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Who’s Got Masturbation Shame?

I do I do!

Seriously, I’d think I woulda been over this shit by now. (I’ve written a bit about it before.)

But I’m notttttttt!

Or I wassssssn’t when I recorded this 6 weeks ago… (slow on the posting, to be sort of explained next podcast). The odd thing about shame is that talking about it kinda makes it go away some. So maybe listening to me talk about mine can help you give voice to yours…

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Edited: July 7th, 2014

What Triggers Your Shame?

So awhile ago I talked about shame. These were some of my most popular podcasts. And I was surprised. I wasn’t sure if talking about feeling like shit would be all that compelling. But apparently it is! If you can relate to my version of shittiness, that is. And I think most people can, in one form or another.

So I promised I’d talk about shame more about as I learn how to deal with it, let it go, overcome, or whatever happens such that its not the prevalent emotion in my life anymore.

Even Cats Feel Shame...

Even Cats Feel Shame...

And almost 6 months later, its largely not. Its not gone, but its not the #1 thing I feel when I wake up in the morning. That’s new and different. Almost uneasy, because while the shame felt terrible, it was familiar.

So here’s something I’ve realized – shame is an emotion. Emotions come and go. But feelings don’t just come from nowhere, something triggers them, whether or not we’re aware. (And most people are unaware, I was up until recently… and still sometimes.)

Which to me means identifying when the feeling of shame is triggered and what did I see/do/hear/say/remember that brought up that emotion.

And it turns out there are some sexual things that used to cause me a lot of shame. But that really don’t anymore.

At the same time, there are some sexual things that I still do feel ashamed of. Even when my logical brain says everything’s fine, and I wouldn’t judge anyone else for it.

So today I talk more about what I’ve noticed about shame, how it comes and goes, and what I’ve done to let it go.

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Edited: June 3rd, 2014

Why Do Guys Share Their Fantasies Online?

Question via Tumblr: Why do you think that many guys write out their fantasies and post them online? I don`t understand the logic or motivation behind it.

I’m curious about in what setting you’re talking about – where are you seeing guys post their fantasies?

But wherever it is, I think most people have a deep desire to share the sexual part of themselves. A lot of people (regardless of gender) are too scared to be that real with their partners if they have one. Or they’ve tried unsuccessfully and don’t want to face judgment or rejection again. So the internet provides an anonymous outlet and in certain places like fetish forums – others who understand and validate their fantasies.

I think its great when people find a place to express themselves. I also think its much more satisfying when we can do it in person, with a real human being who cares about our wants and needs. But that’s not an option for everyone (or perhaps not yet) so the internet fulfills that in part.

Edited: March 31st, 2014

Letting Go of Sexual Shame

… or at least starting to anyway.

Its a process. You won’t just wake up one day and feel fantastic about something you’ve felt shitty about most or all of your life. Sorry. I wish that were true. Oh have I wished that were true…

But after wishful thinking failed me again and again, it was time to try something different.

Here’s something I’ve told myself many times over the last few years, completely changing the path of my life, going from rigidly normal to crazy exhibitionist sex worker:

The only way out is to go deeper in.

My path has been wrought with anxiety and second-guessing, packaged nicely with a bow in the wrapping paper of shame. The very feeling I sought to overcome became more and more prominent, harder and harder to avoid. On some level, I knew it would happen that way.

But I still didn’t like it. Trust me, if there were any other way, I’d have found it by now. Intuitively, I understood that the pleasure, connection & intimacy I wanted out of love & sex lie on the other side. That to feel what I REALLY wanted – I had to pass through all that junk I didn’t. Because it was avoiding all that yucky stuff that was really keeping me from those warm fuzzy feelings I craved.

Or rather, crave. Its still current. An ongoing process. Every time I confront my shame, feel it, explore it, allow it to be – a teeny bit more pleasure creeps in. I’ve let go of a lot the last few years, but there’s still more.

Yet I’ve seen enough progress to know that this is the way it works, and to trust the process, painful as it can be:

The only way out is to go deeper in.

