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Paying for It (Behind the Scenes)   by Editors: Greta Christina

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Greta Christina has worked in and around the sex industry writing about it, editing books about it, and living it. In response to overwhelming member requests for reviews of sex toys, sexy films, and sex whatnots, Ms. Christina brings her girl-about-sex wisdom twice monthly to AdultFriendFinder. We thought you'd like a chance to meet her. Here's our interview:


AdultFriendFinder: The book you edited, Paying for It, has some incredible trade secrets about how to treat a sex worker. What did you learn that you didn't already know as you put the book together? How involved have you been in the sex worker biz?

Christina: How involved have I been in the sex industry? I guess that depends a bit on how you define the sex industry. If you define "sex work" somewhat loosely, I've been doing some form of it for years. I've worked for a porn magazine/video company, I took orders for a phone sex company, I worked for years for a mail-order porn-and-sex-toys company, testing and reviewing products... and of course, I've been writing about sex for most of my professional writing career. (I also did some nude and erotic modeling in my younger days, but that was all for fun and not for money, so I don't count it as sex work.) But the actual "getting people off in person for money" type of sex work... the only kind I did was dancing in a peep show, which I did for a few months. Eye-opening, life-changing months, to be sure... but that's why I did "Paying For It" as an anthology instead of just writing it myself. There are many writers in the book with a lot more experience in the sex trade than I have.

And I learned a huge amount from them. I've had countless friends and acquaintances and colleagues in it, I've done tons of reading about it, not to mention my own experience with it... but there were still things that surprised me when I was editing the book. The main surprise was how much sex workers have in common. Obviously everyone in the book has their own story to tell and their own advice to give... but there were certain themes that came up over and over again. Whether you're a professional mistress or a phone sex worker, a four-figure courtesan or a forty-dollar street worker, there are certain experiences that almost everyone in the sex trade goes through. So there are a few pieces of advice that almost everyone in the book mentions. (A few examples: don't try to bargain, don't be shit-faced on booze or drugs, become a regular if you can, and for God's sake, bathe.)

AdultFriendFinder: The book has articles in it from all kinds of sex workers -- T-girls, Mistresses, male escorts -- and they're a voice that rarely gets heard. How did you decide what kind of articles you wanted in the book?

Christina: I knew I wanted as much variety in the book as possible -- mostly because I wanted it to reach as wide an audience as possible. I didn't just want to talk to regular customers of prostitutes and pro dominants -- I wanted to talk to folks who go to strip clubs now and then, or who like to check out interactive Webcam porn, or who might hire a stripper for a birthday party, or whatever. And I wanted to it reach, not just straight men, but gay men as well, and the few women who pay to get off. So when I was looking for submissions, I cast as wide a net as I was able to -- and if I felt like there was a hole that needed to be filled, I went out of my way to find a writer who could fill it. And when I was deciding which submissions to include, variety was one of my top concerns. There was some very good writing I had to say "no" to, not because it wasn't interesting and useful, but because it covered ground that was already covered.

AdultFriendFinder: You have an article in that book about your days in the peep show booths, could you briefly tell us what that life is like, and maybe tell our readers a couple of "inside secrets" about that line of work that might surprise or amaze them? What did you like and dislike about the work?

Christina: I don't know if I have many inside secrets... but likes and dislikes I can tell you about. The thing I liked best about peep show dancing was the other dancers. They were smart and funny and unbelievably good-hearted, and they were totally hot besides. I sometimes couldn't believe I was actually getting paid to dance naked on a small stage with four other gorgeous naked women. And the work itself was usually fun. I've always been a bit of an exhibitionist, and I've always loved to dance -- so getting to dance naked in front of people was pretty damn fun most of the time.

My number one dislike was the management, who were total jerks and the reason I wound up quitting. But a close second was unappreciative customers. Guys who came into the booth and just stared like zombies, without smiling or talking or showing any kind of pleasure... that could be a real mood-killer.

AdultFriendFinder: Some of the sex workers in the book get almost metaphysical and their pieces really made sex workers seem like a beautiful part of the human race. Why do you feel it's important to put out a book like this? Does it serve people other than "clients" or does it have a wider scope than "a guide by sex workers for their clients"?

Christina: Obviously I'm biased... but I do think "Paying For It" is a good read for more than just sex work customers. For one thing, it provides a real nuts-and-bolts view on being a sex worker, in a way that most sex worker memoirs don't. Lots of people have told me that the book gave them a real sense of what it's like to be a sex worker, the day-to-day experience of
it: what a good day looks like, what a bad day looks like, the petty annoyances and small pleasures that make up our everday working lives. And I think it makes readers see sex work as a job -- a job that's not necessarily all that different from any job, with things about it that are cool and things that suck. So yes, I think it's interesting and important, even if you've never paid for sexual pleasure in your life. And I think the book is entertaining. A lot of it is very funny.

