ask the readers: moving back to mainstream jobs after sex work

I’m throwing this question out to readers because frankly I don’t have good answers for this one, and I’m hoping in particular that readers with experience in sex work will weigh in. Here’s the letter:

I have a bit of a strange question. I want to get into sex work, specifically as a professional dominatrix. It’s going to take time to build up my skills and client base so I plan to keep working my day job for some time anyway, but I want to be as prepared as I can and I know I might not want to do sex work forever, especially if the laws change (I’m not in the U.S., it’s legal where I am, albeit with restrictions, but the government is definitely anti-sex work) or if (touch wood) I get assaulted or if my circumstances just change.

How would I go about moving back into a more typical career path post-sex work? How would I handle interviews if that happens? I’d register as self-employed for tax purposes anyway and I’m aware that much of sex work is the business side of things (advertising, negotiating with clients, planning etc.) but I can’t imagine I could talk about it in an interview given the nature of the work. Can you imagine? “Yes, I have strong negotiating skills that I developed from discussing whether to use a flogger or a cane with my clients.” That’d go well.

So how could I minimise the impact doing sex work could have on a possible future career? Ideally I’d want to do pro Domme work full time eventually and at least semipermanently, but I know there are always going to be risks (possibly getting outed, evicted, fired from other jobs, assaulted, lack of support from police or courts if anything happens). I’m willing to take that chance, but I’d naturally prefer to mitigate those risks as much as possible and I want to leave other doors at least partially open. Any advice?

(Also, this might just be the only job where it’s appropriate to call someone “Master”!)

Readers, what’s your advice?

{ 336 comments… read them below }

  1. Myrin*

    (Love that last parenthesis!)
    Such an interesting question – I don’t have any idea or suggestions whatsoever but I’m curious and looking forward to other commenters’ answers!
    (Alison, I love that you offer a platform for these kinds of questions, too!)

  2. Dino*

    Volunteer regularly during your time working in sex work to not leave a resume gap, for sure. I don’t think you’ll be able to use this job to talk about your skills in non-sex work jobs, unfortunately.

    1. beth*

      I think this is the way to go–volunteer (or freelance, or work part-time) in a more resume-relevant industry on the side, while making your main income via your dominatrix gig. That would let you keep fresh experience on your resume without having to worry about how your interviewer will view your previous career.

      Alternately, come up with an interview-appropriate excuse for not having visibly worked in those years. For example, you could say that you took some time off to care for your kids (if you have them) or a sick family member, or to handle a medical issue of your own that’s now resolved, but now you’re ready to get back into the workplace. It might be a lie, but frankly these are common enough circumstances that no one’s likely to question you further on the details. It seems more secure than trying to describe your sex work in non-sex-work-like terms; that could involve having to juggle a lot of answers that are not-quite-true, and when it comes to untruths, the more complex it gets, the more likely it is to fall apart.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I think it’s good to have “interview-appropriate” explanation, but I don’t think you should make up a complete lie – like if you don’t have any ill family members and never had to take care of any even slightly… don’t say you took time off to take care of a sick family member. And don’t say a medical issue if you don’t have any as well.

        I do think using kids (again, if you have kids!) / vague “personal reasons” or “self care” is totally fine though.

          1. Say What, Now?*

            Yeah, this… although you might be prepared that the interviewer might say “Oh, really? What hobbies did you pursue?” just out of interest since you devoted such time to it.

        1. Liv*

          In the industries where sex work isn’t found appropriate, she could possibly just refer to it as freelance work with strong confidentiality clauses that she can’t really go into and leave it at that…maybe hint that she was doing lifestyle work?

          1. Admin of Sys*

            Oh, I like that terminology, especially because it’s a pretty accurate way to describe what she was doing.

            1. anon for this...*

              This is a good one… When I was involved in sex work it was never my only source of income. So it really never comes up. If it were to I would just claim it as listed above. Freelance work with a strict confidentiality clause.

          2. Harper the Other One*

            I was going to suggest this as well! Freelance consultant or something similar would be a good example. It even opens up possibilities for talking (in generalities) about managing accounting, invoices, client conflict, etc.

          3. Copper Boom*

            It would seem kinda sketchy to me though for her to talk about doing freelance work for a while and then not be able to provide a reference. Not sure a client would be willing to be a reference? Safest bet would be to also freelance elsewhere or volunteer.

          4. seewhatimean*

            This sounds good, and is true. I think many of the skills can be similarly phrased to be positive, transferable and not specifically say “I earned money by caning people in my basement because they got off on it” which is also true, but most people wouldn’t be able to see how that has transferable skills.

      2. Hey Nonnie*

        Yes, I would suggest keeping some freelance work as a side gig. Diversifying isn’t a bad way to go for financial security anyways — there is always ebb and flow with self-employment (whatever kind of work), and it’s useful to have a fallback if your main gig is more ebbing than flowing for a period of time. That way, your marketing and other cross-over skills can also fit under your “mainstream” freelance work on your resume, and you have work you can talk about in an interview. It can be very minimal, just a few hours a month, but that’s not something you need to explain on your resume or in an interview, and it will fill that space on your resume so you don’t have an apparent employment gap.

        Frankly I would worry a bit with only volunteering — unless you have a partner / someone who can be your apparent source for keeping a roof over your head, there will likely be questions (even just a casual one) about how you paid for living expenses. It would be simpler all around if you were earning some mainstream gig money; few to none would think to ask you to disclose how much.

      3. Flash Bristow*

        This – run two businesses. One is the domme work, the other is something like producing handmade soaps and scrubs.

        That way you have a business you can talk about, so for interview questions etc you can say “well, from running my own business I’ve done xyz” which might actually be an example from your main business, but the interviewer will hopefully assume you’re talking about the other business – the one that they actually know about!

        That way you can show off your knowledge and business experience to a future employer, but without having to out yourself.

    2. TardyTardis*

      You could always label yourself a free-lance life coach, along with the volunteering (and mention the approximate gross per month, to show that it actually made money).

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I would say you need to have some other explanation for why there is a gap in traditional employment during this time. The people I’ve known who did this sort of thing usually did it on the side, not as their primary income, so that is something to consider, but if you are intent on doing this and only this, you won’t be able to talk about it should you seek more traditional employment in the future.

    1. GlitsyGus*

      I can’t say how totally useful this is, because it’s more “a woman I’ve worked with tried this” and not really close-hand experience, but what she did is set up her own company with a non-sex work sounding name, ie. Darkroom Entertainment or Yourname Private Entertaining. Then when she would discuss it she could talk about all the things you mentioned- advertising, project management, creating fulfilling experiences for her clients in the arena of “private parties and entertainment” as opposed to “sex work”.

      According to her, while some people did balk if they figured out what she meant by “party” and it may have cost her an opportunity or two, overall most people were fine with it. Basically as long as she gave people a vocabulary that didn’t explicitly talk about it as sex work they really didn’t care what kind of entertainment she had worked in.

  4. Bones*

    I wish I had advice, I just wanted to send positive wishes to the OP. Slowly but surely, less judgement is surrounding this kind of work.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I was struck, when the OP mentioned the possibility of assault, by the similarity between that and what counselors/therapists train for. I work at a university and one of the programs in our department is counselor education, and one of the professors was telling me about her time in a residential care facility and the self-defense moves that they trained for in case of physical assault by a patient or client.

      So the only advice I can think of for the OP is: Please consider taking a self-defense class as part of your preparation.

      1. OhNo*

        Very good advice. I’ll admit to being somewhat overzealous about self-defense training (given that I teach it on the side), but I think it’s good knowledge to have for anyone that works closely with strangers/random people/the public at large, particularly if you’re doing so in a private, one-on-one setting.

        One hopes no one ever has to use it, but better safe than sorry.

      2. OP*

        I didn’t realise therapists train in self-defence. Thank you for the recommendation, I’m definitely planning on taking classes and possibly hiring security if I ever work out of my own dungeon rather than hiring one.

        1. Kj*

          Oh, if we work with certain populations we do…… It is really needed. I’ve had some very close calls as a therapist and am acutely aware of when clients can physically overwhelm me. I’ve gotten really good at verbal desesclation and I’d recommend training in that as well. I’m a small human and verbal skills are better suited to me than most physical skills, although knowing how to break someone’s hold on you is crucial, as is knowing your escape routes in enclosed spaces. Protip- never put anything between you and the door!

          1. Puffyshirt*

            Working in HR, I learned never to keep a stapler between me and my guest chairs! Haha

        2. nonegiven*

          I think it’s different than regular self defense, it’s centered around stopping the client without hurting them where in regular self defense, you’re trying to harm the person to give yourself time to get away.

          1. TZ*

            Yeah, I work in resi care (mostly rehabilitation violent, traumatised teenagers), and we get trained in ‘reactive response’–how do get yourself away safely using minimum force, with minimal harm to the client, and well as verbal deescalation. Interestingly, my job and my sex worker friends’ jobs have about all the same work place risks except the sexual ones (well, still the risk of sexual assault, but lessor and usually lower-grade)–semi-regular minor physical assault, persistent verbal assault, physical risks, emotional/mental health risks. The difference is what I do isn’t stigmitised, even if it is poorly understood generally (and I get medical staff that are bizarrely weird about it?) and the police are generally on my side even if still a bit jerks.

            The safety planning bit is super important for sex work–I am sure you know this! Peer support groups should be able to help you access appropriate resources and WHS planning.

  5. Anon today*

    Have a side gig that you can point to on a resume or enroll in community college or some other educational program. You want something you can put on a resume so there isn’t a gap to explain.

    1. JSPA*

      Art? Nobody questions art. (Or rather, even if they hate the art, they don’t question someone’s devotion to it.)

      For practical reasons, probably something very small, so you can have a large body of work. Not too toxic or smelly.

      If it so happens you’re actually good at it, you could do body painting, and incorporate that into your main job.

      1. Salamander*

        Or the OP might be in the process of writing a book. Those can take a very long time! OP could pick something far afield of her primary job to write about, or she could turn that experience into a very successful career in romance or erotica.

    2. DaniCalifornia*

      This was my thought. Can OP freelance every once in a while in the field her current FT job is? She could then put that on her resume so there are no gaps, and if they ask why she went freelance, she could say she preferred freelancing so she had time to pursue outside passions. I liken it to a writer who leaves their newspaper job to travel the world and does freelance writing on the side. So if they ever need to come back to the 9-5 they haven’t just been not working.

  6. IL Jim P*

    Could you say things like “I had a client I was negotiating what specific service my company would provide with him, he wanted the one that would cost less and I successfully negotiated the higher priced service by saying … ”

    I think just got to frame it in business terms. If you can try to name your company something that’s not explicitly sex work related but could be interpreted that way for your clientele that way it’s not obvious on your resume which could also help with not having to provide a lot of details.

    1. Konstanze*

      It does seem a little gauche though, and if I was a interviewer, I would certainly wonder why the terms are so vague.

    2. Just Employed Here*

      Wouldn’t you have to be able to answer the inevitable “Oh, so you were self-employed for X years. What did your company do?” type questions, if you were planning to mention that experience at all?

      1. IL Jim P*

        personal services for people that had very special needs

        I really don’t have a good answer but it would be hard to leave it off the resume

        1. Just Employed Here*

          I think it’d be OK to leave it off the resumé altogether if there was another part-time gig at the same time that could be spun into a “main” activity. Of course you couldn’t lie about the hours worked…

        2. Clorinda*

          Yes, and then when the interviewer asks the natural follow-up question, what kind of very special needs, the answer has to be, “I really can’t get into specifics without violating my clients’ privacy.”
          Either that, or say you were a personal trainer.

          1. WellRed*

            Don’t say you’re a personal trainer, or anything else requiring certification, if you’re not. Too much risk of getting caught in a lie.

            1. Socks*

              There’s caretaker jobs requiring no particular certification (or sometimes just something like CPR, which I guess I’d feel safer with a dominatrix who knew first aid anyway! so you may as well, it’s a short certification), OP could try something like that? If you cruise through the “healthcare” jobs section on craigslist, at least in my area, there’s a lot, so apparently it’s the kind of thing one could do self-employed. I think it could actually wind up having a decent amount of skill overlap, to be honest; communication of physical needs and boundaries, maintaining a clean and safe space, a non-expert but still functional knowledge of physiology, maintaining client privacy in regards to sensitive information, good people skills; and if you’re claiming to have done this self-employed, then there’s also the usual obtaining clients, maintaining records, managing your schedule, doing some accounting stuff, and so on.

