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Pride 2017: Navarro offers message in sex-positive massage

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Massage therapist Lance Navarro
Massage therapist Lance Navarro  

Lance Navarro, a gay porn model and escort, doesn't fit the stereotype of most in his field.

The health-conscious Navarro has been a vocal advocate of sex workers' rights and has lived a life suffused with light and joy, unlike many in the profession who, after years of living the high life, sometimes find themselves ill-equipped for the "real world."

Now studying to be a surrogate partner – someone hired by those with sexual dysfunction to provide direct sexual activity with the goal of improving the client's future sexual experiences – Navarro said that he hopes to show other escorts that a life in the sex profession can, indeed, be uplifting.

As he prepares to celebrate Pride, Navarro spoke with the Bay Area Reporter about his journey.

"Twelve years ago I thought that I knew exactly where my life was headed and where I would be today," Navarro, 36, said. "I was working for a high-end fashion retailer and had received a promotion and relocation from Richmond, Virginia to the East Bay. Having grown up in Virginia I was more than ready to live somewhere else and, even though California was never even on my radar, I could not pass up the opportunity to live near San Francisco."

But then the 2008 recession hit and Navarro found himself unemployed. It was during this period that he began to explore massage work through the Heartwalk Studio in Berkeley. He also became a porn model – his employers included Raging Stallion, HotHouse, Titan, and Kink.com.

"I briefly returned to retail but quickly realized that my heart was not in it," he said. "I simply could not spend 40 hours a week doing something for which I lacked passion."

So, he set about making changes.

"I went to school for massage therapy and began to build a massage practice, advertising to, and working mostly with, men. For the first year I kept my practice non-erotic, despite the frequent inquiries and requests."

Navarro said that eventually he came to realize that there was a need for erotic massage, and that erotic work could be just as therapeutic as more traditional massage work.

He noted that even in the Bay Area, possibly the most liberal area of the country, stigma exists around sex work and sex workers.

"As I once heard on a Ted Talk, 'the problem with stereotypes is not that they are inaccurate, but that they are incomplete,'" Navarro said. "For many, sex work is a last option, or a short-term solution to a financial problem. For me, however, and so many others, this is not the case. This is my passion, my career, and I feel that the work I do is sacred and beautiful. I feel blessed that I get to connect with people on the most vulnerable level and share with them the touch and loving energy that sadly, is too lacking in most of our lives and in the world at large."

Navarro said that he is always honest about what he does.

"I feel that my truth will help to break down the walls of ignorance and judgment," he said. "In the long term I hope to see the end of criminalizing adult, consensual sex work, as the government has no business in what two adults choose to do with their bodies and money."

Navarro continues to break down one sex worker stereotype after another.

"While some in the sex industry find it difficult to maintain a primary, loving relationship, I find it invaluable," he said. "I have been with my partner for six years and am incredibly blessed to share a life with someone that believes in the value of my work as much as I do. Our relationship works because we are committed to one another in all the ways that are essential to a healthy relationship. While he is understanding that occasionally, I have to take last minute appointments, I always put us first."

His day-to-day life, as he described it, is one that some might envy. Navarro said that he doesn't go out to clubs, but is actually a homebody. He and his partner, Steve (he asked that his partner's last name not be used), often invite friends over to their place for quiet dinners and a movie. He also does volunteer work at Magnet, the sexual health services program at Strut in the Castro.

"I appreciate the sex-positive environment," he explained. "So two years ago I started volunteering there as a concierge. I love welcoming people into the space and being part of insuring their sexual health."

Navarro continues to spread his sex-positive message mixed with a healthy dose of love. He is currently a surrogate partner intern.

"As a surrogate partner I will be working with clients who are already seeing a licensed therapist, but have issues around intimacy and sex that can't be resolved through simple talk therapy," he said. "This form of therapy was developed by Masters and Johnson in the early 1970s, initially just for heterosexual married couples, but has since, under the guidance and training of International Professional Surrogate Association, been expanded to include all."

He credited a 2012 movie about surrogate partners for inspiring him.

"Seeing the movie 'The Sessions,' starring Helen Hunt, got me enthused at the idea of being a surrogate myself, and when I realized what a need there is for gay male surrogates, I knew it was something I had to do."

Navarro has not lived a traditional life. Even within the self-contained world of the sex industry he has stood out as someone who walks to the beat of a different drum. He talked of how his choices bring about the positive changes he'd like to see in the community.

"I suppose that I am a changemaker, not because I'm trying to force change upon anyone, but rather hoping to encourage others to love more and to be their best and most authentic self," he said. "I hope to encourage others to be less dualistic in their thinking and approach to the world. While it might be comfortable labeling things as good/bad, for me/against me, right/wrong, gay/straight, this separation and division only gets in the way of compassion and understanding."

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