Because what lies on the other side of pain is joy. On the other side lies fairies and unicorns and glitter and kittens and hugs and kisses and tingles and erections and pussy juice and orgasms and fantasies fulfilled and shit so awesome you’ll just flip yourself right over:

Listen to find out what exactly I do, and how you can start letting go yourself…

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Edited: December 31st, 2013

Sex and Shame

Have you ever felt bad about…

- Your sexual fantasies?
- Sexual things you’ve done?
- Your sexual fetish?
- People you’ve had sex with?
- How many people you’ve fucked? (Or haven’t.)
- Experiences you WISH hadn’t happened?

Yuck

Welcome to the club! Pretty much everyone is a member, or has been at one point or another.

Meeeee included.

I think most people’s reaction to shame is to try and run away from it. To do their best to avoid things that provoke that icky feeling. But if you’ve ever tried that (as I have) – it doesn’t work. Those feelings always come out.

So if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Today I’m sharing what I’ve learned dealing with my own sexual shame over the last few years, and why feeling that shame is necessary if you want to enjoy your sex life a lot more. It might sting a bit at first, but the pleasure is well worth the pain.

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Edited: December 25th, 2013

What Do You Learn In A College Porn Class?

“The biggest problem with porn is shame felt afterward.”

Edited: May 26th, 2013

How to Be Happy: FEEL GOOD. Period.

A man going through a midlife crisis wrote to me – and his words echo what I’ve struggled with especially in the last few years:

I’ve spent a lot of my life wanting stuff and feeling bad for it.

I either need to feel GOOD about doing the right thing, staying the course, walking the straight and narrow path, or I need to feel GOOD about just being who the fuck I am. Either way, I need to FEEL GOOD.

Feeling like shit because I really don’t want to walk the straight and narrow path, and hating myself because I must be broken or a bad person or have sold my soul to the devil… Well, it just fucking sucks not feeling good.

Learning to love yourself and be true to your desires is an ongoing process, particularly when who you are and what you want is not what’s ‘normal’ or ‘expected.’ I don’t write or talk about it publicly much, but I still have moments of panic where I ask myself, “What the fuck am I doing?” But instead of occurring on a near-daily basis (as it did when I began my fetish website), it happens every few weeks or once a month (often related to my menstrual cycle, hormones, and diet). Instead of an all-encompassing fear that feels like it’ll never end, its short-lived event that I know I’ll get through, because I’ve gotten through much worse so many times before.

I continue along this path, with big plans for the future, because it makes me feel good. Wholesomely good, ironic in what’s seen from the outside as a seedy environment. And it keeps feeling better. We can’t use external measures like social norms and what everybody else is doing to tell us what’s right for us individually. Most people don’t make feeling good a priority – its about getting by, doing what they have to do, what they should do. So how do you know if you’re doing the right thing (for you)? If it feels good and if its not hurting anyone, then its right. What’s the point of life if not to feel good? If you disagree, check out this documentary: Happy.

I told him, “Keep at it…it gets easier.” That line isn’t just for gay kids. Its for all of us who want to be true to our desires, whether sexual or otherwise.

Edited: May 10th, 2013

Yep, I’m an Exhibitionist

I was the shy kid.

So shy, my classmates would ask me if I knew how to talk. One of the few things they’d hear me say: YES. With as much of an attitude I could muster at the time.

My early masturbation experiences were anxiety provoking. My room was right next to my parents’ and I slept with my bedroom door open. Starting around age 9, I’d masturbate before I went to sleep. Of course, I didn’t call it masturbation… it was just this thing I discovered. It felt good and helped me fall asleep.

But I was always nervous my parents would walk by. I’d hear creaks on the steps and freeze – if I didn’t move, they’d never know.

In middle and high school, I experienced what seemed like overwhelming sexual feelings. I felt like I had to hide it. Nobody else seemed to have these feelings – none of my friends ever talked about it – so I thought I was the only one. I knew people liked sex, but what I felt was so… MUCH. If everyone felt what I did, they’d clearly be talking about it – that was my logic.

