She was 27 the day she accepted her first job in the realm of personal services, but they told her she could and should pass for younger.
So, that week, she was 22 to anyone who asked. It was the ideal age, you see: old enough to drink, likely a university graduate (indicating some measure of intelligence and conversational ability), but still young, supple, and desirable. Marketable to a wide range of tastes.
In other words? Profitable.
Selling yourself was legal here, to reduce it to simple terms, although she didn’t realize that’s what she’d be doing the first day she walked in. She didn’t know she’d become a product named Annika*, the name she gave to her new work persona.
This pseudonym didn’t only protect her on paper — it safeguarded her sense of self. She could detach, dissociate, disappear. Annika would do all the work while she watched from a safe distance, praying each time she’d come out with her dignity intact.
This was only temporary, she told herself. This didn’t define her, didn’t negate all she’d accomplished and hoped to accomplish thereafter.
On a cool September evening in Melbourne, Australia, not-yet-Annika pushed the call button next to an unmarked metal door. A female voice crackled through the speaker: “Hello.”
“Hi, I’m here for the interview? From the Craigslist ad?”
The buzzer rang. She pushed the door open to a long narrow hallway lit with strips of multicolor LED lights; floor-to-ceiling mirrors lined the right wall, closed doors lined the left. “Come down to the end,” called the voice.
Later, when asked what she imagined to find there, she honestly had no answer. She’d come in for a club promotion and modeling position; she’d known in an instant that hallway didn’t lead to one.
Later, when asked why she stayed a full week once she knew what it was about, her reply came easily:
“For the money, of course.”
Annika made over $7,500 in eight days. And she didn’t even have to fuck anyone.
Her first customer, a white male in his 40s, provided some much-needed on-the-job training.
“You look nice,” he said, deep blue eyes drinking in her exposed body. “Your lingerie is really pretty.”
She shivered under the blast of air conditioning, trembling in her four-inch heels, but maybe it was something else. “Thank you.”
“So, let’s get started? Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it.”
In the middle of the room stood what looked like a run-of-the-mill massage table, upholstered in a cushioned black material, with a hole at one end. But this table (along with all the other ones here) had one peculiar difference: a second hole, right where one’s lower torso would line up.
“Grab some of the oil. Warm it between your hands. We’ll start with a back massage, nice and easy.”
He removed his clothing, all of it, and laid face down on the table.
Annika placed her hands gingerly on his shoulders and took a deep breath. She could do this. She knew how to give a back massage, no problem.
“Yeah, that’s good.” His voice came muffled from below after several minutes. “Now tease me. Massage my legs and move up to my ass. Reach between my legs, don’t be shy. Slowly. Yes, just like that…”
He stiffened to full mast at the very first brush of her fingertips.
“Oh, that’s perfect. I’m going to turn around now. You can massage my chest and keep playing with me.”
She obeyed. She was good at following directions. She startled when he tapped her wrist.
“I’m gonna have you do a body slide. Take off your bra… yes… oh, you look yummy. Get on the table, that’s it, don’t be afraid. Put some oil on your chest. Just slide all over me, there you go. Oh, baby, that’s so sexy…”
Her mind was blank. Annika slid and writhed, skin on skin, letting her primal instincts take over. She already knew how to drive a man crazy. But there was one thing left to learn.
“You can do the reverse slide. Take off your panties and climb back up here. Show me that beautiful…” He must have seen the look on her face, because he added, “Don’t worry, I won’t touch you there.”
Facing toward his feet she straddled him and leaned forward just so, her back arched ever so slightly, her intimate parts on full display.
“Oh, yummy,” he purred again. “It’s a beautiful view, sweetheart. Keep going.”
Yummy? Was that what she was? She didn’t feel yummy; she hadn’t wanted to be. Instead, she felt ridiculous, self-conscious, even traitorous. A plaything for men with disposable income under the thinly veiled guise of “masseuse”.
But mostly, she felt conflicted. Because she also realized how much power she held. This was a place where customers paid for the privilege of putting their most sensitive parts into the hands of a stranger, after all.
“That’s a good girl. Finish me off,” he gasped. Her hands took on a life of their own, moving faster.
He gripped her thighs and released with one final sigh. And it was over.
