Tag Archives: sexuality

Interview: Daina, A Former Escort

Preamble

I’ve known Daina for a while. We met while playing a certain MMORPG and quickly hit it off after I recruited her for my guild. A charming conversationalist with opinions on a great deal of things, she would keep me up most nights, and we would just gab on about anything and everything until sunrise.

It came as some surprise to me that she formerly worked as an escort. I’ve known sex workers in the past, but none were from eastern Europe. We started talking about sex work, both her background as an escort, and my fall-back plans of pornography and prostitution. It’s something a lot of unemployed and underemployed women consider, especially when money is tight, so it’s often a very engaging topic.

Almost immediately after meeting her I proposed the idea of an interview and she agreed. The following is a modified transcript of that interview. Hopefully, you find it as engaging as I find her and it sheds light onto the experience of being an escort, the economics of sex work in Ukraine, and remains respectful to both the profession and its clients.

Because I never asked for the basic information in the interview, I’ll write the basics out here. Daina worked for a large escort company based in her home city of Kharkiv. She’s 27, cis, and holds an advanced University degree. She worked as a call centre employee after she stopped working as an escort.

The interview was conducted over the course of 2 hours on January 14th, 2016 via text. There were a few cuts made for information that was shared in confidence and not to be shared in the article. There were also readability changes made by the editor with the interviewee’s consent. The raw transcript will not be made available.

Interview

Elizabeth: How long were you an escort?

Daina: Around 4 years. To be precise: 3 years, 10 months.

Elizabeth: I didn’t know it was that long. Did you work for yourself at all in that period or was the work strictly done with a company?

Daina: Strictly with a company. I was afraid to start my own business of it. [I’d] rather have protection and a secure environment.

Elizabeth: Being a big company, they must have offered a good amount of protection. Was that the case?

Daina: Yes it is. Three to four security [members] at each apartment and a personal driver if client requests to come over or go somewhere. Personal driver waits for you outside at the place ur going into if it is by hour. If it is paid for day or night you can ask him to wait or let him go.

Elizabeth: That sounds like really tight security. Knowing that there was always muscle around, did it make you feel safer working as an escort?

Daina: Yes, especially in the first months.

Elizabeth: Did you ever have to rely on them? Was your safety ever threatened while working?

Daina: I can recall four or five times they had step in, but only one was a really serious case.

Elizabeth: Ah. I can understand if you don’t want me to prod, but may I ask what happened?

Daina: Client on xhimia (Bath Salts) which wouldn’t leave after his time was up. Started screaming, saying he didn’t even cum, that it was 20 minutes not a full hour. When I tried leave room and call for lady in charge grabbed me and tried force me into having sex. I recall my attitude wasn’t quite nice too. I simply hate xhimia and what it does to people. Lady in charge came check just few seconds later to remind me the hour was up and noticed client and called for security.

Elizabeth: That sounds like a dreadful experience.

Daina: Partially my fault as well. My attitude wasn’t professional at all. Kept nagging and stuff. He refused take a shower before we started. Kinda deserved what came to me

Elizabeth: I wouldn’t say that. In my opinion a client should be as professional as the escort. If he didn’t clean up before hand, that’s on him, but I digress.

Daina: There’s a certain way to talk. Lets just say I was in a grouchy mood and it was 5am. Just got woken up by the lady in charge.

Elizabeth: Apart from the dangerous, drug using clients, how was the work? What were you responsibilities to the company and the client?

Daina: Depends on the client choice and how much you can bend rules. Some clients just wanted company or drinking partners, some looking for sex only, and some rare people were looking for love or the rubbish “blah blah” they see in movies.

Elizabeth: The 80s movie cliché of the sex worker with a heart of gold?

Daina: Yea or a girl to save from escorting or “blah blah” which made me pretty sick.

Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s such a strange narrative to have. What precious metal would you say your heart is?

Daina: I can’t be objective for that, you’d have to ask people around me, but I’m pretty sure it would be something close to gold.

Elizabeth: Having known you I’d probably agree, maybe Platinum. How much were you paid?

Daina: Depends. At first, when I was still new, 45% less than the last time I worked. Also depends on how many clients.

Elizabeth: That’s fair. Would you be able to guesstimate monthly income? Like on an average month how much would you be taking home?

Daina: On good months up to $350 – $400, which is really a lot in my country.

Elizabeth: That’s interesting. How much was your rent/food per month?

Daina: Spent around $140 – $180 a month and saved the rest. Well first I was a VIP (above average) because of my short height and my Arabic ethnicity.

Elizabeth: That’s actually a fairly really nice chunk of savings. In general what were the demographics of the clientèle? (age, ethnicity, poor/rich, etc.)

