“Getting Away” With Hating It: Consent in the Context of Sex Work

doorwaydogI’ve been selling sex in one form or another for nine years, which is a long time. Most people in the sex trade pop in and out as their financial situation warrants, and few think of it as their career. For me, however, among the straight work I’ve pursued concurrently, prostitution is my profession and I’m comfortable with that. I’ve engineered that. My various privileges mean I operate in a way that is about as low-risk and comfy as one can get: I screen extensively, I am my own boss, I request a very high hourly rate, and I don’t see people who are violent or rude. If you asked me if I like it, I would say, “yes, I like it.” I like the people I meet, I like the freedom of schedule, and I like the money I make.

A big part of thinking about escorting as my career means evaluating my work and trying to improve the quality of service I’m offering in the interest of maintaining current clients and attracting new ones. Because it’s my profession, I think about it professionally and seriously, as a business person. It’s during these performance reviews that I might chastise myself for making my unhappiness with the physical interaction transparent, if/when I struggle to hide it. “He can tell I don’t like it,” I’ve thought to myself before, about clients with whom the physical aspect is more challenging, “but he lets me get away with it.” The “it” here means my inability to pretend I enjoy the sex. That’s what he “lets me get away with,” by not demanding his money back, I guess, and by continuing to see me and pay me for my time.

In other words, this man allows me to not to disguise my fundamental lack of desire to have sex with him. I think this feeling of being granted some type of permission to not fake enjoyment isn’t unique to me and isn’t unique to sex workers. I think a lot of women’s heterosexual sex is or has been characterized by negotiating their own lack of  “enthusiastic consent,” a relatively new concept aiming to educate in a more nuanced way than “no means no” and “yes means yes.” It’s rare that I give authentic “enthusiastic consent” while I’m working. And that’s how I prefer it.

“Enthusiastic consent” was conceived in an effort to eradicate the so-called gray areas of sexual assault, so it’s hard to talk about  without also talking about rape. While I appreciate the centering of desire and consent, it wouldn’t hold that every sexual encounter taking place without the enthusiastic consent of both parties is rape. This is because consent occurring without sexual desire isn’t automatically inauthentic or invalid. Imagine, for instance, a couple struggling with fertility who have dispirited sex in an effort to conceive; this would clearly not be a case of assault. I’ve unenthusiastically consented to sex many times in the past, and my reasons for doing so are myriad: I’ve felt obligated; I knew I would feel closer to my partner afterwards, even if I wasn’t horny in the moment; giving in was easier than having an argument about it; etc. Some of those reasons may be deemed more or less worthy or good than others, but my active consent was present, even if in the form of a less than excited “okay.”  In these situations, I wouldn’t say the person I had sex with was coercive (no threats, no emotional abuse) and I wouldn’t call any of those circumstances “rape.” That’s my civilian side speaking.

omg-do-not-wantAs a sex worker, I additionally reject the enthusiastic consent yardstick as a determination of rape because there is a stark difference between the times I’ve agreed to (undesired) sex with clients, and the times I haven’t agreed to certain types of sex with clients. Labeling all of those experiences “rape” erases the truth, my reality, and my agency. It also means, as many sex workers have pointed out when dealing with prohibitionist propaganda, that my “yes” and my “no” while I’m working are equally meaningless, so there would be no difference between my experience with a client who respects my boundaries and one who doesn’t. As an adult human being, I assume responsibility for my own best interests. Sometimes I decide those interests are best served by freely consenting to unwanted sex.

To make sure we’re on the same page: I am enthusiastic about earning money, and I want to do the work that will earn me that money, so superficially  “enthusiastic consent” and “wanted sex” apply to work sex because work sex is connected to cash. (See also: freely committing to a profession as a sex worker. I wouldn’t have done that unless I wanted to.) But if every client were willing to pay me my full rates for no sexual contact at all, it’s unlikely (read: would not that happen) that I would insist we have sex anyway. Even with clients who I sincerely like and care about, I’ve almost never wanted to have sex or even spend time with them so much that I did it for free. My enthusiasm around work is rarely about the sex itself—though it sometimes can be, if the chemistry is right—but rather about the payment I’ll have afterwards. Maybe 20% of the time I truly hate the sex, 20% of the time I like it, and the other 60% is tolerating it, not minding one way or another but certainly not feeling overwhelmed with enjoyment. I show up willing; I don’t show up wanting.

