She Sold Sex To Raise Money For A Flight to Prague

 

The interviewee’s name has been changed for safety purposes. 

 

This past year, Anaïs traveled around Europe during her study abroad experience in France. Along the way, she met a boy in Prague with whom she instantly connected. Throughout her study abroad experience, Anaïs realized she needed money to get by, as being a nanny and tutoring were not supplying her with a livable wage. After she met a boy during her spring break trip to Prague, she realized not only was she desperate for money but she was desperate to make enough of it for a flight to see him.

While searching through Craigslist for available jobs in France, Anaïs came across what she called the “freaky deaky” side of Craigslist. 

She came across the fetish posts, the “seeking young girls” ads, and everything along the lines of what might make some people uncomfortable. But Anaïs was intrigued. She wanted to learn more. According to Anaïs, she never had the intentions of selling her body for sex, but when she began contacting the men out of pure curiosity, everything became a reality. This is when she realized she could use her sexuality to her advantage.

I interviewed Anaïs about her experience as a temporary sex worker in a foreign country.

 

How did you meet this love interest?

A: We met at the park and exchanged names — not Instagram handles or phone numbers, just names. We hugged, talked, and even just sat in silence from, like 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., and I became consumed in him. He never left my mind for the next few weeks, so I came to [a] realization after this entire encounter that changed the way I felt about my current relationships.

 

How did you go about finding men to pay you for sexual performance?

I replied to the emails asking what the rates were, looking into what space they took place in, and I asked all the details before going into anything. I was strict and straightforward, I wanted to scare them off and act like I knew what I was doing, even though I had no idea. I told them we had to meet in a public space and told them my roommate would be in the area to watch — which was a lie, she wasn’t there. I just wanted to help their fantasies come true only to the extent of my own comfort.

 

Why do you think this intrigued you? Finding men online searching for someone to fulfill their fetishes?

It didn’t freak me out, it allured me. It made me interested because I always felt rather comfortable and pretty autonomous and free with my body. Weird things like stuff with toes, massaging, anything with money offers influenced me to move further. I cancelled out the ones that were scams, but a lot of them were real. I wanted to see what I felt comfortable with and what I didn’t. I wanted to explore that realm, and what better way to do it then while abroad in Europe?

 

Tell me about your first client.

We met at a cafe and he explained to me that he had a family but he comes to Paris four days a week for business. He was in his mid-forties, he had a fantasy and wanted to fulfill it for a long time. His fantasy was to simply be with a young girl, just to be a sugar daddy. It turned him on to pay a young girl for sex.

 

How did you feel after all of it happened?

It was very… factual… a that happened type of thought. Not exciting or unexciting, interesting or uninteresting, wasn’t boring nor was it fun. It just happened. And, um, so then in the morning, he left for work and I slept in. He left 120 euros on the table for me, and that was my first time getting paid for sex. I sat on the chair and smoked, and I was like hmm… yep, that happened. I just reflected on myself. One of the most interesting parts about it all was that I have never felt such non-existent shame. I felt no shame. No guilt at all. No regret. Nothing.

 

How was this different than just casual sex with maybe someone your age or someone who isn’t paying you?

With my casual sex relationships, the bar was so low because I had sex with these guys despite the fact that they did not drive me crazy. They were not interesting to talk to and the sex wasn’t even that good. Out of the 10 people I casually slept with, I would only sleep with 2 [again]. All of those [bad] qualities… but I still allowed them to have sex with me.

I was having sex for myself, right? But I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I didn’t like them as a person, and they didn’t please me sexually. I say I was doing it for myself, but I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I got nothing in return — not pleasure, not good conversation. It took me awhile of [having casual sex] to realize it was not what I wanted to do. What made this sexual experience so different was that I was not doing it for pleasure or fun, I was doing it for money. It was a job, not for fun. There was a desired outcome, which was money. My goal was getting money and I fulfilled it.

 

Did sex work change your perception of casual sex?

Girls do it all the time for free [casual sex], but are they getting pleasure out of it? Is it really worth it — what you’re getting out of it compared to what you’re giving? When you put a dollar sign next to it, it’s a different playing field. It’s no longer about your pleasure or time, it’s a clear goal. It’s just a job and it’s so simple.

