Saying this is not going to endear me to my sisters in the industry, but there are a lot of crazy chicks doing sex work. After much observation, I've formed a hypothesis about why some sex workers become crazy and some don't. Some of them were unstable before they got into the game, but some of them had their lives go off the rails because they made one big mistake: They had no exoskeleton.

What does that mean? It means that in the amorphous world of sex work, you do not have the social guidance of the dominant culture telling you how to structure the hours and days of your life. And that's fine—if you can create and adhere to your own framework, regulating for yourself how you spend your time. If there are no schedules or deadlines, then often the dull duties that make life run smoothly get blown off. It's hard to maintain emotional equilibrium when your power gets shut off because you forgot to pay the bill, mice infest the garbage you didn't take out, and the toilet overflows. The more stressed you get, the less able to deal with responsibilities you become, and pretty soon you're living in a motel on Aurora Avenue. That's the extreme end of things, of course. But it happens.

Sex work is also a world that rewards highly stylized, artificial behavior. It can be fun to play the sex kitten. But you need time as your everyday self, too, or you get off-balance and forget how to interact with people when you're not wearing high heels.

Thus, your exoskeleton is something outside the flexible-to-a-fault underbelly of sex work. It's something you're emotionally invested in that requires you to keep order in your world, and something where you are your truest self. It can be another job you're passionate about, or school, or a serious and active commitment to an art. (Note the keywords on that last one: serious and active. As in: You're accountable to other people for making something happen on a schedule. Sitting in bars talking about the masterpiece you're going to create won't keep you sane.)

Sometimes a partner can be an anchor, if he/she has a well-structured life and you're committed to matching him/her. And sometimes the responsibility of parenthood keeps people focused in a blurry world—but don't count on it. Too often, I have seen parents take kids with them into la vida loca. You're supposed to provide stability for your child, not vice versa.

I've used all these systems to define my days, and I've seen other successful sex workers do likewise. Over time, I've learned to create my own stand-alone structures in an unstructured world. I have my little routines I'm very firm about, and sometimes people kid me about them. They think it's because I'm a dominatrix that I'm so wedded to my ways. They don't realize that me disciplining myself is what enables me to play at disciplining others. recommended