Clients

Kristen Wiig knows the secret to our success.

Kristen Wiig knows the secret to our success.

(You can find Part One of this discussion here.)

Lori: Taking a professional approach to my work makes it more enjoyable for me, but I hardly think that’s a universal experience.  When it comes to being a professional and giving clients what they’re “owed”, I think the standards for acceptable behavior are actually pretty low. In most circumstances I’d say clients are at least owed honesty: about how we look, what services we offer, what our rates are, and what our skill levels are (especially as pro-kinksters), if not a certain level of service. But if you need to lie to a john to get by? Fuck, do it. If your rent is due and you’re afraid a regular won’t see you if he finds out you gained weight, don’t mention it. If you need to go food shopping, and a new client wants some elaborate bondage that you can’t do, say you can do it. The worst that can happen is he leaves having a slightly less exciting orgasm than he anticipated, and you get to go on staying alive. Seems like a fair deal to me. (The only exceptions to lying to clients, even for survival sex work, would be your experience with edge-play and high-risk activities—anything that could compromise his safety.)

I don’t want to get too far off-topic, but the civilian men I’ve been with have a spotty track record on boundary-pushing as well. Sexual coercion is a problem with patriarchy and male privilege. It changes based on context and will be worse when men think a woman falls way on the wrong side of the Madonna/whore dichotomy and they can pay her for unlimited access… but it’s not exclusive to that context. The sex industry is patriarchy turned up to 11, but patriarchy is still like a 9 everywhere else.

Charlotte: I agree about what clients are owed; I’m an advocate for accurate descriptions of appearance, personality, and services offered. I’ll get mad on behalf of a client if I hear that he once saw a woman who totally ripped him off or who got so trashed she almost passed out, or even if she helped herself to his minibar without asking. (I’m probably kind of uptight when it come to etiquette like that in general, though.) There have been times when I’ve wondered if women who are pure rip offs even “count” as sex workers. Is it sex work to pretend you’re going to have some type of sexual contact with someone but then take their money and run? I think that’s theft, not work.

But I lie to clients all the time if they push me on things I don’t want to share, like my real name or what I was doing on a weekend when I wasn’t working, or whether I’m in a relationship. I do not think any client is owed information about my private life or identity, even the ones I’ve known for years. And I’m shocked by how pushy regulars can be about that type of stuff. I’m not a good liar, and if someone is really persistent while questioning me about personal details, sometimes I slip and give out something that would be identifying if they went hard on Google. And it feels so violating, to be worn down that way. I hope they don’t understand how violating it is, and that they’re just clueless instead of cruel. But who knows.

I also think clients are owed some emotional honesty in the sense that I do not approve of serious manipulation of the “I love you” variety. Part of me recognizes that this is my own personal moral boundary, and another part of me feels very, very strongly that there is nothing ethical or defensible about telling a client (or anyone!) that you love him in order to get more money. I had a very devoted webcam client years and years ago whom I hustled pretty hard with one huge lie, mostly just to see if I could get away with it. I got a lot of money from it but it wasn’t worth it. If there’s anything in my life I am completely ashamed of, it’s that. The only remotely redeeming factor is that I told him it would go towards my school tuition, and it did. [READ MORE]

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summer-august-lazy-work-seasonal-ecards-someecardsBelow, four in-person sex working professionals discuss how to maintain boundaries while keeping clients happy, the most common problems that cause conflicts with customers, and what they think professionalism means in the context of a career plagued by stigma and illegality. Part two will be posted tomorrow. The women weighing in are Lori Adorable, Amanda Brooks1, Charlotte Shane, and Tizzy Wall.2

Charlotte: Sex work is very much my primary career, so I tend to think of it as I would any other personal service job, meaning I want a client to “get his money’s worth.” I want him to have the experience he wants to have. But I’ve also developed a pretty strong sense of boundaries over the years, and there are a lot of things I don’t allow and wouldn’t be willing to do no matter how much a client complains or cajoles. Do you think about your work in terms of satisfying the client? How do you negotiate that “the client is always right” mentality (yours or theirs!) with your own boundaries and preferred way of doing things?

Amanda: I’ve never felt I had to do anything the client or strip club customer wanted just because they were paying me. Quite the opposite. (I guess this means I have an “attitude”). However, I do feel they’re paying me to have a good time or have a need met. I consider it my job to give them my full attention and find a way to make them happy. I like making clients happy because it pleases me and offers personal satisfaction in my work. By “happy,” I don’t mean I do everything they’ve ever dreamed of. There’s always a middle ground.