 

What else did you do, maybe besides intercourse, while doing this work in Europe?

One other guy was a one-time thing. After giving him the lowdown about meeting in public and stuff I got his fantasy out of him. He made me comfortable and showed me the local police station by his apartment. His fantasy was to just be a watcher. His fantasy was to just look and not be able to touch — that is what got him going. I was in his apartment for an hour walking around, undressing myself. He was very polite, and he was not allowed to touch me. I made 50 euros, and he walked me to the metro after.

 

You mentioned confidence to me, when discussing this experience, how did sex work improve or possibly damage your confidence, if it did at all?

It was such a new experience and it was interesting because I got to learn about myself. What types of settings did my confidence come out? I could tell when I was shy in situations and when I was confident. When I left their place, I felt confident. It was a fun experience. I never got shy, my confidence came out. It was fun to test it out, you never know how you’ll react until you’re in the situation.

 

Did you have to put on a “game face” before going into it? Were you your authentic self or more so an actress in these situations?

Yeah, I definitely felt like I was acting. With the one guy that I slept with regularly, because I was not attracted to him — not sexually, not physically — I completely stripped the situation of everything besides seeing it as a job. I was not overly comfortable, but I was not uncomfortable. Before I met with him, I would play loud music and smoke a cigarette, and I called that “getting into actress mode.”

I felt like I was acting, it was like I got to play a certain part. This isn’t my everyday life, I got to play this part with him. I was not necessarily enjoying the sex, any of the times, I just wanted it to be over. I over exaggerated it, and as long as I was comfortable, I was fine.

 

How did you feel when you finally made enough money to book a train ticket to Prague, to reunite with your love interest?

I had my drawer that I put the money in, and when I got enough money for the plane ticket, I just looked at it like, There it fucking is, there is my plane ticket money.

 

Would you ever tell him [the love interest] about how you made up enough money to see him?

I think about telling him, I wonder how he would react if I told him that I did this to see him. If we got married, 20 years from now, I would totally tell him.

 

You said it’s been about five months since you’ve seen him, do you want to see him again? Would you ever sell sex again to do it?

Now that I know that we do have a certain connection, it just interests me to pursue it. So I would like to see him again, and he would love to come to America, because it’s so different. I’d love to show it to him. He elicited this part of me that, um, just makes me hopeful. In a lot of my past relationships I felt worn out, depleted, stripped down — not that they meant to but it’s just how the relationship went.

He does the total opposite, he makes me feel like I have qualities that I don’t even feel like I have. He just makes me hopeful about a bunch of things. The fact that him and I could fall in love — I don’t know — be together. [Makes me feel] just, like excited, interested, and hopeful. I can honestly say that the adjective “hopeful” has never [applied to] my past relationships, I could have never used it in those. But it’s one that fits here. So I want to be aware of that and I don’t want to forget that it was special. I don’t want to think that special things are special when I am tired and worn out, how cynical and sad to not give special things their special credit. It’s so beautiful when things are special.

 

So about the sex work, would you do it again to see him?

I think that I would sell sex again if all the conditions were met, and I felt comfortable. I think that I would just because I know that I can, and I would be open to another experience. However, I wouldn’t want to do it too much. I wouldn’t want to have a strict relationship that happened all the time based on that, because I do think sex can be very special and it’s fragile. 

I, right now, can bend it and make it about a job and about money but it’s really fragile because if you bend it too much then it’ll break. I don’t want to use sex only and attach such a heavy sole meaning of money to it that [I] start to not be able to put the other [romantic] qualities to it. That petrifies me.

 

How do you feel now, months and months later?

I don’t bring it up casually because it’s my private life, but I don’t feel ashamed to say [I participated in sex work] if I’m talking to a girlfriend about it. I would never want my parents to find out, but I don’t feel ashamed about that part of me. I felt this power here, because I did not have power before. It makes sense, in all of the casual sex I had before and relationships I had before, I did not feel right. In here, I controlled everything. How much I made, what time we met, I got to pick how I acted. It’s so much easier when you attach it to this other persona. It’s like, Wow, I can create all of this.