So, back to (sexual) desire at work. There have been periods when my libido was so high that being horny during and for work was fairly regular. Even now, when my libido is in a serious slump, there are times when I look forward to a date because of the sex it will entail. Sometimes this is because I’m seeing a regular who I know I have good chemistry with, but other times it’s a hope I have when someone is new and there’s the possibility—which more often than not, doesn’t become a reality—that we’ll be sexually compatible. I’ve never been one of those escorts who raves about how she gets to have sex for a living, or is paid for orgasms. (Yes, they most definitely do exist, and good for them.) I have had absolutely fantastic, incredibly hot sex with clients, but it’s not the norm and it’s not what I expect or even want out of my job.

I don’t teach clients how to “pleasure” me; that is far too intimate and a boundary I don’t cross. Sometimes I resent any sexual pleasure I feel, either because I find the guy irritating and enjoying his cock is like a compliment I don’t want to give, or because I’m not in a “sexy” headspace. Audacia Ray and Michelle Tea have written about the feelings of self-betrayal, horror, and general displeasure that can accompany orgasming with a client; I’ve been right there with them. I’ve mostly gotten over revulsion towards my own body’s responses, probably because I’m better at controlling those responses now. But I still usually want to maintain a distance while I work. I want to maintain my sexual privacy which can be done even while having intercourse. I’m not there for my own sexual pleasure or fulfillment and I don’t like pretending that I am.

I'll do it, but you can't make me like it.

I’ll do it, but you can’t make me like it.

Then again, pretending is a substantial part of what I’m hired for and I usually oblige. Faking sexual pleasure makes my job easier. It makes clients happier, it makes them come faster, and it makes them more likely to see me again. Win/win/win. Every now and then, though, it’s one of my duties that I can’t or won’t complete. In fact, the clients who I have the hardest time doing my job with are the ones who make the biggest deal out of having my enthusiastic consent. Maybe they want me to tell them what I want (which should more honestly be described as what they want me to want) or maybe they ask for constant feedback on their cunnilingus skills. Maybe they refer to how they were driving me crazy, when I was really writhing in pain thanks to their untrimmed fingernails, and I have to bite my tongue and let them expound on their delusion. Maybe, as was the case with one guy, he takes me on dates where nothing physical happens because when we finally have sex, he wants to “know” it’s because I “want” him, not because he’s paying me. I don’t expect non sex workers to understand this, but I bet many other sex workers reading this feels down to her bones what a grotesque demand that was. Some clients want a good-natured disposition, pleasant company, and a willingness to indulge them physically. They understand the terms of the transaction, and they’re happy to behave accordingly. Other men are so desperately lonely, so insecure, and so floundering in their lives and in themselves, that they want a piece of your soul. (“What’s your real name? Do you like that, (real name)?”)

Explicit instructions that I be enthusiastic on top of being willing is one of the worst parts of the job for me. It’s the closest I ever come to feeling humiliated while working, because my enthusiasm in this case isn’t about me at all; it’s about their egos and their need to feel desired. But I’m a real human being, and my personal, authentic desires deserve better than to be exploited by a man I’ve just met. It’s easier for me to fake enjoyment with a man who assumes it, since I feel we’re both implicitly joining in on the fantasy that he’s bought. The man who must make it explicit, who needs me to initiate every time, who has to be told I want him—he’s the one who asks too much.

Having consensual but unwanted sex is not necessarily a big deal for me. I will more often feel empty or sad after agreeing to sex I don’t want with an unpaid partner than I do with a client. Work can be compartmentalized and forgotten. But I still turn over plenty of work-related questions in my head: what does it mean for a man to keep paying to have sex with a woman who doesn’t give signs of enjoying it? (I’m reminded of Chester Brown praising a woman’s “honesty” for pulling a dead fish while he fucks her.) Am I giving these clients too much credit for an awareness they don’t have? I’d like it if we asked questions like these in larger sex worker communities as opposed to only posing them to ourselves or to our immediate friends. I honestly don’t think the general public is ready to consider much if any of these nuances, but it would be nice if they were. Our public conversations about consent and about sex still need more calibration, more sensitivity, and more imagination, and sex workers could play an important role in developing that.