Daina: Most client either were either rich or foreigners. Foreigners were mostly young, around early 20s. Since Ukraine is mostly known being a huge university [destination] for foreigners, some cities stack up 28k foreign students.

Elizabeth: Was it easy dealing with clients, given the nature of the business?

Daina: Most of time yes, but it was harder with client who were looking for BDSM and extreme stuff

Elizabeth: Ah. I could imagine. That’s more of a speciality thing, isn’t it?

Daina: Yes i did my share of extreme BDSM, but i found my most comfortable space in swingers/couples.

Elizabeth: So you were often employed by couples?

Daina: Not a lot. Most of time I was escorting people to parties or foreign student sex. Foreign students for sure made 70% of my clients during all my escorting days. To them $50-80 a hour is a joke and the most expensive are $80-120 an hour. The cheapest were $15-30 an hour.

Elizabeth: Wow, ordering a pizza costs more over here. Does it ever get boring?

Daina: Boring? How?

Elizabeth: I mean, the sex. There’s this narrative that a lot of people have that sex as work could make sex boring.

Daina: Yes it does. Standard sex, regular foreplay, at a certain point you’re just like laying down on your back, letting him stick his penis and faking joy.

Elizabeth: Did the boring-ness of standard sex make the fetish work more appealing? Enjoyable?

Daina: Yes it did.

Elizabeth: What tips would you have for other women considering sex work?

Daina: Know your employer and its reputation. Have clients shower before sex even if he said he did, condoms at all times, have that water that make dick slip in easily (Don’t know name in English), be creative and most of all do not agree with every type of sex. Set your limits.

Elizabeth: Moving forward, how do we (as a society) promote safe sex work? How do we make sex work sustainable? Change societal opinions?

Daina: Unfortunately we can’t, but safer sex work comes when people realize we are not simply whores. Just like them we need money to live on and that some of us have already received university degrees. Personally I majored in economics, I’m a pro accountant which is equivalent to Economic Engineer. Five years of university. And I know others who had same or better degrees.

Elizabeth: Some of my friends over here have similar qualifications. But yes, I fully agree with you, it must be treated as a valid profession. That was my last question, thank you.

Daina: Hahaha you didn’t even bother ask what I learned from escorting or how it changed my personality.

Elizabeth: I had intended to ask: How did you experience working as an escort change your personality, your opinions, and your character? We were running a bit long on time.

Daina: It ain’t all bad, you know, it forged my personality and made me discover aspects of my self to be true and honest with my soul. Never make me believe in a mist and that some things just happen good or bad. That’s a fitting ending.

Deviations in Masturbation in the Transgender Community

This time around I want to talk about something taboo, but something that we should be sitting down to discuss. It’s something that most of us have done, and continue to do. Something that alleviates a lot of pressure and (hopefully) gives us pleasure. I’m talking of course about masturbation.

This topic is not an easy topic to tackle, it is a controversial topic with a lot of variation but even more misconceptions and assumptions. There’s a lot of aversion to this topic, it’s immensely personal, and it may provoke feeling of disgust in other individuals. It’s been highly politicized by religions, scarcely talked about in the education system, shown for humour in early 2000s frat-boy comedies. There’s way too much baggage to unpack.

But as a trans woman, it is one of the ways I experience my changing body. It is something that has certainly been affected by hormone replacement therapy but also something that was abnormal long before I came out. Human sexuality, as a whole, has been of great interest to me for a while and this is one of the many facets of sexuality that I’m interested in.

It’s also another area where I want to see the assumptions of cisnormativity destroyed. The large problem I have with these assumptions is that it assumes one masturbates a similar way given the same genitals, a wrong headed assumption that is basically biological determinism for sexuality. Cis people assume that because some trans women and cis men share the same genitalia, that they operate the same, that these two groups masturbate the same. This myth is perpetuated by the porn industry as well as ignorant cis individuals and basically treats both groups as “dick-centric tops”. While this has lessened in recent years thanks to the work of trans femme porn stars, such as Chelsea Poe and Zinnia Jones, many cis people still don’t understand trans sexuality.

Hence, I wanted to use this article to sit down and have a discussion about my sexuality and the sexuality of other pre-operative and non-operative coercively-assigned-male-at-birth (CMAB) transgender, nonbinary, and genderfluid individuals as it relates to our masturbation techniques, how we differ from cis norms, and how masturbation affects how we conceptualize our body.