At the end of those 45 minutes, she had $110 cash in her hand. It was enough to convince her to accept the next walk-in.
Annika saw a lot of penises that week, and their sizes varied tremendously.
The tiniest dick she came across was a proper micro-penis of about one inch long fully erect and maybe ¾ of an inch wide. Struggling to maintain her grasp through a thicket of pubic hair, she resorted to playing with the head between her thumb and forefinger. The man to whom this dick was attached didn’t bother speaking during the half-hour session, perhaps because he was too busy staring at her breasts.
The largest dick she came across was one the likes of which she’d never seen before, nor since. The guy was slim and stood at no more than 5’ 5”, but what he lacked in height he made up for with over 10 inches between his legs. She would never forget how he watched in awe as she worked, how he kept touching his face and covering his eyes only to reopen them, wide-eyed and reverent, as if he were having an encounter with an angel.
Astonishing measurements aside, customers #2–39 exemplified a wide variety of average adult males. The formula was simple: they came in, picked her out of a small lineup of girls, got massaged, found their release, parted from their cash, and left.
The men ranged from approximately 18 to 65 years of age and represented several different ethnicities. Some were talkative, friendly even, and great conversationalists — at least until she began her ministrations, dissolving their words into grunts and sighs. They weren’t shy about it, either; moans of pleasure regularly filled the room, audible feedback by which she could gauge her blossoming skills at this new craft.
Others were silent, serious to the point of somber, here for one reason and one reason only. That reason didn’t involve talking.
There was an athlete. Young, fit, probably her age. He played soccer or rugby or something; she couldn’t recall exactly. He was nice — interesting to chat with, covered in tattoos, and generous with his smiles — someone with whom she’d have considered going on a date if only they’d met any other way.
One of them accepted the massage but pulled her hand away when she neared his inner thigh. “I think my friends tricked me into coming here. I had no clue it was this kind of massage place.” He seemed sad. “You don’t have to do this.”
And she didn’t. They talked. She rubbed his back and played therapist for the remaining 20 minutes.
There was one guy who couldn’t cum no matter how long she worked on him. “It’s like… I feel guilty or somethin’,” he declared, pounding one vodka soda after the other. “A girl like you don’t belong in a place like this!”
She was inclined to agree, but Annika was all business and had no time for soul-searching or dissecting origin stories. Her solution: “We’ll just pretend you finished. As long as you still enjoyed yourself, right?”
He ruined her plan by drunkenly telling the receptionist what happened. The boss overheard and stormed out of the back office, fuming. “Do you think these guys pay this much money not to cum?” she screamed. “Get back upstairs and don’t come down until you’ve done your job.”
He was wasted by this point, though, with a severe case of whiskey dick. It was a futile task. Annika’s boss docked 50% of her pay from this session.
Towards the end of the week, one guy booked her for four hours straight. Thankfully, she only had to do her usual job for the first hour. After showering he spent the next hour telling stories and sharing pictures from his phone, then fell asleep for the final two. Those last two hours were the easiest $200 Annika had ever made.
Finally, of course, there were plenty of married men in her roster of customers, although she never asked outright. Some, she didn’t have to — they kept their wedding rings on. A special mention, however, went to an engaged man in his early 30s who came in looking for new and exciting moves to share with his bride-to-be.
“I want to increase our intimacy,” he explained while Annika ran her oiled hands up and down the entire length of his body. “I love my fiancée, but we could use more spice in the bedroom. Plus, it’s not like I’m cheating and having sex behind her back.” He caressed the curve of her hip as she leaned over him, smiling as if this were the most normal thing in the world. “Just do your thing.”
She did her thing indeed, wishing him all the best with his upcoming nuptials. What else could she do? What else could she say?
He didn’t bother holding back his cries when he climaxed and spilled all over her hands.
Just like the others.
Then, there was customer #40.
“Can you take a house call tonight? Three hours. I know the guy; he’s nice, but he likes to party and can be a little intense.” Annika’s boss handed her an envelope full of cash for cab fare. “The address is on the outside. Make sure he pays at the end.”
He was a heavyset man with an unplaceable accent and dark, beady eyes. The first thing he offered was a line of coke from his kitchen counter. He liked to party, after all.
