Sex Worker Tilly Lawless On Rediscovering Sex For Personal Pleasure

There have been long periods of my life where my body has existed only in relation to work and I’ve wondered if I’d ever be touched again by hands other than a client’s, whether I’d ever have sex purely out of desire and not at all motivated by money.
When I’ve been depressed I’ve felt suffocated by the thought, the reality, that I will never come close to the amount of sex I’ve had at work in my private life; my body will always have been touched by more hands that it hasn't wanted, than ones it has. In times of wellness, my body feels like a hot little roll, fresh out of the baker’s oven, patted into shape and handled by endless people marvelling over the warmth and aliveness. In times of wellness, my body responds; my legs fall open, compliant, my labia blooms and I orgasm effortlessly.
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"When I’ve been depressed I’ve felt suffocated by the thought, the reality, that I will never come close to the amount of sex I’ve had at work in my private life."

In times of burnout or in the midst of PMDD, when I feel like a swollen fruit ready to burst, when I dream of leeches and bloodletting, I want to scream. When I think of the nine years I have been doing this work, and the 4000-5000 people I’ve slept with, my body feels either triumphant or forlorn. Triumphant that it has brought me here, climbed a mountain of twitching cocks and feels them subdued beneath it, that everything I have is brought me by this. Forlorn, that no matter how hard I climb or how much I fuck I’ll never reach the financial stability that some people are born into, that my body is bereft of touch it craves, emotional intimacy combined with sexual. In one shift I can yo-yo between these feelings.
Through the pandemic, the forlornness was exacerbated. I was single, yet scared of dating, so there was no way I was getting fucked via hinge and tinder and meeting up for a park picnic or a drink like others were. And I was deprived, like we all were, of the incidental touch that comes with clubbing, surrounded by people you know. The hand on a hip as someone squeezes by you in a crush, the hand on a shoulder as you lean on someone for support, the hand in a hand as you’re guided through the crowd, the bodies pressed against each other in the bathroom, the head on a chest as you wilt midway through a durry, the arms that reach out to greet you when you first arrive.
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I realised my body had always existed in relation to my community too and that no amount of posting nudes could replace that feeling of eyes raking over you, your name yelled, a kiss blown to you from across the dancefloor worth 3000 presses of a 'like' button. 
I struggled to get back into my body, outside of work. I felt constantly disconnected from it like it didn’t belong to me, but only to work. I don’t watch porn (not for ethical reasons, simply because watching stuff on a screen doesn’t turn me on, my imagination works better) and I’m only motivated to masturbate when I’m into someone in particular, when it feels like part of the build-up and flirtation.
This isn’t to say I haven’t had good sex or physical intimacy over the last few years – I’ve written extensively about how sex can be for me within a work context. And I probably have more sex I enjoy with clients than the average person has in their private life, purely because of the number of people I'm having sex with. Except I began to think that would only be something I could hope for within my job – and surely we all want to be fulfilled and have joy outside of our careers? Want to exist beyond productivity? Want to think I’ve done this thing only out of want, not driven at all by financial need, entirely for myself? 
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I was brought back into my body unexpectedly, by degrees, when a client took me to a swingers’ club and then I went again by myself. I’d always dismissed them because I’d thought they’d be largely full of old white people and have the slightly seedy atmosphere you find at some straight nude beaches. Most of the people were under forty though, and half of them weren’t white.
I was also resistant to the idea of having anonymous sex with strangers for free when I get paid for exactly that; that’s a hooker mentality that hardens with time and the logic is hard to argue with. However, there were many aspects that set it apart from the sex I have in a brothel or an escort booking, and I realised I had been doing myself a disservice to think they’d feel one and the same.

"I was also resistant to the idea of having anonymous sex with strangers for free when I get paid for exactly that; that’s a hooker mentality that hardens with time..."

The main one – and this is revolutionary to people who date too – is you can walk out of the encounter at any point with no awkwardness. Not only did I not have to stick to a time, but I also didn’t have to think up an excuse. I could just disentangle myself from all the limbs and step out and they’d just rearrange and keep going without me. I could go get a glass of water, or lie down and touch myself while I watched others, or join a different pairing that had looked appealing from across the other side of the room.
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I can’t begin to tell you how amazing this feels for someone who has to please in sex, who has to cater to the other’s needs first and foremost, who can never say ‘I’ve had enough’ but has to find a euphemism like ‘how about you cum on my tits that would be so hot’.
Another difference was the fact I could observe how people fucked and determine whether it appealed to me before joining in. I love fucking couples (or any group sex with odd numbers, when there’s an even number, people inevitably just pair off) except usually if you want to fuck a couple in your private life, you have to waste time meeting up only to discover you may not vibe them or their style once you’re all naked. This way I could see first – and there is also nothing hotter than watching two people who are really into each other have sex, being able to hear and smell (and touch, if they want you to!), and knowing they’re getting off on you watching and feeling privileged that they’ve let you watch.
I won’t call porn a poor copy of this because it isn’t even that – porn is largely a fantasy in the same way James Bond is a fantasy of being a spy, which is why both of them have BTS footage. 
Lastly, it brought me what I had been missing from queer parties and something I imagine – from reading enough of John Rechy’s descriptions of the beat and gay male sex clubs – is similar to what gay men feel when they walk into a bathhouse. A feeling of invincibility, a surge of power and a dance of eyes and physical cues; let me turn my face this way so you know I’m checking you out, let me walk past you without a pause so you can be left wanting me, let me approach you directly so you can give me a yes or a no.
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"I won’t call porn a poor copy of this because it isn’t even that – porn is largely a fantasy in the same way James Bond is a fantasy of being a spy, which is why both of them have BTS footage." 

It brought me fun too, though I was too overstimulated to orgasm. And more than that, it brought me back into my body; with a guy’s cock in my mouth while his girlfriend’s mouth was on my pussy, I finger fucked a girl whose boyfriend was going from behind at the girl eating me out. There was so much sweat and laughter, and a bunch of people standing at the door watching, not allowed over the chain strung across what turned it into a VIP room.
I still think emotional intimacy combined with physical intimacy makes for the best sex in the world, and I’m confident I’ll have that again someday. But in the meantime, I’ll take fun sex and knowing I can have pleasure outside of work, that it isn’t dependant on a relationship or my income, that my body exists for me to enjoy off the clock. And that I shouldn’t think of it as sex I could’ve been paid for, but instead sex I’m ecstatic to have. 

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