amplified my dependence on being online, for so many reasons. I actually have a physiological response when it fails; it’s physically painful. I get so angry that I want to pick up my laptop and smash it against a wall, but I repress the physical urge and get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach instead. It’s like reliving a trauma, being shut out of conversations and locked out of interactions with other people. Watching how my psyche is dealing with these wifi problems I can see that my mental health has deteriorated somewhat. Being on my own day after day isn’t something I’ve ever been afraid of – but having it imposed is untenable.
16th May 2020
13.05 – Got up earlier today. Set an alarm for 10am and woke up feeling relatively refreshed. I did my stretching routine last night and was able to push a little further. I’ve nearly got my splits on both sides now, one side is definitely better than the other. My chronic pain seems to be doing a little better the last couple of weeks since I ordered some supplements on Amazon. I’ve been experimenting with different cocktails of supplements for years now; collagen and turmeric seem to work best at the moment. Chronic pain has been another feature in my life for ten years now, and I spend so much money on managing paid. And I’ve noticed that worrying about money actually increases my pain levels – there’s a powerful psychological element to it.
#Anxiety levels are running quite high still. I’ve booked an online therapy session with a therapist I’ve been working with now for a while. He’s actually the husband of a stripper I used to work with back in East #London. There’s no judgement when I talk to him about my job, he’s as accepting of sex work as anything else. I’m kind of unconnected right now, and I probably don’t have enough emotional support. I actually also really miss the intimacy of my job, spending time with new people, sussing them out and getting to know them, working out how I can best put them at ease. I had a client message me last night, implying that he might want to organise a meet next time he’s in #Scotland. I imagine he has his reasons for travelling, it must be essential or he’d be in breach of lockdown laws. If I travel to meet him it counts as work I guess, because I can’t work from home. Well, technically I can work from home, but I have never wanted to. Giving my home address to strangers on the Internet, seeing clients in my own bedroom – no way. But of course there’s no way of explaining that to the authorities – under UK law if I meet clients privately at home, my work is not illegal. But as soon as I rent a room or work with someone else for safety, that is against the law. Lockdown is forcing so many #sexworkers to work from home right now anyway – but we're not safer, working alone. I find myself thinking a lot lately about the risks of going back to work, the risks to my health, the risk of intimate contact with multiple people and the potential for high viral load transmission from doing sex work compared to, say, getting on a bus. I start to do all the usual calculations of risk versus benefit ratio that I did when I began escorting in the first place. It’s a conundrum and, like all #sexworkers, the greater my need for money, the more risk I am willing to take.
17.02 – I’ve spent most of the day so far editing a piece of writing I’ve been working on. Writing is a side-hustle of mine. But the amounts of money on offer for a freelance writer are appallingly low. There are so few ways to earn decent money as a writer now, it’s almost more of a hobby than an income. I’ve managed to get some bits published here and there, but it’s very time-consuming. Free-lance writers spend so much time tracking down editors’ contact details and pitching articles to them, before they’ve even got any commissions to start with. It takes me the best part of a day to write and edit an article, and I’d have to be doing about 3 articles a day to make anything like the money I can make from #sexwork. I think the only way to make proper money as a writer is to get a contract working in-house for a major publication – if you don’t mind grinding out words for right-wing billionaires. I’d rather grind on their laps for cash to be honest. Right now, I’m mercifully grateful for any writing gigs, since I can work from home and I’m not spending much at the moment. The dream is to have a consistent income from writing that will help alleviate my money worries in the future. But also writing about #sexwork policy and conditions in the sex industry is important. Making a contribution to the public dialogue about safety and rights for #sexworkers is probably the biggest reason I keep writing. Since I started stripping 14 years ago, being able to write about the industry has been one of things that has kept me going – I’ve been able to process and contextualise so much of what I’ve seen and heard, and I’ve definitely developed more as a writer from having so much material that is close to my heart.
17th May 2020
15.04 – Just home from Screwfix. I went to 10 litres of emulsion paint, and I don’t have a car and the store is only 10 minutes walk from my flat, so I wheeled a sack-truck round to the store and wheeled the pot of paint back on it. It was pretty good exercise but I probably looked like a complete weirdo. Funny how I stopped caring what other people thought of me when I first started stripping. I figure if they knew what I do for a living they would probably judge me anyway, so I may as well not bother trying to pass myself off as some kind of perfect human. If I look strange wheeling a 10 ltr pot of paint down the street so be it. I can’t afford a car right now anyway, and even if I could I would think twice about the carbon emissions before I went on an errand I could do on foot.
