Category Archives: Sex Work

Mistress Matisse is Doing the Lord’s Work on Behalf of Sex Workers


By Noah Berlatsky

Mistress Matisse

At the end of July, Neal Falls booked an appointment with a sex worker named Heather in West Virginia. He planned to kill her, as police believe he may have murdered as many as nine other sex workers in Ohio, Illinois and Nevada. But with Heather he failed. But with Heather, finally, he failed. When he attacked her, she fought back, got his gun and killed him.

Falls’ death was national news but, as such things do, it soon faded out of the headlines. Heather, though, was still bruised and traumatized, unable to work and in difficult financial straits.

Luckily, not everyone forgot about Heather. Mistress Matisse, a writer and dominatrix in Seattle, heard about Heather’s experience and was determined to help. Through other sex workers she tracked Heather down, called her and booked a flight to West Virginia. She showed up at Heather’s door and hasn’t really left. She’s organized fund-raising, lined up medical assistance and connected Heather with nonprofit help.

This isn’t a new role for Matisse. She’s worked as a sex worker in various capacities since she was 19. But as she’s gotten established in Seattle, she says, “I have gotten to the point in my career where it is in many ways self-sustaining.”

As a result, she’s had more time to devote to activism. Matisse was there to help Heather because she’s made it her business to help sex workers who are in crises.

I talked to Matisse about her activism, her work with Heather and why sex workers are the best ones to help sex workers.

Most of your activism is independent, rather than directly working with non-profits or sex worker organizations. Why is that?

I get a lot out of sex worker organizations as a participant. I couldn’t be who I am without the sex work community. At a certain point it became clear to me that I should do sex work activism the way I do business.

I play well with others, but I’m also an introvert, and I don’t do well in people’s systems. I do well in my own system.

As a dominatrix, my work is creative. Someone is going to walk in, and you have a very short time where you sit and talk to them and kind of go, ‘What is it that you want and that you need? And how can that fit into things that I do, or am willing to do, in a way that’s creative and sexy and fun?’ In like five minutes, OK we’re doing that thing. It’s a very quick assessment. Make a plan. Make it happen. And that’s a dynamic that I do well with, and I enjoy it.

So for me what happens a lot is that I hear or see that there’s a sex worker who’s in a crisis, and I just reach out to her and say, ‘What do you need? How can I help you?’ And there’s a connection with her, and then I begin to address her needs at an individual level.

Working with an organization, you’re committed to working at a certain pace. They’re writing policy changes they want, or they’re lobbying in a very directed way to an elected official. They are process-oriented things, and I really want people to do them. It’s just that I’m not good at doing them. It just feels like slogging through mud to me.

So you’re working directly with Heather now?

Heather’s a case that moves me. My heart’s always very involved. And that’s why I like working the way I do. It’s emotionally very rewarding for me. Some people get rewarded from having written a really great policy, but that’s not rewarding for me.

I saw Heather on the news and I immediately knew — every woman who works alone, like I do, that’s the worst fear, is that you open the door to a murderer. And every time you see a new client, that thought is in your mind. I mean, I’ve opened thousands of doors over my career, to thousands of men, and crossed my fingers and hoped to God that it wouldn’t be one of those guys.

I’ve never been harmed by a client, but there have been a few cases where I have been very frightened, and that fear that you feel when you think, ‘Oh my god, is this guy going to hurt me? Am I going to be one of those girls?’ You never forget how that feels. So when I read this story…

This guy had a list of names of who he’s going after next. So Heather saved all those women’s lives. And it’s only sheer luck that the guy decided to go to West Virginia instead of Seattle. As far as I’m concerned, Heather saved my life and the lives of all the people I know in sex work, just as surely as she saved her own and the women on that list. This guy had been at it for a while. He’s a professional. So this is very emotional for me and very personal for me, and I decided that I was going to take care of it and make sure that she got everything she needed.

I started to call people (in the sex worker community) on the East Coast asking, ‘Who knows this girl? Who knows who she is? Who has met her?’ After a couple of days of calling around we came up with her phone number, so I called her and said, ‘You don’t know me, but I saw what you did and I’m a sex worker, too, and I would like to help you.’

Is it important that sex workers be the ones to reach out to help sex workers in need?

Well, for Heather, she was having a problem because there were some people local to her who had started a fundraiser for her, they said, but they were being really weird and controlling about the money. They weren’t going to let her have it unless she fulfilled certain things that they thought they should do.

They wanted her to give interviews, when she was clearly in no shape to give interviews. She told me they had bought her this dress they wanted her to wear. They wanted her to look like a nice respectable girl. They wanted to rescue her in the way, ‘We’re going to change your life. We’re going to change who you are, and we’re going to save you from this life.’

The reason that sex workers are the best people to help other sex workers is that we do it from a place of respect for the individual, and we understand that someone has to consent to being helped, at every stage of the way.