I developed a generalized paranoia about being watched. I imagined what it’d be like if there were hidden cameras in every room of my parents’ house. I wondered if God could see my every move, and whether I was doing things I wasn’t supposed to. I was raised as a secular Jew, not religious, but God seemed this being that could know my dirty little secrets. Even if I didn’t tell anyone else. I’d go about my daily business watching myself as if my life were a movie – trying to catch myself revealing too much. I was already shy but became even more internal.

I started being sexual with others around age 14. Shortly after I went on antidepressants. That put a damper on things, though not completely. Having what I saw as weird perverted fantasies heightened my shame. I’d go through periods of trying not to masturbate – if I didn’t indulge it, maybe it’d go away. It always came back.

With guys I often felt frozen. I’d just go along with whatever they wanted, far too anxious to say what I wanted. At that point, I was so disassociated from my sexuality that I didn’t usually know what I wanted anyway. Much of it felt blah. Over time I started resenting the guys who’d get so much pleasure from my body, while I laid there sometimes just waiting for it to be over. Not to say it was always bad, but good sex just “happened.” I never knew how to make it happen, so I’d wait hoping the next time would be what I wanted. Maybe a 1/3 or 1/4 shot.

But what was always exciting was sex in random places. I was usually more bold than the guys I dated. Public sex was one of the few acts I’d initiate. Giving a boyfriend a handjob in class (not to orgasm, of course), fucking in my car in the parking garage, in music practice rooms or offices at school…

Physically, it was still hit or miss (mostly miss). But having sex where I wasn’t supposed to was exciting. I felt alive. The anxiety of being caught was intertwined with my arousal.

So in retrospect, its no surprise that porn appeals to me. As I become more comfortable with my own sexuality, I’m moving away from “performing” what’s requested to simply “doing.” Or “being.” Capturing on film my and my co-stars’ authentic responses. The situations may be contrived, I see it as roleplaying. But our reactions are becoming more and more real.

After webcamming for several months in the typical way girls do – one-on-one private shows for paying customers – I got absolutely sick of it. Not only am I not really into other men, the situation was too forced. I’m not going to have a really enjoyable orgasm in 5 or 10 or 15 minutes, unless I’m sporadically horny in my everyday life. I didn’t like the pressure of someone telling me what they wanted to see. I just wanted to be me.

Tonight was my first voyeur webcam show. Of many more to come, which will soon be free to members of my website. I simply set up my webcam and went about my own business. I was aware the cam was on and felt a small surge of anxiety with being seen – similar to fucking Terry in a swinger’s club. Only I’m alone. Just me. Doing me. Literally.

Being seen doing things I once felt deeply ashamed for feels liberating. Intellectually, I know masturbation is fine, there are no right or wrong fantasies, and any way someone enjoys touching themselves is okay so long as they don’t harm another living being. Yet my sexual response is still tied to anxiety – as if in such a high level of anxiety is a space of calm.

I believe my exhibitionism is similar to people who enjoy extreme sports. Terry, for instance, used to race cars and still likes driving really really fast when no one’s around. He describes the feeling as so intense he has no choice but to be present. To watch his every move, knowing that losing control could mean losing life.

Granted, I won’t die from being watched having sex. But as a kid the fear felt like I would. That response is deeply embedded. But its no longer a problem. Its an opportunity for me to display authentic sexuality to people who are accustomed to seeing over-stylized performances in much of mainstream porn. Or just as bad, romantic movies.

I believe if we saw “real” sex in whatever form it comes, we’d all be better lovers. Myself included. I learn a ton from the women I fuck. If I never entered the adult industry, I’d have no idea just how different every person’s sexuality is. Performing fetish videos and experiencing sexuality with my co-stars has helped me become comfortable with my own weirdness. Which sometimes can be pretty “normal.”

And thus, I’m ready to “come out” with it in a much bigger way. There will always be fantasies I keep to myself, acts I share with Terry I won’t do on camera. I still need a space of privacy and intimacy. But I choose to put a portion of my sexuality in the open, not only because I enjoy it but to show others there are more options for expressing ourselves than we’ve been taught. That the way women get off is diverse, even within ONE woman. That sex IS not anything in particular except that which feels good.

I didn’t choose exhibitionism, but I wouldn’t change it. I’m thankful for my sexuality. And I’m thankful for this lifestyle.

