Sex work, 'normal work,' and men — as told by Alyssa

Download Audio
Getty Images
Getty Images

Alyssa was in between jobs when she started temping at a chauvinistic, male-dominated office. She says her colleagues constantly made fun of their wives, disparaged other women’s appearances, and ridiculed people with mental health issues.

She was fed up. Alyssa found no reprieve to this daily deluge of “locker room talk” until she made a post in r/TwoXChromosomes detailing her experience.

Alyssa’s post gained a lot of traction, not only because her experience is (unfortunately) common around the world, but because of her work history. Before turning to office work, Alyssa was a sex worker (or “sworker” as she says on Reddit.) Forcing fake politeness in the face of blatant sexism was excruciating for Alyssa, and she wondered if corporate employment was really for her.

On today’s episode we hear from Alyssa about why she made her Reddit post, her present and past workplaces, and why she is hesitant to return to sex work and office work.

Show notes

Support the show: 

We love making Endless Thread, and we want to be able to keep making it far into the future. If you want that too, we would deeply appreciate your contribution to our work in any amount. Everyone who makes a monthly donation will get access to exclusive bonus content. Click here for the donation page. Thank you!

Full Transcript:

This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text. 

Ben Brock Johnson: Heads up, this episode discusses sexual assault. Okay, here’s the show.

Amory Sivertson: You got the vape pen handy.

Alyssa: Oh my God (laughs) I forgot to turn off my camera!

Amory: Oh, don't be shy.

Ben: That's OK, it’s totally fine.

Amory: You're allowed to vape.

Ben: Vape away!

Amory: Today, we bring you a tale of two workplaces. Three, actually. All experienced by a woman named Alyssa.

Ben: We’re talking to her while she’s in her sunny bedroom. With her…accouterments.

Alyssa: OK, Now I know that I can openly vape.

Ben: Like a lot of 20 somethings, Alyssa is figuring life out. She’s in between jobs at the moment and living in Sydney, Australia.

Alyssa: I'm 22 and at the moment I'm doing freelance work.

Ben: A few years back, she left college – or… “uni” as they call it Down Under.

Amory: I really thought you were going down unda.

Ben: Down Unda! Anyway…Alyssa’s from Australia. We’ve been talking to her for several weeks. And in that time, it’s become clear that Alyssa can be pretty low-key–she perks up at discussion of music…or if we talk about something funny…like forgetting she’s left her computer camera on while she’s vaping. But she can be pretty matter-of-fact when she’s describing really INTENSE moments in her life. Like the various reasons for her departure from an office job.

Alyssa: I didn’t want it to keep happening. I was just so sick and tired of it.

Amory: She left her office job some months ago but it’s still a lingering experience for Alyssa. One reason that she told us she left was that it was a male-dominated workplace environment. Which seemed to lead to this kind of "bro culture" among her colleagues.

Alyssa: And yeah, he would just talk about women and dating them and you know, dating multiple women at a time and breaking their hearts and being players and all that sort of stuff. And I was just like, I don't understand this mentality.

Ben: In part because it was a NEW experience for Alyssa. Working in a conventional office. An office not very friendly to women…even though some of the bosses were women.

Alyssa: And my bosses were never there, so I would often be the only female in the office.

Ben: Alyssa told us that over time she realized the bro culture was just the surface level of deeper issues.

Alyssa: This guy was like, “Oh, I really like whitewashed, you know, ethnic girls.” And I was just like, “That's not a good thing. You know that, right?”

Amory: Eventually, something happened that crossed a line for Alyssa.

Alyssa: I had a male coworker kind of touch me on my thigh. And he made a couple of really inappropriate jokes saying that me and my boss or me and my manager were lesbians and all this stuff.

Ben: Alyssa was FED UP. And she took to the r/two x chromosomes subreddit to write about her experience.

Amory: The community is huge, with more than thirteen million members. Now, a lot of people think of reddit as a dude-dominated space…

Ben: Can confirm there’s plenty of dude dom. But Two X Chromosomes…Founded 13 years ago, is one of the oldest and most active subreddits on the entire website.

Amory: And it’s known for being a safe space for women to share their ideas and perspectives. Like Alyssa’s.

