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In my writing about my job as an adult entertainer, I haven’t been shy about my criticisms of prostitutes. At least when they are working out of the strip club.

Not just critical either. I’ve been kind of mean.

When I started dancing, the line between stripper and prostitute was very clear. Strippers were entertainers whose performances were strictly anticlimactic. So when my colleagues appeared to be doing extras, I’ll admit I was pretty salty about it. From a business standpoint, it’s nearly impossible to compete with. Not to mention, I got pretty tired of having to explain that I wasn’t a hooker, which is a fate I have yet to escape. It kind of came with the job, however, so I’ll take my lumps.

But I also had a bias towards prostitution.

It’s not something I ever wanted to do. It never crossed my mind that someone would really want to do it either, and definitely not something they could really enjoy.

In my very biased and hypocritical opinion, they did it because they had no other choice, were addicted to drugs, or were otherwise forced into it.

But a chance encounter with a relatively famous hooker from the HBO show Cathouse, changed my mind.

At a comedy show in Reno where my friend was the opening act, I met a lady named Isabella Soprano backstage. She was a prostitute from the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a legal brothel located just outside Reno.

Full disclosure: there was tequila involved.

I was in my early 20s, and had a few years of stripping under my belt. (Figuratively speaking because I never actually wore a belt).

She was bubbly and chatty, so we shared a drink, or three. Or four. And when finally I got up the courage to ask her about her job— a job I thought was pretty gross—she proceeded to blow me away. (Ahem).

She told me how much she loved her job.

At first, I thought, she must have been lying. Or joking. But when I really listened, like actually put all my own feelings aside and really listened, I believed her.

She talked about the security, the screenings for disease, the pay, and the perks. Holy schnikes! The perks!

They had access to chef-prepared meals, salons, even massages. It was almost enough to make me want to do it.

Almost.

But I learned a lot, like that I was a hypocrite. I mean, I hated people doubting that I liked my own work, and here I had been, doubting prostitutes.

I also learned that she was safe, well-paid, and happy, which was good enough for me.

And finally, I learned that taking sex work out of the shadows makes it safer.

Decriminalization not legalization.

Legalization works in Nevada, if you’re a legal citizen and don’t have a criminal record that is. But nationally, it isn’t the best solution.

Harm reduction advocates and sex worker rights organizations advocate for decriminalization rather than legalization, and here’s why. Legalization enforces regulations on sex workers that would leave many transgender people and immigrants vulnerable to unequal prosecution and violence.

Decriminalization, on the other hand, has the potential to make it less dangerous to report abuse.

I don’t know if it is really the world’s oldest profession, and frankly, I don’t care. I do know that it’s not going away. Sex work is work and those that claim that it is always exploitive and abusive don’t like to acknowledge that any kind of employment is trading a part of yourself for money.

Every job has the potential to be emotionally, mentally, and or physically harmful. Sex work is no different, and those who choose to work in the commercial sex industry should have the same rights and protections as other workers.

In that respect, we have a long way to go. But decriminalization is a good start.

I admit I still prickle a little when people refer to me as a sex worker because I never had sex with anyone. But I am willing to be a fierce ally when it comes to advocating for a safer environment for both providers and consumers.

Many people dismiss sex workers who say they enjoy their job as being disingenuous, and I was no exception. I had to come down from my platform heels, recognize my bias, and really listen.

Sex and intimacy are part of our nature as human beings. It’s a way to connect with other humans on a very basic and fundamental level. As a stripper, I had many customers, some of whom had experienced a loss or overwhelming life stress and just wanted to be held.

Sex workers aren’t just bodies to be used; they provide a service that can go far beyond the physical act. Decriminalization of prostitution, while not a perfect solution, will go a long way towards recognizing the humanity of the profession and those who patronize it.

I'm a former adult entertainer and author of Dirty Money: Memoirs of a Stripper and Expose Yourself: How to Take Risks Question Everything and Find Yourself- Humor and Insights from my life as a Stripper....