Response to Vice’s “I Give Disabled People Orgasms For a Living”


A friend recently shared this article with me:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bmwbz3/i-give-disabled-people-orgasms-for-a-living

I appreciate when people provide a platform for those of us in the sex work community to educate others about the reality of our work. Much of what we do is heavily misunderstood, stigmatized, and subject to heavy doses of misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism — you name it. This all has a tangible effect on the lives of both us and our clients and makes this work sometimes very difficult to do.

In this brief interview, there are several things that Ms. Nerdahl gets right. We help people with their sexual development. We often teach them, whether they (or we) are conscious of it or not, to better understand and accept themselves, their bodies, and their desires. We do in fact see individual men the most but many of us are open to couples and to women, though far fewer women contact us. And she is absolutely correct that our work should be decriminalized and not legalized (they’re not the same thing) and that people aren’t “criminals” for seeking out support for their erotic needs. (It can’t be a crime if there are no victims!)

On the other hand, there are some things that Ms. Nerdahl gets wrong. For example, this paragraph:

The difference between prostitution and what I do is that we were saying 1) this is medically assisted, but 2) it’s not just about getting your money. I shouldn’t say prostitution’s all about money, but if you were just to hire an escort, she’s not necessarily going to care about getting you to a better place than when she found you, or to help you achieve whatever it is or help you learn something or help you explore something. The other thing is, she wants your repeat business. With us, we have more of a set protocol. Because emotional attachment is an issue that comes up, especially when you’re dealing with intimacy like this, there is a cap on sessions. And there’s a debrief that is supposed to happen at the end of each session, to help the clients process what’s happened and to help them process any emotional attachments that have maybe come up. And to make sure that everybody stays in a healthy space with it. It’s very client-led. The client identifies what it is that they want to explore or what it is that they want to learn or experience, and the coach is there as a guide or as a facilitator.

First of all, there really isn’t a difference between what she does and calls “medically assisted sex” and what people broadly call “prostitution”. Plenty of “prostitutes”, or sex workers, do in fact see people who need the kind of support she offers her clients. Sometimes this support is with sex itself. Sometimes it’s more about being held or caressed. Sometimes it’s to help process emotional and psychological concerns, which may be reflected in the types of activities or roleplays chosen; or through coaching, counsel, or various techniques which resemble those used in psychotherapy. Or it’s a combination of all of these.

If people aren’t aware, there are a helluva lot of sexually conflicted people in this world. We sex workers give them space to be and heal. And we assume the burden of all the misunderstanding, stigma, and hatred in order to do it. In that sense, it could be said we all offer “medically assisted” services.

It’s not true that “prostitutes” are necessarily all about money or that she (or he) isn’t concerned about getting you in a better place. I’m sure Ms. Nerdahl has a big heart, but let’s be honest: she wants to get paid for her work like the rest of us. (No different than people who don’t do sex work for a living.) Many sex workers are wonderfully caring, empathic people who care about their clients just as much — if not more — than Ms. Nerdahl does.

It’s also untrue that we don’t do things to mitigate or discourage emotional attachment. We Dominatrices tend to “debrief” our clients after their experiences with us, especially those which are particularly intense and challenging. Some of us also uphold very clear boundaries with our clients between sessions to ensure they don’t confuse the fantasy we explore together with the reality of our relationship outside of that fantasy. And though Ms. Nerdahl, and other workers like her, may put a limit on sessions, we don’t usually do that because, as she herself acknowledges, everyone is different. So, the need one person has might get fulfilled in one session but for another take years.

The larger problem here is that she’s speaking from a place in which there is a moral hierarchy of erotic services, of which she seems to place herself at the top. Some call this “whorephobia”. I don’t hold it against her. We’re all indoctrinated to see “prostitutes” as lesser people. She’s just acting that out.

What I want people to understand from this is that one does not need to call sex work “medically assisted” to make it respectable. This furthers stigma, and also sets us up for some really ugly regulatory possibilities when we finally decriminalize all sex work. I would also argue that it feeds the idea that women need to be men’s “nurses” in order to get approval for how we use our bodies.

There are a lot of reasons why people see sex workers — disabilities, working through psychological issues, wanting sexual experience, lack of time to develop relationships, and more — but there are also people who just want to have pure, raw sex for sex’s sake. And there is nothing wrong with that. And nothing wrong with paying someone who provides this as their job.

