Financial Coercion Test

by Tara Burns on September 21, 2011 · 25 comments

in Money

Supporting a shopping habit or trying to catch up on bills?

When I said I’d create a flowchart of financial coercion in the sex industry for this site, I thought it’d be simple: the happy hooker at one end, the trafficked foreigner who’s forced to buy their freedom at the other end. After a little consideration, I figured it might be more like a chart or a line graph, but there seemed to be too many variables for that, too. What it really should be, I think, is a survey. Like in girly magazines, but at the end you’ll get a coercion score that’ll tell you how financially coerced you are. It’s fun to compare your score when you entered the industry to your score now. Ready? Here we go!


How much do you need money? Are your kids hungry at home, your utilities turned off, an eviction notice on your door? Is it your dream to go to college but you can’t get financial aid? Maybe you’ve been accepted to an Ivy League school and don’t have $100k for your first year. Perhaps you already have a job that pays okay, but you strive for a more expensive lifestyle or a fatter savings account?

Rate your level of need on a scale of 1 to 5: 1 if you’re working on your savings; 3 if you don’t have the money for bills that are due next week; 5 if your life or your child’s future depends on what you make this week.


Are you under aged, an illegal immigrant, or otherwise unable to get a legit job? Do you have degrees or experience that would let you jump into another career? Can you make money in another way? Enough money? How much would it suck?

Rate your options on a scale of 1 to 5: 1 if you could easily access something that would pay the same as sex work; 3 if you’d have to cancel the cable and move into a studio; 5 if you can’t do anything else for money.

How Much Don’t You Want To?

Do you escort because your sex drive is so high? Do you have to drink to get through the night? Do you hate what you do for money?

Rate how much you want to on a scale of 1 to 5: 1 if the only thing better than your work is getting paid for it; 3 if you’re not that into it but you don’t mind it; 5 if you hate yourself afterwards.


My mom once said to me, “You know those things… They’re like fences… You have them…” Thanks, Mom! I learned boundaries from sex work! Do you know how to say no in the VIP room, no to guys who show up at your incall expecting anal, or no to customers who won’t follow your screening procedures? Can you confidently pass up the bad dates and wait for the good ones?

Rate your boundaries on a scale of 1 to 5: 1 if you’re really good at saying no; 3 if you’ll do things that make you a little squicky when you need the money; 5 if you can’t imagine saying no to a paying customer.


Let’s be honest: most of us accepted things when we started working that we wouldn’t accept a few years or even weeks later. Maybe we didn’t see anything fishy about the manager who said a lap dance was part of the audition, or we believed the customer who said everyone lets them get away with it in the champagne room. Gosh, maybe you were a waitress who was impressed by someone offering you a couple hundred for an overnight you would charge two grand for now. Some of you were old enough, assertive enough, or jaded enough to know what was up from your first twirl around the pole.

Rate your level of experience on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 if you’ve been doing this a while and know exactly what every thing is worth; 3 if you just know what you charge; 5 if you can’t tell the difference between a pimp and a new friend.

Control Over Your Work

Do you decide what you do and when you do it? Do you set your rates? Do you negotiate directly with customers on your own terms about money and activities? Does a pimp, agency, or strip club set your rates and define your boundaries for you? Can you take a day off for your period if you want to? Does criminalization prevent you from having frank conversations about the services you offer?

Rate your level of control over your work on a scale of 1 to 5: 1 if you’re completely independent; 3 if you have a schedule and rules; 5 if you have one of those evil pimps from the movies.

The Client

Some guys will walk into a dead strip club and see it as an opportunity to make someone’s night. Other guys will see the same dead club as an opportunity to pressure broke strippers for discounts and extras. Just last week one client told me I charge too little and overpaid me by 50% and another emailed to say that other ladies do the same for less and I should give him a discount so he doesn’t write a bad review. How much do the clients you come into contact with respect the way you value your services?

Rate the clients you see on a scale of 1 to 5: 1 if you love all your clients; 3 if you have to bargain sometimes; 5 if you spend more time arguing your value than getting paid.

Now add up your scores and keep reading to find out how coerced you are!

7–11: Congratulations! You’re lucky AND you’ve got this shit figured out!
11-20: At least it’s not McDonalds.
21-35: You’ve got problems. I hope it’s your personal journey with boundaries and not circumstances beyond your control.
36-45: Girrrl, get rid of that pimp!

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Piper September 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm

19. Insightful, and quite accurate. Yes, I need to strip, and I do feel little control over being financially capable of being able to get a new job and afford to keep the same lifestyle. On the otherhand, I enjoy most of my work, feel little pressure from management, have support from others and boundaries. I still run into crappy customers here and there, but I have control over how I deal with them and support from the club when I make a decision as to how to deal with them.

Interesting way to approach the idea of financial coercion, and it totally covers the areas I can think of. 😉


Gwyndolyn October 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Also 19, and also pretty accurate. Not really hirable in most fields (yet!) and I do indeed need the money, but I like what I do!


Natalia September 21, 2011 at 11:53 pm

17! Great article!!!


HarleyPig September 22, 2011 at 12:01 am

At the risk of poking my nose in where it don’t belong … would anyone scoring 30 or above be reading this blog?


Belle de Jour September 22, 2011 at 6:24 am

Just popping in to say that under Options, ‘immigrant, or otherwise unable to get a legit job’ and ‘degrees or experience that would let you jump into another career’ are not mutually exclusive. Wasn’t for me, isn’t for a lot of people doing sex work in London. Points system for overseas migrants means you can only work at frighteningly high-qualifications jobs, or under the table. Temp jobs and Starbucks are not an option. I imagine this is the case in Australia and large US cities as well.

