Venus Van Gogh
Emotional Vampires Flock To Sex Workers: A Melbourne Escort's Take on Ethics & Free Emotional Labour
Originally posted Feb 21, 2021
Trigger warning: This blog explores some mental health issues and contains brief references to suicide, self harm, eating disorders, and mental illness. I am not a mental health professional and this blog does not offer mental health advice. I merely aim to address the ethics and analyse the factors that lead to toxic oversharing and the expectation of free emotional labour from sex workers and offer some suggestions as to how to avoid this behaviour. I wanna talk about dumping all of your self pitying and mental health crises on sex workers... without paying them.
I'm not talking about lovers who choose to open up about their struggles in session. No, this is a cherished privilege. You have invested in time with me and you have felt comfortable enough to share parts of you that you may not have shared before with anyone. It's one of the things that keeps me in sex work. Feeling like I have provided a safe enough space for my paying clients to bring their walls down and either seek validation or unburden themselves is something I love. I find people incredibly interesting and finding all of the little pieces that make a person up is like the most fascinating and beautiful puzzle. I appreciate being able to bring people little bits of joy, validation, share my own experiences so they know they're not alone or give them genuine compliments based on my experience with them that counters the little voice in their head. Many of my clients have been incredibly grateful to me for helping them feel more confident or encouraging them to take the right steps toward a healthier approach to managing their mental health. It is one of the things I have to offer that I am most proud of. It is a million times more rewarding than simply giving people orgasms. I am more than happy to offer myself as a social support for the clients who pay me to do my job.
I'm not even talking about people who open up to their followers on their own social media platforms. Everyone is free to express themselves and seek help from consenting participants in the ways they are comfortable. I know plenty of people who have found that to really help them. It can be a great way to connect, get it out of your head, make friends and bring awareness to mental health causes.
This blog is for a different breed.
Have you ever made comments on a sex worker's post on their business social media or private messaged them on their business accounts or work phone numbers saying things like: "I wish I could find a beautiful woman like you to date, but I'm too ugly/fat/shy etc,"
or "My wife left me/died/is cheating on me. I'm so depressed,"
or "I wish I wasn't so broke so I could see you, but my hamster died and I've been really depressed so I got fired from my job and my house burned down when I was 11 and I have no family or friends."
Have you ever sent an inquiry to a sex worker that's along the lines of "Can I cum on your face I'm James 34 white slim good looking all I do is work non stop and I want to kill myself and I know your ad says you require prebooking but I have my only supervised visit with my son for the month tomorrow because my ex is a bitch who left me because I'm autistic so can I see you today" - the lack of punctuation is deliberate.
Perhaps you have a sex worker who you actually have seen and paid a few times, but you keep messaging them in between sessions about how depressed you are or you constantly need reassurance from them that they actually like you. Of course, you never pay them for this extra time you demand and then you get upset and possessive when they can't talk to you because they have to work or go about their own lives. Yeah, this blog is for you.
This isn't about being mean to the people (mostly men) who do this. It's about seeing through the words they use to manipulate free time and emotional labour from an already marginalised and exhausted group. It's about seeing their "cry for help" for what it really is, the blatant entitlement to attention from a woman they're attracted to. I analyse the self-perpetuation of this cycle of woe is me I'm so lonely, I'm going to reach out to someone by dumping inappropriate heavy emotional baggage on them, but woe is me again because they ignored or rejected me. Oh, woe. Oh, me.
First, let's clarify some terms.
