In this interview, we go straight behind the velvet curtains for the heart of the matter, wanting to know all about intimacy in the eyes of a sex worker. We talked with Manhattan-based stripper Kee Kee James about how the service her clients are looking for goes far beyond physical affection. It turns out she’s often paid to be an attentive and thoughtful listener.
The Austrailian Native has become quite fond of this form of sexual healing, and after 2.5 years on the NYC hustle, she’s working hard at plans for a degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Sex Therapy. “I want to change the narrative of sex workers to care givers,” was one of her passing comments, and of course we wanted to know more.
There are plans for a podcast along the road of the degree program. Kee Kee also has her own genderless, ethical fashion label, Laurel, and she’s the type of New Yorker who can be spotted in head-to-toe leopard and sky-high heels on a Tuesday. So look out cause this is just the person who’s gonna make some waves in TLC.
What is your history in sex work?
At 18 or 19, I started out at as a receptionist for Kirketon Road Centre, a needle syringe program, in Sydney, Australia, which was a multi-purpose clinic which helps clients with methadone, clean needles, health care, psychology, assistance in finding housing, and outreach for injecting drug users and sex workers. Through KRC I gained my Diploma of Alcohol & Other Drugs qualification.
From there, I founded an art gallery/live music venue with a friend, which later propelled me into the fashion industry. While keeping my fashion label alive I would have various side hustles, which landed me a role as receptionist at a brothel in Sydney.
This really opened my eyes up to the sex industry. I had friends who would always want me to come dance with them, but I was too scared to show my vagina (Sydney clubs are full nude). Weird complex but I soon got over it after working in the brothel and seeing sex work as any job really….sex work is work.
I was dancing in Sydney for a few years before moving to America. I attempted to stay in the fashion industry, but the club was calling my name, I now work full time dancing in Manhattan.
In my opinion, I feel most people who frequent a strip club or a brothel, they’re looking for intimacy.
How easy is it to read someone’s intimacy problems in their private lives?
In my opinion, I feel most people who frequent a strip club or a brothel are looking for intimacy. They want to connect with a person because they either don’t connect with their partner, or they haven’t connected with another person in a while. While I wouldn’t learn the depth of their intimacy issues, or lack of, there are different ways to discover that while getting to know someone in a short period of time.
If you throw in a little cuddle while giving a dance to the client, most times they would lap that up and hug back really tight. That’s when you know it’s been a while since they’ve had that sort of touch.
Sometimes it’s not about the touch—sometimes a client wants to open up about their personal life, share a joke and get a laugh back. I’m being paid to entertain them and give them this feeling. These little things get lost in a relationship over time, especially if the communication has become stunted or there’s a disconnect.
The sex industry often helps clients open up faster than the real world, and with a little probing it’s only a matter of minutes until they spill their entire life history onto you.
Do they often tell you about themselves?
Everybody loves talking about themselves! The sex industry often helps clients open up faster than the real world, and with a little probing it’s only a matter of minutes until they spill their entire life history onto you.
As soon as I mention that I plan to go to university to become a sex therapist the more intimate and detailed things come out. A lot of those conversations hold some embarrassment that their relationship has become cagey, or they have a Madonna-whore complex, they could just be lazy in their approach with their partners and when I explain that sex therapy isn’t the act of showing someone how to have sex, rather it’s a therapy-based session mostly about their sex life and intimacy. They flip their switch and become curious.
You’re a very magnetic and playful person, but I would not want to cross you! Do you have a persona or alter-ego that helps you turn on and off or just to deal with people?
Yeah, I definitely slip into my alter-ego, she’s bubbly, fun and a little bit dumb. I feel like my true self would never make as much as “club name” does.
The kind of men that frequent strip clubs aren’t really my cup of tea, so becoming “club name” makes it easier to communicate and enjoy my time with these people, open up and find something to connect over.
A friend at work is 100% her authentic self, and it really sells—she’s genuinely interested in the clients she attracts, whereas my natural self needs to warm up and find a common interest.
The most romantic anyone has been in the club is when they tipped me 1k to show them how to do a handstand.
Do you often feel the need to connect or disconnect as far as intimacy is concerned?
For me, I am disconnected from actual intimacy while in the club—that is saved for my personal life. I’ve watched some very talented dancers and providers engage in true intimacy and it shows with their loyal clients. To me they are caregivers providing an incredible service, and are worth every penny.
Has anyone gone out of their way to be romantic toward you at the club? What was your reaction?
The most romantic anyone has been in the club is when they tipped me 1k to show them how to do a handstand.
For whatever reason, I don’t seem to attract romance in the club, and I’m fine with that.
When a client is that willing, I just use their phone and google sex therapists in NYC and leave them to their own devices.
Do you have consistent clients who fall in love with you? If yes, how do you deal?
I’m not really that woman, I’m too fast, aggressive and assertive for most men who frequent strip clubs. I find it hard to be intoxicating and alluring to a guy who really doesn’t interest me. Sure, I can do that with a love interest, but I find it really hard to fake it.
Funny though, since last week I do have 2 guys who are showing a lot of interest. Even with all my experience I don’t know how to juggle regulars. I watch other girls kill it with their regulars and I am taking notes.
Do you feel emotionally drained after work?
Hell yeah! I speak to over 50 people a night, that means I’m getting rejected by 25-35 people a night, and another 15 are probably time wasters.