              I know AAM as a whole recommends against lying about references, but you will need to figure out how you’re going to do that. I’m just saying, I HAVE had former colleagues pretend to have hired me (I did tutoring, just… not for their kids in particular) to cover employment gaps before. Otherwise, make sure you have a reason not to give any references from your period of self-employment, I guess? I don’t have any experience with that though.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              I wouldn’t do that, either — I’m really interested in life coaches, so if I were the interviewer, I would definitely grill a person who said that!

        3. Hentia Voice Actor*

          I’m male…that may have a different dynamic, and I’m a voice actor that specializes in localized hentai (animated porn from Japan, dubbed into English)

          I list my work on my resume and I have been up front with my current employer about my “side gig.” They are a large construction/engineering firm and did not judge me. I think some things that help are: I use a stage name for my dubs, I never discuss this with my peers and especially not with my reports, and I do not have an online presence for my voice work. (Many voice actors do, and they have a following…some of which can become stalker-level creepy)

          Only four people at my day job know about this: my boss, myself, and two very close friends. If others do know, they haven’t mentioned it. If I’m a water cooler joke I don’t know about, I don’t care.

          1. Hentai Voice Actor*

            It would’ve helped if I had spelled “hentai” right…stupid mobile.

          2. Anon for this*

            This sounds like a fascinating side gig! Would you be willing to talk about how you got involved in that, either here or the open thread tomorrow?

            1. Chameleon*

              I want to know how you managed to record some of the dialogue without cracking up…

              1. Office Gumby*

                Thank you! I do voice-acting work, but I only do novels in the PG range. But sometimes, some of the narrative I have to do makes me laugh, especially if it’s a comedy novel.
                To keep from laughing, I have my “Serious Mantra”, which is a phrase that tends to dampen the mood. (Won’t repeat it here, as it may be triggery for some people.)

          3. General Ginger*

            I know it’s off-topic, but would you mind sharing how you got into this kind of voice work? As in, was it that you wanted to do voice work and this fell in your lap, or did someone suggest it, or…? No problem if you’re not comfortable elaborating.

      2. higheredrefugee*

        –While I’m happy to discuss the skills I developed as a small business owner, I am unable to go into great detail about the exact services I was provided. I was hired by clients on a confidential basis to support specific needs related to their personal lives. Each client came to me with their own set of desired outcomes and and based on the referral nature of my business, they knew they could rely on my complete discretion so those are the details I can share.
        –I enjoyed the work, but it is time for me to seek new challenges.
        –I’m happy to provide you with the names of references of people who I have volunteered with at (whatever org) during this time as well, who can more directly speak to my experience about XYZ (whatever is relevant to the employer).

        That said, keeping some type of side gig with clients or supervisors that can provide a reference would also be helpful and may also help you keep a steady income for moments where your clientele wax and wane.

        1. LSP*

          I would frame it as a kind of life-coach, which is why you wouldn’t want to get into any specifics.

        2. alice*

          The first one screams sex work or something equally not seen as socially acceptable. I think an employer would raise eyebrows.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep, and not only that, but it basically erases it as work history. If you won’t tell me what it was and won’t talk about it at all, then there’s no benefit to it, and you might as well have blank years for that period.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              There should be a way to discuss the amazing people skills of a successful sex worker!

            2. higheredrefugee*

              In fairness, I have coached this advice for former fortune tellers/tarot card readers, UFO experts, defense contractors and sex workers, and it has worked. While there are employers that treat that as erased work history, as with all things job-related, some employers care, others don’t. Those that kept in touch with their networks from before the transition also have fared better. Those that were confident with transitioning it back to skills also fared better.

              That said, good old networking has worked best for the sex workers. They go back to clients they had developed better relationships with, and were up front about that they were looking to transition out, and relied on them to make introductions. But they have to be careful about who they approach so the client didn’t feel that it was blackmail.

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              It could be an entire free response exercise–When you hear “confidential basis to support specific needs” what do you picture?

              I started with sex work, but am now on “Was in prison and ran the racket importing special items from outside.” Which would probably be a fascinating interview AND a really useful skill set that might cross over to other fields. Like on MASH, when Radar and then Klinger had to figure out how to trade for what they needed even if there was a booklet of rules that said none of this was allowed.

              1. Socks*

                My mind went straight to Liam Neeson in Taken. As in, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.”

                So that’s ex-CIA, I guess?

            1. Turtle Candle*

              But a sobriety companion can say that in an interview in most cases, and make general statements about their skills and experience, they just can’t provide information about the clients. It’s the vagueness that could be a problem.

        3. Q without U*

          As an interviewer, the first bullet would seem incredibly shady and I would probably write the person off. If a candidate couldn’t tell me what they’ve been doing and what skills they developed while doing it, I would not feel any interest in moving forward with that person. Somebody who answered like that would probably also decline to answer any, “tell me about a time when…” questions. There are probably enough good candidates that a mystery candidate would fall off the list.

          1. DirectorOfSomething*

            Totally agree. This would be a red flag for me.

            It would not be a red flag tho, for someone to say that they took time off from the working world to focus on their family (or “because they were needed at home” which could be technically true in your case – lol) and they are now ready to return. And then elaborate on what aspects of the position you are looking forward to returning to. For me, your gap wouldn’t need to be filled with volunteer work as some suggest. I would assume your time was consumed with family (aging parent, children, disabled spouse etc). I suppose you could say that your responsibilities didn’t allow time for volunteering if asked, but I can’t imagine asking that.

            1. Q without U*

              Yes, I agree. The gap wouldn’t need to be filled, but I do always ask candidates who’ve had a long break between jobs what they’ve been doing to keep their skills and knowledge of the field fresh. Something to keep in mind if you plan to return to the same field, or are looking to enter a new one.

            2. selena81*

              I think that being all vague and evasive about your job is worse then simply ‘admitting’ that you had no job for a few years.
              It makes you come of as someone who either screwed up so massively that there was no chance of a good reference or who is outright lying (claiming to have worked an actual job when she was actually just a housewife, f.i.)

              But it seems to me that the best course of action is to have a regular side-gig during the dominantrix years.
              Lots of self-employed people have a parttime job: to help diversify the financial risk.

          1. KitKat100000*

            I agree with Alice and Holly – you should provide more information. Don’t just claim confidentiality! Relationship coach, life coach, etc.! Talk about how you helped people through their personal issues – don’t flat-out refuse to give information!

        4. Hiring Mgr*

          Yeah, I don’t know that I would think it was sex work, but as an employer/interviewer i would just want to know what you’ve been doing and usually those things are talked about, so answering as above would seem odd.. I would just rather know it was sex work or as close to that as you can say. You’re not mentioning clients by name.. Better than this which sounds like you’re just trying to avoid the question–but it’s kind of fundamental to the job seeking process.

        5. Yorick*

          I think being too vague might actually be worse than just saying you used to do sex work. If I were the interviewer, I’d wonder if you
          1) even had a business or are making it all up
          2) were so bad at the job that you refuse to give details
          3) did something really shady (I’m thinking very shady business practices, not even something like sex work)

        6. Tau*

          I think I’d only go this route if you’re good at thinking on your feet. I am not, at all, and so even with these scripts the chances are high that an unexpected question about the work would lead to me going “uhh… how do I answer this…” or blurting out the truth. If that’s not a worry, though, I think it’d be a good way to handle this.

        7. Nobby Nobbs*

          Re your first point, the interviewer is going to go home and tell their family, “I’m pretty sure I interviewed a hit woman today.”

        8. Iconic Bloomingdale*

          Any candidate who responded to my interview questions this way would be removed from hiring consideration.

          The response is too vague and evasive and comes across as having something to hide.

    3. BeenThere*

      I think at some point an interviewer would ask about the industry though… then what, I wonder? I like the idea of phrasing it in business terms though.

      1. GG Two shoes*

        The industry is ‘leisure services’ or ‘personal development’. I mean, she’s really in the life satisfaction business, as my old professor used to say (about rec/npo’s, leisure, etc.) It takes a different meaning here, but she’s not lying, really.

      2. Redacting like it's 1999*

        That’s the thing. I work with confidential information every day in my job (effect the stock market kind of information), and while I couldn’t tell an interviewer specific information, I could tell them I work on proxy statements, prospectuses, etc. and that I regularly file via EDGAR, etc. If I started getting squirrelly about what kind of things I do all day, that would look very odd. The interviewer would assume that either (a) I was lying about my experience, or (b) that my experience was in drug dealing or sex work.

    4. beth*

      Like others are saying, bringing it up at all invites additional questions about the industry and role. And even if it didn’t…answering a question in a way that’s clearly designed to obscure half the story isn’t exactly going to inspire confidence in your interviewer.

    5. Jen S. 2.0*

      I don’t have language, but I would go this route — you’re running your own business as a [something close to accurate but a wee bit vague**], and then focus on the business side. I’d also make sure to keep my hand in on some volunteer or side stuff as well.

      **Maybe a personal trainer? That wording is pretty close to the truth. You don’t have to specify WHAT you’re training people to do. I’ve been a fitness professional on the side of my full-time job for many years, but I teach fitness classes (Zumba, cycle, sculpt, etc.). Personal trainers do plenty of in-home and in-studio work on mental and physical fitness, injury rehabilitation, conditioning, event preparation (like marathons and triathlons), work with special populations, and so forth. With the right wording, it could fit.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      I was thinking can you register the legal entity of your company as something not sex-related but use a stage name for the website and other business and customer facing areas?

      That will help in the future to frame it as a “legit” business (not that it isn’t, but you know the perception). You can then speak to the many business aspects of managing ABEntertainment LLC and not what you did as Mistress DeBBixx. It’s not that the info couldn’t be found out, but it does add a layer of separation.
      And before you jump into this, you should really seek legal and financial counsel in setting all this up. I imagine there are a host of other things you will need to do to protect yourself and your privacy.
      Sounds interesting, good luck!

  7. regularcommenteranonforthis*

    So, okay. I do a little sex work. And I have friends who do more of it, some of whom I’ve given professional advice to (I’m in accounting).

    Personally, I do it as a part time side gig (although it’s as lucrative as my day job). I run my main career separately. So for future employers there is no knowledge. That’s one approach.

    Another approach is taking an entry level or easy to enter job when you’re transitioning out. A friend who did this as her job for years took a bartending job when she was starting to plan her exit.

    Another approach is being completely up front about it. A friend who has been in a lot of porn and worked as an escort took this route when she was trying to transition into social media marketing. Boy did she have the skills and experience for it. She lives on the west coast where this type of thing is more accepted and she did eventually land a good job. But it took years.

    Last approach would be to slightly conceal the type of business it is, with something slightly more mainstream. Sex therapist? I have a friend now who is a professional cuddler, no sex. Odd but gaining popularity, and something he’s able to post about openly on social media, etc.

    Good luck, OP. It can be a fun and lucrative world to be in.

    1. Aphrodite*

      May I ask a question? Did you ever fear, or actually, run into someone you knew from your day job who was looking to hire you for the sex work? I don’t mean being solicited at your day job but a service provider and potential client accidentally running into each other while making the connection and saying something like, “OMG, I know you!”

      1. regularcommenteranonforthis*

        I’ve feared this and related occurrences, and heard stories of it happening to other people, but so far it’s never happened to me.

        Frankly, my day job caters to blue-collar people and my night job has very white-collar clients, which is partly by design. I’ve been approached by a number of men running plumbing companies etc. who certainly had the means, but I’ve turned them down in case we had mutual professional acquaintances.

        My consolation if it ever happens is well, they’re there too.

    2. Anon For Comments*

      I work in accounting too and would love to do sex work in the side. Wish I could do that but wouldn’t know where to start.

      So glad the view of sex work is changing where it’s becoming more accepted.