Alyssa: I've been touched, jeered at, ignored, overheard the most disgusting conversations about women and the worst of all, they're making fun of their wives.

Ben: Alyssa’s post went viral, not because it cataloged unfortunately common sexist workplace behavior. But because of her perspective. The work experience she had when she first got her office job and how it compared to her other work experience.

Alyssa: Sex work. Normal work and men.

Alyssa: I don't know. I'm worried that coming from a sex work background has skewed my perspective of working an office job forever.

Ben: I’m Ben Brock Johnson.

Amory: I’m Amory Sivertson, and you’re listening to Endless Thread.

Ben: We’re coming to you from WBUR, Boston’s NPR station.

Amory: Today’s episode? Sex work, “Normal Work” and men. As told by Alyssa.

Amory: Alyssa’s post gave us a lot to think about when it comes to office politics, how women are treated in the workplace, no matter their profession. But it was tricky to talk to her about it.

Alyssa: I'm happy with my name mentioned but I think I'd rather… Just keep it vague.

Amory: Alyssa only wanted her first name mentioned in this episode for privacy concerns related to her sex work. Also, her parents don’t know she’s a sex worker.

Ben: I reached out to Alyssa after her post went viral. And what followed was a kind of tricky process of checking her identity and her places of employment.

Although consensual sex work is legal over the age of 18 in Australia each state has its own laws and regulations. In New South Wales – where Sydney is — brothels are regulated by local councils, just like any other business.

But in other states, like Victoria, Australia sex work in certain conditions just became decriminalized in March of 2022.

Her family isn’t originally from Australia.

Alyssa: My parents are immigrants. I think they came in the sixties, seventies after the Cultural Revolution ended in China, so, it was just a really awful time. And as soon as it ended, they just kind of got out of there and moved to Australia and that's where they met each other. And then they had me.

Ben: She says her parents sent her to a private, Catholic school. They aren’t Catholic, but they wanted Alyssa to have a better education than what they thought the public school offered.

Amory: But Alyssa didn't really like it.

Alyssa: There was a lot of pressure to kind of do well academically, but I was I'm pretty sure I was like the worst in the class. Yeah, I think I was just the weird kid who smoked a lot of weed.

Amory: Even through all that weed smoke, Alyssa graduated high school. She moved to Melbourne for college, away from her hometown of Sydney, and away from her family. But she wasn’t in school for very long….

Alyssa: I was majoring in Australian politics and in the first week of class I realized I hated it and I never wanted to write another essay ever again. So I dropped out.

Ben: She explained that in Australia, full time students get stipends from the government. So they can study without worrying about rent or grocery money.

Amory: Must be nice. (Laughs.)

Ben: (Laughs.)

Amory: Why don’t we do that?!

Ben: I know, right? But the thing is, Alyssa left university. So the stipends stopped. And that was a problem.

Alyssa: Um, I dropped out. I got a boyfriend, my very first boyfriend, and we kind of just ran around with dropkicks. And that's when I got into sex work.

Ben: Alyssa did not want to move back home yet. She wanted to be independent for a while and stay in Melbourne, but she needed a job. That’s when her best friend at the time gave her a tip. Why not try sex work? That’s the job her friend was doing, and it was going well. And Alyssa says her friend told her Asian women were in high demand.

Alyssa: She told me that, you know, you get paid to do all this stuff and they'll hire you on the spot immediately.

Ben: We should say that Alyssa told us her friend got paid to recruit other women into sex work. Which hey, lots of employers give referral bonuses right? But it does feel a little more complicated in sex work? Or maybe that’s just us being prude?

Ben: Was this something that you thought about a lot when you got into it? Were you sort of like “Yeah, this could be fun.” Or, “Oh, I really need the money, let me just try this.

Alyssa: At the time it was just more about the money.

Ben: Got it.

Alyssa: it was more of just, you know, you get to do this thing, you get paid cash straight upfront, you don't have to pay tax on it. So it kind of, it sounded really good at the time.

Alyssa: When you dropped out of school, did you consider for any period of time, like moving back home with your parents? Would that have been an option?

Alyssa: Yeah, it was an option. I kind of, they were like, you know, you're not going to last in this, in this city, you're going to come back home. So I kind of really wanted to prove them wrong. And they didn't they didn't know I dropped out of uni. So to them I was still in university and studying.

