When I was in college, I read a book for one of my Sociology classes called The Managed Heart, by Arlie Russell Hochschild. In her research, Hochschild found that certain jobs, such as flight attendant and waitress, had "feeling rules." It wasn't enough that employees looked pleasant and smiled; they had to mean it, and feel it, in a way that people could sense was genuine. Professor Hochschild coined the term "emotional labor" to describe the energy that people in such jobs must put forth in order to communicate the appropriate feeling.
Being a professional sex work requires more than just having a hot body—it's definitely emotional labor, which is why I always tell people that hating men is a terrible reason to become a pro domme. Yes, even in my toughest, edgiest scenes, I make an emotional connection with my clients; I give them something of myself. No matter what branch of the industry you're in, you have to have some genuine warmth and compassion to give to your clients. The fact that it takes energy to do this doesn't mean sex workers can't find their jobs essentially rewarding. But it is a putting forth of oneself, and if you're not getting your emotional gas tank refilled in some way, that can lead to a feeling of burnout.
What can you do if you're feeling a little crispy? Well, it's great if you can start by just talking to someone about how you're feeling. However, even discussing sex work burnout can be tricky. If you had a more socially acceptable job, it would be easy to talk to friends and lovers and get rational feedback. But tell someone you had a bad day as a sex worker, and a lot of them will immediately respond, "Look, see how bad this is for you? You better quit right away." That's frustrating. Everyone has tough days, no matter what business you're in. Sometimes that does mean you should consider quitting your job, but sometimes you just need to vent. When you need to blow off some steam, find someone who can be supportive without giving you a knee-jerk reply.
Some other immediate solutions: If you haven't already, make a schedule, and set aside time when you definitely don't work and would not even consider working, no matter what. And you probably need to cut back on how much you're working, at least temporarily. I know it's tough to leave money lying on the table, but your emotional well-being is more important. If you don't ease up, you may burn out completely and be forced to quit when you hadn't planned to.
When you are with clients, try this: Focus on being emotionally present, but let go of trying to be absolutely perfect in every moment. I understand wanting to be the best for your clients, but actually, no one is perfect, and spending a lot of time trying to project that image can have the effect of distancing you from yourself emotionally. You'll lose touch with what it feels like to just be yourself.
Outside of work, you need to figure out what feeds you emotionally and do more of it. Time with friends? Time alone? Sports? Reading? Whatever it is that makes you feel recharged and refreshed, double up on that, pronto.
In the long term, think about changing your system of working. If you work for someone else, think about whether you need a new boss or workplace. If you're self-employed, would it be easier for you to work with a group of women instead of alone, or vice versa? Or consider changing your time and fee structure. Say, instead of 60-minute sessions, book only 90-minute sessions at a higher rate—but book fewer of them. Maybe it's time to get into a different branch of the industry entirely—if you're a dancer, think about nude modeling. If you're an escort, what about doing sensual touch for a while?
Anyone can pick up a riding crop and smack someone with it. And anyone can rent out access to her body. A talented professional does more than that. She creates an emotional experience for her clients. Make sure that you protect that ability as much as you protect your pretty body.
WICKED WOMYN LEATHER CONFERENCE
Three days of instructional workshops, BDSM vendors, and play parties for dykes, straight, bisexual, or transsexual women, plus FTM and transgender bois/men. Jan 13–16, register online at http://wickedwomyn.com or at the door, ticket prices vary.
LITTLE RED STUDIO
Erotic dance and spoken-word entertainment. Little Red Studio, 328-4758, 8:30 pm, ticket prices vary, RSVP required.
REDMOND RANCH SWING CLUB
Swing club Redmond Ranch hosts “Gang Bang Night.” Single men must RSVP for waiting list, 425-868-8169. Couples/single women can just show up. Doors at 7 pm, new people must arrive by 8 pm, $45 for couples/$25 for single women.
Open to people of all genders and orientations who are involved in or interested in polyamorous relationships. Wet Spot, www.scn.org/~spg or 728-4533, 5–8 pm, $3–$5 donation, membership not required.
PARADISE POOL TIME
A clothing-optional “swim and be social” event at an indoor pool. The Longhouse in Redmond, firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-9746, noon–4 pm, $10, RSVP required.
EROTIC MASSAGE NIGHT
Sensual touch for couples and singles, facilitated by David Longmire. No experience required. Wet Spot, email@example.com or 270-9746, 5–9 pm (doors close at 6 pm), $10, members only.
CO-ED NATURIST NIGHT
Nudist night at Banya 5, a steam bath and spa. 217 Ninth Ave N, firstname.lastname@example.org, 5–11 pm, open to members of nudist/naturist organizations only.
NEW STUFFED SHELLS AT OLIVE GARDEN
Practice the fine art of culinary humiliation at the kinky, kinky Olive Garden, where the new year brings the new tortures of stuffed shells with shrimp and stuffed shells with sausage. Olive Garden, 300 NE Northgate Way, 363-7250.