People like to argue that emotional labour doesn't really exist - it's just being nice and asking for something in return makes you an asshole. The term is also critiqued for being born from capitalism and the forced commodification of basic decency. Some, myself included, would argue that in a more ethical society where we are not enslaved to the inhumane 40+ hour work week in order to survive and don't put the weight of emotional maturity and nurturing largely on women, we would have more time and energy to just be nice people and not have to brand it a form of labour that is deserving of recompense. However, in our current society where time and energy is scarce, thus making it a form of currency, AND we have an imbalance in social and expectations which falls heavily on women, the term emotional labour refers to things like providing comfort, reassurance, help, support, advice and - simply - time and space to nurture the emotional well-being of others. Something as simple as telling a person to smile is demanding emotional labour from them because them smiling provides comfort or pleasure to you but not to them, or relying on your partner to be the caretaker of your children and "helping out" or "babysitting" now and then as if they're not YOUR CHILDREN also, and this can go all the way up to dumping all of your problems on another person and them having to try to fix your life for you. This form of labour often isn't respected as labour, but there is a cost to the energy expenditure that one uses to take care of others just as there is a physical cost to carrying heavy furniture. The gender divide and history of gender equality is especially important here as while women are now mostly expected to go to work just as much as men, they are still mostly held accountable for contributing to the emotional well being of their husbands and children as well as performing most of the domestic labour - another form of undervalued labour for another conversation.
Spoon theory was originally used for chronically ill people to describe the concept of - put simply - energy reserves. It has been adopted for more mainstream use, but recognising the origins of the term is incredibly relevant especially in regards to sex workers as a huge portion of them - I'd even say the majority - choose sex work in order to work around chronic health issues. The stigma associated with being a sex worker or other intersections of marginalisation like race or gender also have an impact. The idea is that you only have a certain amount of spoons to spend and every task you do costs a certain amount of spoons - for chronically ill people, dealing with their chronic illness uses up a lot of spoons so it affects how many spoons they have for simple tasks such as showering or brushing their teeth. Going to work, caring for others, keeping up communication with friends and family, these all require a lot of spoons. Emotional labour requires spoons.
An emotional vampire is a person who demands a lot of emotional labour from others without offering them anything in return. Whether it be financial payment for their time, or emotional support when the other person is in need. Emotional vampires like to dump all of their problems on others without doing any of the work that would actually make a real difference to change their life for the better. They will blame their boss, their job, other races, women, literally anyone but themselves for their problems and have this stank dick aura of helplessness which repulses most people. Every now and then, an empathetic person will feel sorry for them and try to show them kindness which they take full advantage of until they have sucked every last drop of empathy and patience out of them. They're the people who complain about their miserable lives all the time and yet keep perpetuating the toxic cycles expecting endless empathy and sympathy and emotional labour from the people they dump on. The use of the word dump here is specific. They often just pop up with no warning and then literally take a stinking hot dump on your chest. They often respond poorly and explosively when you try to put up boundaries and tell them you don't have the spoons to help them or that they should be seeking help from professionals - casting you as the super villain in their comic of victimhood. In the context of this blog, the emotional vampires I refer to are the ones who pop up with comments and messages as I've described above. While not as complex and ingrained as say having a partner who is an emotional vampire, the projection they put out online is merely the tip of the iceberg, and you'll often find that these are patterns of behaviour, not one offs.
So, it's happened again.
You open twitter and in your notifications is a man commenting on one of your sexy photos with some miserable spiel about how his life is awful because he can't have a woman that looks like you because he's bald and overweight. Or you open your work phone and find a message from someone telling you they are going to kill themselves. This may not be an every day occurrence but it happens to sex workers enough for it to be a recognisable and frustrating pattern. You get it, life is hard, it sucks when you're lonely or your mental health is bad. You feel kind of sorry for this person, you've been suicidal before or have friends who have committed suicide. You've felt lonely and ugly before. It's an awful thing. But why is this absolute stranger coming to you with this? What do they expect here? Why bring this up with an escort rather than with a therapist? Why not message a mental health helpline instead? Or work on themselves so they have more to offer and can be more attractive to potential mates? Why don't they book me and then talk to me about it if they need someone to talk to?
It's because they believe they are entitled to emotional labour and attention from someone they're attracted to... and they don't wanna pay for it. Their goal is to use their circumstances to get something from you. Whether it's free emotional labour or a discount or to push your boundaries without being told off or change your schedule to fit them or even a "fuck off". There is always a motive behind the way that people directly find a person they have no real life connection to and inappropriately dump their burdens. This isn't something healthy, well-adjusted people do. And yes, we should feel sympathy for them because they are obviously going through pain, but their pain does not excuse the fact that they are attempting to be manipulative.
