Clients

(Courtesy of Instagram user local_._honey)

(Courtesy of Instagram user local_._honey)

Sit down. I have news for you. If you’re trying to date or hook up with someone you know from their work in escorting or porn, without paying them, your chances of success are close to zero. This is true even if we favorite your adoring comments on Twitter.

It may come as a shock to hear this. You may feel like sexual attraction is only part of the connection you have with this worker, and that paying would deny the authenticity of that. Or maybe you think that you are a really good (looking) person and only creepy or unattractive people pay. Maybe both you and the sex worker are queer and/or have similar politics. You know sex workers and are down with decriminalization. There are many reasons you may feel you are exceptional.

You are operating under a basic misunderstanding of who we are and what we are doing. Which is this:

1. Portraying an inviting version of ourselves, one with genuine elements but oriented to be pleasing to as many people as possible.
2. …because we are trying to make a fucking living.

I am not writing this to make you feel foolish. I am writing this because in the last week I’ve had multiple experiences of people approaching me in person, calling me on the phone, and hitting me up on social media trying to have unpaid sex with me. It’s been hard to turn people down, because as both an escort and a porn performer, I am not trying to get a reputation as a “mean person”. When I do turn people down directly, they don’t listen or they’re patronizing as fuck. An anonymous internet post telling you how it makes me feel is really the best I (and tons of other sex workers) can do in the hope you get the message.

I feel devalued and strung along. When people contact me by way of my ad or social media I assume they are interested in seeing me as an escort. I’m excited and open in response. I like my job, I like meeting people, and most importantly, I like making the money I need to survive. When I realize that you’ve called me to jerk off or that you want to take me out to dinner and try to woo me into unpaid sex, I go through an emotional arc from excitement to confusion to pure rage. That is not the start of a good relationship.

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asarahtransmisogynycomingAs a trans woman who’s spent about three years in the industry doing full-service sex work, I’ve found that my work provides sharp and unrelenting insight into how men sexualize and fetishize trans women. This phenomenon isn’t unique to trans women in sex work, of course. But these attitudes define my experience of the industry in profoundly different ways to those of non-trans women in the industry.

There is not much about trading sex for money that inherently bothers me, and the usual challenges of the industry, such as the income instability, are things that I can deal with. So I find that this often makes me particularly sour about just how much the added impact of transmisogyny changes my whole experience of the industry. Clients who treat me remotely like they would a cis woman are easy as pie. The sad reality is that, sticking this out in the long term, those clients tend to be few and far between, and with my average clients, the day-to-day weirdness and unpleasantness of those bookings drains on me something fierce. I’m lucky in that I’m surrounded by lovely friends in the industry, but almost all of them are cis, and this side of my experience can be quite difficult for them to understand.

Trans women are sexualized in bizarre and frequently contradictory ways. We are so often seen as disgusting, even monstrous, but simultaneously considered desirable in the most shameful and mysterious of ways. As a civilian trans woman, this was just a depressing reality of life that I could avoid where possible. But as a sex worker, it fundamentally defines my experience on a daily basis.

My clients rarely see me for the sorts of reasons they might seek out an escort who wasn’t a trans woman. They want some kind of once-in-a-lifetime bucket list sexual experience, have no idea what that is, and expect that you’ll be able to provide it—because that’s what they think trans women are there for. I know this is also a common complaint among cis fetish workers: clients who show up with a vague fantasy that they’re too scared to communicate, expecting you to magically work out what it is. I know they, at least, know how maddening those bookings are. However, when the fetish property concerned is your mere existence, I cannot under-emphasize how dehumanizing that can get.

A cis friend of mine made this tongue-in-cheek observation: “I think all I need to do is turn up and actually touch a dick and I’ve done an amazing job”. When I think of the psychological workout nearly every single booking I do takes, I find myself wishing “Oh, if only.”

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If your session looks like this, Ms. Harm Reduction urges you to read this month's column. (Image by Flickr user Doki hawk)

If your session looks like this, Ms. Harm Reduction urges you to read this month’s column. (Image by Flickr user Doki hawk)

Dear Ms. Harm Reduction,
I’ve been escorting and doing pro domme work for a year and a half. Sometimes I do a gram of coke with regulars, or even do drugs with new clients on occasion. I’d like to be smart about this, but I feel like I can’t ask the the sex workers I know for advice because none of them would ever take that risk in the first place. Do you have any tips on how to stay safe while partying with clients?
Wilder Than (my) Friends

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amarilynsorry

You can find the first part of this round table here.

Has anyone had a regular whom they legitimately could not stand? The kind of guy that just wouldn’t go away? Maybe his personality was foul, or maybe he was living in a fantasy world with you? What are some defense mechanisms for coping that with sort of regular?

