I Used to Work in the “Service” Industry. It Was One of the Most Empowering Experiences of My Life

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“How about I give you some money for you to fly over? You could hang out with me for a few days. I’d like to see you.” he said over the phone.

I could hear the smile in his voice. This was the first mention of money in any of our conversations. It made me nervous – I thought it over for quite a while.

Still, he was very persuasive. He put me at ease by making me laugh with a few witty anecdotes. He told me that he’d send extra just to get a nice gown for the black-tie event he wanted me to attend with him.

“You’re such a pretty girl. You deserve a pretty dress!”

That very evening, he wired me USD1,000. He also forwarded me details of the flights he had already purchased tickets for. Business class.

The accommodation was a suite all to myself in a fancy 5-star hotel. All that just to keep him company over the weekend, as he met up with various work contacts. I was apprehensive yet deeply flattered at the same time.

That was how I started doing it.

When I was in college, I worked as a part-time escort. It was how I got my spending money.

It all began after I met that charming older gentleman on a plane. I didn’t know it then, but he was accustomed to financing sugar babies for sex and company. We struck up a friendship for a while, and without even realising it, I was soon at his beck and call, always compensated with generous “gifts”.

He was never jealous or possessive and made it clear I was free to see other people. Just as long as I could occasionally fly out to meet him.

Our arrangement began almost innocently enough, but it became a gateway drug of sorts – I soon found myself setting up “dates” on sites that enabled certain types of “arrangements”.

I was escorting under the pretence of being a “baby” whose time was compensated with a rather hefty allowance.

The money was addictive, of course, but never as addictive as the interactions I had with these rich and powerful men. They were so excitingly worldly and sophisticated, and they knew how to treat a lady well.

Totally unlike the boys my age, who were only preoccupied with computer games and college parties. Also, college boys didn’t seem to know how to interact well with women and were either clumsy, or worse, coercive. It was easy to see why I made the choices I made then.

People think that women doing sex work are often mindless bimbos with little self-worth. I beg to disagree.

For me, it was an eye-opening experience that made me rethink human relationships, particularly the interactions between men and women.

It’s stigmatised, but honestly, this vocation helped improve my emotional intelligence.

You must be wondering by now how I must look like. I’m no Victoria Secrets model. I don’t think I would even qualify as model material, although I know that I’m attractive enough to many men.

I definitely wasn’t the prettiest girl in this field, but I was very popular with clients.

See, my first client, James (not his real name) quickly enlightened me to something 18-year-old me wasn’t aware of: men actually appreciate intelligent conversations.

Many of the men I dated while on the job were capable businessmen who wanted an attractive female whom they could also engage with. They enjoyed witty banter and intellectual conversation, traits not quite as commonplace as a pretty face.

I was a proper bookworm before I started this, even a little bit of a geek. I was at least very well-read and intelligent, something many of my clients were delighted with. They were especially appreciative when I quickly picked up on things they were trying to explain to me.

Many of them began to assume the role of a mentor to me, especially James. I think he derived a certain amount of satisfaction of moulding me into something a little more worldly. Perhaps watching me slowly lose my naivete amused him.

Either way, I put in plenty of effort to actively listen to the things these men were saying. Those conversations taught me a lot about business, human behaviour, and life. They even taught me how to invest my money, and how to be more independent in many ways, which was strangely ironic, in a way.

Another thing I had working in my favour was my high sense of empathy. Once a personal trait I considered a burden because being conscious of other people’s emotions made me uncomfortable; it suddenly became a useful talent.

Most of my clients were seeking out similar things, but each had their own preferences and unique needs that they were looking to get fulfilled.

Some wanted a more take-charge attitude. Others wanted to play the role of the dominant older man. There were clients who preferred a more bubbly and outgoing date, whilst some were content to lead the conversation.

Being empathetic helped me excel at providing them with a more satisfying experience. The majority of men I met just wanted someone to talk to after a stressful day. Knowing just the right things to say to them endeared me to them.

Sex happened a lot less than you would expect. However, when it did, being able to read my clients helped with crafting the sort of sexual experience they would enjoy. It was strangely cathartic for both me and them and extremely empowering in some ways.

Sex wasn’t a major focus for most of my clients because they were overworked and overwhelmed businessmen in high positions. The physical exertion was often too much for them to bother with.

Many were really looking for low-stress company, an undemanding girl that wasn’t anything like their spouses, or in some cases, they were looking for a younger, less stressful version of their partners.

