I can't listen to Regina Spektor without thinking about handjobs. It's really unfortunate. I used to love the forlorn way she sings about cleavage and drug overdoses. But a year ago, I put Regina on my playlist for erotic massage sessions — a playlist I creatively titled “Fuck” — and now her songbird vibrato will forever evoke the smell of massage oil and ejaculate.
Sex and music have always kept close company. In the 1950s, rock 'n' roll emerged as the soundtrack to the sexual revolution. Charles Darwin theorized that the very reason humans evolved to make music was in order to attract sexual partners. I've always thought that the right playlist can really make or break a sexual encounter. In my case, there have been more “breaks” than “makes.” Learn from my mistakes.
Choosing my own music for sessions was a turning point for me. I got to ask myself what songs got me in the mood and made me feel sexy, rather than conforming to a generic idea of “sex music” provided by someone else. Other greatest hits of the “Fuck” playlist included most of Adele's debut album 19, as well as healthy doses of Billie Holiday and James Brown.
Unfortunately, music and sex have this way of bonding with each other, so many of my favorite songs to get down to became inextricably linked to memories of work. Sometimes work is fun, but other times it can be annoying, boring, or unpleasant, so I quickly realized I had to be careful to keep my all-time favorite sex music far away from my work playlist, lest it become tied to a memory of a particularly annoying client.
When I first started doing direct-service sex work, I worked out of a small two-bedroom apartment in Oakland. Each room was equipped with a massage table, one unmarked bottle of unscented body lotion, one unmarked bottle of water-based lubricant, and a boom box with an iPod playlist of soothing tantric jams. There were also dozens of tiny tea candles littered about the room, casting soft light onto the red velvet curtains and pillows. I always thought how funny it was that men paid top dollar for an experience that most closely resembled an end-of-season episode of The Bachelor. I doubted that men found this atmosphere sexy, but the clients certainly kept coming back for more. I was still figuring out what my own personal style of erotic service was, so I just went with it.
The music, however, was a problem. I felt ridiculous trying to evoke sexuality while listening to white people chanting in Sanskrit over a soundscape of singing bowls. After a few weeks at the massage place, the music did more than irritate me — it began to enrage me. I quickly realized I had to tailor my own playlists for sessions, lest my annoyance affect my interactions with clients.
Another memory: Back in my junior year of high school when I decided to go all the way with my sweetheart, my best friend and I had a serious conversation via notes passed up and down the row of students in our civics class.
Her: Oh my god. You are totally not going to be a virgin any more after this weekend.
Me: I know! I'm so nervous. What music do you think should be playing? Sublime or Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Her: Red Hot Chili Peppers, for sure.
When the big day finally came, Anthony Kiedis just didn't feel quite right. The bass was too confident for how awkward we both felt. We smoked a joint and put on the second disc of the White Album until we worked up the courage to take all of our clothes off. By the time “Helter Skelter” came through the speakers, I was covered in hickies. By the time “Revolution 9” was playing, I was no longer a virgin.
So despite all my planning during civics class, the Beatles at their most experimental ended up being the soundtrack to my first sexual experience. It's entirely possible that this is the reason I ended up being such a weirdo in the sack.
Please consider these cautionary tales. Music and sex inform each other in mysterious ways, so choose your “Fuck” playlists wisely.