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And that’s what I did. I showed up for my new job every morning, headed home every evening, and stopped feeling quite so compartmentalized. I had sex with David the way normal people do. Sometimes in the morning, often at night, usually with the lights off, and always in the bed. I hoped that, with time, I could convince him to mix it up a little bit, but, for now, I was content with the novelty and tenderness of it.

I thought my little porn project was ready to be neatly tucked away, a handful of memories and some good stories to tell at parties. I didn’t think twice about it. It was just one other thing I had done with my past. And it really did feel like my past.

John was amazed by how little I had been affected.

“I’ve got friends who’ve done this kind of work,” he told me, “or at least worked as strippers, and they all have issues with men. They have a hard time dealing with it. That’s really great that it hasn’t happened to you.”

Really great. Terrific. I patted myself on the back. I felt so evolved, so together, so cosmopolitan.

“Why do you think that is?” he asked.

I had a wealth of possible explanations: I’m smarter than the rest, I’ve got an intellectual edge, I’ve got this diary to help me process, I’m better at maintaining distance and at constructing walls. But those were just lies I was telling myself. Maybe my issues weren’t as blatant, but they were there, all the more insidious for their subtlety.

Funny how you think something is over, and then you turn around to find it staring you in the face. It hadn’t gone anywhere; you were just temporarily distracted.

I was walking down the street after work one day, and I could feel men watching me the way men watch women as they walk past. I felt scorn and contempt for them, disdain and pity. Pathetic creatures that they were. Both the dungeon and the agency told me that the only time you get women paying for sessions is with their husbands, and even that happens rarely. Women don’t shovel out hundreds of dollars for an hour of sexual company, but men do.

Men will pay hundreds of dollars to feel loved—artificial and base as that love may be. They’re desperate and weak, even the wealthy, good-looking ones. I’d seen the way they looked at me, the twenties neatly piled on the dresser, in anticipation for an hour of “unconditional” love and lust. Across New York, across the world, thousands of men were making reservations for escorts, renting pornos, surfing adult sites, ready to shell out cash for a piece of ass, virtual or physical.

Of course, as my brain leapt from point to point, I realized that all this scorn didn’t make me look too good. I’d been there to provide, so was I really any better than they were? They were paying for me, but did that make them weaker or stronger? Was the person with the money in power? Or was it the person who was being paid to put out?

I didn’t know, but it made me feel sick to think about it.