All my life, shame has grown around my sexual pleasure. It has compounded in every possible moment until now. I’m 30 and I’m deciding to stop the cycle. I’ve hidden behind it for so long with my expression masked in happiness and confidence. The shame has been this little devil poking my back, and now I finally see. I see the deception I’ve placed upon myself. I see how this concept has shaped my existence in this life. I’m choosing now to face those feelings, integrate them rather than run from them. Madonna’s song “Express Yourself” never rang so clearly in my head. Literally, I need to express these emotions so I can move forward and be me, fully.
When I was 7, I masturbated with foreign objects that resulted in a yeast infection. My Nana was tired of me peeing at inappropriate times, so she put me in a diaper, slapped my hands, yelled at me, and led me to believe that pleasuring myself was wrong. Shameful.
Years go by and my sexual history with partners continues to be filled with embarrassment and secrecy. Making out and doing sexual acts in the shadows. I did not know pleasure could be a good thing. I knew it felt good, but I didn’t know it was normal and could be healthy.
To this day, my life has been twisted into this convoluted state of being that thrives on the shame brought about by my own pleasure. Attempting monogamous relationships and each time finding my way into the darkness of lies and deceit. I welcomed the shame back into my life each time. “I’m wrong”, “I’m broken”. The story would replay in my head over and over. The cycle of shame throughout my interpersonal relationships also showed up in my work life. During my two longest relationships, I’ve been a topless adult entertainer.
I’ve been performing sex work as a dancer at the clubs for nearly 10 years. I graduated with my Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Kinesiology a little over a year ago. The moment I had space to breath, I questioned my purpose, my dreams, my desires, and my goals. I wanted to see myself succeed, but I could feel something stopping me. I continued to hunt for what I should do with my skills and knowledge. Should I go to a massage school? Should I get my Pilates certificate like I always imagined? Where do I fit in in this world? How can I use my powers to serve others? These questions led me into a stalemate. I wasn’t making any progress towards making money outside of the club. I was picking up jobs I didn’t feel passionate about. I really wanted to leave dancing and get out. I was mentally done. Yes, I could make a lot of money there, but it didn’t feed my soul, or fill up my cup. It was a challenge, too challenging. These thoughts led me to wonder, why? Why was this job so difficult for me now. I’ve made it this far, ten years. Couldn’t I just suck it up a little longer to help me financially to give me a little more time to decide what direction to take my life? I’ve figured this out every time and this time I felt like it wasn’t something I could do. Most of the time I danced in the club, I felt empowered. I felt like a Queen. I owned my sexuality and profited off of it, what else could I ask for? During my college years I studied sex work and heard many stories about sex workers feeling like a victim. I assumed this victimized role for a little while until I realized that wasn’t my experience. I needed to shake it off and I did. I regained my sense of self and continued on for 8 more years. I dedicated myself to being the best dancer I could be; my own dream girl. I won competitions and performed shows in CA and Las Vegas, NV.
I recovered that time, but the most recent I have not been so lucky. I feel like I have no choice, but to dance to make the money I need to survive. With all this new knowledge of my deep wound, dancing now meant I’d be selling my shame. The idea of going makes me sick to the stomach. Trying to shift out of that state of mind led me to looking deeper into what has been stopping me from moving forward and succeeding in my other career prospects. I have the skills and knowledge to stop dancing, but why can’t I hold a job or maintain and thrive in my own business. What was in the way?
I decided to look at my personal relationship with my partner. We’ve been dating for 4 years and I’ve danced regularly throughout it all. Why I continued dancing comes down to something simple. I’ve danced for so long because I found pleasure in it. I had complete freedom. I chose when I wanted to work. I dressed how I wanted. Danced how I wanted. Talked to who I wanted, and ultimately made as much money as I wanted. In the clubs I was praised and fawned over. I’m reminded of my beauty and sensuality almost every moment and validated with the most useful currency, money. I’m ignoring the opposite end of the spectrum of things (the negatives) that went on there, because that is not my focus here. I’ll save that for another time. I found enormous amounts of pleasure being a dancer. I considered myself a healer and a lover of men. These men came to me in need and I gave them exactly what they desired. I’m a nurturer by nature and this was a perfect avenue of my expression. I could be the most sensual, sexual being I ever could imagine. My own fantasy brought to life.
So imagine having a monogamous partner through all this. The expectations because of the social contracts society created. He knew I was a dancer from day one. I told him that much, however, he didn’t know the details of it because I had no idea it was relevant to holding a relationship outside of work. Years go by and we end up here. Today, I’m at a crossroads where I see the shame I’ve literally held onto from when I was 7. I feel shame for experiencing pleasure with many people while I’m in this relationship. I feel shame for feeling pleasure and getting paid for it because I know this was not what my partner expected. He had no idea what he was getting into. I feel shame for not knowing how to say this before we got together. I feel shame for letting it go on this long.
Bless his heart, he says to me, “I’ll figure this out. I’ve been through worse”. I responded letting him know that this is not something he need’s to fix or figure out, it’s something I need to understand and move with. With my new knowledge of self, I created a thorough list of qualities that I desire in a partner. I expressed clearly that I have shame surrounding my past and my dancing. I shed light on my shame that I’ve held onto so dearly. After becoming clear about exactly what I want in a partner, I asked for space so I can do some integration work. I’m not in a place where I can be with someone. My energy is reserved for myself. I have some serious work to do. This is my ultimate act of self love and devotion. I am worthy of my own time and affection. That’s part of my charm. Part of why I’m able to freely express my pleasure. I love myself deeply. I am honored to have this beautiful body. I’m grateful to have this skin, these limbs, these organs that function to my demands. I’m grateful for my breath. My mom tells me I’m doing this in the most gentle way, which for her, is unheard of. I am a gentle, kind, and loving woman. I’m being compassionate with myself first and foremost. If I violently separate myself, I’m not doing myself a favor. Nothing will be solved with anger, frustration, and violence. I’m being the change I wish to see in the world. I believe in love and I believe in me. I will take the pleasure I enjoy from life and use it to be the most powerful Me.
My shame is no longer for sale.