Interview to a sex worker who works in a BDSM studio.
March 2022. Berlin.
The first question would be what is for you being a sex worker? Define that term.
The first word that I can think of is liberation. Because for me, discovering sex work was definitely the liberation that I discovered in my life. Discovering that I wanted to do something that I like without thinking too much about it. And, yeah, liberation. Even though it’s a really discriminated job field, I never felt this liberated in my life. And I never felt this free of anything I could choose and what kind of work I wanted to do. And of course, there is also work, kind of stuff that you just do for money sometimes. But that has been for me a really weird situation. I always picked exactly what I wanted to do and also because I could do that, because I’m also really quick release in that way. I was working in a BDSM in and when I started the sex work, I already had the whole sex work community supporting me. So I started working very privileged, and I am still very privileged in that way.
If you would have the agency to write a law, trying to give more protection to the sex workers: How would you define what sex is? What a sex worker is?
Anything related to sexual desire. Because sexual desire is a very subjective matter. And for example, like in my work, I am rarely completely naked and I rarely have this traditional sense of sex with my client. And I still call that sex work because I still call myself as a sex worker. And I even call myself as a whore. And because I am providing a service and it’s not as a quick just sex, yeah, it’s just a different type of work that I’m doing, which is related to sex and everyone has a different desire to sex. Some people, they don’t even want to have penetration in order to feel this level of intimacy or express and exploring their own desire.
There are certain elements. Anything related to the sex and sexuality in exchange of money, or it can be also in exchange of something else, but in exchange of something. So as all other work.
For instance:when you are volunteering something, would you call yourself a worker if you are not getting paid? No.
Sex work is a job because we get paid for that. And it’s actually the most consensual thing that human can do. And a lot of people see that as abuse and a bad thing. And while all the other sexual harassment or rape at work happen, society and people just don’t look into it. But at least in the sex work, it’s happening consensually within exchange. It is a lot more ethic than this “white” abusive male boss, trying to hook up with a secretary or assistant.
How long have you been doing this job?
It’s been a bit more than four years. I’ve been into BDSM for a while, but I never really thought about do this as a job because I have my own trauma: I used to hate sex workers. It’s like a family story. And then my father married a lot of times, and he always married sex workers, and they were horrible to me. And I thought it had something to do with their job, which it had nothing. They were just horrible people. And it took me a while to think about sex work in a different way. And then I thought, why not? If I never try it, I will never know. And it was literally the best decision that I ever made: to choose this job. I’m really, really happy about it. I’m a lot more free. I don’t have to work 40 hours a week, and I can work whenever I want. I can take a break whenever I want.
Can you name three motivations or impulses that made you choose this job?
Money, saving time and exchanging consensual intimacy. And that I had the control. And that was, for me, a very important part.
This is really interesting because a lot of people have mentioned this third element as well, but it’s so against the cliche and the stigma because, as you said, people tend to say: “okay, sex workers are victims”.
It’s exactly the opposite. For example, in a research from 2019 in Germany we knew that the human trafficking in sex work only happen like a 3% and and 97% of the sex workers chose to work as sex worker and they always argue with people yeah, they’re like single moms doing sex work and stuff like that. But truth be told, when you are a single mom and working somewhere for €10 per hour and you are not even able to work full day because you have to take care of your kids, how the hell are you going to do that? And yeah, it’s a lot more abusive. And there’s also something that I always say in German and in the interviews. In Germany there is a job center system. So when people lose their job and don’t have the job, so you register yourself to the Job centre, they get the financial incentive or support and they force you to go to the job interview. And then most of the job that they offer there, it’s really, really shitty job. You really get just a bare minimum this minimum wage and after the tax and after the rent, you barely get like 500. You’re working full time in months.
It’s really horrible.
