Sticking Up for My Clients
I came out to a friend recently, and she turned out to be a conservative feminist; the sort that thinks that all sex work is abuse and that it should be made illegal. You and I, who have more experience than her, know that this is silly. As I defended my position, I was interested to realise that I felt much more defensive on behalf of my customers than I did for myself.
As a female sex worker I’m very aware of the ways that society’s sex-negativity impacts us, from the judgement of family and friends to the awful ways escorts are portrayed in the media. Sex workers (particularly female workers) are vulnerable to social ostracism, discrimination, and arrest as well physical and emotional harm – not from our clients, but from people who want to push their repressive moral standards upon us. These dangers are very real, and I don’t want to discount them at all. We will always bear the brunt of society’s judgement. However I would like to take a little time to acknowledge the men and women I see professionally, and some of the difficulties that they face due to sex work stigma.
The first of my clients that come to mind are the ones affected by disability: the young man with muscular dystrophy, the engineer who broke his back in a car accident. These are beautiful, intelligent people who don’t deserve to be in the position they are, but carry on with barely any mention of the enormous hurdles they face in the course of day-to-day living. My relationships with them come with great responsibility: not only providing a service that is essential for them, but also being conscious of my able-bodied privilege. Who is most at risk of harm in this situation? I have a huge responsibility to be respectful of both their physical and mental well-being.
I’m told that accessing sex workers when you have a disability can be a struggle. People are often told they shouldn’t have sexual needs, or face humiliating conversations with their carers (sometimes even their parents) because they require assistance to arrange a visit from an escort. Imagine if someone else’s opinion on escorting decided whether you got to get laid or not? In that situation, sex work stigma really sucks.
Secondly, consider my regular clients. They come from all walks of life – young and old, Australian, Indian, European, well-off or blue-collar. They are all individual. The thing they have in common is that they all have needs that make them vulnerable. By definition, good sex is about being emotionally open. It goes both ways - I’m very careful who I trust with my own vulnerability, and grateful when other people choose to trust me. This fragile relationship is somewhat sacred. No matter the client’s age, sex, race, background or personality, they have all consented to show a genuine part of themselves. Having someone tell me “these people are abusing you” makes me very angry.
I wonder what it’s like for some of my clients outside of our sessions together – do they talk about it with their mates? Are they able to say “I had a great weekend with an escort”? If they have a friend who needs some TLC can they recommend the right lady? Is seeing an escort a part of their lives that they are proud of, or do they feel the need to keep it separate and hidden in case someone judges them bad people? I think you know the answers to all of the above questions.
I strongly believe that the day will come when sexuality is not a dirty word, and our sexual needs will be considered just as important as our needs for food, shelter, education and community. Until then we are all at this party together! I’ll keep sticking up for my clients and I’d like to think that they do the same for me.