Trying to force ‘solutions’ on us that aren’t solutions just makes our lives more difficult. And most of the time, when you get a non-SW trying to help a sex worker who’s in trouble, they focus on sex work BEING the problem.

If someone wants to stop doing sex work, then we want options made available to them. But even in that situation, it’s crucial that you not shame someone who’s done sex work to survive. Like calling them a victim, even if that’s not how they identify, and focusing on how awful it must have been, asking for horror stories instead of just saying, ‘OK, so what do you want to be doing, and how can we get you there?’

I approach helping someone like I approach the BDSM scene. There’s a person here who I think wants me to take control of the situation. But you have to get consent for that. So I can say to you that I see that you’re having some trouble here, if you allow me to, I can do anything I can to alleviate these problems. Do you give me your consent to do that? Yes. You have to get the consent, and you have to go on getting the consent throughout the process.

These people wanted to get money for Heather, that’s great, but she didn’t even know them before they started doing that. And they were talking about her on the news and stuff. And they were going to hold onto the money until she did all these things they wanted her to do. What you’re doing to her she’s not consenting to, so it’s not really help.

I can look at Heather’s house, and say, moving out of here should be your first priority because a terrible thing happened here, and she’s like, ‘No, it’s not my first priority. X is my first priority.’ So that’s what we’ll do.

Do you consider your activism —helping sex workers— to be feminist activism?

The concept of feminism is kind of like the concept of God. There’s all this doctrine and dogma and stuff. And then there’s what people do. And everyone’s version of God is a little different. I’m very much in favor of a lot of the stated goals of feminism, just as I’m in favor of many of the stated goals of religion, which is be kind to other people, don’t lie and murder. It’s those ten commandment style things that I think we’re all on board with.

But mainstream feminism rejects sex work as an acceptable choice. So for me being a sex worker and being a feminist is kind of like being an immigrant who votes Republican. Even if you happen to agree with the rest of the party platform, there’s the small issue that they want to kick you out of the country. So I don’t describe myself as an adherent to a political philosophy that wants to eliminate me.

What can people do to help Heather if they’d like to contribute?

We’ve put together a crowdfund specifically to cover medical expenses; people can contribute to that here.

Complete Article HERE!

What do you think about sex work?

Ravishly invited me to contribute to an online conversation they are sponsoring on sex work.  They allowed me 500 words.

The Conversation is in the lower right-hand corner of their site.


The question posed:


Is female sex work empowering or enslaving?

Current and former sex workers, a clinical sexologist (me), a lawyer, an author-activist and a community advocate debate the sex work industry.

My contribution is titled:  Sex Work Is!

I invite you to take a look at all the contributions and add your thoughts.

Turning Pro

Name: Kevin
Gender: Male
Age: 22
Location: Toronto
I’m just out of college and have a ton of bills and no real job prospects at the moment. A friend suggested I do some escorting to make ends meet. Guys tell me that I’m hot and I like sex, but I don’t know if I could pull it off. Suggestions?

You betcha I have suggestions…a lot of ‘em, don’t ‘cha know.

Being hot and liking sex are great assets if you decide to turn pro, but you’ll need way more than that. Being a sex worker is not like having sex for love or even having recreational sex. You will be exchanging sex for money and that makes it a business proposition. Therefore you’d be wise to approach this with as much forethought as you would any other career move. It is, after all, the world’s oldest profession.

abs.jpgIf you do decide to set up shop, so to speak, you’ll need the capacity to have sex with a much wider range of people than if you were looking for a date. And probably just as important, when there’s an exchange of money, the john becomes your customer. And you know what they say about the customer always being right. The truth of the matter is that all pro sex is client directed. It’s not about you even when it looks like it’s all about you.

So let’s say you’re a really great fuck, fun to be with too. You’ll also need the emotional distance and psychological resilience to cope with the intimacy issues this line of work creates. This is precisely the point where most fledgling sex workers flounder. They either give too much or not enough. Some actually resent their clients for renting them. I know, this is totally absurd, but it happens all the time. This lack of clarity will cause you to have trouble establishing healthy boundaries between you and your john.

Regardless if you are a cheap street hustler turning tricks to support a drug habit or an expensive rent-boy who is servicing the rich and famous, the pitfalls are the same. A lot of sex workers are self-destructive or have huge unresolved sex issues that they try to compensate for by making people pay them for what they usually give away.

If you still think this is a line of work for you, Kevin, be aware that your mind and body are your greatest business assets. Take care of them. Nurture them. Keep them clean, fit and toned. Hygiene, both physical and mental, is a must. Body awareness, not the narcissistic type, and safe-sex practices are your frontline defense against STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Make it your business to be tested for HIV and the other common STIs on a regular (every 3-6 months) basis.

Stay clean and sober while on the job. More sex workers get busted for drugs rather than hustling. Know how to handle a drugged out client. You’ll probably see a lot of those. Know that they can take forever to get off, and can sometimes be paranoid and dangerous.