Edited: February 6th, 2013

How to Masturbate

Many of us learned how to masturbate when we were young and had to hide it.

Some people still hide it as adults! But masturbation is a great way to learn about your body and what you enjoy. Whether you suffer premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, difficulty with orgasm or arousal, or just want to feel even more pleasure – masturbating to explore yourself can help.

It just requires a change in attitude – seeing masturbation as experimentation vs. a shameful secret. How can you make the shift? Listen and learn about how I’m changing my masturbation practice, and how you can too:

On a mobile device? Click here to listen.

Subscribe in iTunes!

Edited: December 23rd, 2012

Sexual Shame Stops a Foot Job

A young man with a foot fetish experienced his first ‘foot job’ but pushed her away before he could orgasm.

Sexual shame affects most of us, whether we’re into feet or more “vanilla” desires. If we feel ashamed of our sexuality, we may push away our lovers, stop ourselves from orgasm, or even shut down sexual feelings altogether.

How can we let go of sexual shame so we can enjoy sex?

On a mobile device? Click here to listen.

Subscribe in iTunes!

Have you struggled with sexual shame? Is there a fantasy you crave but are scared to try?

Edited: December 17th, 2012

From Nun to Sex Therapist – Interview With Dr. Fran Fisher

Dr. Fran of ImproveIntimacy.com became a nun at age 18, left the convent and later became a sex therapist in her 40s.

Dr. Fran shares her fascinating story and her book In the Name of God, Why? Ex-Catholic Nuns Speak Out About Sexual Repression, Abuse & Ultimate Liberation. We discuss the impact of religion on sexuality and how she and other ex-nuns let go of their shame to learn to enjoy their bodies and newfound sex lives. If a former nun can scream “I love oral sex!” — whatever your sexual challenge, there’s hope for you yet.

Dr. Fran offers sex therapy to individuals and couples, both in person and via Skype.

On a mobile device? Click here to listen.

Subscribe in iTunes!

Edited: November 26th, 2012

Mind Over Matter: Making Your Fetish into Mine, or What its Like to Star in Fetish + Fart Porn

As a model, director, and producer of fetish and fart porn, I often must act as if I’m aroused by something that I’m, well, generally not.

Its a test of the mind, one I enjoy taking. Contrary to stereotypically bad mainstream porn, with a model who’s barely even pretending she likes it, I fully admit I’m often acting in my films, in one respect or another. I don’t pretend to eat farts in my everyday life, but I do a great job on camera. Or so my fans say. Know what? I’m not really a giantess either – I’m only 5′ tall (or short).

To produce quality clips, I have to get into the mindset of someone with the fetish. The more experience I have with any fetish, the better my videos; if I’m not there, they come across awkward, empty, hollow. The best clips are when I’m able to get myself turned on, when I understand the fetish and can act so well that I feel it in my body. I can tell when I’m filming, whether or not I’m ‘on.’ When I watch these clips later, they turn ME on, even when its not my ‘thing.’ I fully believe my own performance. These are also the best selling.

Two ridiculous stereotypes propagated not only in the mainstream media, but also by certain doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, sex therapists, sex coaches, and particularly tantric practitioners – that adult models are damaging their own sexuality and psyche by performing for others’ sexual needs, and that fetish in and of itself is perverse and detracts from “normal” sexual functioning. Sure, these can be true.

But in my case, its the opposite. Making fetish porn has dramatically improved my sex life. First, its shown me that my own “abnormal” desires are perfectly fine. Normal, even, in that we’re all weirdos in our own way. Trying to push those fantasies away made me obsess over them, over what was wrong with me and how I could get rid of them. I still have those fantasies, but they’re not so shamefully consuming. They’re available when I want, and I can set them aside when I don’t.

Second, by freeing up this crippling shame, I now have the energy to actually feel good during “regular” sex. If I can learn how to sexualize a fart, I can certainly learn to enjoy having my pussy licked, something I couldn’t really say 5 years ago that I absolutely love now.

I welcome almost any opportunity to stretch my erotic imagination. Why shouldn’t I? Why should we be so scared to explore, when there’s a sexual circus out there waiting for us to come play?

