Yes, I Am A Sex Worker

No, it’s probably not what you imagine. Recently, I was on a panel of Sex Workers who spoke to a group of people about advocacy, biased/antiquated laws, and healthcare for an underserved, persecuted, and often misunderstood industry.

Here’s my speech, originally delivered on 7/20/17 at the Uptown in Oakland.

Speaking to you as a man, I will not be using the term male sex worker. I will not be using the terms male stripper or boylesque either. If the hair on the nape of your neck has ever stood on end when hearing the term female comedian, you understand why I don’t subscribe to the aforementioned titles. All of those terms suggest that this sort of work is designated for a specific gender. I’ll be the first to admit that I know more women who are sex workers than men. As a burlesque performer and sex worker (not the same-more on that later), I work in a woman’s world. I respect and acknowledge that. But, during my time on the mic, I will leave gender out of my labels because you have eyes.

When interviewed about their profession as sex workers, some men are quick to point out that they’re not prostitutes. That word has a history of judgment surrounding it. Making this distinction, especially when a sex worker gets paid for sex, is akin to when burlesque performers feel the need to distinguish what they do as “stripping but classier”. Yes, some people actually say this.

Sex work doesn’t always mean having penetration-oriented sex for cash. Sometimes sex work is as simple as making money from the sex industry. If we break down that legal definition of sex work we can see that, legally-speaking, the person who hands out flyers for (and gets paid by) the Gold club is a sex worker. I think that the people who demonize the profession may change their tune about some of the laws surrounding sex work if they realized that.

As a man, I recognize that I hold some privilege as a sex worker. It tends to manifest in the form of my ability to speak openly about what I do without persecution. I’m a fitness coach by day. After instructing a cycling class, I encourage them all to attend my shows. Women are unable to do that without being disrespected or solicited immediately after. When people hear that I’m a sex worker, they often make the assumption that I’m having intercourse with all of my clients (I am not, with any of them). “At least you’re getting paid for it.” has been the joke of those who have made this assumption. I’ve never really heard of women hearing that sort of joke. Other people tend to ask questions about my specific tasks. What makes me a sex worker? [Here, I went on to describe services I provide. I’m happy to answer those questions, privately. I will not post my list of services on the internet. My work is by referral only.]

Homophobia is something I never thought I’d have to deal with in San Francisco. Wrong. As a cisgender heterosexual male, I’ve been socialized to be homophobic. I can spot homophobia pretty easily. I’ve spent much of my life unlearning these toxic behaviors. When homophobic men find out that I’m a sex worker, many of them assume that I’m servicing men for money and they aren’t exactly kind beyond that. A friend of mine, also a sex worker, was kicked out of a bar just because the bouncer found out he was a sex worker! To be clear, my friend wasn’t harassing anyone or being disruptive. He was asked to leave and the bouncer had no problem making the reason known. That prompted me to make a shirt with SEX WORKER printed on the chest. All proceeds from the sell of that shirt go to the St. James Infirmary. My goal in wearing that shirt is to start conversations that will, hopefully, end assumptions and misunderstandings of what it means to be a sex worker.

One of the unexpected beauties of sex work is the healing aspect. I’ve met a surprising number of women who have never seen the penis of a man they weren’t fucking. I’m not suggesting that my penis is capable of healing. I am suggesting that it’s important that women be allowed safe space to see men as sexy without concern of being pursued, harassed, or attacked.

I once danced for a woman. We were the only two in the room and I performed a 15 minute striptease just for her. She giggled at the beginning. She took more deliberate breaths as I got closer to naked o’cock. By the end, her eyes (now open), her posture, and her everything had changed. As she thanked me, she mentioned that she had just turned 30 and had never seen a man strip before. I told her, “Your 30s are going to be fantastic!” She got misty-eyed and fought tears to tell me how any form of sexual expression had always been frowned upon in her family. I asked permission to hug her. As we hugged, she released all of the tension from her body and relaxed for just a moment. As she left, she continued to thank me and I perceived that none of her gratitude was about my performance. I’m grateful that I was able to hold space for her. Sometimes #sexwork can be a form of healing.

To all of the men who find themselves alone with women in a romantic setting. Please dance for them. Tease them as you undress. Take your time. If she’s already given enthusiastic consent, she’s not going to run away if you take too long to get your pants off. Slow down and enjoy the journey.

Creating space for women to feel like it’s okay to objectify me (or any man) without any expectations being placed on them or their bodies creates an experience wherein her tension is released almost audibly. I look forward to helping more people realize that sexuality is not to be frowned upon. I hope to teach men that being sexy is not only okay, but the world wants to see it. Not “manly”, but sexy. Men touching themselves and loving the way their body moves without it being considered effeminate. I hope that any man [reading] this will find a bit more freedom the next time they dance in public.

