People close to me know I have certain strongly held and often-explained theories about the topics that are important to me—like sex work. For example, I'm sure I've acquainted all my patient friends with my belief that the sex industry does not, in itself, fuck people up emotionally. It merely reveals the cracks that already exist in our psychological foundations. So if you're crazy in the head and you become a sex worker, you'll become crazier. If you're not, you'll be okay.

"But you know, babe," a clever man said to me, "everyone's a little bit crazy. I know you like your job, but come on—didn't sex work reveal any little cracks in you?"

It's a good question. I have never regretted choosing a career in sex work. But it's easy to forget, sometimes, that I haven't always been as happy and emotionally grounded in my life overall as I am now. When I look back, the two negative aspects of my personality that I had to get over—both of which were exacerbated by sex work—were a tendency toward emotional detachment, and, yes, a touch of nonconsensual cruelty.

Those traits were hard to acknowledge and let go of, because in the early years of my sex-work career, both of them seemed to serve me well. Before I was a dominatrix, I was a dancer and sometimes a call girl. And among call girls, the commonly accepted coping strategy for being physically intimate with strangers was to detach oneself emotionally from the experience. It's not that all call girls hate their clients. It's simply that having any kind of genuine emotional response, either positive or negative, feels too risky. It could compromise one's ability to stay in control of the situation.

I'm not sure why, but I used to be very good at separating myself from my feelings. And I liked being good at it. It felt like strength to me. I could handle the most challenging clients and I never got upset. I didn't have to use drugs or alcohol; I just learned how to shut down anything I didn't want to feel. I remember telling someone once that I was a wall of ice—cool and slippery, with no foothold anywhere, impenetrable and invulnerable. And then, as I learned from observation that not everyone could detach themselves as completely and easily as I could, I developed a subtle contempt for anyone who was more emotionally vulnerable or volatile than I was. After all, if detachment was strength, they must be weak.

My emotional coldness had an interesting effect on my professional life. While I wasn't billing myself as a professional dominatrix, I collected a number of clients who I now realize were emotional masochists. Some of these men were hooked on the idea of "breaking through" to me. "You're an eternal challenge," one of them told me. Others got off on being the object of my contempt, and created situations where they could encourage me to say cruel things to them and treat them badly. It wasn't really BDSM, because there was no consent, no acknowledgement of what we were doing. It was just two people indulging themselves in their most negative instincts. I thought being mean to someone meant I was powerful.

Impressively arrogant, wasn't I? But soon my sense of power ebbed, as I gradually realized that I couldn't flip my emotions off and on like a light switch. When you shut yourself down emotionally, you tend to stay shut down all the time. Sure, I didn't feel the things I didn't want to feel, but I wasn't feeling the things I did want to feel, either, like love, sexual pleasure, and genuine intimacy with my lovers. My emotional detachment was a weakness, a fear-based reaction that I had to let go of. The emotional bloodlettings I dished out were mere knee-jerk reactions, manipulated and orchestrated by others. That's not power. I still value being a strong person, and I am still a woman who makes her personal boundaries quite clear, but I'm not a wall of ice anymore. There are cracks, there always were, and now people can get a foothold. n

matisse@thestranger.com

Kink Calendar

THURSDAY 4/13

LEATHER-PLAY PARTY AT CLUB Z

Get kinky in the men's bathhouse, before it's gone for good. Club Z, 1117 Pike St, 8 pm–midnight, fees vary, $3 off for SML members or those in full leather.

FRIDAY 4/14

EXTREME KEGELS/AMAZING YONI TRICKS

Raven will show you how properly done Kegel exercises will make women more orgasmic. Other skills: shooting ping-pong balls, sipping champagne, and slicing bananas! No, really! School of One, 523-5544, 8–10 pm, $20 donation requested.

LITTLE RED STUDIO

Erotic dance and spoken-word entertainment in an intimate, art-studio setting. Little Red Studio, 328-4758, www.littleredstudioseattle.com, 6:30 pm, ticket prices vary, RSVP required.

POOP FOR PEACE DAY

From the brown-friendly folks at PoopReport.com, a daylong commemoration of the great human equalizer. "Pooping for peace is about recognizing our common needs, wants, and desires... On April 14, poopers everywhere will take a moment to meditate on their movement. And they'll realize: Whether it's from curry or chili or couscous, every single human being suffers equally under the tyranny of the bowel." All day, everywhere. Free, unless you use one of those robotic silver pay toilets.

SATURDAY 4/15

LOVE LOUNGE SEATTLE

Love Lounge is an "adult social club" that holds events for bi women and male/female couples—no single men, please. Lovelounge@lovelounge.net, 9:30 pm, no cover, membership required, 21+.

SUNDAY 4/16

PARADISE POOL TIME

A clothing-optional "swim and be social" event at an indoor pool. All genders and orientations welcome. The Longhouse in Redmond, 270-9746, noon–4 pm, $10, RSVP required.

TUESDAY 4/18

'SEXLIFE LIVE' TAPING

Host Dane Ballard takes an offbeat, positive look at sex and sexuality. Hengst Studio, 1506 Franklin Ave E, 328-4758, $7/$10, 18+ with ID.