Leigh:  This can take a couple of forms for me: I’ve had regulars who are really good clients, in the sense of being well-behaved and pleasant, but whose fetishes I’ve found really emotionally draining or just plain gross to accommodate. Then there are the “why on earth do you keep booking me?” guys who will make appointments really consistently, but complain the whole time, appearing generally unhappy with their experience. The professionalism-nerd in me finds the latter much harder to deal with. I can be extra gentle with myself around seeing Mr. Creepy-Fantasies, and tell myself that I’m providing a life-improving service, but guys in the second group are both annoying to spend time with, and leave me feeling like I’m lousy at what I do, which is much more of a blow. If I had to pick a worst-instance, there was a guy who was actually a house-regular at the dungeon where I first started working who probably takes the cake. To start with, he smelled rank. He wore the same the clothing all the time, and it smelled like he didn’t take his trousers off when he had to piss either. But he came in two or three times a week the entire time I was working there, and while he’d go through phases where he’d focus on one woman, and see her once or twice a week, he was remarkably un-picky in whom he saw overall. On top of this, he also didn’t openly have a fetish. You’d ask him what he wanted to do and he’d say “I dunno,” and nothing you tried seemed to get more or less of a rise out of him. And boy, did we try everything, from cross dressing to diapers to floggings to role play to rope bondage. (I don’t think anyone ever tried foot worship, because, well, you wouldn’t even put your feet on him, seriously.) My pet theory was that he wasn’t a submissive at all, that he was actually a top who got off on making women uncomfortable or humiliating them, and his noxious odor was the tool of choice.

I’ve found with tricky regulars, especially as an independent, there’s lots of ways to make them more manageable—whether internally, by scheduling them when you’ll have time to decompress, or when you really need the money, so it feels like an extra-solid accomplishment, or externally, by over time finding ways to defuse their irritating foibles. But I think the biggest single thing that makes it workable is that it’s a really clearly defined time limit: I only have to suck it up for an hour or two, and then I’m done until the next booking. The fact that I know exactly what I’m making and how long it’ll take is a big part of making it sustainable for me. I imagine that I’d have a much harder time working in a club or camming, for that reason, since the hustling gets done while you’re meeting the client, rather than beforehand. This ties right back in to why I focus so much on cultivating regulars in the first place: predictability is a big bonus that’s worth a lot of tradeoffs to me personally. I find not knowing what my week looks like much more stressful than the pushiest, grossest regular.

Caty: ​When I encountered this—”baby I LOVE YOU”, that is—when I was much younger, I used to just take the easy way out and agree to keep seeing them, say, every night for a week, until they ran out of money to see me. I guess I was lucky enough—well, in this sense—to live somewhere where most clients’ incomes just can’t take seeing me several times a week. ​Callous, maybe, but it worked efficiently enough.

Otherwise, often just dropping the pretense of giving a shit will do wonders. That way, you don’t put the besotted client in a Romeo and Juliet situation by blacklisting, making them feel like they have to win you over again and possibly having them turn violent stalker in the process. Rather, they just don’t want to see you anymore because you’re not the girl they thought you were!

Josephine: I wish there were an easy strategy to adhere to. I’ve tried to to pawn them off on younger, more patient dancers. If that didn’t work, there were only two semi-effective methods that did: drinking copiously OR bluntly setting clear boundaries: “I appreciate your generosity, but I hope you know not to expect anything in return.”

Ephemeral: Is it sad that there were quite a few I couldn’t stand? I don’t think I’ve ever had a regular that didn’t get irritating at some point. I will say there is one guy that’s such a headache simply because he is a huge pain to talk to. He’s not rude, or clingy, but he re-defines “bored to death.” The only sex he can stay erect and ejaculate from is very carefully done oral to a small penis suffocating underneath the fat fold of a pudgy lower gut. Yes, it’s as agonizing as it sounds. Throughout this process he is eerily silent. He’s a very awkward kisser and his lips are continuously chapped. Figuring out what he wants in the first place has been a series of trial and error because he seems remarkably indifferent and/or uninterested in everything I do. After I perform the world’s least sexy blowjob, we’re left with 2/3 of the 90 minute booking to talk, or cuddle…except he does neither. He has a gruff, cynical opinion on every conversation topic under the sun. He actively hates, or tastelessly makes fun of everything, including himself and his own life. It leads to a painfully dull interaction, that feels depressing even after he leaves…ugh! When I was too fed up with it, I sat on top of his belly and said these words to him very clearly: “Despite everything else, you’re fucking ME right now, and that’s awesome, so cheer the fuck up.” Now we just talk about me, which is easy, because even with all the cynicism in the world he can’t deny that yes, I AM awesome.

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adifferentWhat do most sex workers, from cam girls to escorts, have in common? Their regulars! Whether they’re consistently annoying, consistently charming, or consistently forgettable, they’re certainly an enduring feature of our lives. So we got a stripper, a pro domme, and two escorts into an endless e-mail chain together to see what they came up with on the topic. The round table that follows is an edited version of that conversation. (Read the second part of this round table here.)