 

Were you ever paranoid or scared of anything bad happening to you? I know you are French and fluent in the language, but as an American girl in another country, weren’t you frightened to do any of this?

I think that I was naive because I told myself, “Okay, if I make it clear that we meet in a public place, I’ll be safe.” I get paranoid over the dumbest things, but I never got paranoid over this when it totally could’ve gone wrong.

 

Would you ever do this in your hometown [in the Midwestern USA]?

I think it might’ve been the fact that I was in France that I did it. It had this weird facade, fake idea of a blanket of comfort and safety that was imaginary. It was a different country, it was so easy to act like I don’t rationally do. I don’t know if I would do it where I live now, I’d have to go looking for it. And if it came to me I wouldn’t trust it, so the perfect balance happened in France.

 

All photos by Luo Yang. 

 

 

This App Is Changing Women’s Healthcare

 

Tia is a San Francisco based Femtech initiative created to address the many facets of female health. The term “Femtech” may bring to mind images of an obnoxiously pink barbie laptop covered in flower stickers and love hearts… and if that’s your thing, then why not? However, Femtech goes a little deeper than that, and is revolutionizing the world of female health care. Continue reading “This App Is Changing Women’s Healthcare”

Does Erasing Cyber Reality Erase Our Actual Reality?

 

I had come to expect many things through the year of my breakup. I expected to cry deeply and often, to blacklist certain songs, and to send flurries of problematic “I miss you” texts to my ex. I’m a Leo sun with a Scorpio moon — sue me.

I expected certain milestones to hurt, like the first time I saw him move on to somebody new or when a birthday passed and we didn’t spend it together. What I never expected was the intense pang of sadness I felt when I saw my ex had deleted photos of me from his Instagram feed. A strange ache reverberated through my body for days.

It seems pretty insane to type out, but the pain of this realization was sharp in a way I couldn’t liken to any other feeling I’d felt over the course of my heartbreak. First, he deleted a photo he had posted of me just a few months before we broke up. The moment I saw this was one of the first times I felt sure about our new future: it wasn’t going to magically work out when we saw each other again. Naturally, I cried for two days.

Several months later, after we’d met up again, I scrolled through his feed and saw that he had deleted another picture of me, a rather ambiguous one where he’d shot me from afar, standing in front of a building in Gothenburg where we were visiting briefly. Why delete this picture? What about it was so compelling, so telling of our relationship, that he had to delete it? The act of deleting felt so aggressive, somehow — so obnoxiously purposeful.

I hadn’t deleted my photos of him. I still haven’t. Does that mean I’m holding on to something that I can’t let go? I don’t think so.

I think social media provides us with this peculiar way of storytelling, and perhaps it’s narcissistic, but the story is our own. I want to one day be able to look back at those odd little squares and read their stories of a time when I was 19 and 20 and 21 and in love for the first time. They hold deep connections to a memory, but they don’t necessarily signal a longing for a person. At least not for me.

Something about the mourning of deleted pictures feels like a parody of our times. It’s impossible to imagine this scenario outside of a modern, digital context. In a time when online and offline lives are rich enough to be distinguished from each other, the act of removing little pieces of evidence from this online space feels particularly jarring. A deleted photo translates into something much deeper in meaning, to the deletion of proof of our existence together.

I’d always tried to hold myself to the doctrine that one day, after the hurt had softened, I’d be able to look back on photos and relive the memories with gratitude. That I’d be able to see the soft things, the beautiful and happy things, not only the sad. Photos are potent in that way, and I hoped (and still do) to feel neither removed from this person nor bound to him. I hoped to just feel grateful, and it hurt me to think that he didn’t feel the same. That he wanted to cut me out of his memory — even if just on social media.

Recently, my ex posted some pictures of him and his new girlfriend. I didn’t feel sad when I saw them. Maybe I felt a bit vexed, seeing that he’d moved on so quickly (Leo sun, Scorpio moon, remember?), but those photos ultimately meant nothing to me. I’d made it through the worst of my heartbreak and I was alive. I was okay. Seeing him with someone new didn’t hurt me like I once thought it would. And it certainly didn’t hurt as much as his deletion of our cyber reality together — proof that we once existed in the same physical reality together as well.

