Tools of the Trade

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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Remember the first time you watched Nomi Malone lick the pole at Cheetah’s? Weren’t you all “Ew, who does that?” as you decided Windex was one of the better things coming into contact with her tongue? Have you seen a new girl at the club cruise by in a mullet tutu and been like “What just happened?” I die a little on the inside witnessing less glaring hustle mistakes. One of the most humbling things about stripping (besides the constant rejection) is that you’ll still be fine-tuning your sales skills and learning from your mistakes even after working long enough that dumb regulars call you a “lifer.” Maybe you’re all business in the front resulting in not enough party in the back. Here are a few cringe-inducing moves I know I’ve been guilty of.

Next On Stage We Have Amnesia: My number one personal problem is consistently forgetting about customers who express interest. Thanks to garish carpet, lasers, loud music, and other things designed to disorient patrons into spending, my attention span seems to clear and reset approximately every thirty seconds. If I’m collecting my stage tips and a guy tells me to come talk to him, I’ll go straighten up in the dressing room and get back on the floor with the interaction erased from my memory. He’ll watch me walk around, cold-calling other men like his money isn’t good enough. By the time I work my way to him and say that he looks familiar from somewhere, the damage has been done. So remember your medication, write on your hand with eyeliner, and set a phone alarm for three minutes in the future. Mostly, don’t get sucked into dillydallying in the dressing room. [READ MORE]

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Screenshot of review on Punter.net, the main escort review site for the U.K.

Screenshot of review on Punter.net, the main escort review site for the U.K.

The following is a quick guide to review practices and terminology across different fields and even countries, compiled by Tits and Sass editors and contributors including Jemima, Lori Adorable, and others.

Escort Reviews in the US: Though there are several popular American venues for reviews, one site in particular (The Erotic Review, better known as TER) has established clear dominance in visibility and popularity. Its insistence upon assigning numbers to a provider’s appearance and the customer’s overall experience have led to lists of highest “ranked” escorts across the country and within each major city. Many escorts advertise with this information (“Ranked in the TOP TEN of escorts nationwide”) while even more advertise with encouragements to “check out my reviews.” Because reviews are such a large part of escort marketing in both urban and exurban areas of the States, escorts may solicit write-ups from clients, write their own positive ones under a fake account, incentivize good reviews with discounts, or even pay someone to praise them in review form. (Review writers for hire will often spam escort email accounts with their own rates.) Despite claims to the contrary, there is no fact-checking that goes into approving submitted reviews, and so false reviews are published with some regularity, both those portraying the escort positively and those attacking her as ugly, unpleasant, or dirty. There is no review board that prioritizes escort and client concerns equally; all are skewed to favor the client and escorts are often ignored or penalized for speaking out against rude customer attitudes, dangerous practices, or retaliatory reviews.

Though academics and civilian observers regularly treat reviews as an indoor work phenomenon, reviews are not limited to women advertising online or using indoor work spaces. For over a decade, men have traded review-type information online about street workers as well, even when they don’t know the woman’s name or regular location.

In Canada: Escort review sites are common in Canada, though it is possible to go through your entire career without using them. In big cities like Toronto, a hub for business travelers, using review boards to find an independent or agency escort is more common than in other parts of the country and many escorts use them as a marketing tool. In Ottawa, the capital, recommendation boards are also common, possibly because of the perceived privacy concerns of those involved in politics. In Vancouver and Calgary, smaller and less central cities, the boards contain a tight-knit community of reviewers and hobbyists, but men who travel there don’t seem to rely on reviews as heavily to find an escort.

[READ MORE]

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Image from NabbCafe

Image from NabbCafe

Sex workers are a profoundly diverse group of individuals, with wildly different backgrounds, circumstances, and work tactics. But I’ve been around the block enough times to know that within this corner of our lives, our experiences often coincide. On a near-daily basis, I recognize another escort displaying the signs of an attitude I too once held. So without further ado, here are five common hooker states of mind that I suspect most of you will recognize, in others if not in yourself.

Everyone Must Know — The most embarrassing, cringe-inducing mindset is also one of the earliest to appear among a subset of privileged, politicized, very young sex workers. Think about the worst qualities of most middle class college kids: their naiveté, which they’re (naively) convinced is actually a very sophisticated and hard-earned understanding of the world; their youthful earnestness; their awkward, hyper-self aware social skills or lack thereof. Throw in a job at the local strip club/jack shack/full service incall and it’s a recipe for humiliating disaster. I was convinced that I could single handedly eliminate at least, like, 50% of the stigma around sex work by making it clear that I — a white, educated, intelligent young woman! — was selling sexual services and was TOTALLY EMOTIONALLY FINE and THRIVING and indeed, STILL WHITE AND EDUCATED in spite of it.
[READ MORE]

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Burnout is a beast with which anyone doing emotional labor is all too familiar. It can be devastating when you pay to work and your income depends on appearing… not burned out. Isn’t it wild how you think everything’s cool and then out of nowhere you find yourself paralyzed by the mere thought of approaching customers because you just know they’ll say something stupid and ruin your night?

Maybe you strip in a city where 60 strip clubs compete for a small market by continually raising stakes and lowering prices, desperately trying to lure business with $9.99 surf ‘n’ turf, $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon, dollar dances, free buffets, free porn, midget features, topless bartenders, topless waitresses, topless DJs, naked violinists. Your peers are diving headfirst into laps chasing single dollar bills like retrievers, two-girl tangoing, butt-plugging, Tootsie Pop-penetrating, and that’s just on stage.

Maybe you think about how much money you spend on the costs of being a Responsible Adult and divide it by $20 lapdances and it hurts your heart. Or you hear “Young Turks” and you think about how many times you must have heard that song when it was on the jukebox of your first club in 2003 but now you really understand “life is so brief/time is a thief when you’re undecided,” and the thought of having to shave is reason enough not to try today.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that I’m describing myself. But you might be surprised to know that I’m still a decent earner. All it takes is just a consistent conscious effort. I’m out here fighting the good fight against burnout. If your shifts are wastes of makeup and sometimes you make a U-turn in the strip club parking lot, I feel your pain. This list is for you. [READ MORE]

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