Many were even just looking for an attractive date to bring out with them on events. I quickly realised how much of an asset my conversational skills were. I would often catch my clients beaming with pride as I conversed comfortably with their friends and work contacts.

By then, I had plenty of confidence and had learned how to hold down my own, even among people much older and experienced than myself.

It was a surreal experience sometimes. I found myself being taken along to meet the family of some clients. Often, I was being introduced as a girlfriend. I was certainly treated very well by most of the people I encountered.

I even found myself hanging out with the young daughter of one of my clients once, together with his aged parents. I was clearly not the mother of the little girl, but nobody seemed to find it odd enough to bring up.

This particular client had many extra-marital affairs, despite being married. He also had many children out of wedlock that nobody even batted an eyelash at. As unconventional as it all felt, he was always honest about his many romantic entanglements. He really liked that I got along well with his family. His mother even taught me a few things about Chinese literature.

I’ve painted a rosy picture of my stint as a sex worker so far, but there was also a dark side to what I was doing.

There were certain sexual demands that I wasn’t comfortable with but went along with anyway. But even that wasn’t too terrifying – the scary bits were when clients would fall in love with me. Those were the ones that got demanding, possessive or over-protective.

Many of the men who paid for my services were often lonely, despite their success. Perhaps I was too good at making them feel good about themselves. One man began stalking me. He kept showing up everywhere I went, even though I was spending my time flying back and forth between multiple cities. I never found out how he could keep track of my movements so well, and I still don’t think I want to know.

I won’t deny it, the money was very, very good. There was a downside to earning such easy money, however. I began spending much of it as soon as I earned it. I stopped valuing money the way I used to and conveniently forgot my relatively modest upbringing.

Even worse, being paid so much for so little effort made me begin to view romantic relationships in monetary terms. I would spend an entire evening out with a college boy, feeling vaguely put-off by how little he could afford to pay for me.

I found myself feeling a strange tinge of disgust one evening when a boyfriend did not have enough to pay for the meal we had just enjoyed. I had to fork out the balance, and I found myself questioning why I was even going out with this boy, and practically offering him sexual favours for free when I was so used to being wined and dined by wealthy older men.

However, as much as I enjoyed the luxuries that came with my chosen vocation, I was self-aware enough to understand the impact on my perspective towards relationships and romance. I eventually quit the business, out of a desire for more normalcy and stability in my life.

I guess I got so jaded with the lifestyle, I just wanted to go back to being just a normal college girl.

I don’t regret the sex work I’ve done. I would even hazard that it was one of the best experiences during that period of life. I went from a shy wall-flower who didn’t know much about boys, to becoming a very self-confident and self-assured person. Also, I gained quite a lot of insight from hanging out with all those intelligent, successful men, and I probably learned a lot more from them than any formal education could have afforded me.

I also gained an invaluable perspective on human relationships. The experience helped me comprehend the underlying needs of people – I realised that every person is just essentially looking for understanding and validation, even when in the arms of a sex worker.

Along the way, I even learnt better conflict resolution strategies – be it for a tense domestic situation, or a crucial business negotiation. I saw many failed or failing relationships in the course of my short-lived career as a sex worker. I probably had many more case studies to observe than most.

It made me approach my own romantic relationships differently – I learnt the value of direct, unambiguous communication with all the people that mattered to me. So many of my clients ended up venting about the resentments they did not know how to talk about with their own spouses.

I would advise girls who want to explore a career in the sex industry to carefully examine their motivations. You should understand how the nature of monetising sex and companionship can negatively change your perspectives on romantic relationships and material things.

Another concern is safety. I was lucky that I met men who mostly treated me well. I have friends who have encountered violent clients and even been blackmailed for sex.

Also, nothing lasts forever, not even a lucrative career doing sex work for the right sort of clientele. It was fun while it lasted, but I would not encourage anyone to consider it a long-term career with good future prospects!

For more articles like these, read I Spent a Month Using Sugar Daddy Apps, and This Is What I Learned, and I Was Once a Transgender Sex Worker in Malaysia.

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Audra M
Audra M is an outspoken feminist, occasional writer, sometimes (bad) bathroom singer and a fan of (unnecessary) parentheses. She is a huge advocate for sex positivity and better sex education, especially in Malaysia -- and thinks that no topic should be too taboo for open dialogue. She can be contacted at [email protected]
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