The paint is for my bathroom, although the whole flat needs done. I bought this flat a year ago to get myself out of the #London rental hell I’ve been in for a decade. I had some savings and figured I’ll never afford to buy in London, so I got out of the city and found somewhere I could afford to buy outright. I’ve never wanted a mortgage on principle, so now I’m not paying rent or a mortgage, but I’m in a small town where I don’t know anyone. I bought the flat and then spent a year coming and going between here and London for work, so I hadn’t managed to put down roots, I didn’t even bother to get Wifi installed. When the virus was closing in I figured I’d get the hell out of #London and spend sometime in my own home, but I’m doubly #isolated here since I don't know a single other person in the town except for my downstairs neighbour. I have friends and family within travelling distance, which is one of the reasons I decided on this place, but we’re not supposed to be travelling for non-essential reasons. So, it’s very bad timing really. I’ve been getting on with making the place into a home though, the living room and the double bedroom (my room) are basically finished.
I’ve spent a bit of money on improvements, since I knew when I bought the place it needed some love. The plan was to either rent out one of the bedrooms, or run an Airbnb business (I’ve done that successfully in #London) since I’m close to an airport. But again everything just looks like it’s going to fall apart. This flat was meant to be an investment in my future, it seemed like I could make a modest amount of income from the rental market myself (instead of simply paying into it for years). But all that looks like it might not work after all. I’m incredibly lucky to have my own place though, and to not be paying rent or a mortgage. At least I don’t have the threat of having no home (I’ve been through that enough times in London) so I’m able to create a sense of safety in that sense – whatever happens in the future is not necessarily in my control, but I’m alright just now and that’s the most important thing.
It’s interesting to keep this #diary and see how almost everything I’m writing about is affected by money. My partner and I have a joke about Adam Smith’s concept of the ‘Invisible Hand’. When we first began getting to know each other and he was getting his head around me being a #sexworker (I think he still is to be honest) we were laughing about the idea of being touched by the Invisible Hand in a literal sense. Imagine the economic market place as a lecherous hand groping its way into every corner of your life – are there any parts of our lives that aren’t touched by the economy in some way? Most sex workers will say, no. Under neo-liberalism we are all finding more and more ways to trade our labour and services; if market forces are increasingly invading every area of our lives, why not trade our sexuality as well?
18th May 2020
15.21 – got my period today. I have completely stopped any of my usual hair removal routines and let all my body hair grow back. I’ve never really been one for getting rid of every thing anyway; I have always been pretty ‘body-positive’ throughout my years as a sexual entertainer. It’s actually quite enlightening to discover that a lot of male customers find body hair attractive, and the ‘full-bush’ is quite sought after among a percentage of them. I worked with a stripper in East London who used to put mascara on her pubic hair to exaggerate it. There are so many public misconceptions about #sexworkers pubes and male expectations/male desire. It turns out most men don’t really care, they just like having someone pay attention to them for a while. Periods aren’t much of an interruption anyway. When I transitioned to full service I learned about gynaecological sponges; I’ve heard stories about other full service #sexworkers using sea-sponge or even cutting up those giant yellow blocks of car-cleaning sponge (all clean of course). I guess it’s good to take a break from all that madness, let my body rest and rejuvenate naturally. I can’t say I love having loads of leg hair and pale fuzz on my chin – but frankly the only thing that motivates me to rip any of it out is money. Back to the Invisible Hand I guess. I need to do a food shop today too. I’m following an anti-inflammatory diet right now, to try and get my pain levels down, so to some extent I have to be picky about what I eat. I can’t just go and munch on pizza, I have to think about vitamins and inflammation.
Spotify keeps playing adverts about #Covid19. I haven’t yet paid to upgrade yet – waiting for a bit of money to come in before I do that I guess. I can probably write it off as a business expense, curating playlists for bookings is part of my job. I haven’t checked the news about Coronavirus lately, actually. I was watching the news every night to begin with, but it felt a bit too much like watching a future dystopian drama where the writing is a bit difficult to believe. I kind of feel like I’d rather get my information elsewhere, rather than the classism and racial/sexist biases of mainstream media reporting. I’ve come to deeply mistrust media representations, since they do such a poor job of representing #sexworkers. I saw that Niki from #ECP (English Collective of Prostitutes) appeared on BBC News to speak about the effects of #Covid19 on #sexworkers, that will be worth watching.