Ben: At first, things worked well. But after about a year, Alyssa had to move back home. She says she mismanaged her finances. Couldn’t balance being a dropkick, having a boyfriend who was also a dropkick doing sex work, and paying the bills for both of them.

A: When she moved home, Alyssa tried to diversify her work options. She got an internship for a music festival promotions company. On her days off, she would do sex work online, on her own.

Alyssa:So I came back, I didn't have an agency to work with, so I just started camming online and from there…

Amory: What is camming?

Alyssa: So you pretty much go on a website. You just do pretty much the same thing, but personal with a personal person like they pay you. It's like phone sex in a way. But it's also very, I don't know if that’s the best description I can give.

Amory: Like it's like a Zoom…

Ben: It's a Zoom room with you and one other person, Amory. Or it's a Zoom room with one person on camera and a bunch of people watching them.

Alyssa: Yep.

Amory: Okay. Can I ask another dumb follow up question?

Alyssa: Mm hmm.

Amory: I actually don't know. (Laughs.) I just put all my cards on the table, all my ignorance on the table. I don't know what you mean when you say solo work… exactly. I can imagine, but I'd rather not. I'd rather just ask you if you're comfortable, like explaining some of this stuff.

Alyssa: Yeah. Well, solo work doesn't involve a different partner. It's mostly just you doing your own little thing on camera.

Amory: Okay.

Ben: So it's like toys, masturbation, masturbation with toys, that kind of thing.

Alyssa: See, Ben knows.

A:mory Thank you Ben for the explanation.

B: Okay, to be clear a lot of people know about camming Amory, you don’t have to be a consumer to know about it.

Amory: Sure…

Ben: But yes, you’re welcome.

Amory: So, this was a period of relative stability and happiness for Alyssa. She said she liked her internship with the music company. She got to travel and promote music festivals around the country.

Ben: For the most part she was having fun. But as a woman of Chinese descent living in Australia, Alyssa had some uncomfortable experiences on the job. Like this one time….

Alyssa: We were traveling for work to make content and we ended up in a small town that was like a little country town. Majority of people were white. Actually, everyone was white. There were no other races. And we went to a bar afterwards to celebrate.

Amory: At the bar, Alyssa said her boss opened a tab for all the coworkers. Drinks were on him for the night. But Alyssa was the ONLY ONE who had to show her boss’ I.D. at the bar to prove she was with her company.

Ben: To some people it might feel like a subtle thing. But to Alyssa, it was obvious she was being profiled.

Alyssa: So I ended up paying for my own drink, but he knew that I was with that group, and after that I was just kind of really uncomfortable in that space.

Ben: Afterwards Alyssa went back to the AirBnb. She wasn’t in the mood to stay at the bar anymore. Alyssa ran into one of her coworkers, who is white and she told them what happened.

Alyssa: One of the coworkers was like, “Oh, you know, I'm just sure it was a it was a mess up. It wasn't, you know, anything other than that.” And I just kind of felt like they didn't have my back in a way because as me, as a person of color, I don't think we have the luxury of knowing whether something is just a mistake or someone being mean. Racism is always in the question.

Ben: Alyssa left that internship soon after. There were a couple of reasons why: For one thing, COVID hit Australia. All music festivals were canceled. For another, Alyssa hit a rough patch with her mental health.

Alyssa: The reason why I quit was because I had a psychotic episode. And after that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I was just kind of really figuring that out.

Amory: In a life that had already been pretty bumpy, this was a setback. She needed to just take a break from everything to feel better again.

Ben: She got on medication, which helped after some time and adjustment. But she didn’t have great employment options. So, she started sex work again…offline for the very first time.

Alyssa: This time it was an in-person sort of sex work and it was at at a massage parlor. So it was like a erotic massage. But, you know, that's what they say. It's just a happy ending spa and massage place.

Ben: This was pretty different than camming. Instead of doing things online by herself in front of a camera at home, Alyssa was actually going to a building and performing sex acts on clients. It was a difficult transition.

Amory: And so what was that like?

