I was 30 years old the first time I had sex with someone for money, and I did it because I needed sperm. But it’s not what it sounds like.
I desperately wanted a baby. But since I was queer and single, I was finding it tough to source some sperm for free — so I decided to turn some tricks so I could afford to access a sperm bank.
No, the irony was not lost on me. I was surrounded by sperm, throwing it in the bin by the condom-full while at the same time saving my pennies so I could buy some. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider pinching a tiny drop here or there, but as baby-crazy as I was, I was still sane enough to know that was a dreadful idea.
The same week that I made my first appointment to shag a stranger, I also made an appointment to see an exorbitantly priced but highly successful fertility guru. I was desperate to try every avenue possible to become pregnant. For the next half a year, I saw clients on Thursday mornings, and then on Thursday afternoons, I handed over that hard-earned cash to an acupuncturist magician who would stick pins in me and feed me magic potions that were supposed to make me more fertile.
Fast-forward six more months, and by then I had a friend willing to be the donor — plus a series of failed home inseminations and hospital-monitored inseminations under my belt. I’d tried out brothel work, touring and private escorting, and by the time I made it to IVF, the final frontier, I’d just secured a client who wanted to see me exclusively for a well-paid weekly retainer.
Most people hide the fact that they’re trying to conceive from their bosses, and I was no exception. The first weeks of our working relationship involved me doing blood tests and ultrasounds in the morning and meeting my client in rented rooms at midday. On our way to the countryside for a midweek break one time, I had a last-minute call from the clinic that I had to go pick up a new lot of IVF drugs. I had to allude to some kind of mysterious and embarrassing gut problem to explain why we needed to drop by the hospital and why I had a brown paper bag of medication I needed to keep in the fridge.
I was due for an injection at 6.20 a.m., and my client had specified that he particularly enjoyed morning sex — and that he was an early riser (excuse the pun). Thankfully, we slept in separate rooms, so I set my alarm, and at 6 a.m., leapt out of bed and snuck into the kitchen to retrieve the drugs, avoiding the creaky floorboard on my way. Back in my room, I loaded up the syringe and realized with a sinking stomach that there wasn’t enough left in the barrel; I was going to need to load a new cartridge and inject twice.
This is fiddly stuff at the best of times, let alone when you’re so nervous your hands are shaking. I was sitting there with needles and vials of drugs scattered all over the quilt when I heard the floorboard creak. In a panic, I called out, “Too early darling, I need a little more beauty sleep!” and then stabbed myself in the stomach with the needle.
The day I found out my pregnancy test results, I was on my way to another overnight booking — this one in a hotel in the city. I was standing in the middle of my lounge room in stockings and suspender belt, face fully made up and blow-drying my hair, when I finally got through to the clinic and heard the good news. I ended up two hours late to my client appointment. I was bubbling over with joy, but my client was stony-faced for having being kept waiting, so I had to finally tell him the truth. He wasn’t sure what to make of it, but by the next morning had decided I was a goddess incarnate, which was lucky, because then came the morning sickness.
“Morning” my ass. I was nauseous all day and all night for the first 22 weeks. In the middle of the night on a “romantic” weekend away, I was so dehydrated I sent my poor client out in search of lemonade ice blocks. He had said he wanted the girlfriend experience, but this was perhaps taking it a step — or 10 — too far. On several occasions, I convinced him to hire my friend for a threesome, and we blindfolded him on the bed so that my friend could do the hard work while I slumped against a wall eating water crackers and making “sexy” gasping noises in between heavy breathing to stop myself from vomiting.
The perks of this job were completely wasted on me. The flowers he bought stank like dog shit, the expensive perfume made me gag, and the exclusive restaurants were full of dangerous things like raw fish and cocktails. All I wanted to do was lie on my bed and watch TV — but guess what: There’s no sick leave for sex workers.
By the third trimester, the only sex position I could manage was doggy style because my stomach was so huge. I was curious about pregnancy fetishists, so I did dabble in a little extra work toward the end — and met with an amusing number of clients who said they wanted to worship at my fertile feet. “Can you just massage my feet for an hour and then leave?” I felt like saying.
Somehow, my regular client stuck by me for the entire nine months and was keen to continue afterward too. But the leaking boobs, the complete lack of sex drive, and the difficulty of finding a babysitter put me off for a good while — so I had to let him go. But I’m thankful for having been able to work all through my pregnancy and for the financial safety net I was able to accumulate during that year.
Now that my child is older, I am able to take the odd booking here and there. The quick, relatively easy money and flexible hours are an absolute godsend to a solo stay-at-home parent like myself. In many ways, being a sex worker not only helped me to become a parent, but continues to enable me to be the best mom I can be.
Of course, some days, trying to make that transformation from domestic servant to sexual goddess feels like a long, long stretch. Particularly when I have peanut butter in my hair, a Wiggles song stuck in my head and my child has just drawn all over my white lingerie with the red lipstick I left carelessly unattended. But I manage it — juggling work and parenthood just like so many other working mothers everywhere do every day.
A version of this story was originally published in April 2018.
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