My day isn’t really a big event so far. The strippers collective I work with is about to launch an emergency fund to support strippers who are out of work because of the virus, so that’s kind of exciting. It’s also a bit nerve-wracking because it will be a bit of work to manage applications and distribute funds. Also there is always internal politics in the sex working community so we are kind of bracing ourselves for some blow-back. It’s been interesting to see how people in my world are adapting to life in lockdown. I’ve heard that escort agencies have stopped operating (at least officially) so now the only way to work as an escort is independently. This means you have to do all your own screening of customers and work out your own security arrangements. Apparently some clients are taking advantage and trying to lower prices. Of course, there’s always been boundary pushers, but these are the perfect conditions for abuses of power. The more vulnerable everyone is, the more dangerous it becomes.
I’ve heard that #stripper agencies are doing the same - offering gigs online for “private parties” on Zoom (which can never be private) for £30 a pop. We’ve actually had a few enquiries for private shows online through the collective, which is a good sign that there is still a market for sexual entertainment even without the clubs being open. In fact one of the coolest things that has happened since lockdown is Cybertease. A bunch of the strippers from the trade union have opened an online virtual strip club. I went to it last week, they are running the whole thing themselves and they’re in control of everything from the money to the music. There is clearly going to be a wave of digital enterprises making a buck off #sexworkers, I just hope there are enough of us switched on to avoid any of the exploitative ones. OnlyFans has been booming since lockdown but I just heard this morning about an escort having her account deleted and the funds in her account confiscated by the company, despite the whole damn thing being built on #sexwork.
It lead me to read an article by Shae Ashbury about #sexworkers being chewed up and spat out by digital platforms – like Instagram. Instagram allowed #sexworkers on their platform at the beginning, which is what helped propel them into the global conglomerate they are today, until they became powerful enough to boot us off when they wanted to ‘clean up’ their image and ‘legitimise’ the company. Selling to Facebook and then FOSTA/SESTA had a major impact on Instagrammers with huge followings, like Rebecca Crow, who made a living from her account. I heard she wants to try and take Instagram to court for deleting her account twice, since it has destroyed her income and left her financially precarious. No such thing as financial stability as a sex worker apparently, no matter how tame your services. Selling nudes on the Internet is a lot harder than it sounds. I know a load of stripper friends who have moved onto content and cam sites since the clubs shut under lockdown. One of my mates in the collective was on the phone in tears the other day, saying how hard it is on there, how hard you have to hustle for such little money, how much work it is to keep your ‘fans’ happy, they want you to talk to them every day or your lose their subscription. To be honest doing sex work over the Internet was never something that appealed to me, and I can’t see myself having the patience or interest; unlike full stripping and escorting, which I always considered a viable option. I remember the first time I saw sex workers in Amsterdam, and I was kind of drawn to the idea like a magnet. But then I remember the first time I heard about webcamming and thought, ‘Ew, no I could never do that’. Strange what any of us are led to if we listen to our instincts. I think there’s a wave of women flooding the cam sites out now, especially since there are so many financially precarious people. True there are more customers on there now too – but like with stripping, when the balance of power is tipped in their favour, as soon as they clock that they can abuse that position of power very easily if they are so inclined. If they know there are a hundred women willing to do more for less, they can push the boundaries. It’s the same shit I’ve seen a million times before. It’s a game I’m not willing to play, in the end no one wins anyway. I’d rather just suck dick for actual cash and then close the door, than perform weeks of endless hustling on my phone.
19th May 2020
12.31 – just got off the phone to FKA Twigs’ manager. We've had a dialogue going on now for a while. It all started a few weeks ago, one of the strippers in our collective reached out and asked if I’d be interested in talking to Twigs. Apparently they are old friends, and FKA Twigs has taken the world by storm with her pole dancing skills the past few years. Her music video for ‘Cellophane’ has her pole dancing in this incredible CGI fantasy world – interestingly enough she is wearing stripper shoes in the video. We call them Pleasers after the brand. So now apparently Twigs and her team are thinking about ways to ethically present her creative work to the world without looking like she’s culturally appropriating sex worker culture, since she’s not a sex worker herself. I had a long chat with her on the phone a few weeks ago and it seems clear she doesn’t want to be a tourist in our world, and she genuinely wants to give something back. It was cool getting to talk to a world famous pop star about the English Collective of Prostitutes (#ECP), explaining decriminalisation and the strippers union. Seems like she is keen to help support us, and her management team are on board with using her platform to raise funds and awareness around sex workers’ rights.
I also spoke to another member of the collective who is the middle of a court case. With the help of the union she was threatening to take her ex-club boss to court on a worker status claim. Going to court is stressful for anyone, and lockdown has been exacerbating her stress levels. I know when someone’s mental health is deteriorating, and I’ve been kind of supporting her as a friend. That’s kind of one of the main ways that the collective have functioned to be honest, by building bonds of emotional support for dancers to feel safe and seen by each other.
