AKA “I’m a former sex worker and sex trafficking survivor”
I’ve always considered myself an especially truthful person.
Trust– authenticity– is the only thing that we really have. I consider even a small bend of the truth to be a fracture of that trust, so I strive to be as honest as possible in all interactions. To a fault, I’ve been told.
For a decade, I’d been hiding an integral part of my identity, both by omission and with white lie cover-up stories.
I didn’t hide it from most people; I’d call it an open secret. But I did hide it from my biological) family, and from folks who knew me growing up (because I thought it might get back to those bio family members).
I want to stress that I’ve covered this part of myself not because I’m ashamed of it, but because I wished to protect my loved ones from knowing the consequences of their own actions. Because I’d swallowed the shame that others kept placing on me. And because part of me knew that they would not be able to handle these truths – and at the time, I wasn’t safe enough to be able to stand in my own truth even if every single person who loved me turned away from me.
Now, at 30, I am. So here’s my truth:
I am a former sex worker and sex trafficking survivor. Both. It’s a spectrum, and for me, I slid along it, and it wasn’t linear.
Sex work was the only way I was able to survive in one of the world’s most expensive cities with less than 1k to my name—especially after I was targeted, chosen, groomed, and locked onto by one of the bay area’s most advanced predators.
For reference, 1k is barely one month’s rent in San Francisco, even in the cheapest possible places. I needed cash, and I needed it quickly.
I’d also just been accepted to an internship program at my dream company (or so I thought), so I would be working 20 (unpaid) hours a week, plus taking public transit to get to said unpaid job. Not to mention clothing that suited the role, and lunches and coffee, and everything else that comes with working a job.
I needed an income source that could flex around these 9-5 internship hours to support my unpaid labor without interfering with it. As a just-graduated-from-college 22-year-old, the only job that fit that description was sex work. (Trust that I tried for a ton of others, and this was what was available to me).
For me personally, it wasn’t awful. It wasn’t even so-so. At that time in my life, sex work was one of the most formative, important, and downright enjoyable experiences of my life
My enjoyment of it doesn’t make it more legitimate, but I do feel it’s important to clarify that I didn’t come out of the experience as “damaged” or “abused”, though I did experience harmful and dangerous, even violent, things in that line of work. In fact, in some ways it helped heal some old wounds, and keep me a little safer from the other predators around me. Nothing like money and the protection of a powerful white man to fend off a younger, less powerful white man, I suppose.
Sex work was just another job, and I don’t regret it in the least.
I only regret that I got gaslit into believing that a six figure job at Facebook was somehow #livingthedream, when I’d never been less safe or more miserable. It’s ironic that Sheryl Sandberg is on a quest to control and harm sex workers, given that she has created a work environment that’s far more coercive than anything I ever experienced in a strip club.
And I regret that because of the very real dangers of coming out as a sex worker, I wasn’t able to share this part of myself with everyone I’d wanted to.
If you’re not sure what to feel or say after reading this, that’s okay! I’m not asking for anything. Truly. I’m just speaking my truth, and standing fully in my own story. Particularly since forcibly sharing my story – especially the aspects about sexuality – is something men have been trying to use as leverage to control and harm me for a very long time.
So even though I’ve come out about this before, in many ways, this is me coming out again. And in a way that’s perhaps more visible and lasting.
PS: if you’re looking for ways to support sex workers, feel free to tweet me at @EvaGantz and I’d be happy to share some ideas. There are a few organizations and activists doing fantastic work, and they could really use your money and your support!