Of course there have been times when I’ve shut off that inner voice and allowed a boundary to be pushed because of the money — but it always snaps back into place naturally, damn the consequences. I’m not someone who responds well to being told what to do or having my sense of privacy invaded. Add my stubborn refusal to fake it and it becomes a real mess, especially when I end up doing something I really don’t want (like have sex) just because I know it’s expected. Not to derail this into issues of consent; this is about personal satisfaction and playing a particular role that doesn’t fit me as well as it used to. As most service-industry workers probably feel, the less happy I am, the more I should be paid. [READ MORE]

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(Image via Comically Vintage)

(Image via Comically Vintage)

There was a post going around the stripper tumblrsphere about what is probably one of the most common lap dance rejections of all time:

“I would love to but I just don’t think I could control myself.”

It’s the perfect way for customers to say no; phrased as a compliment (of sorts), it expresses interest and desire, encouraging the dancer to continue her attempts to sell and thus give the customer more attention without him committing to anything. They usually deliver this excuse with a cute smile, like it’s a joke.

I recognize that they are trying to be charming—even trying to compliment me on my attractiveness!—but it’s so hard to bite my tongue and not ask, “In what world is having less self control than my chihuahua something you want to admit to?” If I’m having a good enough night and don’t need the money or energy, if I really can’t stop myself from beginning a profitless (literally and figuratively!) interaction, I’ll try to answer in a way that highlights what a stupid, embarrassing, insulting and creepy thing that is to say.

“Oh, you’re an adult, I’m sure we’ll be fine. I mean you’ve gotten this far in life!”

“No, no, you’re too hot, I wouldn’t be able to help myself.” This response is accompanied by a sad, regretful face. It is my fault that my sex appeal will make them lose control.

“Really? You have less self control than my dog?”

“Men are dogs.” Another sad, regretful face.
[READ MORE]

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elms

Dave Elms, founder of The Erotic Review, possessor of a rap sheet documenting violent crimes and harassment against women.

In early 2010, Dave Elms, founder of the infamous website The Erotic Review (best known as the review site where clients rate prostitutes on a scale of 1-10), was arrested after talking to an undercover officer in an attempt to hire a hit man. Elms wanted to pay for the murder of an escort and the severe injury of a website founder who used his own forum to air the well-known but rarely publicized fact that Elms and other TER moderators extorted sex and/or money from escorts in exchange for maintaining their positive reviews. Elms was convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault. This charge, to which he pled guilty, was one of many legal issues he faced at the time. He was already on probation for drugs and gun violations from 2006. Furthermore, Elms’ decision to pay for the killing of Jane Doe came on the heels of his outing her to her family, as well as publicizing her legal name and home address online in connection with her escort name. Murder: it’s for when relentlessly harassing a sex worker just isn’t enough.

Though it was only three years ago that David William Elms entered official records as a man willing to invest in murdering prostitutes, this information is rarely discussed anymore among online-advertising escorts, let alone among the clients who position TER as a defining force in their sex and social lives. TER chugs along like the profitable, amoral machine it is, unharmed by its somehow secret status as the most enduring and powerful product of a scummy, thuggish psychopath. The company itself “parted ways” with Elms after his 2009 arrest (that’s the one where he tried to engineer an escort’s death, if you’re having trouble keeping track). This is no more accurate than saying the United States “parted ways” with Thomas Jefferson after his slave-raping became public. A project cannot be cleanly extricated from the ideology of the person(s) who created it, no matter how convenient or fervent the dream of tie-cutting may be. If his legal conviction wasn’t evidence enough, Elms is also on record as conceiving TER in the crucible of his intense sense of entitlement and permanent grudge against sex workers. [READ MORE]

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ABC

This isn’t the best way to handle issues with review boards.

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.

—Oscar Wilde

There is no human experience so intimate and personal that people won’t publicly dissect it. Childbirth. Funerals. Cancer treatments. And sex. I agree with much of what has already been said here on T&S about the problems inherent to some sex work review boards. The whole concept of reviewing an erotic encounter that one was a participant in is an odd idea; it’s like having like a theater critic be in the cast of the play. How can one ignore the fact that the critic played some part in how the show turned out? But, especially with experiences that touch on primal emotions, people search for ways to bring some intellectual analysis to what they are feeling—with mixed degrees of success. Some sex worker reviews are truthful, insightful, and useful: others are more like naked bathroom selfies of the reviewer, with all the perils inherent to that art.

I’ve been reviewed, as an escort and as a pro domme, on both escort boards and sites specifically about professional dominance. Some reviews were positive, some not so much. Of course I prefer the paeans to my beauty and skill—who doesn’t? But I’ve learned to not take any of them too seriously, because I got toughened up in an equally merciless school: reviews and comments on my writing. [READ MORE]

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