Edited: April 29th, 2012

Please Don’t Tell Anyone This, But…: Why Do We Feel So Bad About Kinky Fetish Sex?

I make my living on kinky fetish sex.

People spend money to see me fart. Its pretty much the easiest and funniest way to make money. And in many ways, its the safest of all sex. Is it perverted? Well, yeah, that’s the point. But why is that a bad thing?

The main issue I see with fetishes is that people are too scared to share them, and people are too judgmental to accept them. Because most all of us have been scared our sexuality makes us bad, sinful, weird, or abnormal. People with “vanilla” desires feel this way; multiply it by a thousand for people with supposed ‘deviant’ desires.

My inbox is stuffed full of emails – How can I ask a girl to X? How can I tell him I want Y? I get emails from the 18 year-old captain of the football team, in despair because a girl laughed at his fetish. People share fantasies with me they feel they couldn’t tell their spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Jesus Christ, we’re not killing babies here. We’re sexualizing the immature, the absurd, the absolutely…normal. We’re simply finding pleasure where others don’t. What’s so wrong with a burp? Imagine a culture where new lovers burp in one another’s faces as a sign of intimacy, like for many, the first time you use your lover’s toothbrush? Just imagine: your lovers’ gases become your own.

Why? Fair question. But Why not? Why a handjob and not a footjob? Our hands pick up the filth and grime of the subway, the gas station pump, and that cold hard cash in our wallets. The feet are nicely covered up, protected by shoes and socks (sometimes, anyway). At the very least, these encapsulated feet could be seen as preserving their natural scent for erotic worship. The feet are quite sensitive, after all.

As adults, many of us have lost our ability to play games. To engage the creative side, which many of us haven’t touched since we were children; perhaps that’s why our fantasies can be so childish. Those who are brave enough to step outside of the black-and-white into that box of 128 crayons (or however many they’re up to these days) face rejection and condemnation, and internalized shame. If someone has a fetish and its not your thing – So. Fucking. What.

As long as they’re not REALLY hurting anybody, its all fair game to me.

Edited: April 9th, 2012

What Do Sexual Fantasies Mean?

Where do sexual fantasies come from, and what does it say about who we are?

Stanley Siegel paints us a picture:

You are sitting in front of a computer screen surfing porn sites ready to get off. You sift through scenes and images until you connect to one. Suddenly, every element of desire falls perfectly in line. You become intensely excited, your physical and mental energy sharply focused and shutting out other thoughts. Eventually, you climax.

Most of us do not meticulously analyze what just happened. There might be some curiosity about why a certain porn turns us on. Typically, after getting off to it, we feel temporarily satisfied and pull ourselves back together.

True that.

Porn Can Bring Out Our Deepest Darkest Fantasies

Porn Can Bring Out Our Deepest Darkest Fantasies

Sexual fantasies, whether elaborate romantic themes or sporadic images of muscular arms or big breasts, mean much more than we think. Specific erotic images are connections to deeper inner truths long banished from consciousness.

Porn intensely focuses our mental and physical attention, uncovering specific emotions eroticized much earlier in life. Through our sexual fantasies, we attempt to master feelings of powerlessness, shame, guilt, fear and loneliness that have followed us into adulthood. Encoded in the porn scenes that lead us to orgasm are the psychological antidotes to these feelings. Situating ourselves in humiliating, romantic or risky scenes counteracts painful feelings by turning them into pleasurable ones. Psychologically, this happens outside our awareness, the way blood cells heal a cut finger without our knowing it.

The most common feelings people eroticize are:

• powerlessness and helplessness

• detachment and emptiness

• rejection and abandonment

• anger and aggression

• inadequacy, guilt and shame

• insecurity, loneliness and vulnerability

But is having the fantasy a problem in and of itself? No. When we have “unconventional” desires, we often hide them, further fueling any shame or negative emotions attached to the fantasy. Rather, if we embrace the fantasy – and perhaps even live it out (to the extent its possible in a safe and consensual manner) – we can not only understand ourselves on a deeper level, but we show ourselves love for the darker corners of the psyche.