Methods and Ethics

To accomplish this, I didn’t simply want to get on my soapbox and expound on end about how I touch myself, I wanted to talk to others like me and get a general feel for how we all differ. To this end, I talked to 6 individuals candidly, via direct message on twitter, and asked roughly the same informal interview questions. I’ve never really liked using a formal script, because the answers can feel forced or devoid of subjectivity, thus a more organic, conversational approach was used.

When I put out my request for individuals to talk to about this subject, I received very few responses initially. It took a few requests on twitter, and through contacts, to find individuals willing to talk about this subject. Because of that, the sample size is incredibly small. If I cast a net of about 1500-2000 users, by best guesstimate, receiving only 6 responses from individuals willing to speak to me is slightly worrying. This could speak to how sensitive the topic is to individuals. Given how only two users were willing to put their name on record, this is an easy conclusion to make. Essentially, you’re trusting very personal information to someone who wants to publish this information publicly, and hoping that what you’ve committed to record does not affect you negatively. The sample size is small because the stakes are high.

However, sample size is somewhat a moot point as the purpose of the article is to get a snapshot and start discussion, rather than research behaviours patterns in trans individuals. That type of research would require more time, a larger sample, and probably the backing of an institution that could assure anonymity is maintained and everything is ethical. That’s not to say that I’m not acting towards the best interests of my sources, it’s just that when it’s a writer researching these kind of topics alone, there’s a higher degree of risk.

Trans Identity and Masturbation

Frequency

Of the 6 people I’ve interviewed, I must say that each individual had surprisingly different answers to every question. When asked how often they masturbate, the responses varied. Overall the range was large, between a couple times a day, and a fortnight. However, most reported masturbating at least every other day. Whether the individual was on HRT or not seemed to have very little affect on their masturbation, and everyone interviewed still actively masturbated. However, this could be a slight misrepresentation as I did put out the call for people who wanted to talk about this subject.

Techniques

Importantly, each individual approached self-pleasure in different way and used a variety of techniques to achieve pleasure. One anonymous interviewee reported tickling the underside of her penis head, remarking that it “Actually just fucking tickles a lot. Too much to do more than a a little bit at a time.” She also noted that this was a very mood specific thing, and it had to “strike her.” Bug detailed that xe uses petting, a technique xe stumbled upon as a teen in the shower, as water hit a “particular spot.” Several individuals do report using the “rub and tug” technique, but this is often complimentary to other methods or in absence of certain external criteria.

In addition to these techniques, several of the individuals report anal, prostate, and perineum play. Hailey, for instance, fingered her asshole, but did stipulate that most of that play occurs during bathtime because it’s cleaner. Others find pleasure a bit higher up. Kitty uses a vibrator on her perineum, as it gives her the sensation of a phantom vagina. She also uses her vibrator to stimulate her prostate anally. Similarly, Robyn reported using her vibrator on her perineum while also engaging in anal play, but stated that she had to be in the mood.

Toys and other apparatus factor a great deal into how we masturbate. As mentioned before Kitty and Robyn play with vibrators, but most respondents mentioned at least some kind of toy play. However, a lot of the reported experiences were with make due “toys.” Zoey mentioned having a large old cellphone that “vibrates like a beast” which she likes to put where “the opening for a vagina would be.” In college, Hailey used to use a vibrating razor handle as a vibrator in the shower. She states, “It was a small handle that I wrapped in duct tape and a condom, and hit the on switch. Felt pretty good. And that was before I realized I was trans!” The use of items in play is not limited simply to objects that vibrate either. Bug reported using clothing, and plush toys, to help xem heavy pet. Xe also does this with a partial tuck because “It sometimes helps because, often, I’m visualizing having different parts.” Lastly, both an anonymous respondent and Kitty reported using nipple clamps as a means of heightening the pleasure.

Self-conceptualization

As alluded to above, some of the respondents felt that how they masturbate greatly affected how they see themselves and how they connect to their body. Concerning the nipple clamps, an anonymous respondent said: “I always clamp my nipples with something because it makes me feel better about my breasts, even though I don’t quite *have* any.” Kitty stated that the way she masturbated was tied into her gender identity, and that masturbating from stroking can feel dysphoric. Because of that she mixes up erogenous zones. Robyn stated that the changes that came with HRT also changed her sexual experiences. “I don’t think about sex or masturbating as purely a penis thing, I have to be much more into it mentally and physically.”

In addition to changing conceptions regarding sex, in some cases these techniques helped the respondents to re-imagine their bodies. When asked if her gender identity affected the way she masturbated, Zoey said:

Well, yeah. I’d love to have a vagina and a penis (minus the two nuts they hang with). So… I mean, I’ve gone to some spectacular lengths to keep the phone vibrating while playing with the other bits. Cause it feels more fulfilling, or at least more exhausting in the “Oh my god I just came” way.