They cuddled on the couch for a while, the TV droning on in the background, but soon enough he began to kiss her. She ducked her head, pretending she preferred to be kissed on the neck. “Would you like your massage now?”
“Let’s take this to the bed,” he replied, tugging at the zipper of her dress, his hand insistent on her waist.
“I’ll grab the massage oil,” she said as she slithered away from his touch.
When she entered the bedroom she found him sitting upright, at full attention. “Oh,” she said, placing the bottle of oil on his nightstand with a tight-lipped smile, “don’t you want to turn around so I can give you a back massage first?”
“No.” His eyes were wide and eerily still as he chewed on nothing, gnashing his teeth. “I want to watch you.” He pulled her in for a kiss before she could react, then pushed her into his lap. “Go on.”
It must have been another hour or two before she started to suspect something was off.
“How are you doing?” she asked, tangled in his bedsheets, her hands moving dutifully. He had wanted to cuddle again, after her body slides and all that, so they found themselves lying naked side by side while she maintained a careful distance between them with her arms.
He sniffled, then cleared his throat. That was it, her one second of warning, and in the next second he’d wrapped his arms tightly around her, pinning her arms in between their bodies. She could feel him throbbing against her thigh. Panic rose like bile to her throat as she realized what was about to happen.
“I want to have sex with you,” he moaned, his breath hot and heavy on her neck, his body crushing hers.
She tried not to sound frantic. “No, we can’t. You know we don’t do that. You’ll have to get a different girl.”
“But why? We’re almost there, anyway. You did this to me.” He reached down to take hold of himself and pried her legs open. “I want to be inside you.”
She doesn’t remember how she found the strength to push him away.
“Our three hours are up. I have to go.” Holding back tears, she jumped off the bed, picked up her clothes strewn across the floor and struggled into them as quickly as she could. “I have other clients waiting.” She had no clue if this was true.
He stared at her, brows furrowed, and she froze, fearing the worst. For a brief, terrifying moment, she pictured the headline: Sex Worker Found Dead in Local Man’s Home. Her mind tacked on the subtitle in a flourish of self-judgment: She was a fucking idiot and it was her own fault.
The silence dragged on. She could hear her heart pounding, drums for her funeral. The slow, agonizing tick of the clock in the hallway thundered in her ears as she slowly inched out of the bedroom.
Then he sighed and stood up to wrap a towel around his waist. “Yeah, okay. I mean, if you have to.”
She tried to mask her sigh of relief. “Yes. I’m sorry.” Slipping into her shoes, she hurried to the front door, but stopped and turned as she remembered something.
“Um, the payment for our session?”
He was already back in the kitchen, nostril-deep in white powder. He didn’t bother looking up as he gestured vaguely towards the dining table.
“Right. Thanks.” She grabbed the cash and fled.
Back at the shop she jumped straight into the shower and stayed there for over an hour, scrubbing furiously at her skin, scrubbing and crying and scrubbing because she could still feel him and smell him and she didn’t feel clean enough and she was scared she never would again.
He hadn’t entered her, but it was a small solace. It had been close. Way too close.
Her boss gave her $450 for her trouble. $450 to buy her silence and ease her mind, as if cash could make her forget.
And she was happy to maintain that silence. She’d always remember what that man did to her, what that place did to her, but there was nothing she could report, no way to seek justice. So she locked her shame away and threw out the key.
On the ninth day, Annika-no-more booked a flight for Brisbane, 855 miles away from her secret job.
It was a balmy spring afternoon when she pushed open that metal door for the last time. The sun was blinding as she stepped out onto the street; she raised one hand to block the sudden light, adjusting her backpack with the other.
Back to real life.
Everyone looked so normal, going about their day. Carrying shopping bags as they hurried to beat the traffic light. Laughing with friends as they exited the cafe next door. Could they tell what she’d been through this past week? Could they smell it on her, see it in her eyes? Could they understand she despised but had to accept her experience there?
She comforted herself with the knowledge she hadn’t crossed one particular line. She told herself she’d survived, and Annika had helped her do what she couldn’t.
Her bank account also provided some comfort as she hopped into her Uber, knowing she now had financial security for up to three months or more, plus a story to tell.
And that always made everything better.
* Name and certain details have been changed. Special thanks to an anonymous source.