The first time I traded sex for money involved an alley blowjob, 20 bucks and a half a pack of cigarettes. But I didn’t actually enter the sex business for another seven years. Post-grad school, I’d been struggling to make it as a writer and gradually racked up some debt. It wasn’t anything major. I’d been lucky to get through on scholarships and part-time jobs. I wasn’t a big spender or a party boy. But every few months, cash had become tight enough that I’d needed to put groceries or some other necessity on my credit card. I was finally at the point where my professional work was covering day-to-day needs. But there was nothing left at the end of the month for debt reduction. Needless to say, Visa and I were not getting along.
I wanted to be in the black, but I knew something drastic had to change. I’d never considered sex work an option. Frankly, I didn’t think I was attractive enough. The word “hustler” conjured rippling sun-kissed muscles, square, testosterone-infused jaw-lines, and 10-inch dicks, none of which I had. The idea that a lanky, scruffy Ethan Hawke circa Reality Bites type could get paid for sex didn’t seem plausible. But then I met Pierre. He was the friend of a recent ex. Forty-something but in good shape, he had that grey-haired daddy thing I’ve always liked. But when I found out he was a part-time whore, I was shocked. If he could get paid for sex, maybe I could, too, I thought. I snapped a couple of bedroom selfies and put an ad online. I got my first call two days later.
Terrance says he likes my photos and wants to meet. But his situation, he says, is complicated. A middle-aged married guy, he’s living with multiple sclerosis. His dick is functional, but his legs less so. He can still walk with the help of a cane and some braces, but he’s going to need some help with positioning during the session. We’re supposed to meet at some motel near the airport, but he offers to pick me up at the subway. His fetish, he says, is for shaving. He wants me to help him into the bathtub, lather him up and remove all his body hair with a disposable razor.
I don’t know what I imagined sex work was going to be like before I placed an ad. But the thought it would involve shaving a disabled middle-aged man’s pubes in an airport motel was definitely not at the forefront. I try to sound confident as I’m agreeing to meet him, keeping the air of a professional who’s done this a million times before. But I’m sure my nerves are obvious. Standing in the Kipling Station parking lot, I’m buzzing. The alley blowjob could be chalked up to youth and tequila. But what I’m about to do is a conscious informed decision and involves a fetish I never knew existed. How the fuck did this become my life?
When he pulls up in his green mini-van, I try to walk confidently, a little seductively even, toward it. Just remember he wants you, I say to myself. You are in control of this situation, and whatever happens you can deal with it. Once I’m settled in the passenger seat, I realize he’s at least as nervous as I am. Pudgy, balding and dressed in a rumpled navy suit, he seems like he’s worried I’m going to back out. He’s Asian, which he confesses is part of what’s making him nervous. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I’m an Oriental,” he says. “Is that okay? If you don’t want to see me I understand.”
Suddenly the pieces start to fall into place. It doesn’t matter how unattractive I might think I am, because for him this exchange isn’t about fucking an Adonis. It’s about him being with someone who won’t flat out reject him. I smile and give his thigh a squeeze. “Don’t worry,” I say. “I like all kinds of guys.” He tells me about how his MS has been advancing, how he’s probably going to be wheelchair-bound within three years, how hard it’s been on his wife. I try to smile reassuringly, but I have no idea what to say.
We pull into the motel parking lot, and as he steps out of the car I realize how limited his mobility actually is. Once inside, I help him into a chair and he puts the plastic shopping bag he’s been carrying on the table along with a stack of 20s. We go over the details of the scene. He wants me to help him out of his clothes and into the tub, then use the pack of Bic Twin Selects he’s provided to shave him from head to toe. He’s heavier than I am by a good 50 pounds, and easing him into the tub is hard. I keep trying to make the experience sexy, but except for the fact I’m naked, I basically feel like a hospital orderly.
He’s not particularly hairy, so the job goes fast, though I end up using about six of the razors as they clog with hair easily. When he’s smooth, he asks me to jerk him off. My hand looks gigantic as it encircles his cock. It takes only a couple of minutes before his cum is oozing between my fingers. I wipe him down and he instructs me on how to help him up. The whole thing is over in less than 30 minutes, but I’ve been totally unaware of the time. I’m not sure what the protocol is at this point, whether I’m supposed to try to find a way to fill the rest of the hour we’d agreed upon or if we’re just done. It turns out to be the latter. As he drives me back to the subway, he’s beaming and chatty.
I’ve played out a version of this exchange thousands of times since; meeting a guy who believes he’s so undesirable no one would even do him for money. I’ve wrestled with questions of my own attractiveness my whole life and my failure to measure up to some unreachable ideal of male perfection. But escorting has made me realize sex isn’t a commodity that should be reserved for those who meet a specific standard. Just because you’re 400 pounds or have zits on your back or a two-inch dick doesn’t mean you have any less right to get laid than anyone else. Of course, there are challenging moments. But the knowledge I’m doing something that’s genuinely benefiting the health and happiness of the clients I serve keeps me going. And as an added bonus, Visa and I are getting along better than we ever have before.
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this column incorrectly stated the price of the blowjob as 10 bucks, when in fact it was 20 bucks.