Zoey is not the only respondent who imagined fluidity or hybridity between genitalia, Bug described a similar scenario. “It’s probably more often than not that I imagine having clitoris/vagina, and then sometimes i’ll also have a penis.” Lastly, Kitty’s masturbation was also largely affected by how she imagined her body. “I go back and forth between feeling a phantom sensation of a vagina (occasionally very strong) and just accepting my cock, that tends to dictate whether I spend more or less time rubbing and fingering myself as though a vagina is there.”

Not all respondents reported a connection however. Hailey stated that she felt no connection between her gender identity and how she masturbates. “… I am not particularly bothered by my cock. I recognize my ass is just that: an ass. Unless I underwent GRS of some kind, I’ll never have a vagina. It would be nice to have, but I also have accepted my body for what it is.”

Quality of Orgasm

The final thing of note is how techniques and conceptualization can have an affect on how satisfying the orgasm is. I asked the respondents if their gender identity (and self image) had any effect on the quality of their orgasm. As mentioned above, Kitty feels that mixing up her erogenous zones can help her hate her body less and make the orgasm feel better. Zoey reported that sometimes her identity would have an effect on her orgasm and sometimes it would not. Robyn said, “Yes, it’s not so much about cumming anymore. It’s about enjoying the experience and even teasing myself after I’ve cum and enjoying the hyper sensitivity. Sometimes I can’t even tell when I’ve cum because the whole thing can feel like cumming if I have the magic wand in the right spot.”

Discussion

Going into the interviews, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had a, frankly misguided, hunch that because my friend and I masturbated completely differently that perhaps the rest of the community had similar experiences. What I got out of the interviews exceeded expectations. I genuinely did not know how different my 6 interviewees would be in how they masturbate and while there are some similarities between them in body conceptualizations, the means were all very different.

It was important to me to have incredibly candid conversations with individuals about our sexuality, about what gets us off, about how we see ourselves, and how all of this interacts with our gender identities. It’s a very tough conversation to strike up, especially without any level of intimacy prior to having the conversation. Learning about someone’s inner most kinks, desires, and their feeling towards their bodies, is something I will never take for granted.

In the case of most respondents, it was evident that how they masturbated was affected by how they saw their body, as well as aversion to certain elements of their body. This ranged from dysphoria and loss of concentration while orgasming, to intense orgasms. Even in the cases of dysphoria, no respondents ever stated outright that masturbation was a chore. This was something that respondents did willingly in most cases. Although, this is a tough question to ask, so the respondents could very well see it as a chore or a nuisance sometimes and perhaps didn’t mention that to me in the interview.

If there’s a takeaway from this article, from this experience, it’s the complexity of imagining and enjoying your body with a fluid gender identity, or genitals that do not match your gender identity. As someone who is fine either way, I found the notion of stimulating a phantom vagina to be fascinating and interesting. This is something I’ve never thought much about, I make due with my muff and anus in most cases, but a few of the respondents prompted me to consider this. Similarly, imagining and preferring a body with both a penis and a vagina must be difficult, however, it also makes a lot of sense when you begin to think about fluid identity and what that entails.

Conclusion

By interviewing CAMAB transgender, nonbinary, and genderfluid individuals, it’s obvious to me that masturbation is another instance where trans individuals deviate from cis-norms. However, this deviation helps us to understand, imagine, and enjoy our bodies more appropriately to our gender identity. The various techniques we use, the areas we stimulate, are all affected by our concept of gender identity but also may inform that identity as we explore what “feels good.” Since so much of human sexuality is tied into cisgender norms, it is important for trans people to break those norms and establish sexuality of their own. However, there is still a great deal of taboo regarding masturbation and until we can eliminate the taboo, there will still be a great deal of misconceptions regarding masturbation both outside of the trans community and within it.

This discussion then, should serve as a reminder that we are all different, that we think about our bodies differently, and that even though we’re a community it’s more of a mosaic than it is a homogenous blob. It should also serve as an example to individuals discovering their identity for the first time. Try some of the things outlined in the article, see which ones work for you and which ones do not. Masturbation may still be seen as a very personal thing, a journey of body discovery, but it’s a path heavily trodden by individuals just like you.

Admittedly this article is limited by it’s sample. It’s lacks representation from post-op trans women, individuals coercively assigned female at birth (CAFAB), and intersex individuals. I did not seek individuals to interview, but rather, posted on twitter and interviewed only people absolutely willing to talk to me. Perhaps the masturbation techniques of CAFAB trans men, non-binary, and gender fluid individuals could be explored in a future article provided I could find individuals to interview.