'I'm a Disabled Sex Worker'

Getting into sex work was an impulsive decision for me, but one that was fuelled by my circumstances and financial need. When you have challenging health conditions like I do, it can be difficult to hold a stable job and complete post-secondary education. It wasn't that I'm not capable or charismatic enough, I just struggled with an eight hour day on my feet or having a rigid nine-to-five schedule.

I had a pretty chaotic childhood, but one of the greatest struggles was my health. I was diagnosed at the age of 10 with ulcerative colitis, which is a bowel specific autoimmune disease, so much of my early years were spent in the hospital in British Columbia, Canada, where I grew up. I was always very artistic, so reading and writing became the best way for me to process being in hospital for weeks at a time.

I briefly studied eastern religion and anthropology. But during the time I was in college, I was living in a hospital. I would receive my medication intravenously in the morning, get my arm wrapped up and then get the bus to school. After class, I would take my homework and bus back to the hospital. I actually did end up completing the class, but I haven't pursued post secondary education beyond that, as it was physically and emotionally taxing.

After several years working in fundraising, my mental and physical health were suffering. People with ulcerative colitis often go through cycles of flare ups and remissions. I ended up losing the job and from there, despite odd bits of work in retail, I had to visit food banks and a local Sikh temple to get free meals. Each month, I was trying to scrape together a few hundred dollars for rent while sharing with multiple roommates. Then, a friend asked if I'd ever heard of "camming." The concept of making money online by performing sex acts on camera was wild to me.

In March 2014, I signed up to a site with a crappy laptop and no idea what to expect. I was instantly bombarded with dozens of messages. I had no concept of how much tokens were worth or what to charge, and it was actually users of the site that coached me on what to do. During that first night I performed a run of the mill private show that included sex toys and self-pleasure.

It was the first time I'd done anything like that, so I felt nervous, but there's a very big difference between performing in front of a crowd of people and in front of your computer. I couldn't even see the person on the other side. Fear and discomfort weren't issues for me.

That day I made US$170 for two hours of work. That was around $215 Canadian dollars and my rent at the time was $500. I thought camming for a few nights a week could earn me the same as a regular paycheck.

GoAskAlex has been performing for seven years
Alex 'GoAskAlex' Resident was diagnosed at the age of 10 with ulcerative colitis, a bowel specific autoimmune disease. She had total abdominal colectomy surgery in July 2019. Alex 'GoAskAlex' Resident

For the first few years any camming work I did was very sporadic, and I was still working other jobs, but in 2017 I decided to dedicate my work week to camming. The payoff was instant. There were days I couldn't even believe how much money I was making while sitting in my own home, eating my own food and drinking tea. I was wearing what I wanted and sometimes not even performing sex acts. I might be eating my lunch, playing the ukulele or folding my laundry while having conversations with people around the world, learning about their lives and earning a living while doing it.

Since 2017, my yearly earnings have fluctuated. But I'm still in my 20s and I can earn anywhere between $80,000-$200,000, and in October 2018 I was ranked the top 30th earner out of perhaps 10,000 models on one site. That was exciting. But the money I make is always dependent on how much I work, my own mental health, the economy and what is going on in the world. The pandemic has affected a lot of people in the past year or so.

My physical health was also affecting my work every day. There were weeks at a time where I couldn't eat solid food. I would have to eat baby food or broth, and then try to perform and stay engaged with fans. I had to go to the hospital or the emergency room and was trying different sorts of medications to treat my ulcerative colitis.

I didn't want to be perceived as having a disease, but it was really affecting me. Of course, talking about your bowel health is awkward and embarrassing when the image you're trying to portray is one of being sexy. But over time, I started sharing my health issues with my chat room and fans.

People were really supportive, which made me realize that it wasn't just the sexual aspect that kept people coming back, it was also me and my personality. That made me feel very appreciated, very loved and very seen. It also gave me the opportunity to hear stories from other people. I've had the privilege of hearing about health issues that both consumers and creators of adult content have been through.

So when I was going for total abdominal colectomy surgery—I had my entire colon removed, and my small intestine was re-routed out through my abdomen—in July 2019, I did tell my fans what was happening and kept people updated through my social media because I was in hospital for almost a month afterwards due to complications.

It took me several months to get back to a place where I was ready to think about my next step, professionally, but it seemed like a no-brainer to keep doing sex work. As well as being what I loved to do, I was also aware that no entry level job would pay the kind of money I had been earning.

I returned to camming in September 2019 and I was received with a lot of love and compassion. I started mostly by wearing girdles or high waisted underwear to hide my ostomy, which I wear permanently now after my surgery. But over time, there were a lot of instances where I was fully naked and my medical device was visible.

GoAskAlex has been performing for seven years
Alex 'GoAskAlex' Resident also does advocacy work to improve the representation of disabled bodied. She recently led a 'Disability in Sex Work' panel on behalf of the advocacy group Sex Work Survival Guide. Alex 'GoAskAlex' Resident

I found I would be in a space where I was trying to perform and someone new in the chatroom would ask a question about it. It was well meaning, but it began to cause me some distress. So, over time I adapted and started an OnlyFans page. I don't really do camming anymore, but I have found a renewed sense of passion and inspiration for the sex work I do.

I also do advocacy work, which brings me a lot of joy. I recently led a 'Disability in Sex Work' panel on behalf of the advocacy group Sex Work Survival Guide and I am passionate about the representation of disabled bodies. I want people to know that being disabled and having a healthy sex life and being sexy are not mutually exclusive.

I try to lead by example with that and so I worked on a disabled sex worker calendar for both 2020 and 2021. Disabled people are rarely represented in mainstream media, let alone in pornography. It is difficult to consume media and never see yourself represented, so to consume pornography and not see your body represented is challenging.

Mainstream pornography doesn't showcase the vast majority of bodies in the world. Plus sized models or interracial scenes are often fetishized or the whole focus of the pornography. Disabled bodies are rarely even shown.

Advocacy work costs me money a lot of the time, but it's not for financial gain. The calendar, for example, is art and it's expressive and educational. It's really empowering for the people who are in it. My aim is that one day advocacy work won't be necessary because disabled bodies will be normalized; bodies like mine will be the mainstream.

I do get negative comments sometimes. People say: "Why would I want to look at that?" But those kinds of comments remind me that this work is still necessary.

Disabled people consume pornography just like everyone else, so they deserve to be represented just like everyone else.

Alex 'GoAskAlex' Resident is a sex worker and disability advocate living in British Columbia, Canada. You can find out more about her at goaskalexonline.com or follow her on Instagram @goaskalexonline.

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

As told to Jenny Haward.