11-13, depending on which choice in ‘options’.


Of many names... September 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I got a 17, which is probably in a similar range to a lot of strippers. I chose to get into stripping and I still enjoy it, but all efforts I’ve made towards getting straight jobs that pay enough to live on have proved fruitless. Sometimes I stress the bills, and I’m in school, because even though I’d strip until retirement if I could, it’s clearly not feasible for me for both financial and physical reasons.

The last two questions were hard for me to answer. How much time I spend arguing over rates (in my case, $20 for lapdances and my hourly VIP rate) depends on what shift I’m working at which club. I don’t think my offhand dismissal of guys who suggest I should charge less than $20 for a lapdance counts as arguing over it, but I’ve gone lower than my preferred VIP rate on a slow night. I gave myself a 2 on that one. As well, my rules and scheduling depend mostly on where in the country I happen to be. We have no schedules here, although leaving early once you’ve shown up is discouraged. As far as I can tell, the main “rule” enfored by the clubs around here is “keep your shoes on.” The rest seems to be self-policing between the girls. So I also put a 2 there.


Sabrina Morgan September 23, 2011 at 5:45 am

9 or 10 here. I’d have to spend a lot of time rebuilding to have a purely vanilla full-time income but as the score indicates the desire to is utterly absent. I basically built my marketing around what I wanted to do, which was a financial risk but a personal reward.

I like that you brought up criminalization as a factor reducing our control over our business and our negotiations – in other words, both our safety and our ability to market ethically and deliver good business practices. This is so important to framing our issues and you worked it in perfectly.


Alice September 25, 2011 at 2:00 am

10 to 11. Not too bad, I just need to work on not blowing my money on stupid shit, but really hoe many real jobs are out there where you would make this same cash?


ecowhore September 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Harley, you might be surprised who all can get on the internet.

Belle de Jour, you’re right of course. I’m sorry if my generalizations offended.

MC, I was never reviewed on the internet as a stripper, but I have tons of reviews as an escort.

Sabrina, I know, criminalization totally cramps my style! Back in the day a lady could post on craigslist exactly what she wanted to do for exactly how much money and then have the precise experience she advertised for plus cash. Now that’s just asking to get arrested. When I worked in Canada guys would call and be like, “so, I want to fuck your tits and come on your face, do you do that? how much?” and it was just how things were done.


Belle de Jour September 29, 2011 at 10:03 am

None taken. As you note a lot of these things are nonlinear.


Hannah September 26, 2011 at 7:56 am

@ Alice. A lot of professionals pay better than sex work. Accountants that charge $300/hour, Lawyers that charge $1000/hour. All relative but still.


Catherine September 26, 2011 at 11:24 am

I’m not sure it’s accurate to say “a lot of professionals.” It’s more accurate to say a small group of elite professionals at the top of their field can charge that much, after paying for an expensive degree and having quite a few years of experience. Many escorts charge upwards of $300, and a smaller number charge upwards of $1,000.


Charlotte Shane September 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Seconded. I charge more per hour than my lawyer or accountant does. (I didn’t go looking for the most expensive of either, but neither did I choose the cheapest.) In all industries there are some people whose services are outrageously expensive, whether they’re offering therapy or a hair cut. But sex work pays better than many professions, and without the years of experience needed to get to that super high paying point. A psychologist doesn’t start out charging $500/hour but a savvy escort could be asking for that immediately, or after only a few months in the biz.


ecowhore September 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

Thirded. I charge more per hour than my accountant.


Historicist September 26, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Brilliant. You ever consider consulting for academics, activists or policy makers–to help them build some nuance into their generalizations?


ecowhore September 28, 2011 at 10:38 am

I wish!


Clementine September 27, 2011 at 11:49 am


I have been a L.M.T for over five years now with experience in sexual healing slash sex work, I have been a live-in so to speak and handle in and out calls with “happy endings”. This article helped me realize the power of intent and vision within the work we do and share as sex workers. I charge clients by their income and status, I rate them on levels of prosperity and health, I don’t just have sex to make money. I am a purist and also very naïve in the ways of the market. It’s hard to find women where I live (bible belt texas) with the same courage and ability to live outside the fingers of the industry; I don’t want anyone to own me, I would rather make it on my own right now and make mistakes as I go, all I can be is aware of my own health and healing.


Maxine Doogan October 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Good questions. I take issue with the ‘rules and schedules’ bit-some independents maintain their own rules and schedule.
Your question ought to gone more towards ability to negotiate preferred work spaces, times and co workers.


Lydia October 14, 2011 at 2:45 pm

11-13, depending on how much I actually like my customers. Most days I consider myself extremely lucky.


Evie Stark November 11, 2011 at 4:50 am

10-11, making me appreciate once more how bloody lucky I am to be 100% independent and in this from a position of relative strength. Thank you for a really interesting article.


Bethany December 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm

After almost 4 years of doing erotic massage I am a 13. Unfortunately I fell into the trap a lot of new high earners fall into- in the first couple years and spent more than I made-so I am working on paying off my debt and then getting back on the savings track. Interest on my debt is higher than any interest I could make on savings- will be investing when I get out of the hole! Great test, but I agree with Maxine in that independents, like myself, have schedules and rules, my rules and schedule are self-imposed, so maybe this isn’t what you mean- I could just take the day off tomorrow if I wanted to(doing that today) and I can break my own rules, which I do often- that’s why they were made, no?


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