But I don't want to sound like giving how-to advice for sex customers is trivial. I mean, that's the whole reason the book exists, and I think it's important. I've noticed that a lot of people who are very sex-positive and supportive of sex workers can be pretty harsh on customers, and "Paying For It" is one of the few sex work books that takes customers seriously and gives their desires real respect. God knows there are some hard words in the book about customers -- I wrote some of them myself -- but the book's basic position is that customers deserve to have pleasure, and that when they do dumb things that piss us off, it's often out of ignorance, not malice. And there are some really nice, sweet, affectionate stories about customers as well.

AdultFriendFinder: You're going to be reviewing all kinds of sex-related products and events for the site. Could you tell us a little about your past experiences in the world of adult products (for example, you used to work for a dildo company)? Or about your personal interest in adult products?

Christina: For years, I worked as the buyer for a small mail-order porn-and-sex-toys company. It was my job to watch dirty videos, read dirty books, play with sex toys, and so on, and decide which ones we should sell. As a result, I've spent many hours watching porn and playing with toys, and sifting through loads of bad and mediocre stuff to find the gems. It's a little different doing that professionally instead of personally -- you have to think about things like how well it will sell, what else you have in the catalog that's similar, and so on. But we were a very small, personal company, and we only carried products that we had tried and enjoyed. So the personal seal of approval was crucial.

I got a huge amount of hands-on experience with porn and sex toys at that job, and I developed a sense of when something was really special and when it was just more of the same. Of course I had my quirks, my own personal fetishes and so on. But after a while, I could usually tell if a video or something was worthwhile, even if it wasn't making me run for my vibrator.

Before that job, and since then, I've just been a garden-variety sex fiend who likes to write. I've been fascinated by sex for as long as I can remember; sex has always intrigued me, the social and political and philosophical aspects of it, as well as just the "personally horny" aspect of it. I've had an interest in porn and sex toys since forever -- even before I was old enough to buy my own porn and sex toys, I was swiping my dad's Playboys and improvising with hairbrushes and vegetables and the bathtub faucet -- and I had a nice little collection even before I started working at the sex toy company. Of course, once I started working for the sex toy company, that collection got a little out of hand...

AdultFriendFinder: Could you tell us a little about the Suzie Bright book that's coming out?

Christina: Sure. Susie Bright, as you know, edits the Best American Erotica series. She thinks there's an untapped market for longer pieces of erotic fiction, not just anthologies of short stories. So she decided to edit a new series of books, collections of three erotic novellas in one book. It's sort of a "best of both worlds" deal. You get the deeper satisfaction that you get with a long piece, something that has the space to really explore the characters and what drives them sexually, their desires and fears and perversions and so on, in some depth and detail. But you also get some of the variety that comes with a short story collection.

My novella, "Bending," is one of the novellas in the second collection. The book is called "Three Kinds of Asking For It," it's published by Simon & Schuster, and it comes out in July.

AdultFriendFinder: I've already heard great things about your contribution to that book. Without giving too much away, can you give us a sneak preview and maybe tell us what motivated you to write the piece?

Christina: Ooh, that's exciting! I'm getting buzz! Well, this is going to sound crass, but what motivated me to write "Bending" was Susie Bright asking me to submit a proposal for the novella project -- and explaining who was publishing it and how much it paid. There's nothing like the prospect of a decent paycheck and a wider audience to get the creative gears in motion.

So that's what initially motivated me... but once I hit on the main character, Dallas, what motivated me was her. Dallas is a woman who is sexually obsessed, or maybe fixated, or maybe just very very interested, in getting bent over. She gets off on a lot of different things -- getting fucked, getting whipped, giving blowjobs, whatever -- but she has to be bent over, or it doesn't work. And she has this completely focused, single-minded determination about getting what she wants. (Maybe because of that, I found myself getting completely obssesed with her; she dominated my fantasy life for weeks, and I think I masturbated more often when I was writing this story than at any other time in my life.) The story starts off with a series of encounters with people Dallas doesn't quite mesh with; but pretty soon, she meets another woman who loves bending Dallas over as much as Dallas loves getting bent. Once they get together... no, sorry, here's where I have to stop. I don't want to give too much away.

I'm obviously biased, but I think "Bending" is one of the best things I've written -- maybe *the* best thing -- and I'm ridiculously proud of it. The story is hot and entertaining, and a lot of it is very funny... but a lot of it is serious as well. I worked very hard to make it both good, nasty, one-handed reading, *and* a serious exploration of obsession, of desire and satisfaction, of what it means to actually get enough of the thing you want most and how that might change you. And I think it's different from a lot of serious "literary" porn, in that the plot and character development are woven into the sex. In a lot of serious porn, the story and the sex are kind of separate -- you have story, and then a sex scene, and then more story, and another sex scene, and so on. "Bending" isn't like that. In fact, practically the whole story is sex. There's hardly any part of it where people aren't either having sex, talking about sex, or thinking about sex. That's not unusual for generic boilerplate porn, but it is somewhat unusual for literary porn -- especially for a longer piece. It was hard to sustain, but I think I pulled it off, and I feel really happy about it.

[You will find Paying for It and other nice titles at And next week, be sure to look for Greta Christina's first bi-monthly review: Peter Gorman's photo book, Stripped Naked.]