I grew up busty, broke, and borderline brown-skinned in NYC when it was still gritty AF. It was the peak of The Deuce before Disney, the War on Drugs was on its knees, and the excess of the 80’s was in HD. From blow to hoes to finance bros…sex was literally everywhere. It wasn’t just for sale… it was on the clearance rack. Already, the climate posed an imminent threat to any teenage girl…but for me, like with most things, there needed to be a little dash of extra.
I also had boobs by the time I was 9. I had big eyes, and a mouth to match. I had no filter, no daddy, and was a little too smart in the ass – at least that’s what everyone said, but I suspect what they mistook for intelligence was actually a mix of wit, intuition, and stealth (perhaps not God-given, but learned and earned the hard way). It was a mischievous cocktail of cache and credentials that made a kid be able to swagger like a grown-up.
So, I was tried as one. A LOT.
I had my first job at 15, illegally, while a freshman at the Bronx High School of Science. I had a fake ID and a desire to fit in with a peer group which was overwhelmingly white and privileged. As one of maybe 6 or 7 Latinas (and seemingly the only one from the hood), I wasn’t too keen to add “epic fashion fail” to my list of shortcomings. The $25 a week allowance my mom could afford wasn’t cutting it, so I went to work in a gourmet deli, mostly spooning bisque for suits. Had my career ended there at the soup counter of DeLuccio’s, I could say I learned everything I’d ever need to know about labor politics from the couple that owned it.
Katia, a waif in knockoff designer pumps, openly despised me. Her husband smiled excessively – when she wasn’t looking. Katia took any opportunity to reprimand me, preferably during rush hour – and one day, so dramatically, that one of the regular customers took me aside and asked, “Does she pay you enough to talk to you that way? You don’t need this shit.” She held out her business card. The Waif was paying me under minimum and under the table, so the next day I met “Lisa” at her office on 42nd street and 8th Avenue, located atop the infamous Show World Theater. Lisa managed the peepshow booths. “But I’m…fifteen,” I told her.
“That’s ok,” she said. “No one will touch you, and no one will EVER scream at you here. All you need to do is be yourself.”
I quit DeLuccios the following day, bought a pair of pussy-pink stilettos, and made $900 my first week as a peep show girl. Nobody touched me, and nobody screamed at me. Not there, and not ever again in the 30-year adult industry career that ensued.
Read that again.
No one touched me…and no one screamed at me.
I wonder if they call it the “adult” industry because you get treated like one. Requested. Consulted. Told truth. Not so in the default world…and I know this, because, really, none of the above is on my resume. I still kept it real when telling people about my career – that I graduated from The New School for Social Research with a 3.9 GPA. That I launched and published a national magazine for five years, sold it to a giant internet company, and made six figures as a freelance writer. That I wrote for various major publications including Paper, BET.com, and The NY Post. That I sold a television show to Oxygen I also co-wrote and co-produced. That I was a publicist for NBC, and an “urban market” content creator for about half a dozen major media outlets. What I didn’t tell them was how, alongside all of that, I steadily pursued my passion: Sensuality, and all the different ways it gets produced, played out, twisted, and, just as often…alchemized into Magic.
My shadow resume, since we’re here, includes: phone sex operator; cocktail waitress at a private men’s club, run by an ex-pimp-cum-born-again-Christian (he made the girls biz cards which stated they were an “Executive Leisure Consultant”); handing out live-sex-show flyers on roller skates; and editor of a BDSM publication. Later, after a spiritual awakening of the sort described by users of psychedelics, we can add: Tantra Instructor; Sensual Massage Trainer; and Sensuality Coach. I didn’t put those items on my resume for two reasons: one, I was afraid of being judged, for what I was already always being judged for; and two, because I never needed to create one. Passions keep you paid.
Peep this: I have worked in the sex industry for 30-plus years, and in that whole time, I have never been paid for sex. It’s amazing how so many people outside of the industry don’t realize how there are so many different definitions when it comes to “sex work.”
So many amazing sex workers do IRL sex work / FSSW, as escorts, exotic dancers, and more. My personal passion has been to understand the deeper somatics, and the psychology, of eroticism. I was, and still am, motivated more by a need to understand why the most powerful force in the Universe – sex – has become so repressed, and such a shattering source of shame to so many.
And now, here I am.
I am deeply moved by Peep.me‘s mission – Adult First, Adult Always. I get that my experience is not the experience of every person who chooses – or didn’t choose – to be in this industry. I consider myself extremely lucky, and privileged, to have connected with such an empowered community of industry professionals for whom this is not a job, but a calling. I know it’s not that way for everyone. However, the idea that sex work is ANY MORE base, exploitative, wrong, indecent, oppressive, or “prurient,” than any other placeholder in a Capitalist society – that’s a lie you’ve been told. Education, corporations, and organizations have taught me human rights violations exist everywhere. They ask us to sit down, shut up, be nice, smile, work the camera – but only how and when they say.
The sex industry taught me boundaries, compassion, and connection…and that equals Power.
My promise, along with the founders of Peep.Me, is that we will never stop working to make sure that the conscious, complex, and courageous beings who are CALLED to share their expressions through this medium are honored, respected, protected, and SEEN for the beauty and truth they bring to the planet.
This is a celebration – yes, of our bodies, and ALSO our souls.