Originally published in On Our Moon.
I step out of the shower, do my hair, and put on a full face of makeup, make my bed, and set up the lighting in my room so that I can snap a few sexy selfies for my fans. With my kids now at home round the clock, I don’t have the privacy or the time to create an entire video, but I think I can at least give them a thirst trap to keep my subscription site alive.
Right before stepping in front of the camera, I pop downstairs to check on the kids. My toddler is in the living room looking very shiny (and proud of himself!) and when I look closer I discover that he is covered in butter, as is my entire dining room. It seems that one of my teenagers made pancakes and left an open tub of butter on the dining room table, and neither of the older kids noticed what their brother was doing. I am no longer in the mood to shoot sexy selfies.
I wake up and make a cup of coffee and open my computer. I go to Twitter first, scroll my feed. As a writer and a sex worker, my Twitter feed is typically filled with my sex worker friends and colleagues’ promos, discussion about legislation that impacts sex workers, articles about sexual politics, etc.
Not today; today my feed is unrecognizable. Doctors talking about being forced to make decisions about what patients to treat. Nurses talking about working with very sick patients without adequate protection for their own health. Friends fearing they won’t make rent because they are no longer able to see clients and are ineligible for unemployment. Peers detailing their illness, and in the worst cases, deaths of those close to them.
And then my sexting platforms start pinging. Some of the messages are from regulars who are simply checking in. But then I get a message from someone I have never spoken to before, “I’m horny Mistress, I have my cock out.” A sense of dread washes over me as I think to myself, Who can be horny at a time like this?
But then I remember we are still alive, and this is my job. I pull it together, and ask him what he’s thinking about.
On Instagram I get a message from a woman I haven’t talked to in years. In a past life, before I was a sex worker and when my older kids were still little, we would spend afternoons together passing the time while our kids played. I like her, but long ago we lost touch.
Out of the blue she tells me that she wants to catch up, and leaves at the bottom of the message, as if it’s an afterthought, “By the way, I’d love to talk to you about how to get into online sex work, now seems like a good time.”
This would be less annoying if her note wasn’t one of the dozen messages I receive from strangers. With everyone at home and so many out of work, my job—that same job that used to make people gossip and then distance themselves from me—suddenly seems desirable.
I debate whether or not I should take the time to tell them that selling nudes, porn, and virtual dates is not as easy as it sounds; that just because I do my job from home, and they are now at home, doesn’t mean that they can be successful. The market is saturated by sex workers who now have to move all of their business online while social distancing. Clients are out of work too, and many of them have stopped buying our services. It takes years of building a social media following and a fan base before this job is even viable.
But I don’t have the time to do this. I have kids bouncing off the wall, and I have to spend any time that I do have to myself hustling and trying to keep my business alive so I can survive this pandemic.
I am bored. I haven’t left the house to do anything but grocery shop in two weeks. Moving from the couch to the kitchen to my bedroom on repeat forever has me feeling unsexy and uninspired. I know that some of my work is lagging, particularly in terms of content creation. But I just don’t have any privacy, and it feels nearly impossible to get in the headspace needed to perform sexually for an audience.
I text one of my regular phone sex clients, just to see how he’s doing. I know he lives alone and is working from home, so I imagine he hasn’t interacted meaningfully with anyone in some time. After about an hour of texting back and forth, having a conversation that ranges from how we are managing our COVID-19 anxiety to light sexy banter, he asks if my phone lines are on and if he can call; he needs to hear my voice. They aren’t on because I have been struggling to work, but I turn them on for him. I realize I want to hear his voice too.
He calls, and when I pick up the phone, he tells me he wants to feel my skin, to kiss me from head to toe, to taste me. I close and lock my bedroom door, and then slide my panties down as I slip into bed. We move easily into a fantasy world, one where a global pandemic doesn’t exist. We pleasure each other aurally until we are both panting in exhaustion. My head is clear, and I am satisfied. When we catch our breath, we start laughing. He jokes, “That was amazing; we should do this the next time we are quarantined.”
Jessie Sage is a sex worker and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She’s also the co-founder of Peepshow Magazine and the co-host of the Peepshow Podcast. Her words can be found in the Washington Post, VICE’s Motherboard, Hustler Magazine, Men’s Health, BuzzFeed, and more. She’s currently writing a book on sex work, motherhood, and illness called An Unexpected Place (forthcoming on West Virginia University Press).