'I Was A Pastor, Now I'm a Sex Worker'

I grew up in a religious family, we were very devout Christians. My father was in the military so we lived all over the U.S. and in Europe, but church was our whole life. We attended church multiple times a week and all of my friends and my parents' friends were part of our church. I really didn't know too much about life outside of that and I thought that I would be part of the church for my entire life.

Without being explicitly told this, I quickly picked up that my place, as a woman, was in the kitchen and at home with the babies. So, that became my dream: to meet a good Christian man and raise a good Christian family. Although I had always wanted to go to seminary and be a leader in the church, being a pastor wasn't an option in the church I was part of, because women were not allowed to be pastors.

Instead, in my 20s I became a high school teacher at a Christian international school, which is where I met the man I would go on to marry and have children with. He was raised in a loosely Christian family and has always been very open-minded and loving. Through many years of conversation he helped me to unpack what I had been taught about my role as a woman, and I had space then to re-evaluate it and come to my own conclusions.

After we married, he found a megachurch in Minnesota where I eventually became a pastor. It was the first church I'd been part of where women were allowed to be pastors and leaders.

I became a pastor in 2016 and I was mentored and able to teach classes and speak to the youth group. It felt so good to be seen as a whole human. But as I rose in the ranks there, two things happened. Firstly, I realized that I was queer, and because my church was not queer-accepting, I had to hide that part of myself. Secondly, I began to realize that the church was more concerned with upholding the reputation of the head pastor at that church than recognizing me as an individual.

Despite that, this church had always encouraged me to listen to the other side of any story, even though they were not queer-accepting. I took a course in queer theology and read materials by LGBTQ authors and came to my own conclusion that being queer is not biblically wrong. I was spending more time with the LGBTQ community to learn how to be a better ally and I found myself being more and more attracted to certain people in the room. Although I dismissed it to begin with, I eventually realized that I am not straight. I now identify as either pansexual or bisexual, although queer is my preference.

At the time, I actually considered taking this personal discovery to the grave because I knew I would lose family, friends and likely my job at the church over it. During the next 18 months I eventually came out to my husband, friends and some close family, and they were very loving and supportive. When I then came out publicly, the initial reaction was all love. But then, slowly, the quiet concerns, whispers and judgement started trickling in from some people.

I had never planned on leaving the church, but in July 2017 I came to the decision that it was important to honor the wholeness of who I was and not have to hide or censor any part of myself. It was really hard because I left the church without telling anyone or having the chance to explain what had happened.

The following year was one of grief, reflection and reevaluation. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life except go to seminary, which I did in the fall of 2017.

It was also my first year emerging from being a stay-at-home mom for seven years. So, I just allowed myself to follow my curiosity. I had taken sexy pictures of myself for years, including a nude photoshoot for a female friend in 2016 and so in May 2018 I booked a boudoir shoot; something I'd always wanted to do.

sex work, sex, onlyfans, women
sex work, sex, onlyfans, women

During that shoot, I just remember thinking: "I was meant to take my clothes off." It had been a gift to myself, to show me who I was underneath the role of mom, pastor and wife, but I knew I had to do more.

Then, in July of 2019, my husband and I, along with our kids, moved to LA. I immediately felt that being sensual, empowered and sexual is more normal here, and I found that incredibly healing. It showed me how repressed I had felt when I was living in the Midwest.

With the full support of my husband, I decided to create an OnlyFans account. I was nervous, but also excited, because I finally had a space where I felt comfortable posting my boudoir photos and the nude shoot I had done with my friend. I was happy being able to share this side of myself, but I also knew that as it is a subscription service where people pay to see my content, earning any money from it could help with our new life in California.

To begin with I'd just share topless photographs of myself, but in November of 2019 I was able to shoot with a fine art nude photographer I love and it was transformative. I remember getting into my car after that shoot bursting into tears. It was like I had come home to myself; it was so beautiful.