      1. regularcommenteranonforthis*

        I started on the site SeekingArrangement. You need to be aware of scammers, comfortable with what your boundaries are (are you okay with married men?) and ready to put in a little time to find a good match, but it’s a great place to start. Tell a friend where you are, stay safe. If it appeals to you, I also recommend going to read the sugarlifestyle board on reddit for a couple days, it’s extremely educational.

        Post sesta/fosta there are also a lot of people using that site for more escort-oriented work.

        1. anonforthisone*

          Thank you for sharing this info! I’m like Anon For Comments up there, except I’m afraid that I’m too old to get into that business (I’m pushing 40).

          1. regularcommenteranonforthis*

            To be honest, you might be. I was worried about that and I’m 29. Most of my clients are 20-30 years older than me.

            However, the feedback I’ve gotten is that men are perfectly happy with my age because of the maturity that comes with it. I’m apparently less flaky and less scared/naive than the skinny 22 year old people picture as the successful sex worker. I do know that there are women in their mid-30s in my area doing just fine. So, who knows!

          1. regularcommenteranonforthis*

            You’re most welcome. Seriously, if you’re interested, lurk on reddit for a while. Very useful.

  8. XXX*

    Can you keep your identity offline as much as possible? I know a lot of sex workers market themselves online to attract clients, but if there’s no breadcrumbs there’s less of a chance of you being found out. Even if you keep your face hidden, if you have identifying tattoos, birthmarks, etc, you’d be surprised at what internet sleuths can do when they want to dox someone.

    I worked as a stripper while working another part time job, so I had a cover story for my resume during that time in my life. Is it possible for you to work a few hours a week at another job, freelance, or help care for a family member? Anything you can use in the future to fill your resume gap and talk about in a job interview.

    I got lucky–I never ran into anyone I knew at the club, despite working locally, and because everything was in person I avoided having an online presence. (I worked at a small divey club, so there was no Instagram, website, or anything like that which some larger clubs have to showcase their dancers.)

    Aside from that, basic stranger danger safety. Make sure you aren’t followed home, don’t give out personal contact information to clients, don’t talk about your hobbies or favorite stores or anything that will give people a chance to run into you later or track you down. Separate your domme persona from your real life.

    And save as much $ as possible. If it’s anything like stripping, the money comes fast and it’s so easy to get carried away in thinking it will last forever. Having a cushion in your savings will help you weather slow months, like any other self-employed worker, but will be extra helpful if you’re ever facing eviction, legal action, or leave the business and are having a hard time landing a vanilla job.

    1. OP*

      I’m not planning to show face and I don’t have any identifying marks or anything like that. I’m going to work in a nearby city instead of my hometown and I’m planning on getting a different phone and email etc., but I didn’t think about mentioning hobbies or favourite stores. That’s really useful, thank you! I could’ve easily made that mistake.

  9. Susan Calvin*

    I think polite euphemisms might be the way to go – since you’re self-employed, it’s not like anyone will press for references (from whom? Your clients?) so you can probably spin this into… I don’t know, life coaching maybe? A friend of mine, who is now a teacher, describes her former gig as freelance modeling – which is true enough. Just not overly specific.

    At any rate, good luck!

    1. regularcommenteranonforthis*

      Good approach. I think my comment is still in moderation, but I suggested something like this as one route – but I didn’t think of such good options!

    2. Joan*

      Saying you were an actress could also work, and it’s probably fairly accurate. Unless you’re applying for anything in the actual entertainment, they probably won’t care enough to ask about specific roles

      1. Aveline*


        Sometimes acting and sometimes other types of performance. Varied based on client need

        1. Aveline*

          Also, thing about acting or performing is it’s sometimes group oriented and sometimes not

      2. Temperance*

        I disagree. I think the natural follow up question is asking what kind of work, have I seen you in anything, etc.

        1. OhNo*

          That’s easy enough to answer, though: live performances, mostly fringe/small-time work, so probably not.

          If you’re a good enough liar, you could even give specifics like “character actor in the local ren faire”, “experimental theatre”, “performance art pieces”, and so on.

          1. Kat in VA*

            Ohh, that’s a good one.

            Small note – a whoooollle lot of folks who are into the ren faire are also in the BDSM scene.

    3. BethRA*

      Well, if we had a candidate who was self-employed, yes we would ask for references from clients or other colleagues. And if someone were vague about what kind of business they ran/work they did while “self employed” I’d assume they we bs’ing. So I don’t think polite euphemisms would work.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      I thin this could work, but I also feel like someone might still want references or examples of her work (if she’s trying to get into marketing, for example).

    5. Socks*

      People totally want references from past clients, if you’re self-employed. That is absolutely not a get-out-of-references-free card, in my experience with self-employment.

    6. esra*

      This was going to be my suggestion, I’d euphemism the heck out of it and cite confidentiality clauses for the reference issue.

  10. it_guy*

    If the name of your new company is not blatantly obvious like “Whips-R-Us”, you could just list it in a vaguely worded description as a service oriented business, and go on about all of the things that you have to do to support the business and leave the actual type of service out of it.

    1. Red Reader*

      The previous owner of my home was an exotic dancer who incorporated. I still get junk mail for My Tits LLC semi regularly.

      (Also, every few months, while sitting in my living room Facebook asks me if I want to check in at My Tits. NO, FACEBOOK, NO I DO NOT.)

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        What if other people want to check in at your tits though?!

        (Now I have a mental image of you selling your house some day and some little old religious couple buying it and getting that junk mail and I am a terrible person.)

        1. Red Reader*

          Nobody else has gotten the prompt that I know of! My housemates are under strict orders not to check in at My Tits if they get it, because I’m trying to train Facebook to realize that she moved :-P

        1. Red Reader*

          I got the first one (which, entertainingly, was actually something tax related, I assume, from the department of revenue, so it’s actually official mail from the State of Indiana to My Tits) and stood there in my driveway with my mouth hanging open for a solid three minutes. Went inside, held it up to my housemates to see and went WHAT IS MY LIFE.

          1. PookieLou*

            All I get from former residents are LL Bean catalogs and credit card offers. Some people get all the luck….

            1. ggg*

              Wow. That beats the mail we got for an actor who lived at our house before he was famous, from the IRS, asking for six figures in back taxes.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        I’m a straight, cisgendered male. Facebook asks me *often* if I want to tag one of my male friends. No, no Facebook, I do not…LOL.

      3. MatKnifeNinja*

        At least it’s not Tumbler with 100K followers.

        I don’t know how explicit FB gets, but Tumblr leaves nothing to the imagination.

        Can only imagine the junk mail you get. Lol..

        1. Thursday Next*

          It’s probably a lot of mundane stuff. Notices from the IRS, local government, accounting services, cleaning services, small business associations, etc.

          Someone with more knowledge should correct me, but I’m betting that clients and vendors would do most of their communication online rather than through postal mail.

          1. Red Reader*

            That’s exactly what it is. I did raise an eyebrow at the giant ULine catalog addressed to My Tits. (The catalog of wildly impractical shoes, on the other hand, did not surprise me for a second.)

      4. Doe-Eyed*

        For unknown reasons, I am also prompted to check into our next door neighbor’s home, which is labeled as “Poop Sheet”. We are completely residential and I cannot determine what that may have stemmed from.

      1. it_guy*

        After I posted my first comment, I came up with a better name “The Ultimate Chain Store”

  11. MuseumChick*

    Very interesting question. I think your best bet is to volunteer, sign up for classes, and/or get a part-time job on the side so you will resume filler.

    I can’t think of anyway to avoid saying sex work that doesn’t sound kind of sketchy “I started a small business but due to confidentiality I can’t go into to many specifics.”

  12. Lauren19*

    Not knowing your country or their economy, I don’t know if this is feasible, but my advice would be to make contacts with dominatrix-adjacent industries to transition into. Can you transition into a regional sales role for dominatrix costume manufacturers? What about policy advisers for industries that ‘get’ it (gambling, women’s rights, etc.)?

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Oh, very smart! I think this is something worth looking into, and you wouldn’t have to worry about “hiding” your previous job.

    2. irritable vowel*

      Yes, my thought was this as well. Assuming the OP isn’t planning to go into a completely unrelated career (airline pilot or something), there are plenty of adjacent/supportive industries that have a lot of the same jobs/careers as you can find in the vanilla world – accountant, social media manager, business office manager, computer/tech support, etc.

      1. Lindsay J*

        Honestly, if she wanted to become an airline pilot, all she needs are the training and flight hours, and some sort of regular job or volunteer work to account for her time in a background check.

        For regional airlines, at least, they don’t care much about your non-pilot activities as long as they were lawful.

        As it is, transitioning into sex-based retail (porn or adult novelty shops) and out from there should be possible. I did a stint in an adult toy store, listed it on my resume for a bit, include it in background checks, and nobody has ever really asked about it. It helps that it’s called a “Boutique” and not Condoms-R-Us or something so I think people naturally assume it was a small women’s clothing store. But if they googled it, or were from the city it was in, it would be immediately obvious what they sell. I just don’t bring up the nature of what we sold in interviews, and nobody has ever asked. I suppose it is possible that I have missed out on job opportunities because of it but nobody has ever mentioned it to me. And some of the nicer, more body positive, non-skeevy, possibly female focused stores might make this even easier (the stores I worked in were more on the not-nice side. There were several robberies at different locations, and they got busted for selling synthetic drugs in violation of local laws, but that was after I worked there.)

    3. Thlayli*

      Dunno about where you are but in my country women’s rights orgs are very anti-sex work. The majority of women working in the sex industry worldwide are not there by choice and have been coerced into sex work. Even in Amsterdam its estimated 50% of prostitutes were coerced into prostitution. As far as I know legalisation of sexy work tends to increase demand for sex services far above the supply of women willing to provide them, meaning it actually increases the pressure on women to provide services they do not want to provide. Hence legal sex work is often viewed negatively by women’s rights orgs. Again this is in my country it may be different where OP lives.

      I personally have no problem with people being sex workers so long as they personally want to do the job (go for it OP!). But just be aware that most “women’s rights organisations” are likely to view such work as opposed to their goals, not aligned with them.

      1. Anlina S.*

        While you are correct that many women’s rights orgs are anti-sex work, none of what you’ve said about demand or coercion is remotely true.

    4. Socks*

      In San Fransisco there’s an absolute ton of personal/professional services that advertise themselves as kink-friendly; therapists, lawyers, advertising, accounting, that kind of thing, just jobs where a client might want someone sensitive to kink-related concerns. If you’re going into a job like that and you know the scene is sufficiently large in your area, it could even be an asset? But that really only works in the, like, kink-hub cities of the world, of which I can only think of SF and maybe Berlin off the top of my head. It would probably work in LA or NYC? My practical knowledge base is limited but I imagine OP would know if that would work in her area.

      1. Lindsay J*

        There are lists of these online covering pretty much the entire US.

        I used one to find a therapist one time, but they catered to all aspects of business/personal life. Physicians, accountants, etc.

        Because if you’re in the scene you want a doctor who will understand that you’re not being physically abused just because you have bruising or scars on your back. And if you’re running a kink-related business, having a kink-friendly accountant might be more comfortable than any old accountant off the block.

        I think they even had a breakdown like kink-friendly for people who weren’t in the scene, but knew basically what it entails and are okay/non-judgmental about it, and kink-aware for people who have actually participated in the activities and so could better understand the headspace involved and other intricacies of it.

        I would post a link to the site but as I’m on a work computer right now I’m not going to do that.

    5. Courageous cat*

      Yep, this was going to be my suggestion. Focus your future career in industries that will be accepting. Sex toy companies (many good ones to work at), for instance.

      1. W0rks in SRH*

        Agree. There are many organisations who either a) accepting or b) specifically look for people with this kind of experience. Most cities have sex worker advocacy organisations, sexual and reproductive health (SRH) centres and organisations, related research institutions that need or benefit from having people with the direct experience in their teams. Good luck.

  13. Konstanze*

    (Just as a side note, in France, lawyers are called “Maître Dupont”, “Maître Smith”… so technically, there is another job where you call people Master.)

    1. Amber Rose*

      Halfway through the class one of my professors got her Master’s degree and (jokingly) insisted we call her Master from then on.

