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Sex Workers on Their So-Called ‘Daddy Issues’: A Roundtable Discussion

There’s a common assumption that sex workers enter the industry because of absent or abusive fathers and families, but as these seven famous sex workers can attest, that’s really not always the case

Welcome to The Daddy Issue, our very fatherly tip of the cap to the father figures in our lives as well as all the fatherly stuff they can’t help but do — from pretending they’re not asleep on the couch, to the dad jokes that make even Tony Soprano smile. We’ll talk to famous dads and their equally famous progeny and also deconstruct fatherly influence in each and every one of its forms. In doing so, we hope to come out the other side with a better understanding of our own — and everyone else’s — daddy issues. Read all of the stories here.

Although most people’s parents inadvertently fucked them up in one way or another, the phenomenon of “daddy issues” is distinctly gendered. More specifically, it’s lumbered upon women when they do literally anything that relates to sex and relationships — whether that’s something kinky (e.g., calling their partner “daddy”) or something more emotional (like struggling to trust a romantic partner). And while “daddy issues,” like “mommy issues,” can refer to something real — mostly to attachment styles resulting from childhood experiences — their weaponization against women is simply a way of minimizing their emotions, and shaming them for sexual desires.

This is no more obvious than in the sex industry, which, according to mainstream opinion, exclusively employs people who’ve experienced some kind of childhood trauma or abuse — or, as they say, have “daddy issues.” There are a small handful of studies that claim there’s a clear-cut correlation between sexual child abuse and sex work, but many of these papers — one of which is authored by an anti-sex-work activist — often dangerously conflate sex work and sex trafficking, and tend to ignore any comfort survivors of abuse might get from reclaiming their sexuality via sex work. 

Importantly, these studies and the wider conversations about sex workers’ assumed trauma ignores two major facts. For one, most people who have family trauma or who’ve been abused do not enter sex work, so it’s impossible to say there’s a predicative relationship between the two. (Some studies have found that sex workers have a higher rate of childhood abuse than the general population, but it’s hard to know for sure, as most researchers aren’t prying into the personal histories of veterenarians, chefs, teachers, programmers or anyone with less stigmatized professions.) Secondly, plenty of people get into sex work by choice, many of whom have loving relationships with their families.

That’s not to say there aren’t sex workers who’ve suffered abuse or childhood trauma, or whose experiences of it have led them into sex work. It also doesn’t mean that sex work is invarably an empowering choice (many people engage in survival sex), nor that abuse doesn’t exist in the industry — in fact, globally, sex workers have a 45 to 75 percent chance of experiencing sexual violence on the job (and they have less of a chance of being believed when they report such violence). But this prevalent misconception does erase the experiences of countless sex workers who’ve entered the industry consensually, and whose dads (and other parents/guardians) aren’t only accepting of their careers, but — like any other parent whose child does any other job — supportive of them.

So, to find out what sex workers make of this misconception, I asked a few of them about their experiences in the industry, their relationships with their families and why they think there’s an assumption that men find it harder to accept that “daddy’s little girl” does sex work. 

The lineup included:

Here’s what they had to say…

How did you get into sex work?

Michaels: I’ve been involved in the sex work space for just under 11 years, having started as a student, when I’d do go-go dancing at nightclubs on the weekends to make ends meet. At a certain point, a lot of the dancers started to quit to go and do webcam modeling online, where some of the top models earned $30,000 a month! I went home, signed up for an account, and cammed the first night I moved into my apartment for as long as it took until I made my $975 rent. I logged on at 6 p.m. in an empty room with my laptop propped up on a cardboard box, and logged off at 4 a.m. that next morning having made over $1,000.

GlittersaurusRex: I’ve been doing sex work since 2015 as a cam model and pro dominatrix. I got into it through curiosity and because I wanted to further my sex education and exploration. So started taking BDSM workshops and going to events around NYC.

Baker: I’ve been doing sex work since 2019. I started because I was left with a lot of debt by my ex which I was unable to pay off.

Banks: Almost three years — I started on OnlyFans in August 2019, just before the pandemic.

Bellucci: It’s been a little over two years. I’ve always been a very sexual person and hung out with like-minded people. Some of them were already in the porn industry and kept telling me I should give it a try, even if it would be just creating solo content or something similar. At some point, I decided to go for it. The only reason I didn’t start earlier is that I was always afraid of what people would think, but when I became older and more confident, I realized I should be doing what makes me happy, not what makes other people happy.

Nightwood: I’ve been doing sex work since I was 18. I originally started as a cam girl in order to help with tuition fees — my course load was insane, so there was no room for any type of job with a conventional schedule.

Wilde: I’ve been doing sex work for six years, since I was 18. I got into it when I was introduced to the webcamming industry by someone I met, and then cammed under their mentorship for nearly a year. It turned out to be a toxic situation that I had to remove myself from. After that, I had to decide if I wanted to continue on the path of being a sex worker or try to figure something else out — eventually, though, I made the decision to pursue porn professionally.

How did your family find out about your line of work? What, if any, difference was there between your mom and dad’s reaction?