Speaking of getting busted; you know this line of work is against the law, don’t you. That of course doesn’t stop lots of people from plying their trade. But the successful ones will have their wits about them, particularly in terms of how they market themselves. Never suggest, in any forum — written or spoken, that you are offering sexual favors for money.

Be fiscally responsibility. Plan for the lean times…and there are always lean times. You’ll probably be a hot property at first; ya know the whole “new meat” phenomenon. Don’t let this go to your head. Count on there being cuter, younger, hotter competitors getting off the bus tomorrow. Try to cultivate a number of regular clients. Have a thought to how and where you will market yourself. And I fully encourage you not to do this full-time, at least not at first. If you find it difficult to meet your financial goals, you’ll be tempted to do more and more risky things just to make ends meet.

Sex work is often more about being psychologically present than a sexual performance. Your clients will often be more lonely and isolated then they are horny. Treat them with respect. Improve your mind. Make yourself interesting. Stay abreast on current affairs and the popular culture. Develop other skills like massage and bodywork.

You should have at least one trusted friend who knows your whereabouts at all times, or who has access to your appointment book. Protect yourself: use a pager or cell phone and never make a date with anyone who won’t share his/her phone number with you. Always make a call back before you head out. Keep an appointment book, in code if you must.

Carry a travel bag or backpack with you to all your “dates”. This should contain the basics: condoms, lube, massage oil, handi-wipes, toys, etc. But you should also have an extra shirt and mace (or other protective equipment). Keep all your belongings — clothing, phone, watch, and wallet — together and near your bag. Know where that bag is at all times and be ready to pick up and leave if there’s trouble.

I also suggest that you connect with other sex workers in your area. There is strength in numbers. Other rent-boys will provide you with essential information about troublesome clients and help you get the lay of the land, so to speak.

Finally, here’s a few of great resource for all sex workers — The Sex Workers Outreach Project, BAYSWAN, and St James Infirmary.

SEX WISDOM With Benjamin Law — Podcast #419 — 06/04/14

Hello sex fans! Welcome back.

June is indeed bustin’ out all over. And that can mean only one thing here at Dr Dick’s Sex Advice. IT’S LGBT PRIDE MONTH! Hurray!

Benjamin Law-1

To kick off our celebration we’re gonna take an audio fieldtrip to the land down under to visit with one of the most interesting men I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. And seeing this is the SEX WISDOM show, you can be certain that my guest is among the movers and shakers in the field of human sexuality. Because this is the series where we meet researchers, educators, clinicians, pundits and philosophers who are helping us take a fresh look at our sexual selves.

My guest is none other than Benjamin Law, the author of the critically acclaimed book, Gaysia; Adventures in the Queer East. Benjamin is a journalist, columnist, and screenwriter. And has a Ph.D. in television writing and cultural studies, don’t cha know. His passion is evident in all he does, but he is also funny as all get out. I can’t wait for you to meet him.

Benjamin and I discuss:

  • His way with words;
  • Cleis Press, his North American Publisher;
  • His international audience;
  • Modern gay consciousness is linked to a certain economic class;
  • Bad reviews;
  • Sex tourism;
  • Living on the sexual fringe;
  • His travels throughout south Asia;
  • Religion, family responsibilities, and sexual minorities;
  • Sex work can come from a place of pride or from a place of desperation;
  • The double standard for women and men.

I’m going to make sure that Benjamin reads from Gaysia; Adventures in the Queer East, so you won’t want to miss that.

Benjamin invites you to visit him on his site HERE! And he’s also on Twitter HERE!

Click on the cover art below for more information about Gaysia; Adventures in the Queer East.

Gaysia Adventures in the Queer East


Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Stockroom.


More SEX WISDOM With Katherine Frank — Podcast #387 — 08/21/13

Hey sex fans! Welcome back.K Frank

Kate’s back! That’s Dr Katherine Frank, cultural anthropologist, sex researcher and noted author, to you guys, don’t cha know. And this is the SEX WISDOM show.

So Kate and I got such an amazing response after last week’s episode that I could hardly contain myself for her return today. And I’ll just bet she’ll be bringing us more of her signature candor and insight.

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of this show, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive right here on my site. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #386 and Voilà! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Katherine and I discuss:

  • Gender power dynamics in group sex;
  • Differences between gay and straight group sex etiquette;
  • Sexual taboos may still apply;
  • The mainstream and the fringe;
  • Disgust, shame and guilt;
  • Sexual transgressions and transcendence;
  • Strings and Sympathy: Strip Club Regulars and Male Desire;
  • Sex work is labor;
  • Sex as barter;
  • Double standards;
  • Sex worker rights;
  • Those who inspire her.

Katherine invites you to visit her on her site HERE!

Click on the book covers below for more information about Katherine’s books.

g-String          plays well


Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: DR DICK’S — HOW TO VIDEO LIBRARY.


SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline