[I include the following (excerpted from another thread, here) to provide additional backstory.]
A reader writes:
‘…(I slept with men initially in part because I had to — this event was actually “transactional”)…’
This detail adds a whole new layer of context. It feels like getting the missing puzzle piece, except I didn’t even know it was incomplete…you certainly gave enough hints[:]
‘Men were already a part of my survival strategy…I’m very poor and I feel the envy. There are banknotes and some change in a dish, but I leave them.’
I am using a broad definition of ‘transactional’ — prostitution — I never worked directly for a price, so I cannot lay claim to the kind of experience that Janet Mock and many other women had in their teens. Nevertheless this was a transaction, my first: I was not there because I wanted a connection with him, I was there to pay for what I had received, and hopefully, to receive more.
He had fed me a couple times when I hadn’t eaten. I needed that shower and a warm place to sleep. I needed to feel that I had value. He treated me kindly when I desperately needed kindness.
I saw him few more times. He fed and sheltered me, bought me clothes, soon tired of me. This was a pattern.
During my teens and early 20s my relations with both men and women were typically of this nature. In sex work it’s called ‘sugaring’ — they were ‘sugar daddies’ and ‘mommas’, and I was what’s called a ‘sugar baby’ in the business. They were older than I, usually much older, and there were many. I set conditions around access to my body; they set conditions around my access to compensation. I accepted the terms. They chose the termination date.
I am only now beginning to be able to place this chapter of my life in a more compassionate context. Today, I actually feel rather proud of this girl, who figured out a way to survive an impossible situation. For decades I tried to not think about it at all.