I'm aware that people may think I do this as an act of rebellion against my religious upbringing. I would say that I do rebel against rules that say what women can and can't do with their bodies. But, I made the choice to start sharing this type of content with a lot of forethought, caution and awareness about the long term consequences, because I have children and family and a career as a life coach to think about.

There has also been a slow and steady evolution in the type of content I share of myself; it has been important for me to discover my own boundaries. At first my images were soft and modest, but now I will share explicit content where I will show my whole body very openly and sexually. I do custom content, where people can ask me to create a photo or video for them, but I always leave room to say no. Some sex acts I feel comfortable with but with others I'll have to say no. Overall, I'm happy to create sexual content and I consider what I create to be tasteful.

People have asked me if what I create is hardcore porn. You could call the images and videos I create porn, but that's not what I choose to call it and I don't actually watch porn myself. I try to bring intimacy and passion to my work and share my sexual journey. I will never pretend to have an orgasm, which is standard in porn. I had not received my first orgasm from a partner until October of 2020. I cried the first time it happened and I share those stories with my fans.

I do identify as a sex worker, which wasn't ever my intention. My path led me here and at first I was very resistant to the term, and then I thought about it and did some research. In truth, it's technically accurate and it does represent what I do. The more I sat with it and owned it, the more I thought that to be a sex worker is actually a really beautiful thing.

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Nikole Mitchell was raised in a Christian family and went on to become a pastor, before leaving the church and becoming a sex worker in 2019. Courtesy of Nikole Mitchell

I was never educated about sex work growing up, but now I'm so passionate about it. It's becoming more normalized, and I am proof that you can now do sex work from the safety of your own home. It's a way of building your business and life on your own terms. That's what I'd like to see for all people, but especially women. I want women to do what they want, wear what they want, say what they want and make as much money as they want— based on individual values and boundaries of course—and there are sites now that are helping women to do that.

However, it has been hard for some family and friends to accept my new career. That is understandable because of my background and the expectations around what a woman, wife or mother should be. Although a few people stuck with me through this transition, I have lost a lot of friends and some family, which is very sad because I feel like I am the same person.

My husband and I divorced in 2020 but we still live together in separate bedrooms. I didn't feel I was able to honor who I am within the marriage but we had also both grown apart. We still support one another and wish each other happiness. I'm really grateful that our kids can see their mom and dad still being friends.

Our three children are all under 10 and at school full time, so that's when I do any filming or photography or make calls to my fans. But my kids are aware that I do nude photoshoots and they have seen me walk around naked. Of course, we are conscious of sharing only what is age appropriate, and have a lot of conversations around body sovereignty, consent and the idea that kids do kid's stuff and adults do adult things. We're in a very sex positive, body positive home.

Before this, my highest paid job had a salary of $25,000 a year. Now I make anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000 a month. It's been mind-blowing and incredible and I'm so grateful. I'm not a big spender so I haven't really made any lavish purchases, but I would say that I now have peace of mind.

We struggled for a while trying to make ends meet when we moved to LA; our rent here is seven times more than my mortgage was in the Midwest. There was a constant, underlying anxiety about whether we'd made the right decision in moving and as the sole provider for my family, I was so afraid of failing. Now we can do anything and spend any amount and I know we'll be OK.

Although I get a lot of support, the main response in America to my career change has been outrage, shock and awe. I think my story is very easy to misunderstand and it's easy to judge.

I think a lot of judgement or backlash is actually because people are triggered by seeing something they want, that they can't let themselves have. Instead of addressing that, they project their emotions onto me. As well as sex work, I work as a life coach and I always remind people that they are worthy of having it all. What you choose to do is based on your own desires and preferences. I believe you can get what you want out of life without doing things you aren't comfortable with.

My hope and prayer is that people will lean in to what I do with curiosity and openness rather than react out of shame and fear. I suggest thinking about where you have a tendency to assume and judge, and instead see how you could be curious instead. You might just be surprised by what you learn.

Nikole Mitchell is a sex worker, life coach and mother of three children. She lives in California with her family. She shares content on OnlyFans or you can visit her website nikolemitchell.com for information on life coaching.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.