Michaels: I told my mom about webcamming the same day my go-go dancer friend told me about it. I told her I wanted to do it and, in a round-about-way, asked for her blessing. My mom stated the obvious things at the time: “The internet is forever,” and “Have you thought about how this might impact your future job prospects?” But ultimately, she saw the opportunity and told me she’d support me. She actually helped me choose my first webcam model name! 

My real dad wasn’t a fixture in my life at the time, so I didn’t go into sex work considering what he’d think about it. I didn’t honestly think he’d ever know, or that his presence in my life would increase in any meaningful way — I was wrong on that in hindsight. My stepfather didn’t really cast an opinion because he didn’t feel it was his place.

GlittersaurusRex: I had come out to my family as polyamorous, and once they understood that, everything else was an easier conversation to have. My mom just wanted to know that I was safe and happy, but my dad had more questions about everything. The more I shared with him over the years about my journey, the more he shared about parts of himself and his history that I had no idea about. One of my favorite conversations was after a water-sports fetish workshop I had taken a few days before his birthday. When I shared what I’d learned and was excited to try on new clients, he shared how a stripper had squirted breast milk into his mouth while she was dancing on stage. 

I was shocked, but also so proud, like we unlocked a new level of our relationship. I thought to myself, “So the weirdness doesn’t fall too far from the tree!” After that, I was never concerned about sharing anything with dad. 

Baker: They’d heard things from gossip, as some people find it amusing to try and tell people before you do, but I told them the full extent before anyone else did. Actually, my mum was more shocked than my dad.

Banks: I was outed to my family without my permission, which was really horrible and quite traumatic. If I was given the chance to explain it to my family in my own words, then their reaction would have been different, but that was taken away from me. I come from an extremely conservative and religious background. My mom — and her entire side of the family — condemned me and didn’t speak to me for 18 months. My dad passed away around 12 months before I started sex work, which was used against me. I faced — and still face — constant comments, like “You’re shaming your dad,” “What would your father think?” and “Thank goodness your dad wasn’t alive to see this.” It really hurt, and it wasn’t — and isn’t — okay.

Bellucci: I grew up with my mom in Sicily, and she’s always been a very artistic and unconventional person — because of this, it was quite easy for her to understand. My father also lived quite an artsy lifestyle, so it wasn’t much different. I’m way closer with my mom, though, so she definitely had way more questions, just because she was scared for my safety.

Nightwood: I initially told my parents that I was a social media model/influencer, but left things pretty vague. Soon after, my father ended up stumbling upon my Twitter, and unfortunately, my profile was very explicit at the time. Even though I was raised extremely strictly, my family was surprisingly supportive of my career choice.

Wilde: My family has always been supportive of anything I want to do. When I told my parents I didn’t want to attend college and instead would do webcamming out of my room, I didn’t know what to expect. I was embarrassed at having to discuss anything remotely sexual with them, including that I’d be appearing on a cam site for strangers completely nude and performing acts on myself. They were pretty clueless, but supportive of my decision. It was a bit harder for me to be open about this work to my dad, knowing that he was a porn watcher himself. I didn’t want to think about the possibility of him or someone he knows finding me online and seeing me naked.

What is it about men that supposedly makes it harder for them to accept that “daddy’s little girl” is a sex worker?

Michaels: I believe men struggle with the idea of their daughters going into sex work because of their lack of understanding about what that landscape actually looks like, and because they aren’t comfortable with the idea of other men looking at their “precious” daughter naked and sexualizing her. They seem to not realize that every woman they’ve slept with is someone’s daughter, or that every woman they’ve possibly mistreated or been unkind to is as well. 

I think the discomfort comes from the fact that they have to evaluate themselves as men, and take accountability for how they’ve interacted with women, as they come to realize that other men will interact with their daughters in that same regard — or in an even worse regard because we take off our clothes for money. Mirrors are often scary places to look when you don’t want to see the worst in yourself.

Nightwood: My father is actually more supportive than my mom so it’s interesting to consider this “daddy’s little girl” perspective. I feel like this perspective honestly boils down to sexism and societal gender norms. 

Wilde: People expect a woman to be “daddy’s little girl” forever, which is confusing to me. We all know that human beings have sex — sexual arousal is literally the reason that we’re all here. Any father should know and expect that one day their daughter is going to be getting fucked, or causing sexual arousal in other people. It’s just not something that most men feel comfortable talking about, acknowledging or even thinking about. Fathers don’t want to think about their daughter’s sex life — so when my sex life is posted online for the world to see, the idea of that can make some people, particularly men, uncomfortable because they think about their own daughter and their own level of comfort being challenged. 

How, if at all, has your work changed your relationship with your father? 

Banks: My dad was amazing — he was the one person in my life who told me that girls can do anything. He raised me as a single father, so we were really close. I had different businesses in the past, and my dad was always so proud of my achievements. To be fair, I know he definitely wouldn’t have loved me being a sex worker, but he would have loved how successful in business I’ve become — and he would have loved how happy I am. He always wanted me to be happy — that’s all any parent wants for their child. And I am happy.

