For a long time in my late teens and early 20s “whatever you want to do” was my go-to response whenever a partner asked me what I wanted in bed. I thought I was appeasing them by allowing them to take hold of the reigns of our sexual encounter. But, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that this answer was total crap. Not only was I simply too scared to tell them what I really wanted to do, but I also put a lot of pressure on my partners. By constantly deferring control to them, I made them responsible for my sexual experimentation and development.
It is scary, vulnerable and often embarrassing to share our desires with another person. Most of us grow up with varying degrees of shame around our sexuality and, the further we deviate from heteronormative sexual expression, the more shame we are likely to feel. What’s more, talking about fantasies, ideas and sex in general goes against the way a lot of us think about sex. Things should come naturally, right? Pleasure should be effortless and orgasms should be bountiful, RIGHT? Wrong. Maybe once or twice I have had an effortless sexual connection with someone but even that has not lasted beyond a few months. Good sex takes effort, communication, trial and error.
Being able to answer “what do you feel like doing?” with an answer that is honest and authentic has been difficult for me. This is where the “food sex water” idea comes from; I disliked that I could articulate so much about myself and my world, but could not talk about my sexuality.
I ended up going through an adult, pleasure focused, sexual re-education phase of my life. I dedicated time, energy and money into learning how to know what I want and how to communicate that to others. A lot of this came from podcasts (The Savage Lovecast, Sex Out Loud with Tristan Taormino and Unscrewed are three that spring to mind) and books (mostly from the Passionfruit store). These mediums were helpful as they gave me language I did not previously have and helped me feel that I was not alone in feeling like sex is important. But the real learning, challenges, embarrassing stories and growth came from attending classes and workshops. I went to everything from talks on Dirty Talk run by Nikki Darling, to tantra based mindful sexuality classes, to spanking workshops that lasted an entire day, to workshops on negotiating consent, to Kink 101 courses, to porn screenings, to pleasure science classes by I Wish You Knew. I had private classes to learn about embodiment, tantra, fisting, vaginal massage, pegging and sexual expression of gender. I danced at a butt plug dance party, dragged my vanilla friends to BDSM parties, attended sex parties by myself, and paid for sex to fulfil certain fantasies.
Basically, for a year or so, whenever I saw anything vaguely sex related, I signed myself up for it. My experiences were varied. Almost everything was informative and a tad embarrassing. Some things were hot as fuck. Some were too far out of my comfort zone and I still cringe when I think about them. I cried, I laughed, I came – sometimes at the same event. It was an interesting time. I still value learning about sex and being in semi-public spaces where sexual expression is allowed, but I am no longer devouring sexual education with the same intensity because I feel as though I have gained the skills I set out to attain. I can tell people what I want to do in bed and I feel better for it.
This experience totally debunked the myth that great sex should come naturally and be easy to attain. I learnt that, like many other things, sex gets better with practice. It also showed me how hard it can be to answer the question “what do you want to do?” Sometimes, my desires are simple and obvious. Perhaps I want to feel lusted after by another person, or crave the physical sensation of being fucked. But other times, I do not feel satiated by such an encounter. I crave some connection or self-expression that deviates from the run-of-the-mill oral or vaginal sex. I want an opportunity to play, to behave differently to how I would in day-to-day life, and experience sensations – painful and pleasurable – that involve my entire body. It is nice to know this about myself and to have avenues for exploration.
My sexual re-education has also helped me be a better sex worker. I am able to appreciate how difficult it can be for clients to share their fantasies, I am better at expressing my own authentic desires, I am less judgey, and more technically skilled. However, I don’t view my job as a time for exploring my fantasies. It irks me to no end when clients want me “to lead the way” or throw the “whatever you want to do” at me. I am happy to guide them through their fantasies and share ideas once they have told me what they want to explore, but I see a booking as their time. I know they are perhaps embarrassed or simply wanting to ensure that I have a good time, but my number one turn on at work is doing a good job and I would feel unprofessional to focus a booking on my fantasies when they could be very different to whatever a client has in mind.
As a worker, managing a booking is a delicate balance between making the client feel comfortable, and prodding them to be vulnerable and share with a relative stranger. Often, they will not have had sex in a while and will be craving human touch. Or perhaps they have been working a lot and have booked me to have a break from stress and responsibility. A client letting me know this will help me prepare for the booking and get attuned to what they are likely to need during our time together. No booking is uniform, and no person’s sexual desires are identical, so the more information I have about their head space before a booking the better things are likely to go.
A booking with a sex worker is a time to be selfish, and I mean “selfish” in the best possible sense of that word. Bookings are indulgent and a mini-holiday from the norms of day-to-day life. They are a chance to fulfil a need or explore a curiosity that clients may not be able to find elsewhere. Hopefully, bookings will be absent of judgement and shame, and a chance for clients to practise prioritising and articulating their wants and needs.