      1. Flower*

        A friend I knew in high school had friends convince her to address their teacher as “Master” since he’d just concluded the degree and you’d do it for a doctorate.

        Of course, the friends only convinced her to do it because his last name was “Bates” – she didn’t think it through until she’d said it.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Are you sure it wasn’t JUNIOR high school? Sure sounds like that mentality.

      2. SoCalHR*

        They mispronounced my VERY simple name when I graduated with my MBA. Since then my Niece calls me “Master ” which is quite cute.

      3. Aveline*

        Also for lawyers who are commissioners in some states. That is, administrative hearing officers and the like

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Eh, it’s the term for licensed tradespeople, too, so maybe it is not actually unusual. (Master Plumber, Master Electrician, etc.)

      1. Tableau Wizard*

        Right, but if you hire a Master Plumber named Bob, you wouldn’t ever call him Master Bob.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        Master Sergeant is a rank in the Army and the Marines, but only addressed by the full rank in the Marines…

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          We say the whole thing in the Army too, it just kinda gets squished, a la “Masssarnt Ramirez.”

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          My Dad was a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, but I would guess that people still just called him “Sergeant”.

    3. Traveling Teacher*

      On a similar note, at French primary schools, the head teacher (male) is called “Maître” as well.

      Head teachers who are women are called “Madame.”

      Oh, another is: “Maître d’hotel” for the head waiter/head of hotel.

      So, three :)

      1. Fill-in-the-blank*

        As a Master Instructor of martial arts I am called Master Fill-in-the-Blank. It’s pretty normal for us.

        It can make things weird when I’m out with students in public and away from obvious M.A. events.

  14. Amber Rose*

    I wonder if there isn’t some way to frame it as highly confidential contractual work or something. Then you have a reason to give vague details without mentioning anything about sex.

    Besides, it’s not a lie. Most people who hire sex workers value their privacy.

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing. A freelance / self-employed ‘virtual assistant’ or PA, who worked for a variety of clients.

      (As an example, I’m a trainer, and there are some organisations in the UK that I work for and I cannot talk about what they do because it’s subject to the Official Secrets Act or because they deal with confidential / personal information about, say, children in care)

    2. BananaRama*

      One person I met was a career coach. A lot of his stuff was considered confidential, but he helped advised folks on career decisions. Perhaps spinning it like that could work, where the work with clients is confidential but she’s a “life coach” or something peppy but vague.

      1. Just Me*

        That’s what I was thinking. “A life coach helping clients reach self-actualization using a variety of techniques, including role-playing scenarios.”

        1. Just Employed Here*

          I do like life coach! It’s innocent and confidential, yet believable. But I’d still keep up a side gig simulatenously.

        2. Yamikuronue*

          if the OP is interested, doing some actual life coaching might make a good side gig for resume cover as well. Then you have two birds with one stone. Domming and life coaching are sometimes very similar, after all.

    3. Temperance*

      This won’t work. It will just make her look suspicious. Even in confidential/classified jobs, you can typically generally say what you do without specifying who your clients are.

    4. Anon For Comments*

      Maybe I’ve watched too many detective shows but I’d think the worst. Such as “did shady work for the right price for high profile clientele”.

      I like the above suggestions of freelancing in OP current field or similar traditional field.

      1. annakarina1*

        Yeah, the description makes me think they’re a hired killer or a government mercenary.

        1. Kat in VA*

          There could be a benefit to a government mercenary in the Finance department though.

          “Hey, Felicia is REALLY upset those TPS reports are late. You know what she used to do….”

  15. Lindsay Gee*

    Depending on your current career path/interests/skills is blogging online a possibility? Depending on whether it’s feasible, that could be something that you could use to explain skills that you had more of in the sex work aspect of your career: things like admin work, writing skills, organization, time management, scheduling etc. That way you can say you’ve been self employed for the past x years doing blogging online, where you developed skills a,b,c,d,e.

    I like other people’s suggestions too about volunteering regularly to keep your resume up and develop your network.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      One problem I see with this approach is that the blog would have to be NOT related to the sex work because if I interviewed someone who claimed a gap was filled time spent blogging, I would 100% be looking for that blog.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Advertisements and affiliate links. The combo has given some people 7 figure incomes, not many but its not inconceivable to monetize a blog to the point of lifestyle support.

      1. Lindsay Gee*

        I completely agree! And without knowing what OP does in the non-sex work world this may or may not make sense, right? If their current day job involved…social justice advocacy for example, AND that was something they were passionate about anyways, you could definitely do a blog on that.
        And lots of people have jobs that don’t make a lot of money, or are entrepreneurs and make basically no money. So I don’t think whether the blog was eough to live on would necessarily be an issue. No more an issue than any other example that involves someone taking time off work to care for family/pursue hobbies etc. Its just a version of that where the OP gets to demonstrate skills she may have actually picked up from running her sex-work.

  16. CmdrShepard4ever*

    Maybe I’m wrong but could you say you had your own business that was a short term personal assistant/attendant on a contract basis. I think this would allow you to talk about the business side of things marketing, constantly acquiring new clients, negotiating, etc…?

    1. AMPG*

      The problem with that approach is that a prospective employer is likely to want to talk with clients as the most recent references. The cover story needs to account for the fact that the OP can’t give out client info.

      1. ggg*

        What do people who are actually personal assistants to high profile people do? I would expect they would sign some kind of confidentiality clause not to reveal the identity of their client.

  17. Just A Thought Mr Fox*

    Here’s another way to approach the “what if I want to do something different, later?” question: you clearly have an entrepreneurial bent, and are comfortable taking calculated risks. Perhaps your “something different, later” is another type of entrepreneurial venture. As you mentioned, you’re going to be developing some highly transferable skills (negotiations, etc) … running your own business is another skill. With that approach, the “how do I fill out a job history” issue becomes less important.

    1. Susan Calvin*

      That’s a really good angle! If it turns out that self-employment just really isn’t for OP, then she’s probably notice that soon enough that a resume gap won’t be too dramatic (like, 6 months max maybe).

    2. OP*

      That’s a really interesting idea. I’ll definitely need to look into this for the future, maybe start building some technical skills so I could start another business later. Thank you!

  18. AnotherAlison*

    I think you have to plan for a path forward with other self-employment options, possibly in parallel or after this. Maybe you can consult on negotiation strategies for sex workers and evolve that into training anyone to master negotiation skills. I also think you may want to own this experience and figure out how to leverage it positively, rather than hide it. I mean, some porn stars have become beloved reality celebrities, but it’s more of a challenge to have clients of a public accounting business or something find out that the company is employing a former dominatrix.

  19. mark132*

    One important thing is to be very judicious with face pics in any advertisement. If you wish to maintain anonymity. Google search algorithms can link facebook photos to advertisement photos quite easily.

    1. Cassandra*

      Yes, and it it starting to look as though facial recognition is the next ill-advised Big Data gold rush, so we can expect this problem to worsen before it improves.

  20. Trisha*

    The key here is to name your company something general so that when you put it on your resume, it doesn’t raise flags. Otherwise, it’s pretty simple to handle – “I ran a small company where I provided individual, customized services. I negotiated contracts outlining both services (what I would provide) and rates and fees (how much). Basically for each client we determined what their needs were, the frequency of our interactions, and expected outcomes.”

    Should you get people who want to push as to the nature of the personal interactions, “Due to Privacy considerations of my customers, I cannot disclose the contents of those contracts. Many of the people I dealt with requested non-disclosure agreements due to the personal nature of my work. What I’d be happy to discuss is the customer service, negotiating and financial skills that I gained being a self-employed woman.”

    1. Avis*

      I do think that anyone who heard those answers would automatically go to sex work, FWIW. I’d think people are more likely to speculate and come to wild conclusions about the nature of the work if they get cryptic answers than with complete honesty.

      1. regularcommenteranonforthis*

        Yeah. If you get all cryptic, honestly, people will know what you’re talking about. Better to just confidently say something generic.

        One of my clients is a lawyer with his own practice. He pays me monthly through his business and gives me a 1099 at the end of the year. We both say to our financial professionals that I provide business consulting services.

      2. Sylvan*

        Yes. I don’t know that I would assume it was sex work (and if I did, I really wouldn’t care), but I would definitely be curious about that answer.

      3. Thursday Next*

        I’ve known people who’ve worked as personal concierges who’ve used this sort of language.

        1. Rocky*

          You don’t want your hiring manager to take away “I don’t know what her other work was but it sounded shady”. Just stick with ‘out of the workforce 2018/19’ or ‘caring for family member’.

  21. Avis*

    A couple of things spring to mind:

    – Keep freelancing in your current field one day a week to keep your contacts active
    – Speak to other sex workers to find out if they know people who’ve successfully gone back to a more standard day to day – they might know the companies who won’t hold this against you when reviewing your CV. I do a bit of public sector hiring and we are very strictly not allowed to hold people’s employment history or gaps in their resume against them while hiring. I would be delighted to interview someone who’d started such an interesting business!
    – Be financially prepared to do basic temp work for a while to start building your CV back up if you do ever become ready to quit.

    If you accept you might not be able to use much experience you’re gaining from this, I don’t see it as different to leaving your job to focus on any other non-traditional activity like writing a novel or painting full time. Hell, you could even just think of what you would do if you were quitting your job to care for a family member full-time.

    Best of luck with your new career!

  22. lisalee*

    I know a person who does something similar, and she frames her company as “entertainment services” and discusses it that way, in terms where you could believe she did like performances at parties and stuff like that. You could also call it something like “lifestyle services.”

    Is there some other kind of freelance work (technical writing, marketing, etc) you could do for a few hours a week on the side, just to keep up your resume? I know that often people in sex work or sex work-adjacent industries have a hard time finding legitimate companies to provide them things like website design and hosting. That might be an area to explore.

  23. Alli525*

    I think you could probably just refer to it euphemistically as “the service industry.” It would help if you had any previous retail or restaurant experience, but I think you can talk around it if you don’t. Or pick up a bartending job while you build your SW business!

  24. Tuxedo Cat*

    What are your career aspirations? You don’t have to answer here, but that might change what you do.

    For example, I know people who work in fields that probably wouldn’t have an issue with this. One friend works on the business side of things selling sex toys. Another is a sex educator for a very liberal organization. Other friends have worked for some pretty liberal non-profits. While they were not sex workers, they had previous jobs that might be looked down upon.

    I have friends who dance and use a stage name. Because their finances are a little insecure, they have a “side hustle” to keep up skills and keep making money. It’s stuff like web design, book keeping.

  25. Jadzia Dax*

    Since you’ll be doing advertising, bookkeeping, and such like that anyway, I might make a side gig where you do that stuff but maybe for other small businesses (I’ve been told self-employed tradespeople would appreciate that service) such that you have another income stream and also a more socially acceptable line of work to refer to.

    I freelanced copywriting at night while my kids were small and I spent the day raising them. I’m pretty confident not having that gap helped me.

    1. Technical_Kitty*

      Yes, I was going to suggest this. If OP doesn’t want a gap but doesn’t want to talk about the dominatrix work after they transition out of that industry it would be a good idea to have something else to put on a resume and talk about.

  26. Linzava*

    I’m not totally sure if this would work, just spit balling here, but what if you start a company that very generic, then create your personal business as an umbrella company under your general company. That way, you list generic company on your resume and personal company is the visible one. You might need a lawyer if you go this route.

    1. Sylvan*

      I’ve seen a couple of camgirls do the exact same thing, if that’s relevant to you, OP.

  27. Kelly Bennett*

    Can I just make a general comment that the answers to this are heartwarming. I clicked expecting the worst, and I was so pleased to see how supportive the commenters are!

    Thanks for creating a great community, Alison.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Given the kindness I generally see on this site, I did not expect the worst. I also suspect that Alison is probably monitoring the comments closely today.

      But, I absolutely agree with you and wanted to chime in along with your happiness at this AND want to thank Alison for being open to addressing this, recognizing that this kind of knowledge is needed!

  28. hamstergirl*

    Definitely agree with all of the commenters above that suggest keeping a part time job or volunteering of some sort during this period.