Ask yourselves: why does our culture normalize deceit as a way to get one’s sexual needs met but stigmatizes those who want to pay for it? Why is it more noble to manipulate a woman into sex than to honestly negotiate it with her in exchange for payment?

So, while this interview with Ms. Nerdahl is a welcome dialogue about the realities of sex work, it also illuminates our need to better understand and destigmatize the different types of work within our own community. We all may do different things, but they are all a necessary way to express human needs and desires — not only for our clients but often often us, too — and that itself is respectful enough.

Another One Bites The Dust

On January 28th, I received an email from a popular payment vehicle stating that I had been flagged as a “prohibited use case”. I was told that I should look elsewhere for a payment provider and that any payments sent to or from my email would be automatically cancelled. It closed with, “Thank you for your understanding.”

The email was brief and offered no explanation as to how they identified me as in violation of their terms. And, as I came to see the next day, it was received by many other people who also worked in the adult industry, and who also didn’t get an explanation. I emailed the company to ask, but have yet to receive a reply. Having been banned by another popular payment app, who also did not provide any reason, nor a response to how I had violated their terms, I don’t expect to ever receive one.

Was I frustrated? Of course. Surprised? Nope. When it comes to ways that those of us in adult work send or receive money (gifts or otherwise), we are used to the ways in which we are initially welcomed but later banned.

In the case of this site, I didn’t even know this until I did some research and found this:

https://twitter.com/myfreecats/status/1222592006779629568

This is a pattern, actually.

People in the adult industry are a great way to get your business off the ground. Gain a following. Make some money. I mean, sex work is a multi-billion dollar industry. Sex sells, right? Get us on there posting sexy photos and videos and writing and you’re guaranteed to attract users.

We have been included in popular platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, and in many ways sexy content has been the driving force of these interfaces, or a regular part of it, at least. However, once the company seems to achieve its user goals or generates some impressive revenue growth reports or something, we’re booted off, or heavily censored. (Twitter is one we’re all just waiting to see if we’ll be booted from. We’ve already experienced censorship in the form of “shadowbanning” and recent concerns that Twitter may be engineering a way to soft ban adult content through tweet reporting.)

So, here we are. Again. Banned from another platform. This time one it’s one we use for sending money.

But why can’t we use a regular credit card processor, or something like PayPal or Cash or Google Pay, like other businesses do? Because most of them, and their affiliates, won’t do business with us. Even if the work we’re doing is legal, we’re considered too “high risk”. Whether that’s true or whether it’s an issue of pearl-clutching, the result has been the same: denial of service.

Why not lie about what we’re being paid for? Some people do. But it often comes with a great risk. If discovered, you could potentially be prosecuted for money laundering. (Would you want to take the risk of a felony charge, hefty fine, and possible prison time? For accepting a $300 payment?) In some cases, they have not only shut down the accounts of adult workers, but confiscated their money. So, we routinely have to find ways to work around a continually changing landscape of barriers.

This payment site was one quick and easy way for us to send and receive cash. But no more. It’s now become the latest site who seemed to use us to meet their goals…before suddenly banning us without warning.

Of course, FOSTA/SESTA could be a factor in this decision. Sites don’t want to be accused of “facilitating (sex) trafficking”, which is somehow considered the same thing as consensual commercial sex, so they naturally drop us like a hot potato. If this is the reason, then why did they wait almost 2 years after it having been signed into law to cut the rug out from under us?

Regardless of the reason, we now have to scramble to find solutions. As we do this, be prepared for:

  • being asked to send gifts to us in a different way
  • changes in how you may be vetted
  • being asked to send payment for goods or services in a different way
  • increases in prices

Why changes in vetting? Some providers use payments as a vetting method. If that provider is no longer able to accept a payment in a way that works with her safety model, she may need to change how she vets you.

Why an increase in price? Most sites that specifically cater to the adult industry take a larger and significant portion of the payments than other sites geared toward the general public. This is because of the “high risk” I mentioned. One of these high risks is because we’re supposedly more likely to have chargebacks.

Here’s an example: a guy gets horny, buys a porn clip, jacks off to it, and then decides he’s going to be a prick and ask for his money back. Depending on the policies and resources of the site he bought the clip from, the policies of the card he used to purchase it, and the reasons he gave for asking for a refund, this is an added expense for processors to deal with and it contributes to the obstacles we face when doing this work. Guess who assumes the economic burden of fraudsters and thieves? Not the people committing the actual crimes, but those of us providing the goods.