The more we beat ourselves up over our sexual fantasies, try to avoid them, or assume they mean there’s something wrong with us – we allow ourselves to be taken further into whatever issues the fantasy reveals. The truth is, most of us have at least some so-called “unhealthy” desires because we live in a society that tells us sex is bad, sinful, or at best – something straight married people do to make babies. Sure we see sexuality all around us, but in an artificial, plastic way that does little to help us understand – let alone validate – our individual feelings and experiences.

Embrace fantasy, even – no, ESPECIALLY – if it makes you uncomfortable. If you begin addressing the issues it brings up, the fantasy may play more or a less role in your sex life. Look at the fantasy for what it is – a pattern of thought and emotion that leads to physical arousal and pleasure – and go from there. Human beings are extraordinarily simple and complex at once; our experiences do shape our sexuality, just as they shape every other part of us. Its not good, its not bad – it simply is. Accept – or even LOVE – this part of yourself, and you’re on the path to sexual healing.

Edited: February 17th, 2012

Female Masturbation: Three Tips to Overcome Negative Emotions Like Guilt and Shame

Even though female masturbation is common, normal, and healthy, many women don’t feel comfortable. Sex researchers Edward O. Laumann et al. find that about 1/2 of females and males who masturbate feel guilty. They state, “Masturbation has the peculiar status of being both highly stigmatized and fairly commonplace.”

Women are less encouraged to be sexual than men, so they don’t often explore their bodies. Masturbation can help you love your body, feel happier and more fulfilled. Read on for three tips on overcoming guilt and shame about female masturbation, so you can live your sex life to the fullest.

(1) Understand that facts about masturbation.

Female masturbation is as healthy for you as eating your fruits and vegetables. According to Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller, women who masturbate are more likely to have orgasms, and orgasm more easily from masturbation than any other sex act. Women who have orgasms while masturbating tend to orgasm with their partners more often.

It lowers stress, promotes relaxation, and even helps menstrual cramps. There are benefits to using the pubecoccal (PC) muscles (the ones that quiver and shake during orgasm) include more sexual pleasure, lowered risk of incontinence (peeing your pants), and easier childbirth. Female masturbation is the easiet method of safe sex – you won’t get knocked up or catch an STD!

She likes female masturbation.

(2) Identify your beliefs about sex in general, and masturbation in particular. Human beings are social creatures – we learn about life from one another, and can carry values of others without even realizing..

We learn how to be from many places – family, religion, and the media are just a few. You may have learned that only sluts, whores, and nymphomaniacs practice female masturbation, or that masturbation is generally sinful or addictive.

Experiences like physical, mental, or emotional trauma also shape our sexual beliefs. Obviously sexual abuse is extremely traumatic, but being caught masturbating, a bad trip to the gynecologist, or even having your sexual secrets told can reinforce unsupportive beliefs about female masturbation and sex in general.

She likes female masturbation too.

(3) Replace unsupportive sexual beliefs with positive ones. Dream up your ideal sex life, and imagine how your body would feel, how you would masturbate, and what you might fantasize about if you felt free to indulge. Relax and FEEL how different your life would be if this were your reality.

Create an affirmation for yourself that reflects one aspect of your ideal sex life. Sure, its cheesy, but go with it. If you’re like most people, you say negative things to yourself all the time. Choosing ONE nice thing won’t kill you, will it?. Some examples: I love my body, masturbation is awesome, I am sexy, I am safe, I am free, I love myself.

Affirmations work similar to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your mind wants to be consistent with your actions. When you repeat your affirmation and feel that reality in your body, the mind will automatically work to make it come true. You’ll notice yourself acting differently, enjoying masturbation more.

You don’t need to believe your affirmation, that will come in time. Its alright if you feel silly. Begin every morning with your affirmation and say it throughout the day (whisper if you don’t want to be heard). Repeat it before or during masturbation and remind yourself why you’re there.

:"OMG

The change will take time, and you might feel overwhelmed. It is best to pair healing your mind and body simultaneously. In time the guilt and shame you feel over female masturbation will evaporate, and you’ll be left with a better sex life overall.

Edited: January 10th, 2012

How It Feels to Be a Sex Worker: On Stigma and Shame

I didn’t just “fall” into being a sex worker .