    But I’d also add that you consider, if and when you go back to a more mainstream job, to put more weight on applying to companies that would be less likely to balk at this endeavour. Lingerie/sex toy companies (they still need marketing, accountants, HR and all that jazz too), Planned Parenthood-esque organizations and similar not-for-profits, Adult magazines and online publications (in fact, depending on your skill level and interest, it might be worth pitching to some of those right now, an ongoing series about a woman starting her journey as a full time Dominatrix could make a great series and you could have a pen name to protect your identity), anything somewhat sex-adjacent would be a great new foray.

    1. OP*

      This is a great idea, thanks! And I love the writing idea, that sounds like a lot of fun.

  29. SoSo*

    I know someone (someone I went to high school with) who is a professional dominatrix part time, but also holds another part time job. She’s been open about it on Facebook, which is the only reason why I know, but she stays active with volunteering and working a few hours (maybe 5-10?) a week at her regular job. Maybe that would help to cover any gap you might have?

  30. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    I think I’m mostly serious with this suggestion. Could you term your business as a personal/life coaching business? I think I could use that term in this context and not feel like I was lying.

  31. SusieCruisie*

    I finally have someplace to use this experience!!! I was the GM of a small manufacturer and online retailer of adult entertainment, novelty and fetish lifestyle products. That’s exactly what my resume says. The rest of my work experience has been in industrial manufacturing, but I need to include this employer for experiential reference and to avoid a gap. It’s about 50/50 if anyone raises an eyebrow or asks any questions, and they are very brief. My answer is always, “Well, someone has to do it, and this is how I measured my success…” and move on to practical skills and experience that translates for the position I’m interviewing for. The other half of the time no one asks anything other than why I left.

    I did try just putting that it was a manufacturer and online retailer and that’s when I got questions about the company, and that was embarrassing for the interviewer (I’m fine with it). So my advice would be to put it on a resume in straightforward, professional terms, be prepared to speak to the practical skills and how they can be put to use for this employer, and move on.

    I will say that after I was hired, it has never come up again.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yup! Those companies all need employees to code, purchase, manufacture, do accounting and host of other jobs. And a lot of that work is very technical. It was the website coding of porn sites (streaming video, live chats) that advanced the Internet way before the likes of Amazon and YouTube.

      1. Rocky*

        SusieCruise I think that’s perfect for a job that is sex work-adjacent. In my experience, though, people perceive a big gulf between that and actual sex work (whether sex takes place or not, as in what OP is planning). People can just freeze when told “actually I am a sex worker”. It wouldn’t be a helpful dynamic in an interview! That’s why I disagree with the commenters suggesting coy euphemisms…you don’t want your interviewer intrigued by your past, you want them focused on what skills you would bring to the job at hand.

        1. Indie*

          What about party or event planner? You are providing a venue and managing an event at the bequest of clients. If people ask what types of events say spa/ corporate; or whatever best describes your clientele. If you don’t want to discuss the ‘parties’ themselves, just say your partner was the host (or your alter ego) and you did more of the book keeping and business side.

          You may even be able to segue your skills and set up into actual party planning before making the move out of sex work.

  32. Ruth*

    I did this!

    I listed my job under the LLC Name (very non-descript, boring name) and I was a Customer Service Manager, although Consultant or Therapist would work equally as well.

    I later got a job with the phone company.

    Skills are skills and weirdly transferable.

    1. TardyTardis*

      Yes, they are. I had a friend who transferred her skill in over the phone diagnosing why someone’s plant was dying to over the phone technical support for computers. (granted, her cubicle was the Hundred Acre Wood, because Plants Love Her, but everyone stopped by for their oxygen hit every afternoon).

  33. Sylvan*

    Do you know any current or former sex workers in your country? Getting to know them could answer a lot of questions for you and help you plan.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Absolutely and I’d guess there’s former sex workers who left the industry. They can offer tips to transition back to a more traditional job.

    2. Courageous cat*

      Yeah, I bet Reddit would be a good resource for this too, if you know where to search. I’m sure there’s a sex work subreddit where this question has been addressed.

  34. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Truth in advertising, I never have worked in this business. Also, I don’t know you, personally, so I don’t know what your skill set nor interests are outside of this letter. Bearing all that in mind, I’m jumping in with my possibly worthless two cents anyhow, take it for what you will…

    Part One: How you would go back to “mainstream work” I think is probably related to how you became interested in doing this also-mainstream-but-sadly-unacknowledged work.

    [Personal interjection here: I regard sex workers as personal assistants of a very specific type mixed with a huge amount of social worker skills. It is an easy field to get into in general (although specialization obviously requires a lot more work and specific connections), but people who do well simultaneously personally and professionally seem to be people who are both of those.]

    Part Two: Suggestions in no particular order from my brain — Is there some field other than this that you are especially interested in that you could be preparing for alongside your gaining experience in this work? Like, law, medicine, psychology, accounting, etc.? Licensing in the professions in the US, at least, does require “being of good moral character” (which is actually a pile of hor$e$hit, because I know for a fact many ethical breeches can be brushed aside), but, these are professional paths that necessarily end up with a certain level of independence and one can be a successful sole practitioner.

    Have your business registered as whatever your equivalent to a Corporation here is and make the incorporation description and name be somewhat anodyne and vaguely about Personal Services. [Great movie, btw, hope everyone on this thread has seen it.]

    For safety in the present, networking for the future and simply having people to talk to about your current professional development, don’t completely keep this a secret. There is a difference between “secret” and “discrete”. I have frequently heard that use of websites that allow membership and screening are vital to workers’ safety. Remember that even your clients are in need of discretion and they are unlikely to rat you out. Acknowledge there is a certain kind of power there that may give you some security.

    Physically work with (perhaps only within the same physical place) other people you trust. Obviously, life doesn’t always allow for the ideal situations, but, see how much you can stick to that.

    I’m sure that you have been doing a huge amount of research, but, if you haven’t come across this one, there used to be a section of rentboy dot com that was info for people looking to get into the field with lots of peer-to-peer interviews including about issues of blending the “civilian” life and safety. That website is no more after the insane raid (you can look for articles for a while back on that with the website’s name and nyc), but it has reappeared as rentmen dot eu and I’d assume there are similar worker resources.

    Best of luck and I really, really hate how hypocritical what feels like all societies are around this issue.

  35. MatKnifeNinja*

    I know people who work in adult entertainment. From talent/editing/small business owners who cater to tastes from A to Z.

    Almost all use a “stage name”. In the states, there are so many forms that want what you do for work (kid’s school’s emergency contact forms/doctor offices forms), that you really don’t want to put down Fetishes R Us as your place of employment. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. The small business owners all have some mundane registered business name.

    I know they use phrases like model, talent, entertainer, freelancer to describe what they do for a living if push came to shove.

    Depends what job you are looking for later. Retail, where anyone who can fog up a mirror is good to go? Your job shouldn’t be an issue. Elementary kindergarten teacher where working for Fetishes R Us might be problematic, especially if you are really out there using social media?

    What your employment interests are later will dictate how out you should with your adult entertainment job. Film editing 2018-2020 can be just a blurb on a resume. My adult film editing friend said it only gets dicey when he wants a main stream gig working in film. It’s harder to finesse.

    Never hurts to ask around what others do. You aren’t the first person to have this situation.

    1. Persimmons*

      Maybe getting off track, but in regards to your comment about needing a company name for random forms: I leave most forms annoyingly blank. The dentist does not need to know what I do for a living, what my religion is, or whether I’m married. No one has ever caused a fuss about it.

      I can see LW needing an innocuous company name for later employment purposes, certainly, but overly nosy service providers can MYOB.

  36. "Ex" Sex Worker*

    I have run my own business as a dominatrix/other sorts of sex worker for about ten years, and just recently moved back into civilian work (i keep up my old clients, but i have a corporate day job for the first time in my life).

    Let me just say: don’t do this.

    In the US right now is a TERRIBLE time to start a business as a sex worker — in the wake of FOSTA/SESTA, it’s incredibly difficult to find clients and maintain a client base, and there is way more danger of being arrested than there was even a year ago (even though you might or might not be skirting the legal definition of ‘prostitution’ that really isn’t a guaranteed protection from arrest). Since based on your question you HAVE a job that supports you, the stigma and risk that you take on by even dipping your toes into SW is plain old not worth it.

    Leave that money for folks who don’t have other options, frankly.

    That said! If there are other sex workers on this thread who have questions about transitioning out, or working while dayjobbing, hmu.

    1. Myrin*

      The OP isn’t in the US – she’s somewhere were “it’s legal […], albeit with restrictions”.

    2. -*

      Thank you, “Ex” Sex Worker. I commented below about keeping up your day job, or any job, so you’re not explaining a gap, but really, this is what I wanted to say. If you’re considering sex work because it seems like a fun idea – just don’t.

      But, since generally people are going to do what they’re going to do: don’t shut any doors in your current life. Keep a line to other work, because you will want out someday, for some reason, and you will be glad you did.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        If OP wants to be a dominatrix for fun, I’m sure there are plenty of options. Good point about leaving the work for people who don’t have other options.

    3. "Ex" Sex Worker*

      even w/ not being in the US — the impact of FOSTA/SESTA on one’s ability to advertise is pretty global, since most of the big names are US centric companies.

      1. OP*

        I was concerned about that, but when I looked into it all of the major sites here for pro domming are specific to my country, where things are actually looking up legally. It’ll definitely affect some professional websites and places like Twitter so I’ll need to do some research on the best platforms, but yeah.

    4. Moist*

      I agree. The best advice is not to do something so risky where you risk your reputation being tarnished forever. OP, what are your reasons for charging for sex as opposed to having recreational sex and having a regular job? It seems like a bad decision. Easy money, yes, but there’s high price to pay pay later on. Also, sex work is basically objectification of women for money. I’m not sure why some people think it’s feminist. It’s the oldest way to only recognize women for their sexuality. OP, it’s your life and your choices but unless you’re desperate, I don’t think the social and professional consequences are worth it.

      1. "Ex" Sex Worker*

        Well, this probably isn’t the place to have this discussion, so i’ll keep it brief:
        the trade of sex for money is neither feminist or unfeminist (nor is it easy money, which is kind of the point i was making) — it’s one survival strategy in a world where poverty is often lethal. Sex work is no more inherently objectifying than any other form of physical labor — do you berate construction workers for not furthering the cause of feminism?

        please keep your whorephobic remarks to yourself.

      2. OP*

        1) I wouldn’t be having sex. I’d be providing a service that’s strongly linked to sex, sure, but there would be no sexual contact. Kink isn’t primarily sexual, for me and for most kinky people I know.

        2) It’s not easy money. I’ve calculated that I’ll probably spend about two grand getting more involved in my local community, buying gear and attending workshops to improve my skills before I even book my first client. That’s not counting costs for website maintenance, specialist gear I have to buy, hiring a dungeon and/or hiring security.

        3) I want to do this because it’s who I am. I’m a lifestyle Domme. I could and would happily do this all day, every day. I like getting in people’s heads. I like how deeply I can connect with people. I like exploring different things that maybe aren’t my thing, but they’re still fun and I get to explore different mindsets and emotions. It’s just my thing. I already play recreationally. I don’t expect to make millions – hell, I make minimum wage and I’d be thrilled if I could just live off of this. I’d just love to get to do something I love and get paid for it.

        4) It wouldn’t be worth it for you, clearly. It’s worth it for me. Those things are both okay.

        5) My feminism is clearly different from yours. I’m not going to argue the politics of sex work here, but I don’t see how choosing a career where I use skills I’ve developed over years is objectifying or reducing me to my sexuality alone.

