Ever consider taking up the whip?

Admit it, with the economy tanking, you’ve sat around with a bunch of female friends and said, “Well, I could always be a [fill in the sex-worker job here].”

OK, maybe you only thought it. You never got closer than looking at those advertisements for phone-sex, massage parlor, strip club or escort jobs. But you did think, Would it really be that difficult if you didn’t actually have real sex? Then you turned the page. I didn’t turn the page. I made the call.

I’ll admit it wasn’t my first foray into sex work. I’d been a nude model in college. I’d also been a nude dancer. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t hard. I made a lot more money dancing than waitressing, and I never had to touch anyone.

Now I was older and wiser—and, I thought, much better, after years of being a writer, at using my diverse verbal talents. I’d been publishing erotica, pornography and sex tips for years, in addition to my serious writing. I’d given sex workshops both for lesbians and for straight women. I’d done seminars on S/M and bondage and discipline.

How hard could it be to turn all this working knowledge into a job that would subsidize my writing? I thought.

Was it all those years in Catholic school that made me think “dominatrix”? Or all those years of teaching German cinema, combined with my white-blond hair, 5-foot-9-inch frame and 40D breasts that just screamed leather bustier, high-heeled boots, cat o’ nine tails and black lipstick?

One thing I have learned as a tall, femme-dom lesbian is that tops are in demand. And what I know from watching Wall Streeters lick their lips during Congressional hearings, and Republicans getting caught in flagrante brothello, is that straight men in power like to be on the bottom as much as butch lesbians like to turn those same tables—as long as no one knows about it.

The thing about sex work is that it always looks more glamorous online or in the movies than it does up close and personal. You have to get into the persona and enjoy the role-playing to make it work. I already knew from my college jobs that being naked in front of strangers was not as much fun as Demi Moore and Jenna Jameson attempted to make it look.

But no one can ignore the money streaming from the sex industry—it’s big and it’s recession-proof. So, I took the plunge.

There I was, “Vida Blue” dressed in sexy, shiny, warm pleatherette, looking like a refugee from an early Fassbinder film, eager to bring someone to their knees. I was ready for business.

Or so I thought.

Fantasy vs. reality is always such a buzz kill. I had been sure I would be so good at this new job that I’d be free to spend the next decade writing my heart out with no financial worries. Then came the actual work.

Being a dominatrix requires more than just a great outfit and skillful repartee—it involves being part of someone else’s fantasy, whether you share that fantasy or not—and I didn’t. My fantasy was that I could support my writing career. My clients’ fantasy was that they could let go of every bit of power and personhood they had.

You’d think that I would have understood the complexities of the job I was about to embark upon and fallen right into the role. You’d think that I would have been able to project all my outrage at the way men had oppressed women, and apply my politics to a practical reality.

It didn’t work out that way. The thing about sex work is that it is still sex. And I didn’t want to bear the burden of someone else’s need to be humiliated, hurt and less than human. Suddenly this job was not so perfect. I tried it, but I just didn’t like it. Some things you never get a taste for, even when you think you might.