I’ve got a gig performing online tonight. The collective got an enquiry through social media – a Greek lady who runs an optician business wants to buy her friend in France a divorce gift. Whenever we get jobs like this, the collective normally sends the client a list of dancers who are available with a picture, and then they choose the dancer they want – kind of like in a strip club. This time I got picked. But now I’m nervous about hosting the thing online. I’m not as experienced with the software as some of the others, but then it’s only 10 minutes on Zoom rolling around on the floor and taking my knickers off slowly, so I’m sure it will be fine. Looks like I’ll be shaving my bikini line after all.
Some of us have been talking for ages about the idea of running our own business – some kind of online agency would work pretty well right now. I spent some time last night looking at website building platforms. I have no idea what the future holds, but one of my solid dreams, which is a shared dream with many other strippers, is to run our own venue/business of some kind. Now might be the right time to move on it. Let’s see.
00.00 – the #Zoom show went pretty well. The lady who booked it was so excited, I spoke to her on a video call just before hand. I did my usual thing of leaving myself not quite enough time to get ready, I was still painting my nails with 2 minutes to spare. That is such an incredibly strong habit of mine that even when I am performing in my own home I’m still rushing to be ready on time – I think I’m actually a bit addicted to the adrenaline of those last few minutes, the pressure to be on stage and ready and to look the part, it’s like a test each time. The guy I danced for was a young, hot French man, I tried to flirt with him in my terrible French but it was nice. He seemed happy, and she paid £150 for a 15 min session. That’s a very good rate, I almost felt a bit guilty afterwards, like I should have stayed on the video longer. But I tried to chat with him a bit afterwards, and he didn’t seem too interested. Maybe I wasn’t his type, haha. It was pretty cool, dancing in my spare room. I had kind of draped the background so it looked a bit like a boudoir. I really should get my neon sign back from my friend’s place. I have a 1 metre wide neon sign that says PEEP SHOW in red that I had made when I was at art school 10 years ago. It’s been at my friend’s place gathering dust ever since. Now I have my own place I could think about making a decent set up. If this online cabaret thing catches on – judging by that guy’s reaction earlier though, I think people still want the real thing.
21st May 2020
04.14 – I’ve accidentally pulled an all-nighter. I hadn’t intended to stay up this late at all, but I really want to get a piece of my writing done so I just started editing and didn’t stop until it was done. I’m surprisingly awake for this time, but it’s not really that unusual, seeing how many late nights I’ve had. I’ve always been a night worker really. There’s something quite special about seeing the light come up as well at this time of year, being in Scotland the light is different here. The daylight goes on so long, and when it’s summer it doesn’t get dark till after 10pm. My flat is on the 3rd floor, right at the top of the building with big bay windows at the front and back so I get plenty of light during in the day. I’m in a really good mood for some reason. I got a text from one of my close friends who I’ve known for a long time, he’s up in #Scotland for the birth of his #baby. It’s quite an unusual situation, he gave some of his sperm to his best mate so she could have a child. They talked about doing it for years and then they finally did it. She’s meant to drop any day now, in fact she’s overdue. She lives in a kind of hippie commune just a few miles away. I’m actually gutted I can’t just cycle over and spend a night or two there, it’ll absolutely gorgeous this time of year. he texted to say he’d come and visit soon, I can’t wait. I’m dying to see friends now. Had a nice catch up on the phone with another friend in #London. People keep popping into my head all the time, and I think, ‘oh I must catch up with so-and-so’ like I have a list growing in my head.
I spoke to my partner last night, he’s getting stuck into his building work. I gleaned quite a lot of joy from knowing he is being productive and finally getting round to the major part of the project that he’s been working on for as long as I’ve known him. He’s building a massive complicated extension onto the side of his house, it’s not the sort of thing I would go near, let alone during lockdown. It’s impressive, and kind of a relief to know that people I know and love are still cracking on, transforming their lives, having babies. I feel as though I got somewhere today, had a bit or extra energy turn up out of no where. I can’t wait to have this writing project finished, it’s also something I’ve been working on for a long time. Looks like the weather is going to be amazing again for a bit, it makes a big difference to my mood. I’ll try and get some sunbathing in over the next few days, goodness knows I could use the Vitamin D, and I’m lucky enough to have a garden. Money still hasn’t come through yet – I was expecting it in my account today, but instead I got an email from HMRC saying ‘we’ve processed your claim and you’ll get your money in 3 days from now’. 3 more days of being proper skint – thankfully I about £160 left in cash in a drawer, but the fridge is definitely starting to look bare. Funnily enough, I didn’t really worry about money today at all, for a change. I mainly just felt good. I’ll go and get some sleep now. The sky is looking pretty gorgeous over in the East, now the sun is coming up. Am feeling lucky despite everything else.