        1. Not a Mere Device*

          This feels like there might be a risk of finding that you stop enjoying recreational play if you start doing it professionally. That’s not because it’s sex work–it sometimes happens to people who turn their hobbies or recreational activities into a business or day job.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I got involved in swing dancing in the late 90’s and loved it so much! The music and dancing were what I had always wanted.
            Hypothetically, I thought of whether I would want to be a professional dancer. I don’t have the stamina but even if I did, being a professional would have ruined it for me. I would have had to dance the way I was told all day every day instead of the way I wanted, when I wanted. The pressure to conform to the director’s instructions would have caused too much stress. The aspirational/professional dance world is constant pressure and judgement – you’re never good enough – and that stress would have been debilitating.
            Of course I didn’t, and I still love music and dancing as a hobby.
            So for the OP, it depends on what she wants from going pro and what she would have to change. It sounds like she’s taking a thoughtful approach.
            Knowing nothing of that world, my question is: Would OP have to follow directions from her clients (or someone else?) even if she didn’t want to? If so, would that ruin it for her, or make it more interesting?
            Also I expect if she did it for a few months and decided to go back to amateur status, it shouldn’t be too hard to make that transition. She could use one of the many suggestions here to explain her resume gap. :)

  37. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    You need to come up with a mission statement for your business that can explain the overall purpose of your services without specific details.
    Emotional counselor
    Providing a safe atmosphere for clients who wish to explore self expression.
    Dream therapist
    Providing a safe and controlled environment for clients who wish to process dreams and subconscious feelings.
    Acting coach
    Providing an imaginative environment for actors to imagine, design and execute character roles

    1. Temperance*

      I think all of this screams either “woo” or “sex work”. She shouldn’t call herself a counselor or therapist unless she lives in a place where there are no relevant licenses for such, and it’s not honest to call herself an “Acting Coach”, etiehr.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Although if you have a woo title with proven gross earnings, the status of woo suddenly goes up in the recruiter’s estimation (it’s like indie publishing sounding pathetic till you mention you made $100k at it one year, and can prove it from a 1099).

    2. Rocky*

      I can’t see this working. In my experience (ex sex worker, now in straight job) it’s better to explain the gap with ‘travel’ or ‘caring for a family member’ than to raise questions about what kind of life coaching, what kind of character roles, etc.

  38. -*

    Don’t stop working in your other field. Take freelance jobs from time to time if you can; if it’s not that kind of field, plan to take a break from full-time sex work every couple of years and work at something else. Use the business skills you develop to run some other business on the side, or help other people with their non sex-work businesses. Do anything to keep having a resume.

    I was able to make that jump out because – and only because – I had been trying to get out for years, and over that time I managed to have a couple of year-long jobs related to the field I wanted to get into, that I could spin into relevant experience. I lied about what I was doing in between, and I fudged the numbers on the jobs where I had worked for friends who (a) knew what was up and (b) were willing to back up whatever I said about the time I worked there. You do what it takes to survive.

    If that sounds melodramatic, that’s because it is, but it’s really, really hard to move out of sex work. It sounds like maybe you already have a career in something else, in which case it’s a bit different because you’re explaining a gap and not trying to start a whole new life, but still, hold on to whatever will give you a way out when you need it.

    1. OP*

      Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind. Maybe I’ll keep working alongside doing sex work, or maybe I’ll make sure gaps aren’t too big, but I’ll find a way to keep other jobs and references going. Thank you again!

  39. TNJ*

    I think this is similar to the woman who worked in a brothel, the struggle she faced interviewing for other jobs and describing her work in the sex industry. A few people mentioned this up top but I think you can definitely describe the skills you develop couched in more vague language about the nature of the work. I really liked what someone said – “I ran a small company where I provided individual, customized services. I negotiated contracts outlining both services (what I would provide) and rates and fees (how much). Basically for each client we determined what their needs were, the frequency of our interactions, and expected outcomes.” To me this sounds professional, describes your skills that you can later expand on, etc. And they ask, I honestly think you could say “The industry I am in is one that is not always universally accepted due to the sensitive nature of the work but I would be happy to give some examples of ………….” Honestly, my brain did not jump to sex work when I read any of that. It could be that you work in a dispensary or a plastic surgery recovery spa or as a paparazzi – or any number of jobs/industries where discretion tends to be the norm.

    Someone mentioned using a more appropriate/broad title as opposed to “sex worker” or “dominatrix” and I agree. Sex therapist sounded good (although “therapist” indicates a level of schooling you may not/wouldn’t necessarily have) but would definitely highlight the industry you are in. But you could probably come up some type of “Personal Health Consultant” or otherwise broad title to describe the work.

    OP, I definitely think there are somethings you can do to minimize the impact should you rejoin the conventional working world. I’m intrigued and excited for you, I hope it turns out well for you!

  40. Dcer*

    June 2018 – present: Life coach, self-employed
    Worked with clients with special needs to identify and execute goals related to financial and personal goals.

    Can you talk about a client?
    “To be clear because of the nature of the kind of work I did and the people I worked with, I am bound by confidentiality agreements that prohibit me from disclosing any personal details. I am sure you understand. However, I can talk in broad terms. For example, I had one client who was fixated with a series of bad-habits that he wanted to break. We worked together to come up with a detailed plan that required daily check-ins. The client was able to set a timeline to make progress….”

  41. KitKat100000*

    Call yourself a relationship consultant, a relationship counselor, a marriage counselor, a marriage consultant, or anything of the sort! When asked about the job in an interview, explain that you met with individuals and sometimes couples, to discuss issues in their relationships and find solutions.

    1. Thursday Next*

      But some of those jobs require licensing–it would raise red flags if OP called herself a counselor, and that couldn’t be verified.

      1. KitKat100000*

        It depends on where you are in the country and the world – the OP can use whatever wording she sees as appropriate, but the key in my suggestion is to list the self-employment and explain aspects of the job that are not related to the sex part (i.e. provided advice, direction and consultation with regard to life planning, career goals, and relationship management)

  42. one_of_us*

    There are several of us who name it like “coaching” or whatever. And there’s the possibility of going part time and have another part time job as I did to avoid that problem.

  43. Yourethicsconfuseme*

    I always always kept a “real” job, even just on weekends, when I was an exotic dancer, so that you leave no employment gap and so that you have a job to talk about. The best ones are the not “professional” jobs but still actual jobs with employers etc. for example, I would bar tend or serve or cocktail. Those are jobs where it would explain not being full time, only working shifts when you needed to, you can tell them you made whatever amount (I would say I made enough to support myself by working 2-3 days a week, because it’s believable, although I made much much more). It’s also one where a) you can get close enough with employers that they’ll keep your cover if they know or b) people aren’t going to do much checking up on the amount of money you made or goes you worked because it’s well known most of those types of employers don’t track that. The biggest thing is if you get a job at one of these places, don’t tell anyone where it is if they’re the type that will try to come “visit” or snoop, in case you’re not there. But it’s always worked for me. For periods I didn’t do that, I had to make up self employment that I could reasonably pass as something that doesn’t require special skills or references: babysitting or nannying for family, dog walking for friends, house cleaning, etc.

  44. Michaela Westen*

    I’m the last person who should be in the sex trade, but I remember a discussion maybe two months ago where it was suggested that a job in a brothel should be referred to as the entertainment industry. Or customer service, for sure!
    I’m in awe of anyone who has the people skills and customer service skills to be successful in the sex trade. I think those skills are very valuable and they should be on your resume somehow!

  45. 'callaKid*

    Several people have mention personal trainer, which works, but I thought of the ‘sober buddy’ service that Dr. Watson provided to Holmes in the current TV incarnation of Sherlock Holmes called “Elementary.” It includes a certain level of confidentiality that would help address the vagueness of your answers to interviewers, I think.

  46. SusieCruisie*

    I don’t understand why we are attaching so much shame to working in the sex industry? I truly believe trying to hide this type of work is going to backfire. As long as there is nothing illegal about your employment, there is nothing to be ashamed of. This is an empowerment issue. Be polite and professional, but why should you lie about what you do that pays your bills? If you say “Model” or “Entertainment Industry” or “Relationship Counselor,” how are you going to handle direct questions? What’s wrong with the title of “Independent Personal Service Provider for Adults?” That’s pretty clear to me about the nature of the business without being graphic or unprofessional.

    I just don’t like the shaming and hiding that’s being suggested. It’s a valid career choice and if you choose to move into more “mainstream” work, I don’t see why you should have to hide your past job choice.

    1. Socks*

      Yeah that is absolutely true in a moral sense but in a practical sense, admitting to having worked in sex work can actually ruin your life. I mean, I can think of multiple cases of teachers being fired because someone else outed them as having previously done porn, in at least one case over a DECADE prior. People get disowned for even being involved with BDSM, and absolutely get fired for it, and not just people who work with kids (although, like, especially people who work with kids). Absolutely under no circumstances should you proudly admit to doing sex work unless you know, for a fact, that it would be chill. Like because you’re applying to work at a sex toy shop, or something. The risk is just absolutely insane and I would never suggest that someone personally take it on just for the sake of a moral victory.

    2. Yorick*

      Because if people judge you for your past work (and many will), you won’t be able to get a new job

    3. Moist*

      Because many people have moral problems with sex work and the most demeaning words for women are words that refer to sex workers. There are many different reasons for finding voluntary sex work problematic among many different groups of people. There are the religious people who think it’s a sin, there are the misogynistic men who think that such women are sex toys and not real humans, there are the feminists who think that sex work is objectifying women, there are normal people who think it’s immoral to knowingly sleep with married men and help them cheat on their wives discreetly because, let’s be honest, at least half of the clients are married or in relationships. Also, it’s a job that doesn’t require any skills and it’s easy money, using your sexuality to get ahead, which is something that women in today’s working world are trying to not be perceived as doing. So it’s not outrageous that it’s perceived as shameful.

      1. Socks*

        Um. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize any sex work as requiring “no skills” or as necessarily being “easy money”, that just seems unnecessarily disrespectful and certainly isn’t true. It’s probably possible to do some sex work with no prior skills, but I don’t think you could ever build a career that way, and I would still absolutely hesitate to call those easier than any other job working with people. In any case, pro-dommes don’t even fit that description, since they actually need a ton of pretty technical skills to provide certain (common!) services safely.

        1. Baby Fishmouth*

          +1 – There was a lot of judgement in Moist’s statement, and it actually seems like a job that requires a LOT of people skills, not to mention the marketing and business skills that would be required to start her own business.

        2. OP*

          Thank you! I’m sure there’s a lot of skill in other types of sex work (at the very least, business and people skills) but since I can only really speak to the technical skills involved in topping/dominating safely I’ll just add here that I’ve probably spent a lot more time practicing my skills and researching over the years than I have actually using them. It’s incredibly easy to injure someone if you don’t know what you’re doing – even if you do know what you’re doing, there’s the possibility of accidents or damage that builds up unseen over time (nerve damage, for one). I spent a slightly ridiculous amount of time hitting post-it notes and reading up on different ways to condition rope, and I’m not even a professional (yet)! (You probably already know this, so this is more for other peoples’ benefit than yours. Thanks for your support!)

          1. Socks*

            Yeah! I’m probably being overzealous in my defenses here, but like, man, I hate it when people undervalue how difficult people’s jobs are, I mean you should see me when people talk about “unskilled labor”, oh boy. Good luck with your job transition(s)!

      2. SusieCruisie*

        I am now getting off topic, and for that I apologize, but this needs to be addressed:

        To the points you make, there are religious people who think it’s a sin for a married woman to show her own hair in public, have an intimate relationship with someone of the same gender, or to be intimate with someone to whom they are not married. That’s why in the US we have laws against religious, sexual orientation, and marital status discrimination -because society has deemed it wrong to discriminate on those bases. The misogynistic men who think women are sex toys and not real humans in Hollywood are beuing rounded up and that movement is spreading into more industries because again, society has deemed that attitude wrong. Feminists who think that sex work is objectifying women, there are an equal number of feminists who feel it is empowering for any woman to make her own way in the world and while it is a shame many women are dragged into sex work, support their sisters who choose to run their own small business. “Normal people,” (who are they, by the way?) who think its immoral to knowing sleep with married men and help them cheat on their wives – most dominatrix in BDSM situations DO NOT have sex with their clients – their clients are the ones with the fetish and the dominatrix is helping them fulfill their fantasies. And how does acting as a dominatrix make the “cheating” allegation worse than someone who cheats on their spouse and builds and actual emotional relationship with someone outside their marriage, which happens all the time with co-workers: the dominatrix knows better than to enter any personal relationship with a co-worker so there is less risk of a harassment complaint by hiring her. And I won’t even start on the statement that it’s a job that doesn’t require any skills and is easy money, because that’s just uninformed.