 

 

First photo by Leo Chang and the remainder by Karen Rosetzsky. 

 

 

I’m Not Broken

The following may be triggering to those who’ve been affected by abuse. 

 

“I know exactly how to give you a panic attack,” he said nonchalantly as I began to hyperventilate.

My head shot up as I handed his phone to him, vision blurred from the mascara streaming down my face. My head was throbbing uncontrollably from sobbing so much. That night, I found out he was cheating on me with the same girl he had before, and, in a frenzied rage, I took his phone to find the messages they had been sending each other. Every sweet nothing he had uttered to me lost all meaning as I scrolled through a plethora of overused lines. The person in front of me once wanted to be my forever, now he wanted nothing to do with me.

Even though I could feel my heart breaking, I still wanted him. I needed him. He had been there through some of the darkest moments of my life, and I was certain my life without him would be a bleak existence. Maybe I could give him another chance. He was my everything. No matter how many times he hung up the phone while I was having a panic attack or told me my depression was an inconvenience, he was still there for me eventually and that’s real love… right? 

Instead, I spent the better half of that year trying to pick myself up and move on with my life. I had lost all interest in anything that could make me remotely happy: everything was tainted. The song that once sweetly reminded me of him was stripped of its sentiment, replaced with a harrowing sense of numbness. The beach we frequented was now a cesspool of heart-wrenching memories. Now and then I’d torture myself by scrolling through pictures of us, recounting our relationships timeline. I knew we weren’t the same. I knew he had changed. I blamed myself and my mental health for driving him away. But I was certain, with every fiber of my being, that he would come back to me.

After months of crying my eyes out until exhaustion put me to sleep, I suddenly stopped thinking about him. Instead, I would wake up, look at my phone, and not desperately hope his name popped up on my screen. I felt a new sense of purpose. I wasn’t the same girl who had sobbed loudly enough to muffle the sound of passing cars on that fateful Friday night. I believed that part of my life had been erased and I was starting over.

Five months later, I was in the corner of my current boyfriend’s apartment curled up in fetal position, unable to cease my uncontrollable sobs. My mind had decided it was time to unleash the traumatic memories of my two-year relationship. Flashbacks played in my head like a scary movie you can’t stop watching no matter how terrified you are. I remembered his verbal, emotional, and mental abuse. I remembered how much he talked down to me and how worthless I felt. I felt a variety of mixed emotions, including pain, guilt, and shame. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I let it go on for so long. I wanted to take a shower to scrub off the layer of disgust that consumed my body.

Here I was, finally happy with someone that truly and wholeheartedly cared about me — so why did this have to happen now?

That’s the thing about trauma, it stores itself in the back of your brain so you can endure the pain, giving no warning before re-entering your consciousness. My ex knew exactly what he was doing. He made me his puppet, toyed with my emotions, made me a lovestruck mess, then callously cut my strings.

Abusive individuals figure out a person’s weakness or what makes them vulnerable and then use it to their advantage. They’re extremely power-hungry, indulging in controlling the person they’re with. I know firsthand that being with an abusive person can significantly deteriorate your mental health. Your significant other should never be the reason that you’re depressed, that you’re coaxed into a panic attack, or that you feel somehow subhuman. It might take you some time to finally see that person for what they truly are, and that doesn’t make you naive and it most certainly does not make you weak. It’s easier said than done, but it’s up to you to keep that person out of your life. You and your mental health should always come first.

It may have taken over a year, but I’ve finally learned how to take the power back. And by that I mean, I’ve managed to accept that part of my life and not let it define me. You have so much life left; one toxic person shouldn’t be the reason you don’t get to truly live it.

Granted, getting to this point wasn’t easy. I still have days where I’m triggered by certain places, words, feelings, and things that send me back into that warped sense of thinking. I become depressed, riddled with regret. He recently tried to follow me again on Instagram and although I felt a brief moment of paralyzing fear, I made the decision to block him.

Toxic people don’t deserve a place in your life. Take solace in knowing that you never have to fix yourself. You don’t have to put the “pieces back together” — you were never broken. No one, regardless of who they are, has the power to do that. All of you is still there, it always will be, you just have to see it again.

 

All photos by Chad Moore.