Having just watched Good Luck to You Leo Grande, an excellent film with Emma Thompson on Hulu, I decided that it’s time for me to come clean with my own experience as a sex worker.
First, I want to highly recommend that you watch this film. In a nutshell, it portrays the relationship between Nancy Stokes a middle aged widow (Emma Thompson) who had a “wham, bam, thank you” sex life and Leo Grande, a twenty something male sex worker (Daryl McCormack).
The movie hits so many pain points for women around sex.
Body image for one as Nancy struggles with accepting that someone like Leo could find her attractive. Kudos to the film’s director Sophie Hyde and Emma Thompson for showing what a middle aged woman’s body actually looks like. Apparently this was one of the hardest scenes that Emma Thompson has ever filmed according to a recent New York Times article.
Nancy, a former Religious Education school teacher, also struggles with the whole concept of pleasure, since she’s never experienced it before. She hires Leo to “learn certain things” which she pulls out on a list she’s created (very school teacherish).
But interestingly enough her own pleasure, and inability to have an orgasm, is not on that list.
The sexual awakening story line is not that unusual, but what makes this movie really stand out are the discussions around Leo’s profession, around which Nancy feels much shame.
The movie is being hailed as a breakthrough in terms of presenting sex work in a positive light and busting some sex worker myths.
Nancy struggles with understanding why Leo has chosen his profession, when he’s obviously very intelligent and well educated.
Myth Buster: Many sex workers are highly intelligent and educated. I can name at least a dozen who have Masters or Ph.D. degrees.
Leo explains that sex work is not just about sex. For many clients, it’s a way to combat loneliness. One of his clients just likes to watch movies with him in bed. Another woman just wants his companionship on business trips.
For others, it’s about fulfilling their fantasies or fetishes.
The movie also makes it clear that sex workers can create real relationships and intimacy with their clients, even if it’s under a nom de plume.
So here’s my vulnerable share. I spent some time after my divorce offering Tantric massages to mostly male clients in San Francisco. Which squarely places me in the category of a sex worker.
I did the whole sex worker thing. I advertised on a variety of “massage sites”, I had some very sexy bedroom pictures taken (see above), and I offered Tantric massage services to clients in my little studio in downtown San Francisco.
It was a fascinating experience to say the least. Many of my clients were married men who had no sex life, which is way more common than you can imagine. They desperately needed sensual touch and connection and found our sessions extremely healing. There were many tears shed on my table.
Like many sex workers, I did maintain boundaries, kept lingerie on, and my sessions were not very interactive. It was the “maintaining boundaries” part of my practice that became exhausting for me and ultimately led me to study and become a sexological body worker which is “legal” in California.
Sexological body work has very clean boundaries which involves one way genital touch, universal precautions requiring the use of gloves, and the practitioner must be fully clothed. But boiled down to its essence, any genital touching is still considered sex work and illegal in every other state.
I found this work also very fulfilling and healing for my clients and I have shared a lot about my experience as a sexological body worker in in my book, Living an Orgasmic Life.
Ultimately, I decided that my passion was not offering hands on work and I really love the coaching aspect of my work. I still do offer some limited hands on bodywork to female clients as a holistic pelvic care practitioner. I also teach sensual massage, including genital touch, to my private clients during my Asheville private passionate intimacy retreats.
PRO TIP: Come to Mexico with me and you’ll see a hands on demonstration of both a vulva and penis massage!
Bottom line: Sex work has gotten a bad rap, especially recently with all the “anti-trafficking” laws that in my opinion are primarily being promoted by right wing evangelicals who are trying very hard to cast us back into the dark ages.
Sex trafficking of minors is an issue but like Leo Grande, most sex workers run their own independent businesses and offer excellent experiences to consenting adults. They are kind and compassionate and provide a much needed service to touch and sex starved men and women, like Nancy Stokes.