September is Sexual Health Awareness Month! To celebrate, wisp is turning up the volume on conversations about sexual health by featuring some of our favorite topics and the sexperts who know them best.
Sexual health isn’t just about treating and preventing STIs, getting tested regularly, and staying on top of your birth control — it’s also about staying healthy mentally and emotionally, and ensuring that your sex life stays satisfying and fulfilling. No one knows this better than sex workers, people who offer sexual services and/or performances for a living. Knowing how to care for yourself and your sexual health is extra important when sex is a vital source of your income (and a source of personal happiness!). We asked 3 sex workers about how they take care of their health and balance their personal priorities with their jobs — sometimes it’s just about letting your fellow strippers catch you when you fall (literally).
Emerencz Merkle (their/their)
Emerencz Merkle probably isn’t the person you picture when you imagine a pornstar. They are a 29 year old non-binary Cree / Hungarian multi-disciplinary artist and sex worker hailing from Vancouver, who also just so happens to be the founder of Q-Rated, the first ever ethical queer focused porn initiative. Q-Rated prioritizes the representation of marginalized identities, like people of color and disabled folks, and also showcases those safe-sex practices that aren’t often seen on screen in mainstream porn: think, consent, boundaries, and communication. If that wasn’t enough of an undertaking, Emerencz is also the co-founder of OBSKUR MUSIC, a queer* / POC / women focused techno record label and digital radio.
Being a groundbreaking pioneer is a lot to handle, so we asked Emerencz how they prioritize their health with everything else they’ve got going on.
“Self care is vital to being able to do this job. Since most of us are doing energy work on top of sex work, we have to be able to create almost like a force field when we enter the space, so that we are not bringing it home with us.Since I also do online sex work, it’s important for me to have my morning routine before going on my social media or answer messages. I’ll stretch, do yoga, make a lovely breakfast, and then turn my phone on for the day. Boundaries from clients and on how much time you work within this field is incredibly conducive to your mental health and will allow you longevity within the industry.”
Geo is a stripper, musician, and writer in Brooklyn, NY (click the link to see an incredible username 👀 ). They have found that learning to listen to their body and honoring its needs has been key to taking care of themselves and their health.
“I like to treat my sexual body like any other part of my system that needs regular attention (think therapy for your head, good diet for the stomach, and so on). Of course, getting tested regularly is important, but more than that, checking in with what my sexual body wants and needs at a particular moment in time.”
As an industry insider, Geo has noticed that many of their fellow sex workers also practice this kind of listening and are in tune with their bodies and their needs in a way many other people aren’t. Geo describes intuition as a means of survival.
“This industry is incredibly diverse as far as folks’ backgrounds, experiences, lifestyles, etc. are concerned, so I was really taken aback by how many sex workers across the board have a very sincere and expanding ability to be intuitive and thoughtful with their practice. It makes a ton of sense why this is the case — it’s not only a means of survival to really focus on one’s sensitivity in this world, but it’s also a radical way of taking back certain realms of divine femininity that have long been damned by society.”
Elle Stanger (she/they)
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your health is to lean on friends for support. Elle Stanger is a stripper and an AASECT Certified sex educator and co-chair of the Oregon Sex Worker’s Committee based out of Portland, Oregon who found her coworkers to be an important source of support during her pregnancy.
“When I was pregnant with my daughter all of the other stripper co-workers were very protective of me, asking if I’d verified with my doctor if it was safe for me to be doing upside-down pole tricks. (It was, for me: my doctor recommended that I keep doing what felt comfortable and to not try to learn any new moves.)Nobody knew I was pregnant and I worked until 17 weeks. All of us strippers were doing a stage dance for a bachelor party and I almost rolled off his lap and three strippers stopped to catch me. It was adorable.”
We couldn’t agree more, Elle. 🥰