Aside from manipulation this kind of thing can do the recipient a lot of harm. Talking about your issues to a professional is essential as professionals are trained to deal with the weight and empathy fatigue that this kind of discussion often incurs. Sex workers are mostly not trained mental health professionals. Talking about this stuff out of nowhere with them can really take it out of them and use up their already limited spoons. This is a matter of consent as important as any sexual act. It is appropriate to ask someone if they have the spoons or are willing to have a conversation about heavy topics before catapulting your suicidal ideation onto them. As I constantly mention, sex work tends to draw people with chronic illness, often psychological illness. Many sex workers deal with depression and suicidal ideation and attempts. Many sex workers have eating disorders or body dysmorphia. Many sex workers are impoverished. Most of us, don't share these things on our work accounts, because they're considered to be harmful to marketing, but the point I'm making is that you don't know what this stranger you are approaching is dealing with. I know the context of social media can make you feel like you know a lot more about us than you actually do. It can make you feel like we're friends or that we could be if we just got talking, but the reality is that it is marketing... and the people who are really good at it make you forget that it is. You dropping your guts on your deepest, darkest pain can trigger someone down their own spiral. You don't know if the sex worker you just messaged telling them you're suicidal is trying their hardest not to self-harm or kill themselves that day. You don't know if the sex worker you just messaged telling them your life is hard and everyone hates you because you're overweight is trying their best to allow themselves to eat that day. You may just be the the final straw for their breakdown. I have seen it happen. This stuff is heavy. You must be careful where you place it. Do not just throw it around. There is a time and a place and specific people that you can talk about these things to, and you definitely should talk about these things with someone, but it should not be in your initial messages to a sex worker or randomly commented on their advertising posts.
But why is this so common with femme sex workers in particular? Terms like "men don't cry" and "don't be a pussy" come to mind in the context of explaining why men often unload their emotional laundry on women. It's not because men just aren't as good at it. Our society is set up in a way that anything emotional and nurturing is a woman's job and men often aren't forced learn those things and aren't held accountable when they mess it up. Have you ever heard the term "boys will be boys"? I bet you've never heard the term "girls will be girls" used to excuse any violent behaviour or lack of empathy. This fosters an environment where in most cases (there are exceptions) male friendships don't exactly offer the same emotional support that you get from your friendships or relationships with women. When you're depressed, do you go to your mum or your dad? Your sister or your brother? Your male friend or your female partner? If you have a female partner, it is likely that she is the sole person you share all of your emotional troubles with and demand the most emotional labour from. Or at least the one you turn to the most. This is a common pattern in society... for men.
The way women are socialised is to be emotionally present and available. Our friendships with each other are often very emotionally supportive and we turn to our female friends and family for help more often than we do our male loved ones, but we are always there to help our male partners, friends and family when they are going through difficult emotional times. We know how to listen. We know how to hold space. We know how to encourage people. We know how to offer gentle advice. We get babies put in our lap from childhood and told how to nurture them. How many little boys do you see parents forcing to hold and feed a baby? What is the percentage of men who pursue careers in early childhood? How many women do you see complain that their male partners just don't know how to listen to them when they want to talk about having had a bad day? This cycle has created an imbalance where often men don't know how to soothe themselves or others and the idea that your female partner is the sole confidant in deeply sewn in our society. So how does this relate to sex workers? Well, it's obvious. You see us as desirable, sexually and emotionally available women, women you'd like to date. Many of you, before even meeting us have this idea in your head about how things will go, how well we'll get along. You build us up to be this perfect paragon of your perfect woman from the pictures and videos and quirky funny stories we tell on our social media. We often talk about our marginalisation, the fact that we live on the fringes of society. The fact that it takes a lot of emotional intelligence to do what we do. We talk about the stigma we face as sex workers, the dangers of our jobs. We talk about FOSTA/SESTA and COVID having decimated our industry. We talk about losing our children and family when we're outed for our work. We sometimes share how truly hard it is to be a sex worker. And it is. It can be extremely emotionally and physically taxing before we even get to a booking. And for those of us who have chronic illnesses, sometimes it is all we can manage in a week to turn up to a 1hr booking and make a few social media posts. But surely, we - of anyone in society - can understand your plight. Surely, we can show some sympathy toward you, right? We're basically the same. We share sexy pictures with you every day, so it's basically like we talk every day, it's basically like we're dating! Oh, look there's her phone number right there for me on her work website so I can contact her! Some of you get lost in the idea and forget that we are not speaking to you directly. We are speaking to thousands, tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of followers. We usually are not making tweets to start conversations and flirt with you, we're not asking to know more about your life. Those pictures are not for you. They are for our business. Our work numbers are for legitimate inquiries, not for people wanting date us or dump their emotional problems on us. We are just trying to do our jobs, but in your mind it doesn't apply to you because we have this special connection. But it is simply not fair of you to hang your burdens on marginalised people who already have a rough go of it simply for existing and trying to make ends meet.
