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Sleeping with My Friends Never Complicated Anything

And everything else I’ve learned on my way to becoming the ‘Whore of New York’

The following is an excerpt from Liara Roux’s new memoir Whore of New York, which explores the pleasures and pitfalls of sex work, told through her own story of sexual and spiritual awakening and survival after abuse. 

I love very easily. I can see the best parts of people without trying too hard, the things that make them delightful, their talents, their vulnerabilities. I love making people feel cared for. Perhaps that is a large part of why I started doing sex work in the first place.

I care about strangers as much as many people care about their friends; friends I value like lovers; and lovers I would do nearly anything for. It doesn’t feel like a burden. If I took anything away from my Christian upbringing, it’s that loving others is a joy in and of itself. My cup overflows. Giving food to a hungry stranger or listening to a friend vent about their breakup over tea bring me joy. Being generous is its own reward.

Learning about boundaries and how to give on my terms was something that Christianity never taught me, though. We were taught to turn the other cheek. I had to learn how to walk away as well. Being generous doesn’t mean you need to be a martyr. You can help more people if you nurture yourself; bleeding out on a cross to prove a point only hurts the ones who love you.

For me personally, sex is something that is less emotional than it is for most. My colleagues, however, have a range of views on the work. Some, like me, get a voyeuristic pleasure from it. Sex can be more about seeing into someone than about experiencing pleasure. Especially when I first started having sex, the novelty was particularly exciting to me; even if the sex wasn’t orgasmic, or even pleasurable, just getting into someone’s head like that was so fascinating. I’m the type of sex worker — and there are many of us — who delight in strange requests from clients, who read about psychology and sexuality and apply it all in our bookings, approaching the work almost as a type of therapy.

Other girls I knew just unabashedly loved the sex. One went on and on about the multi-orgasmic romps she had with clients. When I first heard her, I thought she was bluffing. But as we grew closer, she would sometimes call me in tears, telling me her client wasn’t leaving his wife after all. Oh, I thought, you really are into him.

For some people, physical intimacy can feel overwhelmingly intense. One girl told me the work was traumatic for her; she felt she was giving something of herself that she would rather not. I was horrified when I heard this, of course. She was one of the most successful escorts in New York, beautiful, fun, loving, kind. I had done doubles with her, and usually I was the one who took care of the actual fucking.

She told me she would sometimes make over $80,000 a month. She was supporting her family and she didn’t feel like she could stop. There was her mother, who was disabled, and her sister, who had a college tuition to pay. There were people who relied on her. What could she do?

It pained me to see her doing work that exacted such a spiritual cost on her. Even if the sexual aspect of our jobs felt largely impersonal to me, it was clearly sacred for her.

I’ve often wondered why sex is considered so sacred to so many. Don’t have sex with your friends, it could change the relationship. Perhaps it’s because my friends and I are sluts, but I’ve never had a friendship end over sex. Resentments or bad communication, in my experience, are far more likely to destroy a relationship. Perhaps it’s the meaning so many people imbue sex with that gives it such power to kill.

Sex, for me, has never been about power. It’s always shocking to me when someone says that. Desire, of course, can give you power — but sex? The sex I have is usually just about pleasure.

But perhaps it’s inevitable that people who are unused to pleasuring themselves freely can’t handle sex. Some people seem to think you can only have a good fuck if you’re making love. I don’t think love necessarily has anything to do with sex, either. Sex can be an act of love, but so can making someone breakfast, holding their hand, giving them a thoughtful gift.

People complain about how fraught it is to be fuck buddies. Don’t fall in love. Just talk about whatever you’re feeling, for fuck’s sake! It’s always challenging navigating everyone’s boundaries: Some people only want to have sex if they’re in a relationship, which is fine, or they only want to have sex with a condom if they’re not, also fine. Where most of these things break down is when no one talks about their expectations, or they lie.

Perhaps people’s misconceptions about sex have to do with a lack of experience. The first few times you orgasm with someone it does feel intense and intimate. But you could say the same thing about going to see a personal trainer, the dentist, or getting your hair cut.

Personally, getting my hair cut is far more intimate for me than having sex; this person is going to physically change your body! They’re washing you, styling you, in absolute control over your fate. The first time I got my hair cut at a salon, I cried and cried. I hated how I looked. I insisted on cutting my hair myself for years, unwilling to trust anyone else with it. It took me years to find a stylist I trusted.

Is there something wrong with me, that I can come with a stranger whose name I haven’t gotten yet on some crowded dance floor? Is it wrong that I feel comfortable fucking an older man who’s paying me?

It’s deviant, to be sure, but if it’s so wrong, I can’t say I mind. When I hear people talking about tantric sex, some sort of epic soul connection, I roll my eyes. There’s definitely an intimacy to sex, a baseline level of trust one should have with your partner, but at the end of the day, I’d rather have bad sex than a bad haircut. 

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