Alyssa: At first it was kind of really jarring in a sense because I wasn't really great with establishing boundaries, and a lot of them said, you know, when they find out you're a new girl, they will take like take advantage of you. They will try. And, you know, they count on you not really knowing the rules and not really being able to establish your boundaries. And that did that did happen. And, you know, I had some terrible days with terrible clients. And I remember one day I just came home and I sat on my driveway and I just cried my eyes out because it was just it was really hard to kind of get used to.

Ben: She told her parents she was working at a restaurant. It was the best cover, she thought, because a restaurant would have weird hours…just like the spa did. The spa itself was a large building filled with small rooms in a maze-like setup.

Amory: The managers of the spa worked upstairs in offices. The sex workers worked in those small rooms. Alyssa would later do some calculations with her coworkers and figure out that 60 percent of their sex work pay went to the spa while 40 percent would go to the workers.

Alyssa: So the way people pick a girl, which I think is hilarious, is a client. So everything is locked, the door is locked, it's just a little window opening. And so the manager rings a little bell and two girls come up to the little opening.

Ben: This whole thing is highly choreographed. One of the women opens the door into where the client is and offers the client a place to sit. Another puts a glass of water on a silver tray. The woman who opened the door gets to introduce herself first the woman who offers the water has to introduce herself second. And then they talk business with the client.

And at that time, they can ask questions so they can be like, you know, do you do your kissing? Do you do this? Do you do that? Sometimes they don't ask. So, you know, you're not really able to gauge whether they what they want.

Amory: Alyssa said that, at the spa, massages were guaranteed for clients. But anything further–from touching, kissing, to consensual sex, would be at the sex worker’s discretion.

Alyssa: And, you know, if you do decide to do extras, the work is like that's not on us because the, the service that we're offering or what we say that we're offering is just the spa massage. Happy ending extras are totally on you because it's up to you to decide whether you want to do that or not.

Ben: Alyssa also told us that she got along well with her coworkers. It was easy to talk to them. All her managers were also women–former sex workers who got promoted.

Alyssa: Everyone was just so nice to each other. I know it's definitely not like that at other places. You know, there's a lot of fighting that happens, violence. But at the place that I worked at, it would just be, it was really nice. Everyone kind of supported each other. It was girls supporting girls.

Alyssa: there was only one male who was the guy who owned the place and his name was Big John. And we hated him. Everyone hated him. And we used to joke that he was one breath away from dying, so.

Ben: Big John didn’t come to the spa often. But when he did….

Alyssa: He would say, so like old person racist stuff. You know what I mean? Like, it's old people, racism. He as saying, you know, “Oh, you're Asian, so you got to like, I think you're quite submissive and reserved.” (Laughs.)

Once he told me that I had to work twice as hard as the girls of the other girls because I wasn't blonde or pretty.

Ben: Whoaaaaa.

Alyssa: I think we all just know it's him, and he just says obscene s*** that you don't listen to and you don't let it get to you and I think every time he says something stupid, you go to the other girls and you're like, “Oh my God, he said this.” And all the other girls would laugh at him and be like, “What the hell was? Why is he so weird? Why is he like this?”

Ben: There were hard days with really awful clients.

Alyssa: The ones who come regularly, I think they understand how it works. And then some people just don't understand the etiquette or behavior at all. And they're just complete assholes, kind of.

Ben: Even though she said her coworkers and managers supported her and management never hesitated to kick anyone out it was difficult – dangerous even – to get help when faced with a potentially violent client.

Alyssa: So, you know, if it happened in the spa, which would be most of the occurrences, you would have to get out of the spa and you'd have to go on the slippery tiles and you would have to walk to this phone in the room, which goes directly to the managers. So you would have to wait until they pick up. And then you go, Hey, this guy is, you know, misbehaving. Can you please come down? Or you would have to leave the room and to into these crazy hallways, you know, it looks like, you know, those memes about back rooms?

Ben and Amory: Yeah, yes I do.

Alyssa: it looks like that.

Ben: So the Back Rooms memes…are those memes about spooky empty maze-like office spaces.

Amory: Yes. We made an episode about it!

Ben: We did.

Amory: If you’ve ever seen these images they are…unsettling.