So, in order to maintain necessary income levels, please don’t be alarmed if you notice some of us raising our tributes as we figure how run our businesses in a way that is friendly to modern-day needs of convenience and immediacy within a culture that is hostile to adult entertainers.

When these changes occur they not only require adjustments on our part but yours as well. When we lose access to safety and convenience, you lose access to it, too. Know that you may need to work with us and adhere to new ways that ensure that safety. Understand that some of us may not be able to receive payment as quickly as before which may result in delays from the time you send payment to the time we provide a good or service. Accept that you may need to plan ahead more often. And, please, don’t blame us for it.

(Don’t like this? Tell your lawmakers to Decriminalize Sex Work.)

[Image © Paul Campbell, 147222511]

My trip to Europe

I recently vacationed for 10 days in Europe. The itinerary was: Amsterdam, Prague, Berlin, and London.

After a connection in Dublin, I landed in Amsterdam.

I spent the afternoon dealing with some jet lag, but then ventured out and walked to the Red Light District.

It’s very rude to take photos of the women while they’re working, so I’ll only give you a glimpse of a couple of windows behind Me.

MistressTissa_RLD

I visited the Museum of Prostitution.

There were many placards throughout. Such as this one:

MistressTissa_PMProudWomen

MistressTissa_PMWantReject

Sex workers don’t like trafficking either. (Don’t let anyone try to convince you that sex work is the same as sex trafficking.)

According to this museum, when women get “older”, they may choose to become ‘SM mistresses”. Obviously, many women of younger ages always preferred working in BDSM.

MistressTissa_PMSMMistresses

There was a room dedicated to the “SM Mistress”. It included a sling…

MistressTissa_PMsling

…a St. Andrew’s Cross…

MistressTissa_PMcross

…a wall of basic implements…

MistressTissa_PMgear

…and a standing cage (which I thought I took a photo of but apparently did not).

The Cross included this warning:

MistressTissa_PMOwnRisk

The victim’s arms and legs are now spread wide and the mistress is free to do as she wishes” Music to My ears!

Here is “The Story of Kelly”:

MistressTissa_PMControl

While I’ve never provided the type of services implied here, I feel very confident that being a Dominatrix couldn’t possibly be less physically demanding. I would say it may just be differently physically demanding.

There were some quotes from workers that had been painted on the wall:

MistressTissa_PMSexTherapist

MistressTissa_PMFainthearted

I agree with both. This and all other forms of sex work are important work and therapeutic for many. It’s also not for wimps.

On another wall were “confessions”. The museum provides blank cards on which visitors can write their erotic secrets. Then, they are posted for everyone to read. Here is one that We Dommes hear regularly:

MistressTissa_PMStrapOn

I loved this one:

MistressTissa_PMBeautiful

The next day, I went to Demask…

MistressTissa_DemaskNL

So much rubber and not enough Euros!

I did buy something, though. It will show up in a photo shoot soon.

About an hour or so after this photo was taken I began feeling very ill and rushed back to My hotel. I spent the next 24 hours dreadfully ill with food poisoning. The 24 after that I began feeling better but couldn’t eat much. As a result, I had to cancel My trip to Prague and wait it out in My hotel room.

So, I went directly to Berlin instead.

I was greeted in baggage claim with this sign:

MistressTissa_NoBSBank

It almost made up for the insanely slow process of getting My bags. (The plane was literally 200 feet from the claim area, but it somehow took like 45 minutes.)

I appreciated this advert for “Dildo King”:

MistressTissa_DildoKing

Shortly thereafter, I saw another:

MistressTissa_DildoKing2

Thank you, Berlin, for so openly accepting ads for dildos — and right next to “apartments for sale”. <3

Also, the universal impulse to draw-on nipples:

MistressTissa_BerlinNips

I visited Peter Dominie…

MistressTissa_PeterD

They have a lovely store…

MistressTissa_PeterD2

…where I would have bought a couple of things, but, sadly, they did not have My size. (The woman working was very helpful, though!)

Then, I went to Mister B. (I forgot to take a photo of the exterior, so excited I was to get inside.)

I had a fantastic experience at the Paris location, so I was looking forward to what I might find.

I had another excellent experience in Berlin and picked up a few things to add to Temenos:

MistressTissa_MrBhaul

A PVC flogger, a lightweight rubber flogger, and a neoprene open-jaw mask.

That evening, I went to My fourth Roger Waters show for his Us + Them tour. This time I got first row. It was incredible. My favorite of the four. The Berlin audience was friendly and radiated good energy.

