What's it Like Doing Sex Work?
I had a 'lightbulb moment' this week while I was talking with some friends about our reasons for doing sex work.
The answers we gave for our choices were all so different! Both our ways of working and the values that shaped them were as varied as the personalities at that table. It sounded as though we were actually running many different types of businesses. I had always assumed that the way I work is somehow fundamentally similar to the way everyone else does - the sex industry is fairly homogeneous Certainly, some of the practical considerations we discussed were similar: money, safety, legalities. But when it comes down to the actual 'doing' there was much more individuality than I expected.
The escort who sees married businessmen may work completely differently to the one who sees disabled people. The guy who enacts a glamorous persona in his sessions will feel different to the lady who uses sex work to explore some of her own kinks - and this difference in approach will fundamentally change the way the worker interacts with his or her clients. When I do the job, it feels theraputic. My background is in counselling and customer service, so I look for the psychological triggers that are so important in making a sexual encounter meaningful. The clients I see tend to be looking for a certain type of connection or therapy. That's not to say it's all serious - we still have a lot of fun - but my overall goal is their mental wellbeing. For this reason, I find I gravitate towards gentle, quiet people who want to be encouraged in a way that's not too threatening. But I know for a fact that some ladies get a lot of work by being totally 'out there' and performative, engaging in porn-style acts of contortion that mere wives and girlfriends could never aspire to.
I feel it's important to stress that there's no judgment present in my attempts to describe our interactions. As I wrote last month I don't think there is such a thing as a trivial sexual encounter, and sex in all its forms is important and worthy regardless of whether it's for a disabled person or a cashed-up socialite. There is no 'superior' way to work - brothel, street, agency or private escort, we are all doing our jobs as individuals (within certain practical constraints).
People often ask me what it's like 'to do sex work.' I say to them: it's like having sex, you've done that before right? Have you ever had sex with someone you just met? For fun? Well, it's very similar, except that I have more on my mind during any sexual encounter - as well as pursuing my own pleasure, I'm also holding space for my client and their needs. (By 'holding space' I mean having an awareness of my partner and taking some responsibility for the encounter, to keep them safe and allow them to fully relax into their experience.) That's the simple answer...
...And the complicated answer is, how will we ever know what it's like to live someone else's life? I could tell them all about my day, the fun stuff and the difficult stuff, and at the end of it they might have more of an understanding of what my job is like. But they wouldn't have an understanding of what life is like for any other sex worker. Because we're all different. When it comes to the hands-on part of the job, there is no standard approach (not if you want to have fun, anyway!) Work could mean a flirty hookup or a naughty night out, or it could be three hours of hugging. It could be coaxing a shy guy into trying something new. It could be having an energetic 'reverse gangbang' with one client and three ladies. It could be hot and fast-paced, or it could be like making a new fuck buddy, or it could be like getting a free massage (with a few extras!)Or it could be like being a therapist to an old friend. Or taking someone on a journey, a rite of passage. For each worker the way they approach the business will be different, and the needs they meet will be different.
It's one of the reasons I recommend that potential clients really take the time to find the right person for the job. Often people don't consciously know what their real needs are, and even if they do have a specific aim it can take a while to find the person who provides the right 'services' as well as the specific way of working that will suit them best.
It's good to be reminded of the startling variety of sexual experience. Whatever I tell my friends and clients about my life and my journey, it's not representative of the sex work population at large. If you're interested in knowing, I'd recommend that you open your eyes to see and your ears to listen to everyone's stories. And keep an open mind; no matter how unique we all are, we'll still be able to find some common ground.