By Peter Berton
It is rare that anyone writes a self-help book that truly delivers. But retired sex worker Lola Davina’s “Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry “ does just that. It is a comprehensive, intelligent and well-written guide that delivers just what it promises. You an find it online (including in e-book form) at www.loladavina.com.
There’s so much worthwhile in this book, that we would have to publish it in its entirety to do it justice. (But that would violate copyright, so that’s not an option.)
Here’s some of Thriving in Sex Work’s many, many highlights. (If you’re a sex worker, you really, really need to read this book.)
Peter Berton: Many sex workers worry that they are not ‘sexy enough to succeed’. What is your response to this fear?
Lola Davina: My answer has two parts.
The first is all kinds of people do sex work. Of course there’s always going to be a demand for youth and conventional good looks, but the days when straight white cis-het male tastemakers dictate which bodies are desirable are long gone. These days, the sex industry is grassroots, built from the ground up, and folks of every size, shape, color, age, gender, and ability have their devoted fans. What’s far more important is loving yourself, loving your body, being in tune with your hotness, and then inviting others to enjoy you just as much as you enjoy yourself.
The second part is understanding how you define success. For some of us, success means money, but for others, it’s how much freedom we have in our schedules, the quality of our interactions, how sex work makes us feel. Only you can determine whether, for instance, full-time sex work is a good fit, or does it make more sense in your life as a side-gig? What’s important is, rather than comparing yourself to others, knowing what’s right for you.
Peter Berton: Many sex workers are baffled by the way clients treat them. You offer some interesting thoughts about clients’ states of mind; could you please share them?
Lola Davina: I devote several chapters of my book, Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry to clients, their motivations, and how to cultivate good ones.
As I say in the book, clients demonstrate a tremendous amount of graspiness and neediness. So I find it helpful to view clients through the ‘Lens of Lack.’
Clients want something very, very badly. We usually shorthand it as sexual arousal or satisfaction, but as we all know, all kinds of emotions are wrapped up in our sexual selves.
Clients may be carrying tremendous anguish about their bodies, fear about their sexual desirability, rage due to envy, along with boredom, curiosity, loneliness, guilt, terror, and about a thousand other things.
My advice, when thinking about clients, is first to determine the underlying basis of what they want – connection, to be listened to, to play out a fantasy, to be mirrored, to play out a romantic date, to be worshipped, to be humiliated, et cetera – and then whether that person is skilful enough in the asking/giving/getting to be worth your time.
Peter Berton: What is the key to succeeding as a sex worker?
Lola Davina: I define success in sex work as making the job work for you. That’s only possible with:
Peter Berton: Can a sex worker succeed and still find love?
Lola Davina: Of course. Sex workers are some of the most lovable people I know, and many, many of them have found both romantic love and extensive support networks of friends and family.
Now, it’s true that there can be challenges. Not everyone is eager to partner with a sex worker, and some who are, are interested for unhealthy reasons.
I think what’s at the heart of your question is what are the effects of sex work on relationships, with the assumption that sexuality is something that most people save for only one person.
Finding committed, romantic/sexual partners while doing sex work, so much depends on communication, expectations, and attitudes towards sex and sexuality. Many, many people are not inherently monogamous, and they are perfectly comfortable with their partners being sexual with others. Then there are large swathes of folks who are fine with their partners doing sex work, as long as certain boundaries are respected.
In my 25+ years in and around the sex industry, the relationships that I’ve seen that have been the happiest and lasted the longest were either two sex workers (or more) or client-sex worker, although I’ve known supportive civilian partners as well.
My final word on the subject is: If you want a romantic partner while doing sex work, you can, you should, you absolutely deserve to. It does require being true to yourself, along with good communication skills, but the same can be said for all relationships.