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Setting up boundaries: the relationship between sex workers and sexual assault

Jul. 29, 2017
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I started camming when I turned 18, and for the most part it’s been the perfect fit for my lifestyle. Some people find they have to keep their sex-worker lives private, but when I started camming my friends were very okay with it. I deal with extreme anxiety and depression that causes me not able to hold down a regular job, and camming has been a great way for me to support myself. But there are drawbacks, even for someone who loves this work as much as I do.

I’m currently taking classes to fulfill requirements for a Bachelor’s in Human Sexuality, and whenever I explain this I get a ton of sexual questions like what I am into or a ton of questions on my own sexual history. I’m completely used to it by now, but it’s still annoying. Recently, while taking a Greyhound, I sat next to a guy and we started talking. After about an hour of small talk, we started talking about education, and he told me that he recently graduated with a BS in Psychology. This seemed like a great time to bring up the fact that I was studying human sexuality. Bad move: his eyes widened, and suddenly the tone of the conversation changed. He started asking me deeply personal sexual questions as well as making statements about how I must be so good in bed. Once I got home, I realized he’d DMed me on Instagram talking about how he wanted to try some positions he saw in the kamasutra. As soon as this complete stranger realized I had interest in stuff of a sexual nature, he decided that this meant he had an invitation to sexualize me. And he didn’t even know about my work as a camgirl.

When I tell people that I cam—even people I’m friends with or people I feel comfortable with—I get the exact same reaction. They see me as this enlightened sexual woman whom they can use for knowledge or pleasure, and it gets tiring explaining that I am not my camgirl persona: I enjoy sex/sexual activities just like everyone else, but because I’ve made it my work, I am seen as nothing more than my relationship to sex. When I was in relationship, my partner never respected my body autonomy: he knew me to have a high sex drive, and he knew I was also a sex worker, so he thought it was okay to assume I was always “DTF”. One day we had a huge argument about how he didn’t like that I talked “sexy” to other people and let them see my body—and then he wanted to have sex. He couldn’t understand that I didn’t want to sleep with him right after he’d slutshamed me.

There are a ton of people, many of them male, who will never respect me because I take my clothes off online—but most of these men also feel entitled to my body because I show it off. They refuse to understand that I have boundaries. It has taken me a long time to set up my own boundaries and be able to verbalize them. I used to do things I didn’t want to because I was afraid of saying anything. Now, I have different boundaries for different parts of my life: for example, people I cam for constantly talk about meeting up or even fucking me in real life, which is something I wouldn’t do just because that’s who I am. On the flipside, I’ve had to face people (mostly men) who feel entitled to my body because they know I cam; a male friend of mine whom I’ve hooked up with before constantly asks for the nudes or content I make—for free. You wouldn’t normally ask your friend/lover/friend-with-benefits for free stuff from their job, so why would it be okay to do that with sex workers?

I’ve been in situations where I wasn’t able to verbalize my own comforts, so when someone pays attention to my boundaries, I feel lucky. Once, while traveling to Portland, I got stoned with someone and he started kissing me and talking about handcuffing me. I told him I was way too high to consent or choose to be affectionate. He listened to me and stopped, and I felt fortunate that someone listened and respected to my boundaries. I tell this story and everyone hears how good of a guy he is, but no one sees setting your limits as an act of heroism or bravery. That’s too bad, because I think it’s just about the bravest thing there is.