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Illustration by Megan White @daizydoodles

The life lessons that I discovered from being a whore

On sexual pleasure, boundaries and empathy

As I write this, I’m remembering that two different things can be true at the same time. 

The written list of people that I’ve slept with, which I stopped updating, existed and was real. The hesitancy that I felt to interact with others in a romantic or sexual way, until spring of 2013, also existed and was also real. Both mindsets, rooted in shame and control, built up to the growing sense of sexual freedom that I now have, at age 26. 

This catalogue of my intimate escapades is written in a notebook that I obtained on the first day of my first advertising internship in 2016, which was about three years after I first had sex, liked it, and began having regular sex.

It wasn’t hard for me to remember who I hooked up with in that three year time span (after all, I did only fuck or date athletes at the time and Googling team rosters is ridiculously easy). 

Back then, I told myself that I documented everything so that in the event that I contracted an STI, figuring out its source would be easier. Maybe that could be somewhat reliable if I was using safer sex practices with whoever I slept with after a drunken Thursday bar night out, but that was the reason I was able to process at the time. I still honour that. 

In high school, I was really scared to go to school dances despite always signing up to attend them and often asking my friends to do the same. Why would someone who felt intense anxiety when walking into a collegiate basketball gym that was blasting Big Sean regularly attend events there? 

The answer is simple: I wanted to prove to myself that anyone I was interested in could also be interested in me too. 

Going to dances hosted at New England boarding schools, with largely white student bodies, forced me to put myself out there – even if I was constantly facing rejection of some kind. Listing the name of every soccer player and lacrosse bro that I shared a drunken dance-floor make out with (and later enthusiastic jackhammering too) was easier for me at the time. 

I’ve said this before in various ways, but I’m going to say it again here because it will never not be true: Being a Black girl in a largely white space is exhausting, isolating, and confusing. 

And even more so when you’re trying to navigate sex, romance, and every other thing in between. And additionally so when few people seem to be navigating this dynamic too. 

While I spent years trying to figure out why I was described as “hella cool and hot too” by my partners, yet never good enough to date long-term, these same dudes went on to commit to non-Black women. Literally all of them. Okay, well except that one ex of mine who’s dated like seven Black women in a row. Sam, you’re odd.

Somewhere between attending college and graduating with my degree in Economics and Chinese, I started doing sex work intermittently. 

The term ‘whore’ is often used as a slur against porn stars, escorts, cam girls, and everyone else who earns a living through publicly sexualising parts of themselves. We see this in the looming presence of the Madonna-Whore Complex and (I hate to be that writer but) in the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word. While in present-day a whore is known as someone who sleeps around, its original description is “a woman who works as a prostitute”.

Yes, you read that correctly. The word is meant to depict only women; it is specifically reserved for characterising the women who have “too much sex”.

It is meant to portray people like me in a shameful, selective, and steady way. I’ve never seen any woman be called a whore and have that title revoked. Ask Monica Lewinsky. Ask Kim Kardashian. Ask Amber Rose. Once you are branded a whore, you are never not a whore after that, no matter what you do.

I willingly call myself a whore because I now feel grateful for my long list of sexual experiences with romantic partners, clients, and even “Jake’s Brother’s Roommate” from that one time, like it says in my internship notebook. 

I am a whore; some may even say I am the biggest whore – and I really don’t think it’s immoral or embarrassing to discover parts of myself through sex. If millions of people engage in self-discovery through exercising or partying, which are activities that are also dually physically exerting and sometimes dangerous, then why is there a discriminatory word to describe me but not Rob Gronkowski

Being a whore has done more for me than just allowing time for sexual exploration; through respecting sex on various levels over time and in different situations, I’ve also learned to see others and myself in new lights. These insights are both sex-related and overall life-lessons.

Since I started having sex at age 17 I’ve grown to respect time a whole lot more.

If an interested individual hits me up after 11:30pm, when I’m likely asleep, I now don’t answer even if I’m awake. As much as I love the possibility of an orgasm and flirty chit chat, I know that I’m only able to fully value those experiences when I do so with people who take my schedule into consideration. 

This also means that if I’m running late to meet a friend, I let them know. It’s inconsiderate to keep people waiting without an explanation. Their schedule matters. We all have shit to do.

I have also learned to empathise with folks who hold more sex stigma inside than I currently do. Over time I’ve accepted that most people’s sex-negative ideas come from trauma, whether that be institutional, systemic, or personal. This understanding was reinforced to me by studies such as ‘The Experience of Sexual Stigma and the Increase in Attempted Suicide in Young Brazilian People from Low Socioeconomic Groups’, which deduced that those who endured sexual stigma faced more instances of hardship. 

That trauma is present in all of us in some form and not an individual’s fault; however, it’s also not all mine to heal. I can empathise without engaging or participating in my own dehumanisation.

Existing as a whore taught me how to love my friends who don’t care that my estimated ‘body count’ is higher than the number of students who went to my small high school. 

I have learned to love by listening; I have learned to love with confidence; I have learned to love without intimidation – because that is how my real friends love me. Through practicing love this way, I’ve also learned to love myself like that too, and I now know that this is the only way that I can love. I love fearlessly. 

Lastly, being a whore has gifted me opportunities to ask better questions that ultimately lead to better answers. A steamy “you like that, don’t you?” in response to my partner’s verbal or non-verbal cues has led me to deepen my curiosity overall. 

A “why didn’t you tell me that?” in an argument has evolved into a “what about me or you made you not feel comfortable sharing that?” A “how can I help?” has transformed into a “what can I do or not do to support you in a way that you’d appreciate?”

But this lesson has also allowed me to look in the mirror and ask myself: “where is this anger about (insert situation) really coming from?” Because angry outbursts are seldom random or not deep-seeded in some way. 

Sexual liberation for all people, even y’all who aren’t whores, is incredibly important because sex provides alternate or unexplored avenues for healing. 

I won’t even call these kinds of growth periods ‘self-improvement’ for the sake of not explicitly equating change with advancement. I think healing is neither completely positive nor completely negative, it simply is. And while current events in the sex world such as developments in HIV science and the popularity of sometimes seductive television shows (Euphoria, Sex Education, Insecure, etc.) makes sex a more popular topic of discussion, these happenings don’t cure whorephobia. 

Watching characters on Gossip Girl have threesomes doesn’t make up for the fact that those same characters experienced adverse reactions in some way from others on the show simply for being sexually active. Real people experience similar reactions, and while representation is important we really should just let the whores be whores to slowly mitigate the effects of whorephobia for everyone.

I have learned a lot about myself, other people, and modern society through being a whore simply because I have been able to view my sexual experiences in tandem with my many life experiences. And although I am not perfect due to this learning, I do like this current version of myself better: she balances kindness and pride with increasingly impressive ease.

Living as a whore and in turn growing emotionally in my way is not for everyone; however, I will continue to do so as long as I am still evolving, learning, and benefiting in a multifaceted manner.

What can you do?

Illustration by Megan White @daizydoodles
This illustration plays on the general misconceptions and stereotypes of what it means to be a whore. When in truth women are being criticised for enjoying a healthy sex life. Through the visuals of the heart-shaped hot tub, and clothes tossed to the ground there is an emphasis on romance and passion. The illustrations also make a point to highlight the subject’s effort to take notes on the things she has learned throughout her exploration
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