For me, its been a deliberate and often difficult choice. Its one thing to teach and write about others’ sexuality, which I did for several years. Its quite another to put my own sexuality out in the open. The choice to be a sex worker arouses more than just my pussy, it forces me to overcome my own sexual issues.

Sex Worker

Sex Worker

 

Michael Warner asks, “Shouldn’t it be possible to allow everyone sexual autonomy, in a way consistent with everyone else’s sexual autonomy?”

In her book Shameless: Sexual Dissidence in American Culture, Arlene Stein describes sexual shame as “a judgement against the self, a feeling that one is bad, defective, incompetent, inadequate, weak, unlovable, or disgusting…arises from the failure to live up to an internal image of oneself” (6) (emphasis added).

This differs from sexual stigma. Erving Goffman is famous for writing on social stigma. Shame is something an individual feels about him or herself. Stigma is “an attribute that is deeply discrediting,” says Goffman in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.

In regular person speak, stigma is like a negative stereotype about a group of people or type of person – blacks, the disabled, gays and lesbians, sex workers. When you meet someone, if you don’t know anything about them, you could pre-judge them as being lesser, almost like the caste system in India. When it comes to sex, stigmatized sexualities are viewed as dirty, immoral, or abnormal. Stereotypical sex workers, for instance, are dirty abused women with low self-esteem, whoring out their bodies to be used and abused by others.

The stigma of being a sex worker leads many women to keep their careers a secret

The stigma of being a sex worker leads many women to keep their careers a secret.

Any individual can agree or disagree with social stigma. A straight person can fully support gay rights – when they meet a gay person, they would not view him negatively. Nonetheless, a gay person must deal with stigma, because whether they like it or not they must interact with people who think they live an immoral lifestyle. Even living in a town like San Francisco, no gay person can avoid experiencing the stigma of homosexuality – be it though family, friends, coworkers, the media, religion, or even the grocery store clerk.

A person who experiences stigma and internalizes it will feel shame. They have drunk the koolaid, so to speak, and agree on some level that something is wrong with them.

Until 1973, psychologists thought homosexuality was a mental disorder because they saw so much depression in gays and lesbians. Then the American Psychological Association ruled that it was not homosexuality itself that was a problem – rather, it was the social stigma that made gays and lesbians feel so bad. The stigma created shame about their sexual orientation. If we lived in a world where nobody cared about the gender of our sex partners, these people would feel just fine.

Sex workers – strippers, prostitutes, porn stars, webcam models, phone sex operators – are a highly stigmatized bunch. There’s that joke about fathers – your only job in life is to keep your daughter off the stripper pole. Killing hookers in Grand Theft Auto. Insulting the go go dancer’s job on Tough Love on VH1 (which I wouldn’t even call sex work).

You don’t see positive images of sex workers nearly as often negative ones. Its the reason many sex workers keep their careers a secret. Most girls I work with either hide what they do, OR have family/friends/boyfriends who openly hate it.

Being a sex worker is not a legitimate career: Just say no!

Being a sex worker is not a legitimate career: Just say no!

At times I’ve felt crippling shame for who I am, what I like, and what I do. Its made my daily life, my relationships, and pursuing my goals and dreams a bit challenging. The voice in my head has judged me for what makes me happy. Cognitively, I’ve long believed there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing. But emotionally I’ve feel pretty terrible about myself.

As my business grows, so must I, and honestly its incredibly difficult at times. Sometimes my emotions get triggered, and I’ve spend days judging, questioning, and second-guessing myself. Why do I want to be a sex worker? Is it because of [insert bad sexual experience]? Am I becoming a sex worker to simply be rebellious? Am I kidding myself – do I really just have low self-esteem and am looking for guys to validate me? Am I overly influenced by the people in my life who support my choices? Bottom line: Do I really want to do this?

At times I’ve believed that little voice is the real me. But again and again, I see how happy I am now. I love my life. I have adventures. I meet interesting people. Sex keeps getting better. So how can my choices be wrong, if I feel so good?

Do I really want to do this? Yes.

Edited: December 27th, 2011