Strange Fire edited by T.S. Mendola is our unorthodox anthology reflecting on our COVID-conscious present! Preorders are open and the book is coming soon.
Strange Fire has four sections: Anger, Death, Sex and Faith. For today, we chose to share a few paragraphs from an essay in the Sex section, “The Whores’ Covenant” by RG! Please note that the below content is meant for adults 18+.
We shoot for two hours. I am efficient and professional; we never need longer. Afterward I peel off the now-damp velveteen choker and plush false lashes. I put on my street clothes, my Star of David, and a mask in muted florals a friend made for me. I pay my photographer, tip as generously as I am able, reassure him that I don’t need the shots immediately, family comes first, it’s fine, text me, let me know how your brother’s doing, and slip into the alley behind his studio. I mop the makeup from my temple, damp from the softbox lights, and check the bus schedule for the next transfer home. This shoot will sell well, I think, my ass looks perkier since I’ve lost some weight and stockings are always popular with my regular clients. I sit at the bus stop, redolent of piss and dirty, ashen summer heat, and mentally extrapolate the budget for the projected earnings; what goes to charity, what goes to debts, what goes to little extras like skincare, a new duvet set, more lingerie, a gift for a relative’s birthday. I finger my necklace, lackluster from years of anxious rubbing, like a worry stone, and say minhah before the bus comes. It is nearly dusk. I am late in my daily prayers, but it cannot be helped. I trudge onto the bus with my overstuffed duffle, earbuds in, podcast on. My thumbs dictate a quick promotion for the evening crowds as I heave myself into a seat, “FLASHSALE: five erotic, high-res photos for $15, tonight til midnight, DM for details.” I add a kiss emoji and a coy but suggestive glamour shot. I spellcheck, debate which promotional shot to use, add my time zone, and post. I turn on my notifications and try to relax into the rigid, inhospitable plastic of the bus seat.
I have done this work for a decade now, in various iterations. An amateur burlesque performer, awkwardly and excitedly accepting meager, grubby tips from audiences; a trained dominatrix, wiping my crops with alcohol; and now, a professional sexter and peddler of nudes. A college-educated smut purveyor. Unwed. Devorah in a g-string. I pray thrice daily, often more; I do not eat pork or shellfish; I volunteer at the local foodbank; I attend Shabbat service regularly. I fast, I bake pies and casseroles for families sitting shiva. I take God’s law seriously, then I take my clothes off and pose with lace, clamps, and crops.
The untold story of this labor, throughout the centuries, in brothels and nightclubs, on Backpage and OnlyFans, is the labor of the soul that comes with confessing desire to a stranger, of witnessing their confession, of admitting to and meeting those needs that we’ve been told all our lives are at best problematic or at worst outright sinful. My clients, past and present, aren’t looking for mere titillation: they can get that anywhere. What they seek is the intimacy of witnessing someone’s desire, in full bloom, unabashed. To be invited, for a fee, into the world of that desire. Being isolated in your own yearning amplifies the associated sensations of perversion and lonesomeness. My goods and services provide a private viewing of another’s desire, of their mating display, and a kind, unselfconscious voice to reassure them that they are not alone in their needs.
If you’re interested in more, make sure to get yourself a copy! We’ve also posted an amount of short snippets at our Twitter account, and we plan on posting other longer excerpts as well.