It’s really horrible. And so you have to really leave for and of course, they choose working as a sex worker for the financial reason. But when you think about it in a different way and how many percent of the people who are working in a supermarket, they are really passionate about their job. They want to work there. How many people do you think it’s really there? Almost close to zero. Apart of the management, I’m talking more about retail and people who are working on the shop floor. Literally this Job centre leads people to have this shitty job, otherwise they will not be financially supported and and no one talks about that as a forest job. And for me that is a lot more forced job by the government and from the government and no one seems to care. And sex workers choose this job and they are financially also a lot more stable. Not everyone, of course, and above all they can just choose whenever they want to work and they just can put their time a lot easier. And actually they can take care of the child a lot more and better without getting super stressed. And I’m not saying everyone should do this job, but if they choose to do it, then yeah, it’s their decision. And when you think about it from Latin America, when you think about tango, you know how intimate and how physical and how sexual tangos are. You don’t need a license to dance tango or to be tango instructor. You don’t need the reasons, even though it’s emotionally, physically, way too intense. It’s super sexual, which I like. Don’t get me wrong. But no one talks about it because it’s so cool, it’s art. And pornography: it’s also a game because they call it as art. It’s all the same thing to my eyes. And there’s no difference, you know?
And so, yeah, the example with tango is really beautiful and graphic. I never thought about it, but it’s a great comparison.
Are you legalized?
Yeah. In Germany, if you want to work in a space, you have to have a so-called Whore ID. So this is a whore ID comes from the Prostitution Protection Law. You have to have this ID to be able to work…
But is it call Woren Pass?
Whore ID, that is how sex workers call it. I know that’s what sex workers call it. But it is not an official name.
So, are you legalised because of that? Because it offers you more protection?
It doesn’t really offer me more protection. And the difference is, since I have this Whore ID and I can call the police…
And in that sense, it’s a legal protection…
It’s more like a legal protection. But that doesn’t change anything. And for a lot of people, you have to out yourself as a sex worker and in extremely and discriminative society, you know, and you have to out yourself. And, um, and if you are a single mum and you have to out yourself and not everyone want it in sex work. And so there is like a big problem in Germany. It’s legalized but you need an ID to do that. But to be able to have the ID either you need to be German or to come from Europe. If you come from a third country, you need to have a specific kind of visa. For example, in my case it was a little bit easier because I started sex work way before I was married, so I had a passport and a visa in Europe, a kind of a European half citizen. It was a kind of situation where I could do anything what I wanted to do without any limitation in Germany. So for example, Eastern European, they can still work legally here because it still belongs to Europe and they don’t need a visa. But everyone who are from Latin America, they need a visa. And if you have a student visa, you cannot work as a sex worker legally. All the people just work in a dark corner where they cannot really call police or get any support. And even though the law itself is a prostitution and protection law, it only protects privileged people in that sense. And I am extremely grateful that I belong to that category, that I don’t need to think about it, but that it’s not it’s not an ideal thing.
For instance, related to this because it’s a very interesting matter, we have interviewed a lot of people agreeing on this. Let’s say: as a Cuban citizen, I get a tourist visa and I would like to apply for a job, for being a secretary. If my employer does all the things, maybe I can have the visa without big problems. But if I want to apply for being a sex worker…
No, it’s not possible.
It is allowed by the written law, but it is not as an unwritten axioma. I will never have the visa because it is about sex work.
And and I can quote what they say in German Foreign Office: they say, quoting, “it doesn’t bring any positive aspect in the society”. So they deny the visa. So it’s a little bit tricky because this Prostitution and Protection Law, and the Immigration Law don’t really work together. And they are two different things. The Immigration Law only let people in and keep their visa if they have a specific reason and where if they think they are bringing some positive aspect in the society, which is a bullshit.
It’s super subjective, what is positive aspects from the society?
That’s literally the person who is giving the visa that day who decides, which is a like really subjective matter. And you know how many times I was fighting with them? I never had a problem with them because I had the so-called normal job. I used to work as interior designer, I was something related to the art and stuff like that. So I had like a designer visa. When you come to Germany, the first thing you can apply to is a language student visa or tourist visa. After that you have to renew your visa as a freelancer or artist freelancer, where you are working in a company as a registered worker.
After this, when you work in any kind of category like that for three years, after that, you get a special visa and then you can work at anything you want, regardless of what kind of job title or you can do whatever you want to do. So you can work as exactly same as a German.
From there they also don’t really ask any more, what do you do? They only see the number, the money that you actually made in Germany.
