By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Every year at kinky sex camp, we create a multi-room erotic play-space for attendees, and for one night, each room has a theme. We like to keep things fresh, so we change up the themes every couple of years, but one never seems to go out of style: the Brothel. It's a modest space with eight stations, each with a bed, a little table, and a flimsy curtain separating it from the next bed, plus a back room with a double bed and a little more privacy (which costs more, natch). We have our own currency at the event (kundalini kash), which campers can win, earn, borrow, and eventually spend. There's a madam who recruits and organizes the whores, collects kash, matches clients with workers, and generally oversees the place. It's always the busiest room.
People don't tire of the sex-for-money fantasy. Actually, there is no one fantasy, but multiple scenarios, dynamics, and roles possible within the brothel setting. I talked to a bunch of this year's whores (who included men, women, transfolk, and cross-dressers) about what they got out of their experiences. Some said they like being a whore because it's taboo, naughty, and transgressive; the fact that it's illegal prevents them from pursuing it in real life. For others, being a sex worker is a longtime fantasy, like Nikki, a newcomer to both the camp and the brothel: "Being paid for sex is an ongoing fantasy of mine. If I had had more confidence in my looks and body, and much less emotional baggage when I was still a young woman, I would have loved to have been a call girl or mistress in my real life." Nikki said she enjoyed the experience so much—with one client, she had her first orgasm ever in a position she usually can't come in—that she wants to do it again.
Playing this role can trigger other turn-ons, like having sex with strangers, no strings attached, and no pretense of romance. Mr. G., a fortysomething straight guy from New York, told me: "It creates a 'container' for the experience of sex. We're both there for the same reason. There's a beginning and an end, and no confusion about our roles once they're negotiated." Pink Pet, another whore, agreed: "At a club or even a play party, there is usually a certain amount of small talk and flirting that takes place. Don't get me wrong—I love flirting, but I also love when that barrier is removed and you can get right to the lust. You can walk right up and suggest what scene you want to do. It's a way to cut to the chase."
A sex-worker fantasy can also fulfill a desire to be used for sex, objectified, forced, pimped out, or made to perform. Many of the whores had pimps who collected their money or made them work. There are so many power dynamics to play with. "I am turned on by the power exchange involved," explained Ellie, a phone-sex operator in real life who's never done sex work with physical contact. "To some extent, the worker is fully in control of the sexual encounter and can create seemingly arbitrary boundaries or limits without being expected to explain them to a partner. On the other hand, the worker is acting in service to the client, and is expected to please and satisfy them. The tension between the dominant and submissive roles in these sorts of exchanges is interesting to me."
Pink Pet found that the role gave him the opportunity to explore a particular side of himself: "I love the idea of being seen as a sex object or fetish object. That is a real turn-on for me. Being male-bodied, I'm often expected to make the first move. I'm genderqueer, and my sexuality is much more femme, so I often prefer to be propositioned, as opposed to making the proposition. In general, this doesn't usually work out. But being a whore allowed me to take on a more receptive role, a more traditionally female role. So I also liked that it helped me feel more like a girl and be accepted as a girl."
Similarly, for one customer, it was a chance to be in control and ask for exactly what she wanted without ambivalence. Wendy Blackheart said: "My experience was fantastic, much better than I thought it would be. What was surprising to me was how quickly I was able to fall into the role of a demanding john, asking the house madam if she had any boys available to take care of my massive erection. I paid about $1,500 up-front for a lovely round of oral servicing. He worked my cock like a pro, the whole time exclaiming about how big it was, and I really got into the aggressive john-type verbal roleplay."
Everyone I talked to felt safe—physically and emotionally—which was a big part of why their experiences were so positive. For many, the role worked as a tool of negotiation: Several whores told me it was easy to turn down a client they weren't interested in by saying they were booked or waiting for their next appointment. Because it was so busy, their statement rang true, and no one walked away with hurt feelings. No one felt pressured to do anything they weren't into; one whore even had a pre-printed menu of services: "I made up a menu of things I knew I'd be comfortable doing even with strangers. I did it partly because it was a fun way to suggest a scene to someone, but also because I'm not a real hard player, and I knew I'd blank on things to do in the moment. This was a way to remind myself of the kinds of things I enjoy and feel comfortable doing."