Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (UNL) Conference System, 1st Non-Monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies Conference

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Healing Together: Emotional Intimacy in Modern Indoor Sex Work
Alexis Bartlow

##manager.scheduler.building##: B Tower
##manager.scheduler.room##: T10
Date: 2015-09-25 06:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Last modified: 2015-08-08


Little research has paid attention to the emotional components of modern sex work; previous research on the topic has typically denied sex workers opportunities to speak on the topic. To meet both needs, I conducted in-depth interviews with both sex workers and clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, including pairs with ongoing relationships, to explore the emotional intimacy they share. The research uses a postmodern perspective to update Hochschild’s “emotional labor” and Bernstein’s “bounded authenticity” into modern versions. The results complicate the dichotomous stereotypes of sex workers as either desperate victims or hypersexual escorts. These sex workers, or skilled emotional labor providers, are self employed, engaging with their clients as their authentic selves. Their clients are typically older men who seek out providers due to sexless marriages, atypical sexual tastes, or disease. Their connection is not the prototypical “Girlfriend Experience” or imitation of romantic intimacy. Rather, it is a genuine emotional connection that creates healing experiences for both clients and workers within a bounded relationship offering exploration, comfort, permission, and acceptance. In these relationships the transaction of money for companionship does not degrade the personal fulfillment of either participant, but rather clarifies expectations, roles, and responsibilities, creating sessions of intentional emotional labor that are neither coercive nor damaging. This healing connection created by two consenting adults is a previously undocumented form of modern intimacy in sex work, avoiding traditional expectations of romantic love and sex work while providing rewarding growth for both individuals.