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Get Up (A Reminder)

I’ve ordered my personalized license plates! But, first…

In Black news,

Recently, Nelsan Ellis died from heart failure. We were about 15 months apart in age. This troubles me because all 5 (ALL FIVE) of my paternal uncles died of heart related issues before the age of 45. Forty-fucking-five. Nelsan and I made it to 39. My father is the last remaining male of his siblings. Dad’s in his 80s. My maternal great grandmother lived past 100. My grandmother is 94. With that mix, I hope to live a long life. (But, I don’t have that much estrogen.) I’d be lying if I said, I wasn’t worried about dying before 50.

Recently, a White man used the word Nigger on the mic, in front of an audience in a New York venue he owns. He excused his use of the pejorative term as a joke. (Jokes are funny, what he said was not.) Dear White People, The next time you or your friends ask the question, “Why can THEY say it if I can’t?” The answer IS a question. Why is it so important that you be able to say it (out loud) in the first place?

Recently, a White man called me the same pejorative term in an email. He defended his use of the term saying that he didn’t mean it in a racist way. (True story.) Now, the people who still kick it with him and invite him out to events are the people that I no longer want to hang with. Dear White People, If your friend calls me a Nigger and you stand by and do nothing. Your message is clear to me that WE are not friends. Period.

So, for those who wonder about the source of my motivation, I’ve chosen a two word mantra to summarize the following: A desire to move my body in the name of health and fitness. Standing up to White men who think it’s ok to cross boundaries because of their unchecked privilege. Knowing the difference between allies and those who do what’s in their best interest. Two words that remind me that I must do for self instead of relying on others. I’ve ordered my personalized licensed plates. They will read (and remind others to)…

GET UP

Get up. Stand up. Stay up. Speak up. Power up.

This is similar to something I say in my fitness classes. I tell them to “Get it!”

Let’s get it! Get it! Get it good! Get it right! Get it slow! Get it tonight! Just. Get. It. What do you want? Don’t over think it! Answer with your emotions and pause the pragmatic voice-over in your head. I’m not talking about the small things. I’m not talking about placing wants before needs. I’m talking about your goals. The goals that you set on January 1st, the goals that you set this morning and the goals that you will set when you wake up from your happy birthday hangover. (BTW, if that was yesterday, happy birthday.) Do you have an answer? Do you know what you want? Good. Now get it. Less talk, more action. Less planning, more movement. “I want to run a marathon. But, I don’t know how to start training.” Go to a playground, watch the kids run. They don’t think about form, how they look to others, barefoot running shoes or carbo-loading. They just run their little legs off and giggle while they do it. They get it. “But, how do I start!?” Lace up. Run. If it sucks, if you hate it, ask for help. If help from a running coach still doesn’t stop it from sucking, that’s cool. Running isn’t for everyone. Get on a bike. Get in the water. Get on a hang glider. Find something that literally and emotionally moves you and just get it. Have you been dreaming about it? Get it. Have you been passionately pursuing it? Get it. Don’t be confused. Don’t take it. Don’t steal it. Don’t mishandle it. Don’t be arrogant about it. Be kind on your quest. Get it by earning it. Get it by paying with your own sweat as currency. Get it by studying for it. Get it as a reward for your passion, patience, and persistence (yes, those concepts all work together). Stay focused. Give your best effort. I hope that you’re picking up what I’m putting down. If so… Get. It.

The Gratitude Project

If you believe the newsfeed, the world is hurting. If you believe the comments on social media. Everyone is angry and spouting venom. It’s true that a lot of people are unhappy. That’s nothing new. Social media has given everyone a voice/platform for those frustrations. Even before social media was the ubiquitous force it is today, the average person could fill a legal-sized sheet of paper with what they disliked about their day. It even felt like a competition to see who could bottom out first. “You think YOUR day was bad! I had to shovel shit with a teaspoon into an active volcano!” Then and now, anyone could (and still will) tell you their pet peeve at a moment’s notice.

How often do people talk about what makes them happy? Michael Che (in his hilarious Netflix special) spoke about how the average person is willing and able to share the details of their favorite horror movie. While that same person is shy/hesitant to talk about the type of porn they watch. We talk about the gruesome while keeping distance from our pleasures. I say “we” because I’m certainly guilty of it. When asked what I seek in a partner, I can rattle of the sins of my exes and the type of woman I’ll never date again much faster than I can just leisurely imagine an ideal mate. You know, someone who makes you feel gratitude just to be around them. Gratitude (and expressing it) is important. We have no control over the habits of others. We can only control our thinking and our habits.