After three years of waiting, you can still legally do that. And when you are coming from, let’s say, from Cuba and you don’t really have this specific skill that you can make bit more money, but you only work with a minimum wage, of course, the chance that you get and renew your visa is not so high because they have minimum wage of the minimum money that you have to make to be able to get the visa renewed. It’s almost €20,000 euros. It’s a lot of money and not everyone can make that money, especially when you live in Berlin, when the minimum wage is this low. And so that’s kind of tricky situation. So technically, if you can survive the three years, somehow after that you can legally work as a sex worker in Germany. You can also register yourself as a sex worker. And afterwards when you renew your visa, you also don’t have to explain what kind of job you did to make this money. And there’s no way that they can track that. And you can still just say, “yeah, I’m working as an artist”. And because in the papers it’s not written what kind of job you did, and you only see the numbers: how much you earn and how many taxes you paid. That’s it. And after that, when you get this kind of visa, after two years is technically possible to apply for a permanent residency in Germany.
But to get a job, because the employer has to fill a lot of documents, the process is so bureaucratic, almost anybody wants to do it.
What kind of sexual services do you offer? And which are most recurrent, requested practices in the city?
That’s a little bit tricky question. I am full service sex worker, more specialized in BDSM and in BDSM I’m also specialized in rope bondage, since I’m also teaching Sibari bondage. And so I don’t really have that diverse type of clients. Most of my clients are couples. They want to explore different type of intimacy. I’m giving them kind of like coaching and a lot of rope bondage sessions, and I’m also offering a lot of cleaning sessions. That’s my area. And I cannot talk for other sex workers because their experience is very different.
I think that the scene in Berlin, even though the law it’s shitty, in other countries the situation is even worse. So I think that here is more diverse anyways.
Technically in many countries being a sex worker is not illegal. The stigma can be really, really high, but technically it’s not illegal.
And sometimes the law is not enough.
Have you ever done street work?
Do you have a particular reason?
For me, the only reason it’s not that I don’t want to do it or that I despite street sex work because I see every sex worker in the same way. We just work in a different field.
One of the main reason why I choose to work as a BDSM sex worker was me working as a dom gives certain privileges that I can easily choose, because I have a power dynamic role. I can tell the clients what I like and what I don’t like. I can tell “this is not okay”.
There is also a financial reason, because working in the street, you can not really charge that much. And one of the main reason why I wanted to do the sex work was that I didn’t want to work that much anymore. I wanted to have a bit more steady financial situation. So for me, working in the street didn’t really came into my mind at all. I know that the struggle they are going through and I do also a lot of activism and I also am in contact with a lot of street sex workers.
Specially with the whole COVID situation, it got a lot more harder and with the registration law, it also made their life a lot harder because literally if police thought they were doing sex work, they could ask and search.
In COVID times the police had the right just to get you because you had condoms. That was the reason for them.
Do you think it’s possible to do this work and at the same time to protect your privacy? Is that important for you?
When I started, it was a little bit, but that ship has sailed when I started to do activism. And when you start doing activism, you are just more reachable. And I also use a lot of social media, and I also did some porn. So my presence, it’s really online. People can easily find my legal name. Even though there’s nothing connected to my private life and my sex work, I don’t even use same picture for private purpose and work purposes. But thankfully, you can just do the face recognition only by the Google image search.
But that that is not a super problem for you.
For me it is not. In that sense I’m also, again, privileged, even when I don’t privately identify myself as a male, but I am still a male figure. I work as a male and and I live here all by myself. My family is really supportive of my work, my sister at least, and I don’t need to hide it. And most of my friends are sex workers anyway. And the other non-sex worker friends, so-called civilian friends, also know about my job. I don’t need to hide it anymore. So I don’t really see the point of me hiding my identity. I still hide like from people where I live. Because it’s just a simple thing. But other than that, I don’t really have any problem with it.
You already said that you choose the type of services you give…
Yeah, I do. I am extremely picky about my clients and and the moment that they disrespect me in any kind of way, I just cut it: “no, I’m not doing this”. But as I said, again, I am also in an extremely privileged position that I can pick and choose and not everyone can do that. We need some more in education in this society. How clients should talk to sex workers, how they should communicate with sex workers and stuff like that. That’s definitely something we need to educate civilians more.