There were a few changes from the US leg, one was that during the intermission there were examples of things to #Resist from:

MistressTissa_Waters_Torture

I do enjoy rewarding torture, so, I’m sorry, Mr. Waters, but this one I will have to politely decline. 😉

The next day I headed to London.

Not much kink to report (I did have an almost erotic experience with a delicious veggie burger at Honest Burgers in Soho), but I did engage in My fetish for historical buildings and again walked around Westminster Abbey, this time stopping in the little Jewel Tower tucked behind.

This is one of the windows from this modest 14-century building:

MistressTissa_BowSubject

If you’re My subject, you belong on your knees.

;>

Looking forward to My next trip, where I’ll get to really indulge in My historical building fetish: Rome and Athens next year!

Interview about SESTA with Swedish Radio

I was interviewed by Olivia Wikström from Swedish Radio about SESTA.

The clip is here: Mistress Tissa on Swedish Radio

Here’s the translation of the text on the site (not the full transcript):

The new US law SESTA punishes sites if someone is exposed to trafficking there. But many sex workers believe the law will fail.

SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, is a new law in the United States that wants to deal with online trafficking by making the sites themselves responsible for their presence. So now people behind sites can be punished with large fines or imprisonment if it is discovered.

This raises concern with sex workers, partly because it can limit what we can say about sex online, because no one will dare let it be there. In part, they mean that the law forces an exposed group in an even more vulnerable situation.

Removing these platforms will increase the proportion of people taking risky decisions about their jobs.

Mistress Tissa, dominatrix

With the help of the network, those who work with sex and eroticism can volunteer do more research on their clients and not expose themselves to the same risk as walking the streets.”

 

 

Interview with Coalition Radio

On Friday the 16th, I was interviewed by Pat of Coalition Radio. In the interview, I discuss the SESTA bill. I touch on various related issues, but focus on what I believe are the psychosocial origins of the legislation.

You can listen here:

(This is an hour-long interview. Those who have attention issues [raises hand] may find it more palatable to listen to it in smaller chunks.)

Human Nature

Society tends to view people like Me as things to be criminalized and eradicated. Likewise with others whose livelihood involves eroticism or sex. When people like them are faced with some aspect they do not like about themselves, such as an interest in being tied down and flogged, people like Me who joyously do these things (consensually, of course), become scapegoats for their repressed sexuality.

One reason why I do what I do is because I am genuinely passionate about people expressing who they really are. I am especially interested in matters of identity, sexuality (especially kink), and intimacy. All of which are conscious elements of how I approach and practice BDSM.

Sadly, our world attempts to define and control these things from the moment we are born. We are color-coded and assigned roles and expectations about how we dress, behave, have sex–and with whom. We are told what is okay and what is not. And when we don’t fit into those boxes and express our true nature, we are often shamed.

I don’t think most people fall neatly into “woman” or “man” or “straight” or “gay”. I don’t even think most people are strictly “vanilla”. Identity and sexuality are far more interesting and nuanced than what we are lead to believe. Challenging and experimenting with what we have been taught about them can be very exciting, gratifying, and liberating.

I am here to provide a safe space for you to explore these things that you may feel afraid to express. I am here to usher you into a new awareness of yourself.

The Trouble With Professional BDSM

Some people seem to have a lot of issues with providing BDSM as a professional service. The group I’m most confused about are the “lifestyle” BDSM practitioners. Some of them have a problem with the lifestyle Dominants/submissives/switches who are also professional. They don’t seem to understand that you can be both; they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, being both can be amazing, if you are able to make it work for you.

First of all, I want to clarify, for those that don’t know, the term “lifestyle”* and how it’s used in BDSM. It implies that BDSM and fetish play is something you do in your day-to-day life. You do it because you enjoy it; you are genuinely into it. It is your “lifestyle”.

When someone is strictly a lifestyle BDSM practitioner, they generally don’t ask for compensation. Sometimes they may ask their play partners to help provide toys, safety and cleaning supplies, etc. but it’s usually negotiated casually and not expected of the Dominant and/or top to supply. I am a “lifestyle” Dominant in that I genuinely am into BDSM and practice it in My personal life.