For me personally I feel like it’s like walking a tightrope—you’re balancing your boundaries while playing a sweet girl attitude, juggling a man’s ego, being alluring, selling a product, and making sure you’re on top of your time management so you don’t waste half your night on someone you cannot close the sale with.
When it’s over, I request no music in the Uber, I sit in silence, shower as soon as I’m home, throw on that fake tan and get to bed.
How has intimacy changed for you since you started sex work?
I don’t like to be touched as much outside of work unless it’s my partner, but I’ve never been an overly touchy person. If someone is touching me for free at work, I get really stiff and often bounce from the conversation. I don’t see the value in getting felt up for free in hopes of making a sale.
Outside of work, I save my intimate moments for my husband, even with conversation. After having shallow conversations all week, it’s refreshing to get into the thick of it with someone I trust.
I watch friends have a cuddle or get close and I do get a hint of jealousy that I’m not that type of person. I also feel myself get a little stiff if a friend comes in for a hug. I think sex work has made that more apparent, and I probably would be a little looser if my job didn’t involve so much human connection.
So yes, I do think it’s more acceptable for men to go to a sex worker rather than a therapist. There’s still that notation that therapy means there’s something wrong with you, instead of using it as a tool to better understand yourself.
How do you revitalize yourself after work? What’s your self-love routine?
This year I’ve started to become quite strict with my routine and diet, so by the time it hits the weekend I can splurge a little and it gives me something to look forward to.
There’s a lot of face masks, lots of chilling and delicious food. I’m obsessed with eating out and trying new places—that’s what NYC is for.
You’re married! How do you and preserve your intimacy at home and keep it fresh?
My husband and I work completely different hours, so I moved my schedule around to match his. We actually get to spend time together now and I don’t miss out on the best club nights. Plus, it also allows us alone time, it has created more independence in the relationship, which I think is needed when moving across the globe with another person.
We are in constant communication with one another and are open books. Our spiritual intimacy is very solid, and we have a fantastic foundation.
Do you find that society’s expectations on men allow them to seek sex work over sex therapy?
The amount of men whose eyes light up when I tell them the plan for me is to become a sex therapist is like 9 out of 10. They all want a piece of that juicy info, even when I tell them I’ve literally only gone on university tours and haven’t even signed up, they just want to start spilling the details.
I’ve even had some see me again and say their wife is into getting sex therapy from me, I’m not even qualified….It’s pretty mind blowing that they hadn’t thought of other ways to ignite intimacy in their relationships or hadn’t done any research themselves. When a client is that willing, I just use their phone and google sex therapists in NYC and leave them to their own devices. Until I’m qualified, there is no way I am taking on clients.
So, yes, I do think it’s more acceptable for men to go to a sex worker rather than a therapist. There’s still that notation that therapy means there’s something wrong with you, instead of using it as a tool to better understand yourself. When they hear it from a half-naked woman that sex therapy is a chance for them and their partner to have a mediated conversation about something so private and intimate in a controlled setting, it doesn’t seem as daunting.
The whole time I’m literally just tickling up and down his sides while giving relationship and kink advice.
Do you often give love advice at work?
Almost every night, there is literally no social boundaries when it comes to sex work. Men might just open up about their kinks within the first sentence.
Others I’ve coached on how to communicate what they want sexually with their partners. I have a new client who likes to be tickled, he’s a young guy so can’t afford to see me as often as he likes, but I gained his trust by talking about fetishes and kinks, how they originate and encouraging them as a healthy outlet if there’s communication involved.
He had a new partner and didn’t know how to tell them he liked being tickled. Building up his confidence to have those conversations is what brings him back to see me. I’m like his bi-monthly “therapist” and we check in with how his relationship is going and exploring where his fetish might go. The whole time I’m literally just tickling up and down his sides while giving relationship and kink advice.
How does your work vary (or does it) in the states from back home? Did the way ppl / men behave in this work come across as culturally shocking?
It’s a whole different ball game in NYC compared to Sydney, Australia. I could literally flick my weave in Aus and men would come up to me and ask if I was available. I didn’t have to hustle as much and prove my worth like I do here in New York.
Also, the structure of the club is completely different from Syd to NYC. We don’t pay any house fees in Sydney (house fee’s in the US can range from $30 a shift to over $150), the Aus club would just take a small cut of the VIP rooms, there’s no lap dances on the open floor in Aus, this can only happen in a room, so your earning potential is much higher.
In NYC not only is the club taking about 60% of the VIP room fee, but the hosts, managers, house mom and DJ demand a tip as well.
All management talk aside, I found the men in NYC to be way pushier, expecting more and unwilling to tip as easily. There isn’t a tipping culture in Aus, so if I was to demand a tip the customer would happily do it due to it being such a rarity.
I honestly didn’t understand the American market when I first moved, I bought a stripper course and that really helped me gain confidence and ask for what I want. It also helped me navigate American men and place strict boundaries that I didn’t necessarily have to reinforce as often in Australia.
What’s your perspective on Valentine’s Day? Do you have plans?
I love Valentine’s Day, I always have. For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a secret admirer who would leave me anonymous cards and chocolate. Turns out it was my mom, which is super cute and developed my celebration for love.
Now Valentine’s has a special meaning for my husband and I. We accidentally became exclusive on Valentines, which was awkward at first but has turned out to be really sweet. It’s a nice feeling when the city is buzzing with love.
This year is extra special, it’s our 5-year dating anniversary, so we’re going all out baby!