Mary is doing God's work. She takes between one and four appointments a week, scheduled 48 hours in advance. She subsidizes sessions for her disabled clients, one of whom is a 28-year-old with multiple sclerosis. She gets down on all fours and curls up into a ball to show me the only position he can use.
Mary isn't her real name. But in her line of work, no one has real names.
Mary is beautiful. She's 41 years old and has the nicest skin I've ever seen. She's not wearing makeup when we go out for breakfast (eggs Benedict with fruit, no hash browns), and she's pulled her hair up into a small bun that sits on the top of her head.
Before Mary became a sex worker, she was a corporate accountant. "My joke is that then I felt like the biggest whore of my life," she says. Before that, she toured with the Grateful Dead, sold hair wraps and ganja goo balls, and stripped for a few months. Mary grew up in Tacoma at a time when dealers sold heroin at all-ages punk shows. She left home when she was 13, but stayed in school.
In her 30s, after discovering a community of sex-based spiritual healers, Mary came to sex work. Hers is not the stereotypical street-based prostitution horror story, but she's far from the only person with a story like this. "One of the reasons we're dismissed is that there's this belief that we're so out of touch with the harms of the industry," Mary says. "And so it really can be a fine line to walk to say, 'No, I am empowered, I am making choices, and not only am I making choices, but these choices have been the best decisions I have made in my life.'"
No one actually knows how many people like Mary are in Seattle.