Onto professionals. This is where some people get their “lifestyle” harnesses in a bunch. I regularly encounter other lifestylers who have difficulty grasping that one can be genuinely into BDSM and also do it professionally. This confusion leads to a lot of misinformation and abuse. They call Us “fake” and “money-grubbers” and “prostitutes”, without understanding that what We do is no different than someone who really loves to fix cars and does it for friends and family, but also does it for a living, i.e. gets paid to do it.

Now, do these confused people also call doctors, makeup artists, and journalists those same names? No. They are lauded for their education and training and sharing their knowledge and experience and creativity. They are thanked for the service they provide to others.

BDSM professionals, however, are often not treated with the same respect. Despite Our having spent years learning techniques and safety through books and classes and mentors, accumulating the tools and wardrobe of Our trade, securing a space to practice Our craft, etc. — like any other professional — We are routinely treated poorly by the non-professionals in the BDSM community. They sometimes consider themselves the “real” practitioners of BDSM. This is nonsense. Anyone who is doing it is just as real as anyone else. We may love it just as much as you – and quite possibly more. Those of Us who are truly into BDSM don’t suddenly become “fake” when We make it Our vocation, We are dedicated. Wanting to help people be happy and fulfilled – including Ourselves – doesn’t make Us “prostitutes” (not that there is shame in being one), it makes Us smart. We aren’t “money-grubbers”, We, like everyone else, want to be paid for what we provide to others.

Imagine a person who loves to teach and wants to become a teacher. Once they get paid to teach, does that mean they suddenly stop enjoying teaching others? That they are only in it for the money? That they don’t care about their students? All because they get paid to do it? Of course not. Then why do people seem so confused about when someone offers BDSM professionally?

One issue that I believe makes this difficult for some people to understand is that many people just don’t know how to deal with eroticism. Since sex is taboo in most societies, primarily because of religion and other sexually repressed groups and individuals, the cumulative effect of years – centuries – of indoctrination about the “evils” of sex and the body is that people just short-circuit when it comes to thinking about it, watching it, doing it, and even the notion of paying for it. So, when people are asked to compare work like farming with work like tying someone up and spanking them, they just lose all ability to think analogously because of the negative effects of this indoctrination. “But-but farming is good…and-and bondage is bad!” Why is that? Because growing food and selling it to people who are hungry for corn or wheat is somehow more noble than selling (consensual) bondage to people who “hungry” for rope or chains?

Another issue is that the bulk of people who are professional are women. It’s almost always the women who are treated like garbage and called names. Men are not treated with nearly as much contempt. Sure, there aren’t as many of them (less demand, for one), but for those that exist, I never have seen them questioned, treated with such cynicism, and berated the way women are. Why? Misogyny.

One of the cornerstones of most societies is that women are sex objects. This is an interesting irony when sex is usually a taboo subject. Because of these mixed messages, some very real, lose/lose dilemmas are created for women (a subject to explore in another article). Our job is to provide idealized and unwavering beauty, on-demand arousal, and erotic and/or sexual satisfaction at the whims of any man who desires it, but to make a living at it? Unacceptable. We are not supposed to be making money off the thing We are supposed to be providing for free.

In closing, I’d like to pose some questions to those who have a problem with professional BDSM. Is your issue that those of Us who ask for a fee to provide (always consensual) power exchange, bondage, flogging, femme play, etc. think that what We do somehow diminishes you and/or BDSM as a whole? That women shouldn’t be charging to provide people with erotic experiences? Or is it that you are envious that We are disciplined, dedicated, and talented enough to make a living doing it?

tl;dr: Being a BDSM professional does NOT mean:

– We do not genuinely like and enjoy what We do (Some of Us have been doing this for years and years.)

– We are only in it for the money (But if someone is, no big deal; it’s no different than any other profession.)

– We are all “prostitutes” (A way to shame women who have the audacity to own their bodies and sexuality and capitalize on their erotic interests and talents.)

– We do not care about Our clients (This doesn’t even make sense.)

*I personally don’t like the term “lifestyle” and use it reluctantly (and in quotes). The reason is that the term “lifestyle” is something that is often used pejoratively by those who have problems with people who do things they do not approve of, such as people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, trans*, etc.; they will say someone is “living the gay lifestyle”. The intent behind the phrase is to imply that people are choosing to live as they do, which is of course repugnant to them,  and the effect of this is that it disenfranchises them as deviants from society’s acceptable code of conduct. I don’t feel like I’m living the “BDSM lifestyle”, but that it’s just a part of who I am. So, instead of “lifestyle Domme”, I prefer something like “genuine Dominant” or “Alpha Femme”.