Who was your most memorable regular?

Josephine: My favorite was a squirrely little white guy named Sheldon. There are two words that describe him: horny and nerdy. Sheldon was about 5’4″, rail thin, and shamelessly sported a suede fedora (not the douchebag kind, the Indiana Jones kind). He’d breeze into the club about once every two weeks unannounced, skip buying a drink, and grab me for dances. While I danced he’d rattle off [the plot of] the latest fantasy or science fiction book he’d read. I gave him a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for his birthday and within a few days he e-mailed a proper book report. Sheldon was some sort of layman but he always wanted to be a writer. The most endearing thing he ever was did was write a short fantasy story about me. I can’t remember what it was about except that I was a mermaid princess and he ad’hered to a go’ofy fantas’y dialect that used lots of apos’trophes and acc’ents.

Leigh Alanna: For a couple of years, I’ve had a standing weekly appointment with an older regular. And I do mean regularevery week, Sunday night, eight o’clock. Even the staff in the deli nearby know me, and have a coffee waiting for me at 7:45. Still, we’ve always sent each other a confirmation e-mail sometime in the couple of days before. One Sunday morning, instead of waking up to a friendly “Hey, same bat-time, same bat-network?”, I got an e-mail from his daughter telling me that her father had had a fall and while he was fine, he was going to be in the hospital for a couple of days and wouldn’t be able to make our appointment. I thanked her for letting me know, and sent appropriate good wishes, but entirely lacked the stones to ask her (or later, him) who she thought she was e-mailing. Did she know she was writing to her dad’s dominatrix? Or was I some bright young mentee?

Ephemeral: Probably the nightclub guy. He was in finance, mid-forties, a young face that didn’t match a rapidly aging hairline. He loved to take me out to all the “sexy spots” (his words) in the Meatpacking District and LES. We would go out “late”10 PM. Which was great because I don’t know anyone who gets there before 1 AM. He drank way too much, and hated drinking alone. He was too tall for how bad his dancing was. Afterwards, he’d take me home to fuck while 80’s rock blasted from a sound system: “ITS SUCH A RUSH, YOU KNOW?”  The moment of giving a blowjob while the Eagles played and him saying this line is the only time I’ve ever felt ashamed of myself as a sex worker. He had no idea what he was doing with his life, but the Ivy League degree, and two story Manhattan apartment would suggest that he didn’t need to stop and re-evaluate. Just keep drinking, just keep trying to dance, keep buying hot girls to dance with him. He was constantly perplexed as to why I couldn’t stay the night for the same rate, because “we’re having so much fun!” I’ll never forget anything that infuriating.

Caty: My weirdest regulars were the ones I inherited when I first started working, from the group of women who trained me–the same dysfunctional frequent callers we all saw. You know, guys like the gambling addict who was the only one we all trusted to pay with a check, a guy who had what looked like elephantitis of the balls, who’d go through every outcall in total, eerie silence.

There was the pretentious ex-military officer whose dick was literally as big as a baby’s arm holding an apple. He’d boast, “Oooh, the girls are all afraid of it at first, but then they’re bouncing up and down on it like there’s no tomorrow!” My rule with him was that as soon as I said stop, he had to pull out no matter what. One time, I told him to get off me and he just kept keening, “Oh, baby, I’m almost there, I’m so close…” So in a display of hysterical strength, I flipped him off of me and he sailed over the bed ass over teakettle, landing headfirst into a lamp. After that I had his perfect obedience.

Then there’s Rick, the most entitled, whiny Jew boy I ever did meet—and having grown up in the Russian Jewish community, I know from whiny Jew boys. There’s nothing atypical or particularly memorable about him except for the fact that he’s everything that annoys me about clients taken to the nth degree. When I first started to see him he used to complain to the other escorts about me, because I wouldn’t massage his pasty white anus—”she has a shitty attitude!” I always wanted to point out that I might have a shitty attitude, but he had a shitty ass. Nowadays whenever I see him he always goes on at length about how FAT one of our mutual escort friends has gotten and how DISGUSTING it is. I always want to turn his face to the mirror to look at his washed out, chubby, bald self head on, but so far I’ve resisted the temptation. Rick is a pharmacist, but that’s never allowed me any drug-related advantages. He’s always wondering why he can’t get a date while complaining vociferously and at misogynistic length about every woman he meets over dating sites. He’s also the one client I ever worried might DIE while in session with mehe came in to see me once right after getting stung by a bee in the parking lot of my incall, and his allergies were so severe I thought I’d have to out him in order to call an ambulance for him for a few minutes till he gathered himself enough to drive himself to the ER. Death by allergies—so stereotypically whiny Jew boy, if you’ll pardon my self-hating anti-Semitism.

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