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Can Sex Work Make More Sense Than Working at Walmart? Hell, Yes

07/29/2014 09:59 am ET | Updated Sep 28, 2014
Paul Viant via Getty Images

This morning, this Nerve.com article popped up in my Facebook feed: "Why Prostitution Can Make More Sense Than Working at Walmart."

Yeah. No kidding. I agree.

In the piece, former male prostitute David Henry Sterry, details how he exchanged a life of economic scarcity for one of financial excess through a job in the sex industry.

Oh, how I can relate.

Even in the aftermath of posting a story in which I wrote about how I became obsessed with the easy money I earned as a dominatrix, which ultimately led me to place myself in increasingly dangerous situations with clients who took drugs -- even with those experiences under my belt, I still believe that my time in the sex industry made far more sense than a job at Walmart ever could.

My job in the sex industry even made more sense than the corporate job I had before I started working as a domme.

You know, the one I'd needed that college degree to get.

Fresh out of university, I got a "legitimate" job as a copy editor for a major publishing company. My salary? Twelve dollars an hour.

At the time (the mid-90s), this was above minimum wage, but not by much. I couldn't do much more in Los Angeles than merely survive.

I still managed to live in trendy L.A. neighborhoods (with roommates or in a studio apartment), own a car (a clunker) and keep on top of other bills (but only barely).

Then the scale became suddenly tipped. I slipped into debt.

I was no longer surviving but going under. I didn't have parents to bail me out. I didn't want to go bankrupt. But I couldn't keep up with even the minimum monthly payment on my credit card: $1,000.

Add in rent, food, other bills.

I hadn't run up my credit card on clothes and shoes, but moonlighting as an independent documentary filmmaker. I was shooting the story of a group of young Mexican immigrants who had formed rock and punk bands in L.A., belting out lyrics in their native language -- Spanish -- lyrics which lamented the difficulties of the band members' everyday lives.

I believed in these bands and wanted to see them make it. This was an era in which anti-immigrant legislation had found a following in California in the form of Proposition 187, which asked school teachers to rat out undocumented children in their classrooms, also aiming to exclude immigrants from such benefits as emergency health care.

My goal was to humanize such recent Mexican immigrants through a film about their world. The only problem was this was still a time when documentary filmmaking was a pricey pursuit. Digital cameras were an expensive new technology. There weren't iPhones yet or the cheap computer editing programs we have today. I had to transfer footage onto high-price Beta tapes, then edit on a costly Avid editing system with the help of a professional editor.

There was also the cost of travel with the bands when they toured other cities. Of course I understand that creating such a documentary was a privilege. I didn't have kids to feed. I could have shelved the project.

I didn't want to.

Then one night I was offered a solution. I was at a concert when I met a young woman who told me that she was employed as a dominatrix. As I'm a very curious person, my interest was immediately piqued. I listened as she explained what her job entailed: no sex, all she had to do was beat and humiliate willing CEOs and lawyers to the tune of $200 an hour.

$200 an hour!

I couldn't believe my ears.

It didn't take a lot of convincing to get me to my first "slave party" so I could meet the headmistress of the dungeon to see if she would take me on as her apprentice. She agreed, and soon I was learning the literal ropes of the trade. Once I began seeing actual clients, I started making the real money. Finally, I could pay down my debt and survive as a documentary filmmaker.

Oh, the day I said goodbye to my "legitimate" job at the publishing company where I had so often felt devalued. I remember after I ultimately moved to Spain, where I published a memoir about my experience as a domme, I was being interviewed on a Catalan radio show. The host asked if I had felt "victimized" and "oppressed" by my job as a dominatrix.

I responded that it had felt much more like someone was jacking off in my face every day at my corporate job.

It wasn't the most sex-positive answer I could have come up with. It certainly wasn't very polite. But I had reached my breaking point. I was sick of being judged, having to continuously explain how I was not the "sad" victim everyone seemed to think I was.

On the contrary, my job in the sex industry had proven far less dehumanizing than my job in publishing. The owner of the publishing company paid himself an exorbitant salary while the rest of us lackeys (his employees) slaved away to sell his magazines. He showed off by driving around in a Rolls Royce. We were required to pay to park in the parking garage he owned.

By contrast, as a dominatrix, I was the one in charge. I made my own hours, and I was paid handsomely for my time.

I understand that there are women who are indeed coerced into sex work, who are abused by pimps, mistreated by johns, raped and bullied by men on the streets. These women experience grave danger as a part of their everyday lives. And if they are victims of sex trafficking, they're often not paid at all, forced into a life they cannot escape.

But that simply was not my story. I made a conscious decision to enter the sex industry. When I wanted to quit, I did.

So yes, for me, a job in the sex industry certainly made more sense than a job at Walmart.

Hell, yes it did.