        But it’s legal where OP lives, and the more we perpetuate the shame, the more the shame permeates society. Until we can respect that women (in particular) have the right to do what they choose with their bodies, this continues, and continues to objectify women in society. If we claim our rights, stand proud in the face of misogynistic judgement, that is when we remove the shame. That being said, if it were illegal I would not include it because criminal past is something for which some employers screen (where legal).

        I work in HR, I hire people. I work hard to represent diversity and inclusion. I am proud to have worked with and found positions for ex-cons who did their sentences. Sometimes I had to work with parole officers to get facts straight and make sure employment was appropriate, but I have done it. I haven’t known of a candidate with a sex-work background, but would do the same for a well qualified person. As I said, I worked on the very edge of the adult entertainment industry and have it on my resume and have not suffered any backlash from it, largely (I think) because I don’t make a big deal out of it, I’m not embarrassed by it, and I can identify what I learned from that position that will benefit future employers.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This has come up before here, not sex work per se but “Do you want to be RIGHT about something or do you want to be able to pay rent?” There’s an ivory tower quality to telling people to live like the world they envision is the world they inhabit. Like when Netflix briefly tried to envision a world where all movies are available streaming and all people have that kind of home internet reliability and bandwidth, and then their customers let them know that the actual world inhabited by those customers didn’t work that way.

          1. SusieCruisie*

            That’s an excuse to keep the status quo, and it’s a cop out. We can make progress so we don’t remain in the dark ages, where it’s okay to apply someone’s subjective morality to an objective employment relationship. I think it’s the responsibility of HR in their ethical management practice to ensure the employer doesn’t use excuses like “sin” in their hiring practices. Netflix dream was to maximize their profits: my dream is to level the playing field for all genders. I’ll continue to live in my dream and push others as well.

            1. Socks*

              It is not the responsibility of marginalized individuals to necessarily sacrifice themselves for the cause, sex workers are not responsible for the stigma against them by being insufficiently forthcoming on the subject, and there can be better ways of combating that stigma than one person privately tanking their career. (It feels a bit dramatic to call pro-dommes a marginalized group, but the point in general stands). We CAN make progress, but sex workers not disclosing their job to future employers is not the primary impediment to that progress, and it is not a cop-out to recommend that people not personally take on that risk unless they really, really want to handle the potential fallout.

              You’re correct in that, as a person in HR, you have the sway to hire former sex workers, and so you should do so. But that’s not the same thing as sex workers having an obligation to disclose that to future employers in the name of combating sex negativity.

              1. SusieCruisie*

                I’m not saying OP should reveal more than they are comfortable with, I’m just saying if they are comfortable revealing they shouldn’t be shamed into hiding. There are ways to professionally and responsibly disclose whatever they are comfortable with and should not be shamed into hiding because of the preconceptions of others. It’s not unlike outing someone – society has no right to out or shame someone, and they should feel able to reveal whatever part of their personal life makes them comfortable without judgement. The negativity should be the problem of the judger, not the judgee.

                That being said, yes, it is important for some people to be trailblazers, to lead the charge to inclusivity for those that come after. If that’s OP, great. If not, also great. But recognize that some people have to take the chance to make the change.

                I respect your opinion and understand your position. I get that we all live in the real world and you have to look out for your own interests before everything else. Please respect my opinion that sometimes it’s worth taking the chance and hoping the people to whom you reveal yourself will be respectful and nonjudgmental.

        2. Moist*

          I don’t think it’s a fair comparison when you say that some religions find other things sinful. In reality, the stigma against prostitution is very strong and pervasive in most societies and religions.

          As a feminist, I don’t support prostitution because I think it’s demeaning towards women. Yes, there are non female prostitutes and non male clients but for the most part it’s men paying for sex with women. I support the Swedish model where the sex worker is protected but paying for sex is illegal. I wish that instead of trying to frame prostitution as empowering women, society would more actively shame men for treating a woman’s body as a commodity.

          1. Socks*

            Regardless of your opinion of prostitution in particular (although I’m sure you can tell we disagree), many, many forms of sex work do not involve men exchanging money with women to have sex with them. I don’t just mean because male sex workers exist, I mean that the umbrella term encompasses jobs that don’t even involve two people having sex at all. The job OP is describing is one of them, and since it sounds like you are invested in the subject of feminism and sex work, you might want to look into how professional dominant women generally operate, because it does not follow the typical models of sex work that most theories operate under. Some have sex with clients, many do not. Clients are generally not paying for access to a female body (which may or may not even be a part of the exchange), but, rather, for a really specialized experience that can be difficult to find without paying because there just aren’t a huge number of people interested in BDSM at all (let alone people who are interested in doing the same things you are, with you in particular). I’m not saying that to prove it’s somehow “better” than sex work that does actually involve the two parties having sex, I just think that there’s a lot of very common misconceptions about what the job actually even looks like. It doesn’t really get a lot of impartial media rep.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I’ve seen posts by women who chose to work as prostitutes and enjoy it.
            One of those posts was from a woman who began working as an escort in college. She was happy and open about it until most of the people she knew began judging and shunning her.
            She posted 10 years later that even though she loved the work and didn’t have another way to make a good living, she was thinking of quitting because of the stigma and judgment. It’s the stigma that needs to change, not the job.
            I’ve always thought one of the reasons it’s socially unacceptable is because men who are married or in relationships patronize prostitutes. Of course wives and girlfriends don’t like that! Totally understandable. Though I don’t know what can be done about that.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        It doesn’t seem like easy money to me. I only know mostly from reading about it, but it doesn’t take a genius to see it is the most emotionally and physically demanding field in the world.
        I’ve also read that some women enjoy it and are good at it (I’ve seen posts from them). They have talent for it and use it to do well in their work.

    4. Patent Cannons*

      You lie to pay your bills because if you don’t lie, the bills don’t get paid.

      OP lives in reality, not your personal ideal world of the future. Over here in reality, sex work of any type is heavily stigmatized, men make most hiring decisions and will not be taking you seriously as a professional the moment “sex” or a related word comes out of your mouth describing your job duties, and no one is going to pay attention to your professional ability to manage clients and schedule compared to what, specifically, you are scheduling as a sex worker.

      If you want to walk into a job interview loudly, proudly proclaiming you are coming out of the sex work business, no one’s stopping you. Tell us how that goes. Prove us wrong, and we’ll all be happy to hear it.

      I expect it’ll go a lot more like if you walked into a job proclaiming to be proudly gay in the 1980s, though – mostly, immediate rejection, but sometimes an angry mob to run you out of town or an assault in a dark alley afterwards. It wasn’t right, but it also didn’t go away because gay individuals openly stood alone against a torrent of hate. It went away (somewhat – still can get thrown out of a cake shop for buying a wedding cake, legally) through organized social efforts, standing together and pooling strength instead of fighting a million individual skirmishes, successful court cases, friends who slipped into high places without revealing their orientation initially, and years of suffering by many people who didn’t deserve it.

  47. spek*

    As a friend of a successful dominatrix who took her own life last year, I can tell you; it can be an emotionally draining choice of work. Make sure you have a good support network and the means to take time off and get away, if you need to. Good luck!

    1. Thlayli*

      I’m sorry about your friend spek.

      OP I’m also worried you might have a bit of a rose tinted glasses view of sex work. I’ve read that sex workers have higher suicide rates than dentists, and that most of them are assaulted at least once in their careers.

      Make sure you are aware of the risks before you take up the role.

      1. Socks*

        I didn’t see anything in the letter indicating that OP hasn’t done her own research or has done so insufficiently, and that’s not something she asked for advice about. Also she mentioned the risks, like… several times. Sex work is a really broad term that includes a wide range of activities with really widely varying levels of danger, anyway; the risks for a cam-girl wearing a mask are not the same as the risks for someone who is homeless and whose clients are complete strangers, but both technically fall under the heading of “sex work” and might be lumped together in studies accordingly, and neither one could be directly compared to a pro-domme (which also encompasses a bunch of different potential services that one may or may not perform). Let’s assume OP knows her own situation and can perform her own cost/benefit analysis without us telling her to?

    2. OP*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.
      I know I’m definitely prone to overworking as it is, so I’ll need to be careful. I’m lucky in that I do have a good support network already, and savings so I could take a break it I need to. Thank you for the reminder to take care of myself and maintain that support network, too.

  48. Milksnake*

    I took roughly a year off from traditional jobs to do sex-work and when I began to interview again I would address it in my by saying I was doing confidential freelance work over X amount of time, and am currently looking to get back into a career with more stability.

    It wasn’t completely untrue, and I was lucky enough that my field of study supported that. (It’s not uncommon to be hired on to project that can’t be discussed once you leave the premesis.)

    Also, best of luck to you! It’s definitely a field of work that gives you a better perspective on life in my experience.

    1. Milksnake*

      That was supposed to be “…In my coverletter* by saying…”
      P.S. Thank you AAM for giving this question validity and a space to discuss it, that means a lot

  49. YB*

    I’ve known numerous pro dommes. One of my best friends is a former pro domme who worked in a fairly conservative industry, left to become a pro domme, and then returned to the traditional workforce in a very conservative industry. They usually seem to:
    1. have other jobs;
    2. be students;
    3. pretend to have other jobs (there’s no reason you can’t start a legitimate business in, say, “consulting”, and just not take in any clients at that job);

    Being a pro domme really takes a lot of “soft skills”—reading people, negotiating scenes, providing a very intimate service. The things you’ll learn and skills you’ll develop will actually be a huge asset in future vanilla jobs, and you can absolutely impress employers with those skills. I would caution about overtly lying or being too cute about it in an interview—lying in an interview is cause for termination in most jurisdictions if you’re ever found out somehow, and it can be really hard to keep up an elaborate lie about your past in many work environments. (Where I work, everyone is very friendly and interested in details about their colleague’s past—if I falsely presented myself having been an actor, for example, they would want to know what I’d been in.) So when future interviewers ask what you’ve been doing and the answer is “sex work”, it’s better to have something else to say you were doing, rather than to lie. Similarly, I would avoid skirting too close to the “talk in great detail about having been a service provider for clients, but don’t actually say what you did or for what clients” line. I understand why some are suggesting that, but it’s just a whole can of worms—eventually, it will lead someone to ask you a question there’s no non-sex-work answer to.

    Best of luck with your new job!

    1. Rocky*

      +1 (former sex worker now in a straight job). Thoroughly agree that getting too coy with euphemisms is likely to give off a shifty vibe in interviews.

  50. Anon for the moment*

    I’ve posted this link on the Bunny Ranch Message Board. We should get some professional assistance.

  51. queen b*

    I don’t normally advocate for this, but I think a little bit of a white lie could go a long way. I’ve met a couple of pro-dommes and they teach a lot of classes on the subject. You could say that you taught community ed classes in a certain subject, or like other readers suggested were a consultant for private services. There’s a lot of startups that have code names because they are secret (think Elon Musk type) so you could just say you are under a confidentiality agreement – which a lot of dommes make you sign anyways! Although this is a great forum, I bet people on FetLife would have more tailored suggestions. Best of luck, OP!

    1. Thlayli*

      I don’t think claiming to have done a job that requires totally different skills is a “white lie”. It’s a flat-out lie to say you have experience teaching when you don’t. Teaching is a skill in and of itself and just because you can do something doesn’t mean you can teach it!

    2. Undine*

      Startups don’t stay in stealth mode forever, so I wouldn’t go that route. You don’t want a lie you have to change further down the line.

