I Work in a Sex Store: Am I a Sex Worker?

09/25/2009 4:00 AM |

So fashion week happened, which try as I might, has very little to do with working in a sex toy store. We’ve had a couple of models come in, but none of them were famous, none of them bought anything, all of them were being squired around by loud blowhards (it was uncanny, actually) and all of them seemed uncomfortable handling vibrators.

Fall is (sort of) here, which means business is slowing down and I’m making less money. But on the plus side, the cold keeps the maniacs and thieves away. Yesterday, I had to throw someone out for trying to steal three enormous hardcover copies of the Kama Sutra. I caught him trying to shove them down the front of his pants. I’m looking forward to the winter and for when that kind of thing happens less often.

I notice that I sell a lot more masturbation sleeves in the fall then I do in the summer. I’m not sure whether it’s because they’re considered a back-to-school item in some circles or if summer flings are breaking up and dudes are preparing themselves for a lonely autumn.

Yesterday, I sold a sleeve to a guy with a beard and a camera around his neck. As I was ringing him up he told me he was from Iran, that he was an engineer and that he was in New York to buy the very camera he had with him. We chatted about photography and then about literature. I’m reading Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers, and I want to talk about it with everyone because it’s making me feel feelings, man. He’d never heard of Genet. We talked about Tehran. He told me there were no sex toy stores in the city and I tried to feign surprise.

“Why did you become a sex worker?” He asked suddenly, with this round-eyed, adorable earnestness that made me want to tell him the truth. Usually when customers ask me about my job I tell little lies. Sometimes it’s fun to fuck with strangers.

I told him I took my job because I didn’t think it’d be super taxing work and I figured I’d probably be able to get some good stories out of it. He seemed satisfied by that answer, took his sleeve and left.

I thought it was weird that he called me a sex worker because I don’t consider my job sex work. I consider it retail work.

I’ve only had one job that I’ve considered sex work (Mom, stop reading now). Two years ago, I got a job as a phone sex operator because it seemed like the perfect combination of my love for fiction and my love for sitting around in my pajamas instead of working in an office.

The job got off to a bad start and went downhill from there: the very first guy who called me had a cuckold fetish that I will simply describe as being difficult to listen to, racist and extremely depressing. I gave up phone sex pretty soon after that.

My job is generally pretty dull and I think of sex workers as being people who, for better or worse, have lived. Genet was a prostitute who wrote his first book in prison. Plus Sartre and Cocteau were his friends. That’s a dude who lived.

That, of course, is a dangerous idealization. And it’s also pretty ridiculous that I don’t think my job is sex work just because it’s boring. When I was 18, I had a job handing out flyers for a strip club. Maybe it was because I went into the club in the early afternoon, but the strippers always seemed extremely bored. So did the bartenders. And so, for that matter, did the patrons who were always more focused on the televisions then they were on the ta-tas.

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