Where is the stimulating or attractive part of the work you do? What is the difficult part of it?
Again it is the control. Me having control is something that I find really attractive. Also learning different a type of intimacy with a complete stranger is really exciting. It’s not shallow, it goes really, really deep. The level of intimacy is so intense. I like it a lot.
An annoying part of this job is there are so many online so-called trolls, in sex work language, chat wanker. They text sex workers while they are jerking off. It’s just a wasting of time, I don’t even get paid for. That people are just saying “I want to book a session”. And then nothing happens. And afterwards, you also know how to sort this kind of non-clients.
Can you tell any memorable experience with a client -it can be positive or negative, something funny, intense…-. Anything.
I have many stories. One was: I had a session with a client and it wasn’t sexual at all. He wanted to be a five years old boy, and he was asking me to be a father. All I did was just put him in the pyjama and took him to the bathroom so he can brush his teeth, and then took him to the bed. He was fighting against me and so I had to spank him. He started to cry and I was holding him while he was crying and then let him fall asleep. That was his fantasy. Some of it was for him very sexual, but he didn’t have any ejaculation or anything. That’s some experience that he wanted you to do as another person. And the reason: well, so many different reasons. I don’t need to question it. It was something that I was able to provide and that I was able to create as a safe space for him. He could really let himself go completely innocent. And the other thing is, I have a couple of clients. They’ve been married over 30 years. They came to have a bondage session together just to explore different ways of being together and explore themselves how to be more separately, but also together. It was so beautiful because they know each other so long and so intensively. But there there was still something new that they could discover together. It was really touching.
In many interviews I realized that clients are also vulnerable and want a lot of intimacy. Sometimes they look for things that maybe the rest of the people don’t share. This job is also about intimacy.
I also had a client who wanted to have 6 hours nonstop, corporal punishment, bit more sexual lane. But yeah, he wanted to have 6 hours of impact playing, nonstop hitting, whipping. When the session was over, the whole body was literally shaking, and I was holding him just letting him calm down. He said that it was the most memorable experience in his entire life. Also a client who is a priest, a father of a church never had any sexual experience, and he wanted to explore that for his 50th birthday. I was his first sexual encounter ever. It was so empowering. In a way, I was also a little bit sad about the kind of society we live in, that people can not explore their sexuality freely.
And of course, it also happens that someone violate my boundaries and I had to kick them out.
When you have this kind of intense experience, afterwards you have to emotionally recover yourself, take a time for yourself?
I can separate that quite easily because I also have training in that sense. I only see one client a day because of this reason, and I only work for a long time session. So all my sessions last two hours minimum. So I don’t need to think about seeing other clients because of financial reasons. It is intense. And I also don’t see clients one day after the other like a nonstop. I also need some time to calm down. But overall for me it’s not so overwhelming because I also learn a lot about myself through this process. And for me, since I am carrying my own trauma from childhood -every single person in this world is somewhat traumatised- but for me, it is a really healing process. Even I say to my therapist: “I found my life job and I feel really confident and strong about myself”. This affirmation like someone is paying thousands euros to just spend full hours of time with me: how empowering is that? There’s nothing better than the client is dying to see me. Look how expensive I am. So they feel like I’m the queen, you know?.
Is there a certain kind of violence related to this job? I am not talking about violence coming necessarily from people, it can be from the stigma or the system. How do you see the matter of violence here?
I think everything that happens not consensually, is violent. For example, the politicians and the governments make the law and rules for sex workers without actually talking to them and without actually consulting them. They make the law and without our consent. That is violence for me, the biggest violence that government can do to individuals, they just decide what is right, what is not right without talking to them first. In the sex work context, consent and communication is a really important part. Without talking about consent, I don’t do anything. Also, one of the reasons why street sex workers are a lot more marginalized is because it’s really unpredictable and really hard to have the whole consent talk. Because most of the people who are going to the street sex workers, they want something quick. So they don’t really care about consent part, which it’s really wrong.