About a year ago, I decided to revisit an old exercise that helped me to manage my anger. The gratitude project. It is designed to redirect focus. You can do this for as many days as you want. I’d recommend a minimum of 21 days (in hopes of forming a habit). I started with the goal of thirty days. For 30 consecutive days, my intent was to list all that for which I was grateful. I’ve been up to it for over a year. Today is day 398! When you make your list (assuming you want to start this challenge – I mean, what’s the best that could happen?) The list can have 1 item or 100. Sharing is optional, but it must be written. I chose to share mine via Social Media. I’d also suggest that you journal what your days are like during the 30 days. This exercise will not (I repeat – WILL NOT) make your days better. The hope is that you’ll redirect your focus from those pet peeves and petty things and find yourself focusing on everything you love in your daily life. I don’t really believe in the concept of good days or bad days. The concept of good/bad are just perceptions that we attach to events.

So, try it out. Take a moment every day for the next 21, 30, or 398 days to write down that for which you are grateful. Pay attention to the things you start noticing. Here’s my entry for the day.

A wild turkey was trying to cross a busy road. I stopped traffic to assist in the matter. I saved their life a few times by standing in front of cars. As I chased the turkey, I was carrying a bag of fried chicken. Does that make me a #hypocrite ? Some dude watching this all happen asked, “Hey, man! Is that yo turkey!?” (with the intonation of WTF!?) I responded, “Ha! Yeah!” (with the intonation of lampoon).
Dude: “Really!”
Me: “NO!” (with the intonation of, “Duuuhhhh!”) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I proved that I live in the future by having MMJ delivered to my door in under 8 minutes.

I’ve been feeling sexy again. (A lot of pre-summer heartache wounds have finally healed.) There’s nothing wrong with feeling yourself and celebrating that! I’ve also seen evidence that some women are smelling my pheromones and picking up what I’ve been putting down. Life is good. 398 #DaysofGratitude

Change Your Mind Before Changing Anything

Any change begins with a decision. Anything that you’re doing on your path to change should have a why attached to it. That why should have come from the same place as the decision to make change. Before we change just about anything in our lives, we must change our minds first. If your daily habits have gotten you here (to a place in your life where you want to change direction) it only seems natural that you’d need to change your habits.

As a Fitness Coach, it’s important that I challenge the choice of words my clients use during the workout. I believe that helping to reprogram the internal dialogue (monologue?) away from misleading phrases help to change the mind. What I’m suggesting is an argument you’ve heard before. Thoughts become words > words become actions > actions become habits > habits become your character > character becomes your destiny. You’ve heard it before. Don’t worry, this is not a blog about your destiny or your character. If you’re anything like me, an attitude adjustment is always welcome.

Try this on for size. You’re in the middle of a challenging exercise. A siren goes off in your mind that shouts, “this is hard!” As a follow-up, because our bodies don’t want stress, your body stops the exercise. Take two. You’re in the middle of a challenging exercise. A reminder goes off in your mind that speaks to you in the calmest voice you have, “I’m, intentionally, doing something challenging in order to become stronger!” As a follow-up, because your body doesn’t see this internal monologue as a stressed cry for help, your body continues working.

I’m not suggesting that you sing Kumbaya as you go for a PR on your deadlift. I’m certainly not suggesting that happy positive thoughts will make 100 pounds weigh an ounce less. I’m most definitely not suggesting that you lie to yourself. Don’t say “this is easy” when it may well be the hardest/heaviest challenge you’ve ever encountered. Sometimes, the challenge will be hard. It’s not called a WORKout because it’s easy. What I’m suggesting is that you still need to complete the work to reap the benefits. Make the work feel less like work by changing your focus. Don’t focus on how heavy the weight is, focus on how strong you are. Avoid those words that poison your training, like ‘weak’ or ‘can’t’. To say, “I’m too weak, I can’t do this” is the same as saying, “I have no desire to become stronger, I’ll choose not to try.” There’s another way to get it. Instead of walking away from the car because you’re unable to lift it, learn how to lift the car, one piece at a time.

Let’s talk anatomy. Have you ever said, “I have no triceps”, “I have no core”, “I have no muscles” or “I have no abs!” Yes, you do. You have all of those muscles. If you were born without any of those muscles, you’ve probably been to a number of specialists by now. The muscles are there and they keep us moving. Often, there’s a layer of protective love hiding our muscles from the world. Some people have less of a protective layer than others and that’s why the definition, in their abs for example, is easier to recognize. So, change your mind. Don’t think about the definition you don’t have. “Oh come on Jet, you know what I mean when I say that I have no abs!” No, I know what’s been said and it sounds like you don’t have any faith in your body’s potential to be great! Instead of focusing on definition, focus on how you feel. Focus on your love of the training and the definition will come.

Take the time to write down why you’re doing this. What reason is important (and long-term) enough to keep your inner monologue positive as you train? Write that reason down and repeat it, often. Enjoy your training!