Career profiles: Sex workers

Christina Cicchelli, 24, East Village

Porn star, web-cam girl, dominatrix, escort and writer

Could you describe your job?
I'm currently an escort and I'm available to gentlemen, ladies and couples. I've been in the sex industry for five years, also doing professional domination and porn. I started escorting in college during the summer to make some extra cash for tuition and books. I had to drop out in the third year, I just couldn't afford it any more.

I was reading your blog and saw you wrote about a tough patch after your first stint in porn.
I got out of porn and went to therapy to take care of years of undiagnosed depression. The two had nothing to do with one another, and I was never reckless in the porn industry. I can always say I was there in sound mind and body, and I don't regret it. However, I know it can be a tumultuous business and for somebody who's not completely there, it can lead down a self-destructive path.

And you wrote about the difficulties of going back to regular work.
The transition was tough because I wasn't used to a normal schedule and following rules that I don't agree with. I'm super smart and can fulfill the duties, but I didn't like not having as much freedom. Not to disrespect who I worked with, but I found what I did to be so meaningless. Whereas with porn, I genuinely loved it. I liked going to work and having sex on camera. It doesn't bring up happy feelings—I feel my most vulnerable in front of the camera—but I also feel challenged and that's what I really enjoy about it.

What are the best parts of escorting?
On some level it allows creative expression, each escort has her own individuality and she can advertise and sell herself however she likes. I also enjoy the fact that there is no schedule, I pretty much have a free day when I want to and still maintain a lifestyle that I enjoy without worrying about money.

How well does your job pay?
I can make $70,000 to $80,000 annually doing sex work—not just escorting.

What about the worst parts?
There are the legal issues surrounding this career, and it isn't stable. On a bad day, you don't make any money, like any freelancing work. Another big downside is that it can be exhausting on the nerves. You have to deal with these guys—mostly guys, unfortunately—who can be a pain in the ass.

Are you ever worried about your safety?
I'm the type of person that watches Cops and America's Most Wanted so the worst-case scenario is always in the back of my head, but I use that as a way to prepare myself. I always have at least one person who knows what I'm doing. I have a screening process that gives me some information just in case anything happens. These precautions are far from perfect, like everything else, but so far I've been pretty lucky.

So you're open with your family and friends?
I'm very open about it now. Two years ago I'd tell my mom colored versions of the truth: I was doing some modeling or I have a boyfriend who's helping me. But I was going to Canada to get an award for my performance in The Bi Apple and I had to call her, because God forbid something should happen while I'm on the plane or out in Toronto and she finds out about this entire life. Right before I got on the plane, I called her and said, "I'm going to be honest from here on out and this is what I do." She was upset, of course, mostly because I had felt like I couldn't talk to her about it, but after that she got over it and she's just fortunate to know that I'm smart enough and open enough to come to her and talk when I need to.

Do you find your job sexy?
The sexiest part is the anticipation, it's everything leading up to that appointment. It's me getting ready, my head swimming with "what's going to happen?" There's that little bit of fear in there because at certain points you don't have control. I think that turns me on more than the actual encounter.

Have you had partners for whom your job has become an issue?
It's always been an issue. Sex is such a private thing that once I say I do this publicly and I make a living from it, it's almost like a promiscuity problem, like I'm cheating. They don't see it the same way that I do, that it's a business. The other assumption is that I must be cold-hearted to look at it as a business. I feel like I have to prove I'm a human being and I have feelings. Either that or they see it as having a fantasy girlfriend, so they think, If she can do this, then she must love a, b and c," which is not the case at all.

What's the funniest thing that's happened on your job?
When I first started out, I was taken to this motel in Long Island for a dom session. This guy was really into playing with dildos and strap-ons. When I got there, he was a little standoffish and had a bit of an attitude problem. Of course I dominated him: tied him to a chair and gave him my attitude, telling him to calm down, that "if you want to get your ass raped you better learn how to pay attention and behave," that sort of thing. Then he said something. He said, "Whatever you do, don't look in the bottom drawer." So obviously I went to look in the drawer and he was like, "Don't look, don't look, don't look at the far corner of the bottom drawer, don't look." So I open it and I look in the far corner, and it's this bath towel that's been rolled up and duct-taped. He said, "Whatever you do, don't put that in my ass." I'm sitting there thinking, How am I even going to fit this in your ass? I managed somehow. [Laughs] That was the funniest thing, I had to laugh. I was like, Are you kidding me? This is what you want? [Laughs]

What do you think when you hear about people forced into the sex industry through human trafficking or poverty?
I think anyone who's pro--sex worker is anti-trafficking. It ruins our industry. People have this conception that our industry is made up of people who have been coerced into this and it's wrong. Unfortunately, this industry is just a deposit for horrible people who will manipulate and lie and abuse others to get money and to have power. It's just a shame, it's disgusting to me. I only wish that law enforcement would work closely with sex workers to be able to identify those who have obviously been pressured into it because I think that's one of the best ways of stopping it.

And do you think that doesn't happen at the moment? As a sex worker, do you feel like you're viewed as a criminal by the police?
Yeah. No matter what I say or do, the law is set up so I'm going to be a criminal. Technically, what I do isn't criminal, I make that very clear on my website, however that's the misconception that people have of sex work—that it's criminal—and it doesn't have to be.

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