Rent to Own
Sometimes while discussing sex work with civilians, it helps to point out ‘legitimate’ fields that are adjacent to sex work in some manner or another. Sex work is a service industry, or the ‘tertiary sector of industry’, as economists say; defined as the sector in which no goods are produced, rather services are provided, either to businesses or to final consumers. In the last decades, the portion of the economy given over to the service industry has grown in developed economies: as manufacturing has declined, the US economy is now as much as 80% service sectors. Commonly provided examples of service sectors are accounting, tradesmen, and restaurants. Sex work might fall somewhere between health care and hospitality.
Sometimes, the edges between sex work and some of its adjacent fields, like massage (a health service) blur. There’s certainly a blur between the boundaries of the artistic and erotic pursuits of burlesque and explicitly sexual stripping and dancing. Sex work is usually one-on-one, so it’s adjacent to other individualized service work in the health, like home care. Sex work can have a therapeutic aspect; optimally: clients leave feeling good, and perhaps better about themselves. In this regard, it’s adjacent to other modalities of individual therapy, like sexual surrogacy. Sex workers are often exceptionally qualified, like tradesmen. Sex work is a specialized physical performance, so it’s adjacent to athletics, dance and other stage performance. Some sex work, like porn, BDSM, and role-play, is more performative than others, too. Straight male porn star James Deen was recently quoted describing porn acting as a kind of stunt work, and that rings true. It’s also a field in which a worker generally has a few good years, like athletics.
The relationship between sex work and real estate, another service sector, is more metaphorical, and perhaps more in my head than anything else, since I transitioned from being a full-time escort to being a manager for one of New York City’s largest real estate interests. That said, there are anecdotal reports of many sex workers transitioning into residential brokerage, which often has nontraditional work patterns, and relies on solid interpersonal skills and a good presentation. Let me try to tease out the relationship further: As an escort, you aren’t “selling your body” (to invoke a melodramatic turn of phrase) so much as you are renting it out by the hour. As in real estate, the marketplace is shaped by location, inventory, and a set of subjective qualities. In real estate, these are called amenities. For some renters, a view is really important; for others, a balcony.
In real estate, there are two markets: rental and ownership. I was a kept boy in my twenties, so I was off the market during that time. In that respect, I was ‘owned’, although I was a pretty rebellious and headstrong kept boy. Later I went on to escort, where I was renting myself out by the hour, by the three-hour ‘date’ and by the overnight. Perhaps because my non-linear career trajectory highlighted the parallels between real estate and sex work, it was inevitable that I invest my earnings in sex work in real estate. I inherited half of what was left of my dissolute, alcoholic sugar daddy’s estate, after taxes. I proceeded to squander a big chunk of it on my own addictions. Once I got sober and saw the bill, I put an equally large share in an investment I couldn’t touch for ten years. What was left I put into a start-up business, one that kept me afloat for a few years. When that investment matured, I used the money as a down payment on an apartment in a very solid co-operative building. The building in busy Midtown West but far from public transportation; for that reason the apartment sold below market value. I was working that corporate job at the time of the purchase, so the board approved me.
Since my purchase of the co-op, the global economy collapsed, I lost that corporate job, and I’ve struggled mightily to hold on to my investment. I’ve somehow managed to meet the monthly mortgage payment. I converted a small dining alcove into a second bedroom, and rent it to an old friend; his rent covers the monthly maintenance fee. If I can hold on to this place through the biggest economic downturn in generations, maybe the worst is behind me.
I also accumulated savings while escorting. I stuffed ten percent of my take from every single call into a shoebox under my bed. I thought of that money as an emergency fund, but luckily I had few emergencies. After three years, that shoebox had twenty-four thousand dollars. The money went towards the purchase of a dilapidated beach cottage. I bought the house with a friend who had embarked on a career in porn. He had a brief and tortured but illustrious and lucrative stint, under an exclusive contract with porn impresario/drag queen Chi Chi LaRue. We lovingly referred to our cottage as “the house that sex built” as we put in the sweat equity to restore and upgrade it. We now rent it out every season; the seasonal rental income pays for the total annual cost of ownership.
So I recommend this rent-to-own strategy: rent your body for as long as you need to get a down payment together to buy property. An excellent way to cover ownership costs is rental income, whether it’s a long-term tenant in a spare room, or temporary rentals, like when you’re out of town. With the negotiating skills and expertise in personal service you’ve acquired, you’ll make an excellent manager of your investment, and an awesome landlord, or landlady. After all those years out working the field, there’s no place like home.