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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Waits

How being trafficked informed my sex work

Human Trafficking is defined by Oxford as “the unlawful act of transporting or coercing people in order to benefit from their work or service, typically in the form of forced labor or sexual exploitation.” Statistics compiled from the National Human Trafficking Hotline highlights over 10,000 reports in 2021 alone with their projected number of victims being upwards of 17,000 people. The top three types of trafficking they report are: escort services, pornography, and illicit massages; however trafficking also occurs in non sexual ways as well. Victims are often exploited and recruited by employers, family members, and intimate partners. Emotional, economic, and psychological abuse remain the top three ways that victims are coerced into human trafficking and human trafficking can happen to any person regardless of their chosen and ascribed identities.

I, like many other survivors of child sex trafficking, had my access point through a friend. A fellow misguided and out right clumsy teen lying about their age to sneak into strip and dance clubs in Houston, Texas. I had met her at a teen night at a now shut down club after we were both fondled by the same guys on the dancefloor. He managed to get a hand under both of our skirts about three times before we decided to ditch the club. We talked mostly via text or on snapchat- the sex work app of the time. She had introduced me to camming online under a pseudonym only sending pics of mainly other people to creepy dudes we met at the clubs. Eventually we both migrated to meeting up with these guys at clubs on the nights we would dance or when we wanted to get in and try to make money. Making out, fingering, and fondling in between dancing on bars or on a tiny stage with a dirty pole made us about $250 - $500 split. By the time I hit senior year some of the guys would pay to Facetime me in the shower so I decided to meet up with a few to see what all they wanted. I had a car and time on my hands. Not to mention hating making the pennies I made at my job at a yogurt shop when the Johns started to thin out.

At this point I had not had penetrative sex with any of my Johns and managed to keep everything above the hood. I had met up with a few guys who wanted to exclusively have me as their sex slave and I wasn’t ready to risk getting a STI or getting pregnant doing things I wasn’t supposed to be doing. I had sweet talked or sucked my way around the P in the V conversations until I fell upon Secret Arrangement. I had seen a mini documentary on sugar babies in college after I had cut things off with my last Houston John, Alex. Alex was an old white man who hated white women. He had a brown bowl cut, a protruding belly, and a hanging bottom lip. But he loved to hear me talk. He thought I was so smart. And that I offered him more than any of his white wives ever did. And he was so old he “couldn’t imagine having sex,” with me. Which was delightful. We’d watch Cowboys games, talk about politics, he'd give me $300 and I’d go home. He was the second best John I’vve ever had. He had set a very high standard for me. And yet I didn’t know that what I was doing was exactly the same as other sugar babies. So once I moved to San Antonio and watched the doc I thought to myself: time to step it up.

I began watching all types of videos on how to be a sugar baby, how to create a lifestyle that wealthy men wanted to support, and how to make the most while also being a student. I then proceeded to go on my second sex work streak - now as an adult. From 2017 - 2022 I went on hundreds of dates with dudes literally collecting as much money as I could get. I connected with sex workers on Discord and on certain reddit and Twitter pages. As I continued on my journey of being an adult Black woman navigating online and in person sex work I gained more and more sex worker friends who warned me against serial offenders or people who intentionally wanted to blackmail or scam you. They offered me gigs to strip or dance at a private party or club and I’d do the same. We were all in need of money or financial independence and we wanted to help each other achieve that as much as possible. By the end of college most of my friends had an online sex work page, several online cash payment systems, and a small booklet of clients. We didn’t need pimps - we had iCal. We didn’t need to put ourselves in the line of danger with a John first and ask questions later - we would warn each other beforehand. Organizations like SWOP and my own #ChangeRapeCulture helped with building community with trafficking survivors, sex workers, and those seeking to get into the work safely and with mentorship. We were building the future of sex work we wanted to see and be a part of.

Now abuse and trauma still happen on the job for a lot of us even though we may have been able to find our more chronically online or remote audience. In person sex workers are still out here working hard for their money and relying on one another to stay safe. A quick look at #304 tik tok will show how tight (pun intended) sex work community is and how deep we look out for one another. The community I found through being trafficked that spoke up against non consensual acts, advocated for safe sex, and wanted to appeal to queer sex workers became my family. They helped me through my sexual trauma, my lost queer identity, my complex relationships to men, encouraged me to go to counseling, and helped me leave a FEW nasty relationships. Their love helped me understand why I originally sought out nightlife and followed my friend into seedy nightclubs.

I wanted the freedom that comes with sexual liberation especially after experiencing sexual trauma. I was chasing the peace within myself that I saw within the gogo dancers of Texas nightlife, the chaos of the bitches up in cages right next to the DJ, and the power of your body in a dark room with a man with money. I felt I was owed the ease they had. The money they had. The wisdom they seemed to have. All of the people I look up to were prostitutes at one point of time in their life - I wanted to see what they were seeing. There is so much that being trafficked took from me. My innocence;, my ability to trust and ask for help; and the dissolution of my immediate family. I would never recommend sex work to someone just looking for a quick buck or needing to get out of town. Many of us turn to sex work for money when we have no other option. However, those negative experiences we all face are the center of our current advocacy.

Sex worker advocates are fighting to have sex work decriminalized in the United States, incorporate standardized rules for consent, and working to have those being trafficked be free from their captors. I know that I dream of a future where porn, stripping, escorting, and sugar babying will be recognized as work and sex workers are compensated fairly for their work. I want sex workers to be safe and have access to free healthcare. I want sex workers to sponsor their families dreams, helping to grow themselves and their communities, and feeling free enough to explore their and others pleasure centers. I want to have the agency to do as I please with myself to please only myself and those consenting to be with me. Sex workers want to prevent sexual assault - not perpetuate it. Me included.

Some ways to support sex workers around you would be checking out your local SWOP chapters, supporting local groups like Red Light District, and supporting the sex workers around you. As always you can go to www.changerapeculture.org and look at our resources on our instagram pages that are sex worker specific. We released a reading list of POC sex workers for COVID! {https://changerapeculture.org/media/the-revolution-will-not-be-televised-2/} Follow them! And learn your sex worker rights history! Medium wrote a piece about sex worker’s rights that’s a good starting point. TIME did an article on how pivotal sex workers were to LGBTQIA2S+ rights in the 70s. POZ also did a great article on Black sex worker’s rights! Read up and diversify the perspectives you read from.

My experience being trafficked informs my politics around men, patriarchy, pedagogy, gender, solidarity, and activism. I’ll never forget it. I’m humbled to have made it out of being trafficked with my life as many Black women in person sex workers do not get the chance to do that. I hope no child is surrounded by the scumbags I met between the ages of 15 - 18 in Houston, Texas. I wish future kids have the space in their life to ask the questions they need to ask about sex, trauma, and abuse with people who care about keeping their childhood and being safe. I hope every Black girl feeling alone and desperate has a place to go with their favorite snacks, enough blankets to last a year, and unlimited data. Children deserve better and need more options for wellness when they have experienced sexual trauma. I want to protect my younger self and warn her about what lies ahead. This seems to be a part of that process. Send a sex worker some money today! Subscribe to my site: ismygirl.com/ChaosEmera and stay tuned.



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