The side of my face was pressed into the cool hardwood floor, my hands stretched out in front of my body, my ass high in the air. Sweat dripped all over me, and I was trembling. My breath deepened as I felt his big hands touch my waist, firmly making their way down to my hips.
As soon as I had sat down on my yoga mat and saw the way Mark, our instructor, winked at me, I had a feeling that the four doughy legged, middle-aged women accompanying me in that Friday evening class were there for more than just stretching.
My fellow lonely yoga dames and I were having a very intimate time in Venice Beach with the ruggedly handsome Mark. He guided the five of us with his soothing voice, rippled abs, and hands-on corrections, while up and down Abbot Kinney Boulevard — L.A.'s Valencia Street — barely legal girls with vintage Levi's and white teeth took selfies in bistros. Throughout the class, Mark made sure everybody got equal attention — a little foot rub here, a shoulder squeeze there — and rotated among us so that nobody felt left out, implying he'd be an incredible group-sex partner.
Later, as light slowly began to fill the room, he bowed toward us, whispering "Namaste" in a weird soap opera voice. (Or is that just how people talk in L.A.?)
On my way out, Mark recommended some new techniques to open up my hips, saying that I could come to his Monday class for free, if I liked. Suddenly, I felt like I was in the beginning of a porno I hadn't known I was cast in. He didn't whip out his dick and tell me to get into downward-facing dog — thank goodness? Still not totally sure — but I left feeling as though if I were a permanent Venice Beach resident, I would probably find myself at Friday night yoga more often.
But then I got home and I thought, Wait a second. How is it that Mark's job is legal and mine isn't?
We both exude weird sex appeal and talk in sultry voices to evoke an emotional response. We both touch people's bodies and help them move through a physical experience that gives them relief. We both wear scantily clad outfits to work and we both help people feel confident and beautiful in their own skin.
I ask people before I touch their bodies and I never say "Namaste" at the end of my sessions, yet Mark and his harem of nonconsensual back massage junkies are seen as honest, almond-milk-fed Californians, and I'm seen as a criminal? Where's the justice there, I ask you?
Mark's job isn't the only out there that involves intimacy with another person in exchange for money, however. Every three weeks for the past two years, I have gone to see the same woman.
She touches my vagina with her hands for just under an hour. Sometimes she's rough, while other times she's gentle, depending on whether she's in a rush or not. When I leave her, I always feel a little sexier and more confident than when I walked in. Every time she asks me to hold the lips of my labia back so she can eradicate the tiny hairs just above my clitoris, I wonder how it is that Brazilian waxes are legal, and hand jobs are not.
And just last week, I dove deeper into the Los Angeles vibe and booked my first colonic: $60 to have a gorgeous blonde stick a tube up my butt and give me the most epic enema of my life. (I found it on Yelp, and yes, it was also in Venice Beach.) The weirdest part was when she gave me an honest-to-god vibrator to use during the 45-minute process. She claimed it was to "stimulate the colon," but I think I knew what my options were.
Anti-sex-work advocates insist that there is something inordinately intimate, and therefore traumatic, about sex work, but there are plenty of jobs that involve intimate and traumatic acts with strangers. Doctors, firefighters, and EMTs deal with life, death, and feces every single day, yet no one is rallying to shut down the medical industry. Nor are there protesters outside yoga studios, waxing salons, or colonic offices.
In a world where hands-y yoga instruction, Brazilian waxes, and even colonics are legal, how is it that two people indulging in dinner, intimacy, and Star Wars trivia in exchange for cash is considered a crime? And personally, I would rather give a thousand hand jobs before I sucked the poop out of a stranger's butt for $60 an hour. But that's just me.