Alyssa: It looks like a fever dream back room with all these corridors. And so you would have to, you know, kind of make your way down to the corridors, go upstairs or go downstairs because there are two levels and go to the manager and do that. So it wasn't there wasn't really a safe way to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Amory: After a few months, something happened that would change Alyssa’s life… and livelihood…possibly for good.

Alyssa: It was quite bad for me to kind of be like, okay, maybe I should get out of this industry.

Ben: We’ll be right back.


Ben: Working at the spa, Alyssa had a spectrum of clients. Respectful ones…Disrespectful ones…and clients that needed to be straight up banned from the spa by management. But there was one client unlike any Alyssa had had before.

Alyssa: I had never met him before prior. I think he booked a different girl, but she wasn't there that day.

Amory: So this guy wasn’t new to the Spa…but new to Alyssa. She says he was clearly high on cocaine. It was somewhat normal for clients to be under the influence. But this guy gave Alyssa some bad vibes. And the session turned into a nightmare.

Alyssa: I was assaulted. So it was, like quite violent.

Alyssa: I guess the biggest part was that he kind of pinned me by my throat to the wall, and he  was pretty much choking me, and I couldn't breathe.

Alyssa: And he was kind of talking about the way he would, you know, he was going to rape me and how much like how I was going to enjoy it. And he was just kind of trying to do all these things that weren't consensual. And he was like, the more you say no, the more it makes me want to do it. And that was kind of just the most traumatic thing that had ever happened to me.

Alyssa: And I think the moment it hit me was actually the day after it happened. I was on the bus somewhere and it just kind of hit me and I was just …I was like, Oh my God. I was actually so scared in that moment. Like, I didn't realize how fearful I was of my life.

Alyssa: I was kind of afraid that no one would believe me, first off. And you know, second of all, I feel like if I was going to pursue the legal route, it would come out in the open that I was a sex worker.

Ben: Alyssa decided not to press charges or report the assault at all…even when a friend begged her to. But she did call a nearby clinic a few days after the incident.

Alyssa_44: After I called the agency or clinic or whatever you call it. They were like, you know, we really want to urge you to do a rape kit test and all that type of stuff. And I was kind of I said, no, obviously, because I said that I don't want to press charges. I don't know who this guy is. There's really no point. And it's after it's been three days, it's been after 48 hours, you know, there's nothing that you guys can really do.

Ben: You might be surprised at how few options are available to people like Alyssa in this kind of situation. Especially considering the vulnerability for people in this profession. A global study found that sex workers have a 45 to 75 percent chance of facing harassment on the job. But exact figures are hard to find…because there are VERY few avenues for workers to report assault and seek justice.

Amory: Advocates say police rarely take complaints from sex workers seriously in Australia. And Alyssa herself mentioned this when we asked her WHY she didn’t tell anyone.

Alyssa: You know, a lot of the times when these things happen to sex workers. it's more so like, this is your job, you know? What do you mean? It's your, it's your job to deal with these things. It's not really non-consensual or anything.

Amory: Racist stereotypes play into it, too. A 2019 study found that 80% of sex workers in Sydney’s massage parlors come from Chinese backgrounds, most of them without a visa or permanent residency. In Melbourne, half of advertisements for licensed brothels featured Asian women in a 2016 survey.

Ben: Remember when Alyssa’s friend in Melbourne said that Asian women were in demand? Experts say the normalization of this demand creates a cycle of trafficking and exploitation of Asian workers domestically and abroad. You might remember the Atlanta, Georgia shooting in February of 2021, when 6 Chinese and Korean women were killed in a spa, by a gunman who wanted to quote “eliminate temptation.”

All of these factors, from hostility from police, societal stigma, and racially dehumanizing tropes, can make working at a spa very dangerous for someone like Alyssa.

Amory: Even though Alyssa was haunted by the assault, she continued to work at the spa. She didn’t want to tell her bosses about it because her attacker was a regular client.

Alyssa: I felt like maybe if I said something, they wouldn't have believed me because he had come there. Often he had a regular girl that he was seeing. I was afraid that she would be like, No, that's not how he behaved with me. That's not him at all.

Ben: Several weeks later, Alyssa quit.

