Transactional sex has a pretty bad reputation around the world. For some reason, it’s okay to have sex with someone in a drunken, stumbling stupour…but not okay to do it for the fancy dinner, trip to Agent Provocateur, or straight-up fistful of hundreds they might give you. Sex work, despite being the oldest profession, is deeply misunderstood and maligned; the self-righteous harangues against it often touch on drug addiction and welfare before veering right into trafficking.
Just as you can use sex as comfort, or to build affection, you can use it in a more straightforward, transactional way. Sex is interesting, sex is fun, and sex (or plain old flirtation) can get you a ticket to a beachside chaise longue in Koh Samui. Here are some different ways that sex could get you where you need to go…without paying for it yourself.
Sugar daddy websites
Several years back, the website Seeking Arrangement made the front cover of the New York Times Magazine. A website for men with too much money and the women who will pretend to love them for a weekly allowance, it allows you to list yourself as a sugar baby and search the ads for daddies and mommies to pay your rent, buy you gifts, and take you on cruises. Since then, other sugar daddy websites have sprung up, and I am starting to meet more and more people who are, as they say, in the “sugar bowl.” Don’t believe me? Check the tag on Tumblr.
Most of the babies (and the daddies) mention travel as a key perk of the relationship: The daddies have a charming, young, attractive travel companion who is essentially being paid to treat them like a savior. And babies get to travel the world, finish college, and have piles of lingerie dumped on their beds.
The girls I know and the ones whose blogs I obsessively read talk constantly about maintaining their personal appearances, hiding their boyfriends (or girlfriends) from their daddies, hiding their daddies from their families, and the difficulty of fitting in two mandated visits a week around full school schedules. But behind all the work are the rewards. Trips to Hawaii, jewelry, Louboutins — it’s a cliche, but most babies get gift after gift without ever taking off their clothes.
Sugar babies pride themselves on being companions — escorts without the euphemism. They go on “dates” with their daddies with no expectation of sexual contact…sometimes. Other times, it seems like sex is a required part of the sugar daddy drill. Sometimes babies talk about liking, respecting, and being deeply attracted to their daddies; sometimes they can’t wait to get home at the end of the evening. Still, as long as you recognize the potential for hard work, the sugar bowl could be a very sweet way to get to far-flung (and expensive) places.
A related but slightly more focused website, Miss Travel was set up to help wealthy people (mostly men) looking for travel companions. The site is less about a weekly allowance and more about getting to go places — there is no negotiation over how much a date costs. Instead, all payers promise to cover all travel expenses for their proposed companions, as well as, in some cases, plan the itinerary.
Open to men and women who are seeking companionship, this option never says anything about sexual interactions, but I can only assume there would be discussion of this as an option. If you feel comfortable communicating clearly, this website seems like a good option. I’d be very cautious about ending up in a situation where you were far from home with a benefactor who suddenly wants to change all of the previously agreed boundaries or he’ll cancel your return ticket.
Both this option and the sugar daddy websites require strong negotiation and a serious devotion to maintaining personal safety. Be as cautious about meeting a potential travel benefactor as you would be about meeting an online date: Meet first in a public place, do a background check, get to know someone a bit before you agree to step onto the private jet. Many people engage in transactional travel without a hitch, but it’s important to trust your instincts and not be reckless.
Sex-based performance art
I have a good friend who travels constantly from Fringe festival to Fringe festival, across the US and Canada, and to Edinburgh for the first time this year, putting on a series of one-woman narrative shows. Her most popular one? Phone Whore, a memoir piece about her work as a phone sex operator. A creative and powerful writer, she brings you inside the working life of a PSO, engaging both her clients and the audience. If you can write, and performance art is speaking your name, turn your typewriter to the open page and let the open road follow.
Fringe festivals around the world are always looking for new acts, and your entertaining creative expression could be the way to fuel a tour that never ends…and find yourself with some extra cash in your pocket to boot. Nobody makes a million at Fringe, but you can make enough to cover costs and build a devoted fanbase who will buy whatever merchandise you care to flop out. You can keep costs relatively low by couchsurfing, hosteling, or camping, depending on the time of year and where you’re going. What have you always wanted to say to the world? The sky’s the limit at Fringes. Find your feet and stand your ground — write about your favorite kink or your first relationship that went sour, and be as graphic or shouty as you want. Fringe audiences will eat it up.
If you’ve always wanted to run away with the circus but are a bit weirded out by carnies, this option might be a good one for you. You can augment your performances by passing the hat, busking outside other performance venues, and connecting with other artists to put on variety shows. As I said, the pay’s not great, but you can get audiences in the door out of sheer titillation factor if you use sexuality as your subject.
The classics: touring stripper, escort, dominatrix
When I was in Spain in 1999, I met a group of three girls who were funding their European tour with stripping. They hopped from major city to major city, popping in at the clubs with the best reputations, signed up to work for a couple of nights, and walked away with thousands of whatever the local currency was in their pockets (this was before the Euro). They had nice clothes, first-class tickets on overnight trains, and a sense of humour about the whole thing.
Similarly, while working as a brothel receptionist in Perth, Australia (where sex work is legal if not completely decriminalized), I met a steady stream of women who were on working holiday visas, those ubiquitous year-long visas that allow you to work anywhere in Australia for up to 6 months at a time. These women spent a couple of nights at work a week, left at 5am with purses full of shiny green and yellow $50s and $100s, and stashed a hefty sum of cash to fund their next trip to Bali.
If you enter the biz with eyes wide open, traveling as a member of the sex industry can be both lucrative and exciting. I am not talking about sex trafficking, slavery, or other forms of nonconsensual sex work. I am talking about working legally (or slightly under the table) in places that allow foreign workers and treat them with respect. If you are interested in this as an option, I suggest you seek out some of the many sex-work blogs or resources, including Stripper FAQ, and the trade magazine Tits and Sass, to find out about good places to work, tips you would need to know, and a realistic viewpoint of what working in the sex industry is like.
New Zealand is currently the only country in the world to have completely decriminalized sex work, meaning you can receive unemployment benefits and join a union without problems. Be aware that Women of Colour may have a much harder time of this than white women, and ciswomen have an easier time than transwomen. Men in general may not find this option as open to them, but it never hurts to look into it.
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