Do you think that there would have been any specific circumstance in which you wouldn’t have chosen to be a sex worker, or in the end, you think that you would have chosen it?
I’m not so sure. And if I have not had these sex worker friends, I’m not so sure if I was able to get over my problem and working as a sex worker, to be honest. Probably it would have taken me a lot longer. Because I also had my internalized stigma about sex work and BDSM, I was so ashamed of being into BDSM for a long time.
In my early twenties I was really ashamed of it, so I hid it also for a really long time.
I’m not so sure if I in the end, I would have chosen this job out of my own will back in that time. I had my job, I wasn’t earning super a lot, but I wasn’t poor. I used to work as chemistry teacher in the group in Korea. When I studied it, I needed a mix of saving time and financial benefits in that way.
The finances were a big reason why I started to do sex work. But when I think about it now, for me in the moment, it was really important to choose this job where I have full control over my own body and my work time and that everything has to happen with consent. That certainly saved my life. I had so many depressions when I was working in a so-called normal workspace, I was working so much. I got bullied by the Bulls, I experienced discrimination and stress for that little money. And of course there is also discrimination in everything happening in sex work, but I don’t have to go through that in a daily basis. Mostly I’m working alone. Discrimination also happens by the client. It’s annoying. It’s not that people look at me because the different color of my skin or that people pretend not to be able to understand me because I’m a foreigner. I don’t have to go through that.
You really seem to be very strong.
I am really centred and grounded with what I’m doing. And I’m really, really happy. And I’ve never been this happy about my job ever. And it’s not always the case for everyone. Some people hate to work as a sex worker, not because of the stigma, but just they don’t like this job. But they still just do it for financial reasons, as exactly same as the people who are working in the supermarket or in the construction site or people picking trash on the street. Like a 60% of people on this planet hate their job. They just do it for financial reasons. Because our society requires a lot of money if you want to have a decent lifestyle.
How do you think the conditions of sex work have changed since COVID times in the last two years?
Very complicated question because again, in my case, I’m in my privilege situation where there are less clients and there was also a lot of time that our studio was closed. I only work in the studio. I don’t do outcall, I don’t go to a hotel. So, that’s the only place where I work. It was a little bit tricky, but at least, again, I was very privileged that I had this whore ID, and I can pay the taxes and everything. So I was able to apply for this Corona money, or Corona packages. It wasn’t that much money, but I’m also a kind of a humble person, I don’t need that much money. So it was okay for me and I was at home anyway. I only needed the money for my rent and grocery. I didn’t do anything for work. So it was enough money for me at the time.
But for other sex workers, it was not so easy…
It was very difficult. It is still very difficult. And even though I am privileged there is the stupid law: due to corona law, we were only allowed to see only one client at a time.
And was that written?
Yes, because of the COVID. I was only able to see one client at the time. So for me, it’s kind of a big minus because my major clients are couples, married couples, they are living in the same house. But I can still do not see them together. I was not allowed to give a session to them because they were two persons.
So in that in that aspect it did have effects and the people were a bit more scared to go to see them because they were scared to get the COVID since they were really close. So everyone has just the less job and everyone is going through financially a harder time than usual, even privileged sex workers. A lot of sex workers, when Corona happened, they started to doing only fans, to be able to finance themselves. Since last two years, this whole porn industry grew a lot. Because people were not able to go out and meet other people, so they had to self-pleasure somehow. You need some media material for that for a lot of people in this.
If you could give me some kind of image, photo, you can relate all the things we have talked about to, your own experience on sex work: which image it would be?
The first thing coming to my mind, it’s a really silly picture. The Statue of the Liberty in New York.
She is holding a dildo, or a sex toy, rather than the torch and. The torch is just a gigantic dildo. And the on the other hand, she is holding like a huge pack of condoms. It came to my mind when you ask me about a picture. Because it’s like a symbol of liberation and thinking about she’s holding a dildo in front of the whole city and a huge, gigantic pack of condoms is exciting.
It’ll be amazing if she’s a topless.
Well, the last one is, like, if you have to name three or four big issues that sex work in Berlin face today.