So, what is an emotionally vampiristic lonely man who doesn't want to pay sex workers for their time to do?
It's your job to manage how you interact with the world and you need to hold yourself accountable for it. If you can't help but make these self deprecating comments or message random sex workers with inappropriate chat, you might have to stop following sex workers on twitter, block them, delete your twitter, and set up blocks to sex work advertising sites. That's your first step.
The second step is to invest in therapy so that you can stop being an emotional vampire. I understand many can't afford a therapist, that's ok, but there are plenty of free mental health resources via phone, text or online chat. There are lots of websites and tik toks that talk about mental health and offer strategies to cope and can help you understand some of your deeper issues. Do some research, like I said, invest. In Australia, we are even entitled to greatly reduced mental health care rebates. Speak to your GP about a Mental Health Care Plan.
Really engage with therapy or the resources you find. You are not weak or feminine - not that there's anything wrong with femininity, women are wonderful - for needing help and accepting it with an open mind. It takes a lot of practice to build yourself up, it takes a lot of hard work to really delve into your issues and sort them out. Therapy can help you rewire your brain - literally - and can help you process the trauma and maladaptive behaviours that sabotage your relationships with your friends, families and lovers. It can help you learn how to avoid abusive people who take advantage of your kindness and to avoid abusing others - sometimes we are not taught what real love is which can lead to abusive, controlling, and manipulative behaviour and that is not our fault, but it is our responsibility to learn and do better than we were taught. Therapy can help you unlearn some of your sexist, racist, homophobic and ableist preconceptions that limit your ability to connect with and have healthy relationships with other worthy and loving people.
It can even help you to remove romantic relationships as the sole end goal of your life. This heteronormative monogamous society preaches the idea that we are not whole until we have a partner of the opposite sex. I can tell you, that I am more whole and I am more myself as a single person than I have ever been in a romantic relationship. Change your perceptions of love. Value your friendships and family more. You will find yourself living a life full of love that you treasure and value. You can be single and happy. You can be single and never feel lonely. You do not have to have a partner to be valid. Your worth is not defined by your relationship status and you will never find happiness in a relationship if you are not happy with yourself by yourself.
And it is through this process of self improvement and making your life something you enjoy, that will make you more attractive to other people. Think about it. Who wants to be with a person who is disgusted by themselves? Who is constantly self deprecating. Who is just so miserable all of the time. Who believes that life is just out to get them and they can never win at anything so they make emotional outbursts in inappropriate settings like children. That's really not attractive at all. You will continue to find rejection at every turn if you engage with people like that. Why are you so attracted to the women you see in social media? What do we have, other than our looks that makes you like us? Do we appear fun? Positive? Friendly? Smart? Do we show empathy and an ability to be emotionally supportive to others? Are we well groomed? Do we have cool hobbies and a life that we enjoy? Do we do our part for our communities? Do we volunteer, do we help others? Become all of the things you find attractive in others and like will attract like. It is often when we stop looking for love and just focus on ourselves that love seems to find us.
So, what have we learned today? To sum up, stop dumping on sex workers without offering compensation. It's not fair. Seek help from the appropriate sources. Work on yourself. Much love, V x