Nightwood: Since my father was extremely overbearing when I was growing up, and I despised him for it, I believe his acceptance of my career choice has actually strengthened our relationship overall. Time definitely influenced this, since I’m not a little girl anymore, but rather an independent adult woman. If I voiced my interest in pursuing sex work prior to being 18 — or even prior to being 20 before my career really took off — then that would have inevitably been a totally different story. 

Wilde: My dad and I have always been extremely close — and, thankfully, that hasn’t changed since I became a sex worker. I don’t know if his response would’ve been different had I been older. I was the youngest I could possibly have been when I started sex work, and he was as supportive as possible. If I started sex work later in life, I would have had to find something to occupy those first few years after turning 18. I’m not sure what my life would have been like.

How do you feel about the misconception that all sex workers have “daddy issues” or have suffered some kind of abuse?

GlittersaurusRex: I’m annoyed about the misconception about sex workers, but believed it myself for years before I entered the industry. The first three years I started sex work, I deep-dived into my psyche to look for my own daddy issues, especially when I added being a sugar baby to my repertoire. I needed to know for myself if I was perpetuating a stereotype. Luckily, through lots of emotional labor and group therapy, I feel secure in myself and my choices, knowing they have very little to do with my relationship with my dad.

Baker: I see a lot of “she mustn’t have a dad,” like people think a dad’s influence would have stopped us from doing it? I have no daddy issues — I joined for my own personal financial struggles. It’s nothing to do with my dad. 

Banks: It really frustrates me that people think sex workers must have experienced some kind of trauma, or that we have “daddy issues.” It’s silly, there’s no basis for it and it’s yet another sexist, prehistoric opinion that demonizes women. I’m sure some of us have experienced trauma, but I’ve personally not seen higher rates of this among sex workers, as opposed to my non-industry friends. Most of the industry workers I know are strong, empowered business women who saw an opportunity and ran with it. I know OnlyFans creators who are running multi-million dollar companies. “Daddy issues” isn’t a thing. It’s just something that people say to justify our work in their head when, really, sex work is work — it’s just another job. 

Wilde: What bothers me isn’t the misconception itself, but the rude and negative connotation associated with it: “Oh she started porn at 18, she must be damaged. She must’ve been molested or felt no love as a child.” My answer to people with that mentality is — so what? What’s so wrong about a traumatized person finding solace and refuge in an industry that accepts all? What’s wrong with someone with any type of sexual trauma reclaiming their own sexuality and using it as a commodity? Why is it considered normal and widely accepted to re-traumatize an already possibly abused or traumatized person with verbal abuse and stigma? People of all walks of life, ages, races, upbringings and genders suffer abuse and sexual trauma at all points of life. Not everyone gets into sex work afterwards. But those that do shouldn’t be stereotyped and stigmatized for their bravery.

When it comes to family responses versus societal stigma of sex work — which is more influential in your work and sense of identity, and why?

GlittersaurusRex: Certain members of my family are very influential in how I want their love, support and respect for what I do. Other members of my family and society can go kick rocks! I don’t need or want their opinions. Even before I started sex work, I always marched to the beat of my own drum and learned early to not take personally what others think of me. That’s their problem not mine.

Banks: In terms of my work, societal stigma is more influential to me than family responses. Maybe it’s a privileged thing to say, but at the end of the day, my family can detest my work, but I know they’ll still love me. However, societal stigma is relentless. I’ve had to move towns, legally change my name, change all my contact information, delete my personal social media, seek restraining orders and move my children to new schools, all due to the backlash and condemnation I’ve received from people. It’s been years, and yet I’m still constantly on alert, trying to make sure we’re safe. I know it all stems from jealousy and anger, but it’s exhausting. I haven’t done anything personally to these people, but they have an undying hatred for me because of my work. I can never outrun that, it’s just something I’ve had to learn to live with.

What do you wish people knew about the reality of sex workers’ personal lives/relationships?

Michaels: I wish people knew that sex workers are people just like you, deserving of the same respect and rights, and intelligent enough to make decisions regarding our own bodies. Whether it’s fucking someone of the same gender, recording ourselves having sex or fucking a stranger for money, it’s nobody’s fucking business. We didn’t choose capitalism — don’t get mad when we decide to participate in it.

GlittersaurusRex: I wish people would know that sex workers come from every walk of life with various traumas that may or may not have anything to do with their fathers or father figures. Don’t assume that how we present ourselves to you, the client, is who we are 24/7. We are humans with feelings and needs. Respect the boundaries we put in place for our own mental and physical safety.

Baker: I actually wish people would worry less about why we got into this line of work. The reason doesn’t matter as long as the sex worker is safe and happy.

Bellucci: I wish people knew how many men and women in the porn industry have normal, quiet lives. Of course, I understand that it’s not very interesting to show a porn star who goes home after the shoot and spends hours gardening and doing yoga. People are interested in scandals and drama. It’s quite funny because it all comes down to having sex with other people, and it’s always been very shocking for society to know that you can have a relationship but also have sex with others. Nowadays, however, swinging is so popular that I’m sure a lot of people would be surprised that their family members, neighbors or friends from the church go out every Saturday night and have fun participating in gangbangs.