So the first thing that I’m seeing is a whor-archy: we’re acting like it’s a hierarchy. A lot of discrimination also happens. I really hate when BDSM sex workers say, “I’m not a whore. I’m high class”. This is bullshit, you are both sucking dick. Now, what’s the difference? One happens in a hotel room, the other one happens in the street. Because of that, you are better than the other? No, we are all same equal. Just so we work in a different field. It got better. But it still exists. And due to this hierarchy you also see a lot of discrimination, specially between privileged white German sex workers working in BDSM or in tantra massage in the kind of field where they have a protected space and immigrant sex workers who don’t speak German language well. For me when we are saying we fight for sex workers rights, we need to be more focused on these people who are more marginalised, rather than just to deal with a compromise.
We are in the same boat. We need to put our hands together and actively close the hold together rather than disappointing it out. And that’s mostly what’s happening in the activism scene.
Every woman to raise awareness: “Oh, it’s so important to rise awareness”, but nobody does the work! Then in that case, I always say, “then just shut the fuck up”. Don’t put yourself in front of other people and take a space. Just shut the fuck up and pull back and then just listen what actually people are saying.
But they are so busy, they don’t have time to do this work. So some someone else has to do it. Fuck you. If you see the problem, and you don’t have time, then just shut the fuck up.
If you don’t have time to do that, other people might also be in the same situation as well, and don’t judge other people because of it. That’s like my really radical opinion about activism and how I see the problem. And there are still so many good projects, we have reached so many different people and there’s so many amazing things happening and we are slowly changing. It’s not enough. It could be more. It should be more. It must be more. But step by step, it’s happening. And the other most proper and problematic thing I find in Germany is: even though the job is legalised, you don’t get a visa. That is bullshit. I don’t want to have a license to work as a sex worker. Why do I need a license to do that?
So would you go to avoid the license?
The ultimate goal is to completely decriminalize sex work. When sexual work is decriminalized then you don’t need any license to be able to do your job. And legalize doesn’t mean that the society is accepting sex work as it is, and it’s still criminalized in some sense. Because if you don’t have a license, you literally get caught by the police. And if you don’t have a European passport, you literally get deported because they see you as a criminal, in a sense. And it shouldn’t be the case. If you want to really legalise it, you need to talk to the sex workers about what they need.
And you need to decriminalize sex work. So sex workers just can work and have a normal life. And what other people have: a normal health insurance, paying the pension that every other job has, this so-called privilege, that which it’s not a privilege. It’s just a basic human right. And sex workers does not have it. That’s something that needs to change.
Yesterday Belgium officially decriminalize sex work as a first country in Europe. It’s a big win for us. It should be more. And I really hope that since the European Parliament is in Belgium, it moves a bit more and more to other countries as well.
So to work in working as a sex worker in Belgium is completely legal. You don’t need a permit. You don’t need anything. You are not going to be kicked out just because you are a sex worker.
Yeah, it’s a big step.
It’s a huge step. There was a first message that I got this morning when I woke up, and, yeah, it really made my eyes watery. And because it was a first step to the big picture. Germany was considering also a “client criminalisation” so-called Swedish model. So they decriminalize sex.
In Sweden, they think about putting the law that the client who book a sex worker, goes to prison for one year. How can you put that as sexual order? It happens consensually and then see that same as actual sexual assault and rape. And no, it’s disgusting what Sweden is doing, and this whole problem with the word feminism. And you also see the kind of patterns a lot in a country where you see a lot of white feminism, and they are also against trans people and also sex workers because they don’t see her as a trans woman. As a real woman.
Yeah, that is a little bit absurd because the feminism in itself has led to some kind of emancipation.
That’s why I call white feminism, because it’s made by white women and they they just don’t check their privilege in a sense, and they just talk bullshit, what is right and what is the “correct way” of being woman. That’s exactly the opposite of what feminism is. In my opinion that kind of pattern in the countries where you see a lot of this white feminist and also a lot of discrimination against trans people and sex workers. They don’t see that as a basic human thing to do being a woman. That is just absurd and bullshit. In Germany there is also huge sex worker organizations who is against sex work.