  52. Not Another Unnamed Commenter*

    What if you explained to future employers that you saved up enough money in your previous years working professionally that you were able to leave and take some time to pursue personal interests and activities? I feel like lots of people these days are doing something along this line, where they work hard for a few years and save up enough money where they can then take off a year or two or even three from professional work entirely. Granted most of the stories you hear about are the dramatic ones about those individuals then traveling the world full-time. But other times people just want to be able to spend more time with family, or pursue that one personal dream project/idea they never could while being employed full-time. That at least explains why you initially left the professional working world. If you actually end up out of the mainstream workforce for years then you should definitely fit in some traveling/volunteering/freelancing/part-time work and explain how that combined with your other, small, unspecified personal project filled your days. I wouldn’t find it suspicious at all if an individual planned to take year-long type of sabbatical from normal working life, and then ended up finding it worked out so well for them that they kept doing that for several years instead of resuming their former work life as they initially planned. You wouldn’t be lying, you just wouldn’t be specifying what kind of personal project it was, and your financial situation is none of their business so you wouldn’t have to explain how you earned your living. For all employers know you could have been perfecting your basket weaving technique while studying with the Tibetan monks in the Himalayas.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      I did see an application from someone who decided to do that and who included on their blog that the corporate world wasn’t for them. So they were quickly dropped from consideration as we are a pretty run of the mill office environment. We didn’t have an overwhelming pool of candidates either.

      1. Not Another Unnamed Commenter*

        Run of the mill offices sure aren’t for a lot of people, especially now that there are significantly more types of workplaces that are more flexible and non-traditional in their consideration of potential employee’s backgrounds. OP needs to know the type of workplace she’d do best in and apply for those kinds of jobs, if she ever decides to return to an office environment. She’s also shown she understands discretion, so I feel confident saying she probably won’t post on a blog how much she prefers a Dungeon over a cubicle.

  53. SophieK*

    I recently toured the Oasis Brothel Museum in Wallace, Idaho, and the Madam registered the business as a hotel so she could be as legal as possible and provide the girls with health insurance. Maybe you could structure it that way somehow?

    1. OP*

      That’s interesting, thanks! I’ll need to speak to a lawyer about what my options are and if something similar might be possible.

  54. Turanga Leela*

    I echo the people advising not to hide this, and instead look for regions or industries where a background in sex work wouldn’t be an issue. I work in criminal defense, and my coworkers would be happy to have an ex-dominatrix colleague.

    1. OP*

      I find it fascinating that you’d be able to work in criminal defence as an ex-dominatrix, that’s not at all my perception of the field! Thanks, maybe my perceptions of other fields are inaccurate as well, I’ll look into different fields more!

  55. Em too*

    I work for a large company with a very structured recruitment approach. The type of work shouldn’t have any bearing on the application or interview score, you just need to show you’ve used relevant skills. (Obviously that doesn’t guarantee anything but anyone with a bias would have to work hard to block you). So, depends what job you’re looking for.

  56. JustMyTwoCents*

    This may be a less than truthful approach, but I’d be inclined to explain the sex work time period as a time you were able to take a break from employment. “My personal situation was such that I was able to take a much needed break from the corporate world. I was able to do some things I’ve wanted to do, such as (travel/visit family/write a book), but I’m not ready to get back into the corporate world” Something along those lines. It would of course be helpful if you’d had some freelance or consulting work, or taken some classes, that can demonstrate you’ve kept your skills sharp. Honestly, I don’t know of any way you can represent the time that doesn’t run the risk of judgment or people assuming you’re hiding something, so unless you feel you can be 100% or even 80% honest, I’d treat the time as time you were not employed. I mean, it’s not really the truth, but the truth, but if you can’t present the work as something beneficial to your next job, then why bother?

  57. GoingAnon*

    Hello LW,

    I don’t have much advice, but am glad to see that you are going into this prepared for pretty negative possibilities (as far as putting yourself at risk).

    I was a sex worker for about 8 months, during a break from college, so I was able to say I was a student during the time. The money was absolutely wonderful, and the best part of the job. I was an escort for several months, working for an agency (it paid amazingly well!), had only one bad experience with a client, and then I moved on to online webcam porn, which was nice because it was easy, and I didn’t have to have any physical contact with anyone else for that. I will admit though, that one bad experience (as an escort) was kind of hard to deal with, until I got into therapy later on. This all happened about 16 years ago, when I was 19 years old, and totally fearless.

    Best of luck out there. Please be careful.

    1. OP*

      Hi! I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience, and thank you for reaching out. I’m glad you’re doing better now. It’s definitely a risk and there’s only so much you can do to prevent negative experiences, but I’ll keep therapy in mind if something like that happens to me. Thank you again!

      1. Michaela Westen*

        It can take a while to find a good therapist. Maybe get a few referrals from friends just in case, and check their reviews online.

  58. cheeky*

    Honestly, if I were you, I would do the dominatrix work as a part-time side project, to avoid this situation entirely.

  59. OP*

    Hi everyone! OP here. Thanks for all your comments and advice! I have a better understanding of my options now, and while I’m not totally sure what approach I’ll take, it’s given me a lot to think about.

    I had actually been considering calling myself a “life coach” or something along those lines, but I think many commenters are right in that it could raise more questions than it answers. I really like the suggestions about freelancing or trying to transition into something somewhat related, and I do have my day job as a backup, so I’ll aim to do at least one of those things part or full time.

    Thanks also for the safety advice and the supportive attitude, and thanks to Alison for giving this a platform here.

    1. regularcommenteranonforthis*

      I figure, if you’re asking this here and planning ahead like this, you’re going to do great one way or another. Go you. Have a good time. :)

  60. very much anon for this*

    I have a friend who moved from pro domming into work as a real estate agent (home sales). It seemed to be actually good transition for her. There are a bunch of transferable skills from sex work – real estate agents often need to be able to intuit people’s unstated desires, or figure out exactly what they do or don’t like about a house when they can’t really articulate it. They need to get clients to be realistic, and figure out how to get from the fantasy version to one that’s available and affordable. Realtors work directly with clients, so they have to develop a rapport, and build their client base with word of mouth and referrals.

    My friend (and yes, it really was a friend) was able to study for the test by day, and start her business off with clients and friends from the kink community. The by-appointment nature of the real estate agent hours would probably make for a relatively easy transition or overlap. And being mostly self-employed avoided the interview questions and resume gap concerns.

  61. Triple Anon*

    Like a lot of people have suggested, I would do something on the side. And also do some networking within the sex-positive community (not just sex workers but people who are non-judgmental about it in general). I guess there would be some risk with that, but you might meet people who are in fields related to your other career and could recommend places to apply when you want a full-time non-sex-work job again.

  62. Roxanne xx*

    I *always* kept my day job because of the exact reason that I didn’t want to ruin a future career. After 5 years working essentially two full time jobs, and being two completely different people (my day job self is very meek and conservative) I burnt out entirely, and nearly got myself kicked out of bachelor degree for slipping grades. I’m just a day job person now. It was the easiest choice.

    1. Roxanne xx*

      P.S. it was difficult keeping 50% of my life secret from day job colleagues and family though, and made it difficult to advertise myself. I won’t say it was the best choice, pros and cons in anything I guess.

  63. Heuristic Chick*

    I would go with “freelance personal assistant” and/or “odd jobs.” There’s quite a cottage industry of folks who are willing to field all sorts of requests where I am (running errands, dry cleaning, planning parties). It’s just that in this case, the assistanceship is VERY “personal.”

  64. Anonama doo doo doo doo do*

    I used to be a receptionist for a “Dungeon “ for about 2 years. They had a cover business as a photo studio with a proper registered name. I was working freelance in theatre at the time and I needed flexibility. So my resume really listed my productions and art shows, and under “other experience “ I’d list that I was a receptionist manager for “Severin Photo Studios”, but no one ever asked. The ladies who performed the direct work would list it as performance art. I do recommend you have another side hustle that is legit, maybe an Etsy shop or something. I can tell you that NO ONE has ever uncovered that part of my life in the professional world. Pro tip: NEVER be alone completely with a client. Always have a receptionist or manager or security in the same compound as you. Not the same room (unless that is their scene…)

  65. Safetykats*

    Maybe try taking classes while out of the mainstream workforce? This works well for people who take time off to care for children too – getting an advanced degree before coming back tends to make potential employers focus less on the gap and more on the accomplishment.

  66. Brooke*

    Never bring this up in future interviews. I have done sex work–not because I wanted to, but at the time it was my only choice if I wanted to be able to pay my rent and bills–and successfully transitioned back to a senior-level corporate position afterwards. Make sure to do something else alongside your domme career–freelance writing, proofreading, volunteering, whatever. Get an account on Upwork and make sure to do some work at least now and then so that you can claim you were a freelancer 20xx-2011 and don’t have to leave a hole on your resume.

    I wish I could talk to you more privately about this, but hope you will my commend and think about it. Best of luck!

  67. Almost*

    I’d like to recommend the blog

    It’s a journal by and for sex workers where they talk shop and stuff. Their about page says they have writers from all over, but most of the posts on the front page were pretty clearly written by people in the US. Still, you might find it interesting or might find tips that apply to your situation or people to connect with there.

    Good luck!

  68. That bitch*

    Entering the industry means your part of it forever. The stigma on sex workers no matter the branch or location is negative. If you intend to come in and play a little and leave with your rep intact you are sadly mistaken. I personally live with everyone knowing I am a sex worker. If you don’t wear it as a badge of honor don’t wear it at all. This industry is far from a game. And the world will let you know that. I your thinking about employment after that’s fine. Practice this with me… Would you like fries with that. Cause no “respectable” place will hire you. Or they will till they find out u were a sex worker then co-workers will harrass you or of course worse. You will be fired. Don’t join the industry unless you have a pussy of steal. It’s a rough world.

  69. Flo*

    Maybe something like… I decided to go into business for myself, which was great at the time, but now I’m ready to be back in a more traditional work environment? You can talk about the skills you used without being super specific?

  70. Zennish*

    Just tell everyone you were a Life Coach, and your work involved helping clients work through personal obstacles, so you had confidentiality agreements. It’s functionally true.

  71. Patent Cannons*

    Keep a part-time job that you can actually talk about, and never mention the sex work professionally. It’s never going to be something you can meaningfully discuss in a job interview. It will be stigmatized heavily.

    Make sure you’ve done your research on this. Your expectations about just jumping out of that “field” seem unrealistic, so I don’t know how much you are familiar with the line of work overall. People struggle mightily to get out of it for a variety of reasons.

    When you want to transition back out, you lie about your work history and hope you don’t get caught at it. Or you use some personal and network connections to land a job without much traditional scrutiny paid to more anonymous job interviewees. There are jobs that don’t screen too closely for past work – but they probably won’t be the higher-paying jobs.

  72. SubwayFan*

    I am reminded a bit of a Law & Order episode with Felicity Huffman who was a high end call girl with her partner, and they called their business Topaz Enterprises, and rented a shop downtown and pretended it was an interior decoration firm. I don’t think you need to be that dramatic (because you’re not going to be on a Law & Order episode of course), but if you named your business something innocuous like Topaz Enterprises, you can use some of the other suggestions above and talk about running a business–brought in clients, did taxes, managed a budget, hired/negotiated with vendors, etc. You could say it was something that can be vague like “consulting services” or I like the “life coach” options in earlier suggestions.

  73. seethingsdifferently*

    I think you have to leave this off completely. Anything you try to spin it as is going to raise more questions than it answers. A lifestyle coach that cannot give a single example of the work they did or even one client as a reference? A ‘counselor’ with no credentials or professional training? That raises more questions than it answers.

    I like the advice to keep a volunteer gig going and say that you were fortunate enough to be able to stay home for a while and this is what you did to keep your skills sharp.

  74. Charlotte*

    Hi, this is such a good question! I worked as an escort on and off for 6 years. In the beginning it was easy as i only did it weekends and still continued with my ‘civilian’ job in the week. Inevitably i transitioned into a full time sex worker, working pretty much 5 nights a week for over 2 years. As you seem to have already guessed, transitioning back into the real world is tough financially, socially, makes dating difficult and of course you have to lie on your CV. For me, i have always worked in social care and child care so in order to cover those two sex work years i told future employers i had worked as a self employed nanny and got one of my sex worker friends to be a reference. Yes it was lying but i had worked as a real nanny a few years previous so it was more bending the truth?! Depending on your skill set and what job you are applying for post sex work could you tell them you had your own business? (This wouldnt be a lie) you could say you had been travelling overseas? Looking after a sick family member or a child? Volunteering? Looking back, ideally I should have always kept one foot in the “real” world, either by volunteering a few days a week or by working one or two shifts a week. Then i would have had something on my CV, a legitimate reference and the transition after sex work would not have been as tough. Good luck!

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