Alyssa: So my last straw was just when I talked to a counselor and she was like, “You know, what process can you do to make sure the room is completely safe and you can exit immediately?” And I realized that wasn't really an exit that I could do immediately. So, that's when I realized I had that moment of realization. I was just like, “Oh my God, it's really unsafe.”

Ben: She told her managers she was just taking a temporary leave of absence. That she’d be back in a few months. But she was still processing the assault and considered leaving sex work behind forever.

Amory: So then, she took that office job we heard about at the beginning. And THAT experience….

Alyssa: I'm worried that coming from a sex work background has skewed my perspective of working an office job forever.

Has left Alyssa considering a RETURN to sex work. To be…as she calls it… a SWORKER.

Alyssa: I don't know why, but the way men are horrid to me as a sex worker compared to the way men are horrid in the office is completely different somehow.

Alyssa: I think it's because if I have a terrible client as a sworker, I only have to see him for an hour or so, max. This place is eight hours a day, five days a week. I get paid more in an hour than I get paid in a day at an office job. And at the least, most of my clients respect me and I get paid to be touched.

Ben: So we asked Alyssa to tell us more about the office she was temping at. The company hired tradespeople for factory work, or making deliveries…things like that. The agency helped connect workers to jobs in a few different industries. Alyssa was an admin assistant–logging records, answering phone calls.

Amory: She says she HATED the office….for many reasons.

Alyssa: there's a lot of passive aggressive talk at work and at the time, I didn't realize– so there'd be a lot of things like, “please advise.” You know, I don't know what went wrong. Perhaps we should establish a better line of communication.” …AS PER MY LAST EMAIL, ya know.

Ben: But apart from weird corporate culture…Alyssa’s coworkers at the office seemed rude and…hostile even…toward people different from them. She remembers one guy in particular.

Alyssa: He made fun of people with mental illnesses. And they talked about specific areas like they were bad, like, you know, how you have like neighborhoods who get a bad rap because also, like lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, they kind of generalize that. And I think I'm really kind of sensitive to that type of talk because, you know, I grew up in that type of situation.

Amory: Alyssa has a LOT of stories like this one. Insensitive comments that ran the gamut of racism, classism, misogyny. She said it was infuriating to hear this stuff constantly. Especially since, again, she was often the only woman in the office.

Ben: Alyssa felt she had to take action after a coworker not only touched her on her thigh but also made suggestive comments about one of her female colleagues to another one of her male colleagues.

Alyssa: They saw her downstairs at the cafe at my work, so he was like to her him, he was like, Oh, you know, did you get a look? And that guy was like, “Hey, man, like, I'm married. You know, I love my wife. I just want to look at my wife.” And he was like, “Oh, it doesn't mean you can't have a look.”

Amory: And THIS is about the time that Alyssa took to the two x chromosomes community on Reddit. And she considered taking her thoughts on the toxic work environment to management as well.

Ben: But first, Alyssa talked to the other coworker. The “I just want to look at my wife” guy.

Alyssa: And so saying it to him and I was like, Should I report it? Like, should I talk to my manager about and talk to my boss? And he was pretty much like, you know, if it upsets you that much, I think you should.

Amory: This coworker said HE would talk to the boss first since he worked there longer. And to support Alyssa. But things did not go according to plan.

Alyssa: I got a call that afternoon and they said that they didn't have any work for me and to not come in for the rest of the week And then on Monday, I was halfway to work and they were like, we told you not to come in, like, why are you coming in?

Amory: Whoa.

Ben: Since she was a contract worker, Alyssa didn’t have any sort of protection against this kind of thing. And she was never called back. She was basically let go.

Ben: Would you say that your office coworkers were not as good people as your massage parlor coworkers?

Alyssa: Oh, definitely not. My massage girl coworkers were nice. They were supportive. They were all women. I guess we could talk about things they would understand. And I think they just got it more because we were working in the same sort of line.  And you know, having an all female team around you just feels way more safer.

Ben: But it strikes me in that in both scenarios you had women who are your bosses. I understand that you were saying that, you know, the managers seem to be on the girls side at the massage parlor, but it seems to me from the outside that in both situations, management didn't protect you in ways that management should have protected you.

