Before Violet Vause and Kayden Blake entered the sex work industry, they were Southern California teenagers fighting to survive conservative Christian upbringings. When Vause was 15 and attending a religious residential boarding school, school administrators caught her having a sexual encounter with another female student and subjected her to severe punishment—including a call to her mother. Though her mother was supportive of her bisexuality, the experience left her traumatized and humiliated.
A few years later, a mutual friend and high school classmate brought Vause to a Super Bowl party at Blake’s house. The two started dating shortly after. Blake’s parents often forbade her from seeing Vause and pressured the couple to break up. Blake sometimes had to cut off communication with her family, and remembers the early years of her relationship with Vause as a “tumultuous” time.
After high school, Vause and Blake set off to start a new life together but struggled to make ends meet, despite each working full-time office jobs. Vause was scrolling through Craigslist searching for leads on a new gig when she came across an ad for a fetish modeling site. The possibility immediately intrigued her. She started performing as a live cam model, and soon, she and Blake began performing together as a couple and attracting a loyal, supportive following.
“When we were just camming, we were very, very open about our relationship,” Blake said during a phone call with VICE. “We got married while we were camming and we announced it online. We got really good feedback. Our members sent us wedding presents.” Camming not only affirmed their relationship as a couple, but helped them start fulfilling careers as full-time cam models, Blake said. “Camming did so much for us in our personal lives, in our relationship and just all around.”
About two years after they first started camming, Blake said she and Vause started “looking around and exploring our options. We were interested in expanding.” Working in a brothel “wasn't really on our radar,” Vause said, but after a move to Nevada where prostitution is legal, several fans suggested they give it a try. “We were really intrigued with the idea,” Blake added. “It was never something we were ever closed off to, it just wasn't something that had occurred to us.”
Vause and Blake trusted that both their business partnership and romantic relationship would remain strong once they started seeing clients individually, and neither expressed much concern about potential work-life complications. “We both understand each other's boundaries and where we stand as far as what is and is not OK with the other,” Vause explained.
Blake and Vause looked forward to the possibility of transitioning to a new work environment but wondered if their success as cam models would translate with real-life clients. They were especially concerned new clients might not be as supportive of their same-sex marriage as their loyal online fanbase. “There was a definite concern that clients would treat us differently once we were open about our marriage,” Vause said. “There are some clients who feel that providers who are open about their relationships ruin the ‘fantasy.’” They also worried about getting along with coworkers at the ranch and competing for clients. “We hadn't worked in that environment with a bunch of other women. We weren't sure how,” Blake said.
After extensively researching a number of different Nevada brothels and speaking with other sex workers about their experiences, Vause and Blake started working at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel and adult resort in Pahrump, Nevada, not far from Las Vegas. The all-female management, strict regulations on alcohol, and zero-tolerance drug policy at Sheri's “really appealed to us,” Blake said. “It's just a more comfortable atmosphere,” Vause added. “It's more of a community.”
Though Vause and Blake’s coworkers and managers at Sheri’s Ranch maintain a queer-friendly environment, the couple still worried about coming out as a married couple at work. “We weren’t necessarily hiding it,” Blake said, “but we weren't sure if the knowledge of us being married would deter clients from seeing us individually.”
The couple agreed they could likely lose clients because of their marriage, but “we refused to conform to the unrealistic expectations of a select few and began being more open,” Vause said. “Providers shouldn’t have to hide themselves in order to make anyone comfortable. We are people just like everyone else, we have people we love, families, goals, and entire lives outside of our job title.”
Vause and Blake officially came out as a married couple in a blog post on the Sheri’s Ranch website, and their dedicated fans and regular clients keep coming back. They see a wide range of clients, including Twitter fans and some who identify as bisexual, trans, genderqueer, or genderfluid. “Neither of us are necessarily more attracted to men or women. We find people attractive for who they are, not what for what body parts they have,” Vause said.
The couple said coming out while working at the brothel brought them closer to the queer community and its shared history with communities of sex workers, and helped affirm their own expressions of identity and sexuality. “We make most of our connections with the LGBTQ+ community through our work and relationships at the ranch,” Vause said. “It is not uncommon at all to meet a member of the sex worker community who also identifies as any variance of sexual or gender identities.”
The public declaration also strengthened Vause and Blake’s marriage and created new opportunities for financial freedom. “For a very long time, the idea of buying a home, going to school, and starting a family were out of the question for us,” Vause said. "But now we often sit together in the courtyard of the ranch planning exactly that. There aren’t really even words to describe how much of a difference working in this industry, and being open about our marriage, has made.” Like many Sheri’s providers, Vause and Blake go to the ranch every two weeks to stay and work for a period of time. While there, they’re focused and working toward “a game plan of how we are going to build our future.”
The couple also hopes to destigmatize the industry, challenge common misconceptions about sex work, and debunk the myth that all sex workers are desperate, lonely, or unloved. “We have nothing to hide, we get to share what we have with amazing people we meet, and build our future together in the process. There will always be people that get jealous or who don’t understand, but we don't let them get in the way of our future successes and our happiness,” Vause said.
It’s a future they never imagined as teenage sweethearts. “We both struggled for so long,” Vause added, “but now we see our lives turning around and we are stronger than ever, both together and individually.”
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