An interview with professional dominatrix Leila Hazlett
Leila Hazlett is a sex worker, producer, and professional dominatrix. She also has a physical disability. She opened up to us about how sex work has affected her life, including her relationship to her body, her disability, and dating. She shares the good and the bad, including her favorite thing that she's ever done as a sex worker.
Pleasure Pie: How did you get into sex work? What kinds of sex work do you do?
Leila Hazlett: I started doing nude modeling in college when a friend asked to take photos of me, specifically my tattoos, for a school project. It helped me discover I have an exhibisionist side and I very quickly decided I wanted to explore more erotic and kink related modeling.
I took my time to figure out what I was comfortable with and eventually made some pornographic films. I also got into doing pro domination sessions where clients pay for things like worshiping my feet, being tied to a bed, or getting verbally humiliated.
Fetishes fascinate me, so most of my work revolves around different fetishes. Other than being on camera, I also film and edit videos for various websites. I’m a little bit like an administrative assistant, but for a kinky video studio.
PP: How has doing sex work changed your life?
LH: For me, modeling was something I started doing for fun, not something I intended to make a career out of. However, I consider myself incredibly lucky to have stumbled into this industry. Not only have I meet some amazing people doing this work, but it also quite literally saved me from being homeless when I went through a very difficult time in my life. I used to work a traditional nine to five job and only do adult work on the side. Then, several years ago, I needed spinal surgery, which was a complete failure. It left me with nerve damage, chronic pain, and too many physical limitations to work forty hours a week and spend two hours a day commuting to work. I realized quitting my old job and focusing on modeling and video production full time was the one way I could get control of my life back.
PP: How has sex work affected your relationship to your body?
LH: I was very insecure about my physical appearance when I was younger after being bullied for years. Typically if you have insecurities about your body modeling is the worst choice to make. Random strangers will say very personal things and point out anything they think is a flaw no matter what you look like. Early on I was bullied by other models and photographers and was told I would never make any money since I have tattoos and surgical scars. Instead of letting that hold me back, it only made me more determined to succeed. My body is my work so I make sure to eat well, exercise, and live a healthy lifestyle. Sex work helps motivate me to take care of myself so I can be fit and, quite frankly, more “marketable” as a model. Now, I’m able to look at myself in the mirror and see what I’m happy with, versus what I want to work on.
PP: How has chronic pain affected your relationship to your body?
LH: When you have chronic pain your body can feel like your enemy. It’s like you’re a prisoner. You have to stop when you don’t want to stop because pushing through the pain isn’t always an option. Being a stubborn workaholic, I used to fight my body and would end up pushing myself to the point where I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for days. It’s forced me to learn to listen to my body and accept that I have needs that the average person doesn’t have. It’s still a major source of frustration for me, but I now put more effort into taking care of myself to give me every possible advantage.
PP: What do you enjoy about sex work?
LH: This is my freedom. As someone with a physical disability, sex work gives me the option to work and participate in society instead of being stuck on the sidelines. I can make my own schedule, work as much as I need to, and still be able to take care of myself.
I also love the psychology behind what I do. I produce a lot of custom fetish videos so I am always learning about new fetishes I haven’t heard of. Often my customers don’t have people they can share their fetish with in their personal lives and want to explain to me why it is that they are into a specific thing. It’s always fascinating to discover different, uncommon fetishes.
PP: What *don't* you enjoy about sex work?
LH: The random harassment and threats from people online. It’s mostly men telling me how horrible I am for being naked online, or telling me how horrible I am for not sending them free videos or giving out my phone number. However, I was shocked to discover recently that a female friend of mine who isn’t a sex worker gets sent far more dick pics than me from random guys. Cleary online harassment is a widespread problem, but as a sex worker there is a higher risk of violence from unstable people who may be trying to track you down.
PP: What's your favorite thing you've ever done as a sex worker?
LH: Oh god, that is so hard to pick because I have had so many amazing experiences! Domination sessions bring me so much joy, especially humiliation. It’s such a power trip to have a guy pay you to spit in his face and call him a loser. I swear I’m not normally a mean person, it’s just a fun outlet that I wouldn’t ordinarily have.
But if I had to pick just one experience it would be hiring a fan of mine to be in a video with me. Normally I wouldn’t work with someone who isn’t already established in the industry but I wanted to find a guy to film with who had an interest in the types of things I was filming at the time. I never would have expected it, but this fan became one of my closest friends and has had a significantly positive impact on my life.
PP: Does the stigma of sex work ever affect you?
LH: I don’t think about it on a daily basis, but it does affect my daily life. After years of living together a partner of mine told me he could no longer tolerate my work. It was okay when I was just doing it part time but once it became my “real” job I was no longer a person he could have a relationship with. Dating is a challenge because some people will outright be turned off by sex work, while others might be supportive at first, but only because they have a romanticized view of my job. Despite having a college degree and being a highly motivated business owner, I’m “that girl that you can’t bring home to your parents."
I have mostly had positive experiences with people when they find out what I do for work, but there is a natural tendency to want to hide it because I know how hostile people can be. Most sex workers live a “double life” just for their own safety. It can be exhausting to have to hide a huge part of your life.
PP: What would you say to someone who thinks that sex work should be illegal?
LH: Just look at how well alcohol prohibition worked out. People have a right to dislike sex work and can choose to not engage in it, but it’s never going away. Sexual desire is a deeply ingrained biological urge that people need healthy releases for. Many people who seek out pro dommes do so because they feel a sense of isolation. People with kinks and fetishes often feel judged by society and just want to make a human connection with someone who understands their needs. When done in a safe manner sex work can be a very healthy outlet, both physically and emotionally, for all involved.
Check out Leila's website at leilahazlett.com.
Questions and introduction by Nicole Mazzeo.