Alyssa: I think in the sex work culture, it is kind of everyone for themselves, it's up to you to be able to establish boundaries and kind of, you know, work things out if they escalate. And if things do go really bad, that's when you go to the manager. So that's the type of culture there and and I think it makes sense to me. But in an office culture, I think that stuff like that is just not OK. It's not.You know, I feel like as a boss, if I had my own company, I would want my workers to feel safe, I would want them to feel like, you know, if they were sick, they were OK to take sick leave and just be understanding of things.

Ben: Knowing what had happened to Alyssa at the spa…it was tough for us to hear that her office job experience was LESS tenable.

Amory: When talking about her two different workplaces…it became clear that Alyssa had different expectations for her office work culture vs. the sex work culture.

Ben: This was reflected in some of the comments to Alyssa’s Reddit post to TwoXChromosomes. One person wrote:

Amory: “Going from SW to "regular" work means going from honest sexism to bullshit sexism. And in bullshit sexism you have to pretend that you are not being marginalized, assaulted, belittled, and bullied. You are made not just to put up with all these insults and injuries but then forced to act like they are not happening. Getting disrespected by someone "on your team" is hurtful in a way that getting disrespected by someone who paid for that specific privilege just isn't.”

Ben: In some ways it feels like a real strong argument for more diversity in the workplace. When you’re the only woman in the office. Or you’re the only person of color on a team, you’re in real danger of suffering under a poisonous workplace culture and at a real disadvantage when it comes to changing that culture.

Amory: What do you feel like you've learned about yourself through all of this and, and what you want from a work environment, or maybe just what you want to do next?

Alyssa: I think, you know, in a in a workplace, I would honestly look for somewhere where it's diverse. And you know, there's a culture where you can have an open conversation and mental health is valued. And you know, being able to put yourself is also valued

B:en Right now, Alyssa is working from home as she figures out her next moves. But she has to work around her parents’ schedule. Because Alyssa’s parents still don’t know what she does for work.

Alyssa: I still live with them at the moment.

Amory: Yeah. Where are they now? I guess it's early morning there.

Alyssa: They’re outside. But they’re gardening, I think. They usually garden every day. (Laughs.)

Amory: This is just blowing my mind! Ahh, do we need, like, a code word for your parents are in the house?

Alyssa: No, they're fine. I told them because we have two doors between us. I told them that this was happening, so.

Amory: Okay. But you didn't tell them what? What we….

Alyssa: No, no, absolutely not.

Amory: Okay. Yeah.

Amory: Alyssa’s trying to diversify her work life again. She’s doing a lot of different freelance jobs–from designing posters for events, to illustration, and more. She’s posted some of her illustrations on Reddit…these portraits of cartoon-like characters.

Ben: We’re not experts but…she’s got some artistic talent! And her illustrations have had good feedback online.

Alyssa: So there's another festival that's coming up that I'm marketing for. And, you know, I just got asked to work for this TikToker. So, you know, I'm helping with that as well. And yeah, everything's going quite well. You know, I'm also doing deejay sets on the side, which is ….really embarrassing to say out loud.


Ben: Alyssa has had a hard go. No doubt. But she told us that getting let go from that temp job is the BEST thing that’s happened to her recently.

Amory: Because now… she works for HERSELF. And as her own boss, she treats herself right.

Amory: Endless Thread is a production of WBUR in Boston.

Ben: Want early tickets to events, swag, bonus content? Join OUR email list! You’ll find it at

Amory: This episode was written and produced by Megan Cattel, who also does our web production, and it was co-hosted by me, Amory Sivertson.

Ben: And me, Ben Brock Johnson! Mix and sound design by Emily Jankowski. Editing help from Jeb Sharpe. The rest of our team is Nora Saks, Dean Russell, Quincy Walters, Grace Tatter, Kristin Torres, Paul Vaitkus, and Matt Reed.

Amory: Endless Thread is a show about the blurred lines between digital communities and making sure the door to your bedroom is closed when your parents are home! If you’ve got an untold history, an unsolved mystery, or a wild story from the internet that you want us to tell, hit us up. Email Endless Thread at WBUR dot ORG.

Megan Cattel Freelance digital producer, WBUR Podcasts
Megan Cattel was a freelance digital producer for WBUR Podcasts.



More from Endless Thread

Listen Live