12.43 – I feel awful. Apparently my body didn’t want me to sleep through the day so I woke up before midday, feeling terrible. My head hurts and I feel like I’ve actually got a hangover, even though I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol. I need to go to the supermarket today, which I hate doing because I don’t have a car. There aren’t really any good shops close to my flat, apart from this one really amazing fruit and veg shop on the corner, but they literally only sell fruit and vegetables, that's it. To get everything else I have to cycle to the massive Asda about 1.5 miles away, or walk to Lidl just under a mile in the opposite direction. I don’t mind the walking and cycling at all, it’s the dragging everything home on my back bit that sucks. This is one thing I miss about London – being able to buy anything and everything nearby, having convenience stores that sell Papaya and Lychees. Ah, well. I may not stay here anyway. Looking at the coronavirus updates it actually looks like things are better in London than they are in #Scotland. There were no new #Covid19 infections recorded for 24 hours down there, whereas the contagion is still pretty high up North. Although the woman in the vegetable shop seemed to think that was a load of shit. People don’t seem to care as much round here, I’ve noticed. It's not exactly been a ghost town, traffic still flows down my street and people are out and about. Life has always been quite different in #Scotland compared to #London, and you get the impression that the Scots don’t like being told what to do by Westminster - they never have. Post-colonialism still kind of filters into everyday life up here. People in this town are living in poverty for sure, and it seems unlikely that they will suddenly start taking care of their #health and everyone around them by washing their hands and staying indoors. I can see from living here that for a lot of folk the last place they want to be is cooped in a council flat or rented accommodation. It’s rough round my neighbourhood, lots of drinking and shifty looking people floating about. Surviving. Looks like a virus will effect different demographic groups in very different ways; seems like #London has responded by protecting health and preserving life, but if there’s less to live for why bother?
21.37 – I’m pretty tired now. I guess I’ll try and get an early night, after such a late one yesterday. I did all my shopping today. Carried a load of veggies back from the fruit and veg shop. Then I wheeled my granny shopping trolley to Lidl and carted home a load of fish and tins of beans, also got myself a nice Russell Hobbs smoothie maker from the weird aisle. And then I cycled to Asda to get some coconut milk, and some vegan sausages that I can't get anywhere else. I’m not actually vegan, but leaning more in that direction. I’m kind of preparing myself for this anti-inflammatory diet plan, it’s gonna take a bit of preparing. I need to get a bean sprouter and various supplements like Vitamin b12 and Potassium. I’m feeling quite optimistic to be honest. Between my writing and the various things going on with the collective, and then having my own home to decorate and a garden to grow things in, life is quite good. I feel like a few things are kind of taken care of at this point. I was listening to a podcast earlier in the supermarket by Katherine Ryan, she’s a pretty hilarious Canadian stand-up comic, and she talks openly about when she worked in Hooters, and got a boob job, she’s pro-sex work and I admire her for having the balls to say that openly when she has a public profile to maintain. Anyway, she was replying to a letter from a listener who casually mentioned that she bought her own apartment – Katherine was like “you don’t realise how big an achievement that is.” It was pretty validating. I am incredibly lucky to have my own home to ride out this pandemic in, that I bought outright with my own dirty money. When I began escorting I didn’t know how much money I was going to make, I just needed enough to get by in London. But now I’m really glad that I’m safe and secure, this is kind of exactly what I bought the place for, to have security when I needed it. Funny how it was sex work that enabled me to have this level of security. I don't know how many people can really comprehend that.
22nd May 2020
14.08 – Woke up pretty late again. My body is aching from the physical labour yesterday of carrying all my shopping home. I woke up to the sound of rain and wind lashing my windows. So much for a good spell of weather. I guess I’ll work on my bathroom today, everything needs sanded and prepared for the painting. My mind has gone back to worrying a bit about the future. Although, I had an interesting chat online last night with some web developers in Connecticut, they found us on social media. They reckon they have developed a video calling tool that is super easy to use, no need to download any apps or create a profile, and they seem pretty keen to work with strippers and sex workers to create virtual spaces for performing. I had a chat with them about security, FOSTA/SESTA, sex workers being censored and kicked off major online platforms, they seemed to know their stuff. One of them has a friend who runs a strip club so that’s how he seemed to have some insight into our world. There is a whole new world of possibility – if we are able to link strippers with potential customers anywhere in the world. Let’s just see if we start our own business after all.