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  1. Fascinating. Thank you for this.

    “Our public conversations about consent and about sex still need more calibration, more sensitivity, and more imagination, and sex workers could play an important role in developing that.” On the basis of this post alone, I absolutely agree.

    -a man who has never paid for sex, but who has had sex with a consenting partner who didn’t really want to plenty of times (a majority of the time?).

  2. “I bet many other sex workers reading this feels down to her bones what a grotesque demand that was.” < Love that, and too fucking right. "Enthusiastic consent" in the context of work has been on my mind almost constantly this week as well, and I thank you for saving me the headache of trying to put it nearly as eloquently as you've done here.

    I had an appointment last week that left me chilled and raised a lot of questions, though in the moment I perceived it as hilarious. This client was a rare-for-me young, party guy whom I only saw because I had tunnel vision for the money that night. Like many of that type do, he made outrageous demands of my body in terms of positioning and force, but on top of that he demanded that I enjoy it. And on top of that he TOLD me I was enjoying it when it would be obvious to Helen Keller that I wasn't. I was so angered by his arrogance that I blatantly told him I certainly was not and immediately flipped us into missionary as if to say "you'd better come or I'm going to leave."

    Afterwards I asked myself if I had in fact let myself be violated for pay. It's not an altogether uncommon question I ask, and not just with the rare (and it is) superdoubledouchebag hot shot, but with regulars I mostly like. As a human, and a woman, I may be really into the sex one week and want to run and scream the next. But as a worker? Should I? I do often approach my work from a place of desire for genuine pleasure (I instruct them, whether they listen or not), and that's also how I market myself, and while MOST times that's not the case I can still fake "genuine" pleasure as guiltlessly as the next girl. But when I am legitimately hating the sex (which for me is more like 5% or less of the time), am I betraying myself and all of womankind by enduring it?

    I guess I've come to the conclusion that when it comes to work, unless it physically hurts me the reward is worth the struggle. I will consent to bad sex that I hate because I know at the end of our set time I will walk away with money and little to no awkwardness about my blatant dislike for the experience (and the regulars with whom this has happened are the sweet ones who know but say nothing). I'll save the what-did-that-mean head trips for my free time.

  3. “I’m not there for my own sexual pleasure or fulfillment and I don’t like pretending that I am.”

    This hit me like a ton of bricks. I have been feeling this same feeling the past few months and not been able to put words to the feeling.

    • I appreciate your piece, Andy. I am grateful for a client’s outspoken voice, and it sounds like in many ways you were a good client. But please correct me if I’ve got this wrong: you stopped seeing escorts when you realized they weren’t all in it for the champagne and praise for their blowjob skills?

      How did you figure you were “perpetuating” the need for money by paying the Hungarian escorts for their service? I suppose The Guardian should have felt guilty about paying you for your work for fear that you might rely on the paycheck? :/

      • These are all arguments that have been put to me against being a client. This is a debate that is only just starting (at least involving consumers as well as suppliers), so I don’t pretend to have an ironclad stance.

        But there’s a big difference between doing something for extra cash and doing it to survive. Those in the first group have much more choice about what they do and can therefore be said to be entering into the arrangement of their own free will. They’ll be happier about what they do, and exercise more control over it.

        My idiotic overtures to Jill notwithstanding, no man with a brain (really) thinks the escort fancies/likes him – but most would like the illusion to be as convincing as possible, and that’s more likely if she is working through choice and not necessity.

        So, if you like, I stopped seeing escorts for selfish reasons as much as altruistic ones. But I don’t think people like Sylvia or Maya should be escorting, and if I carried on paying for sex I would be guilty, if not of “perpetuating”, then at the very least of massive hypocrisy.

        • Why is sex work always such a special case? Do you also have qualms about being served food if the waitress is ‘forced’ into the job by economic necessity? I mean, your argument is somewhat circular, in that you’re saying only those who can afford to work should be working.

          • I think it’s very disturbing that you (or anyone) would feel comfortable deciding what individual women should or should not be doing (i.e. “escorting.”) And as Caty pointed out, the logic here, if it can indeed be called that, makes no sense. I know plenty of personal trainers, hairstylists, yoga teachers, etc. who are barely scraping by, and they work at places they hate with clients who treat them disrespectfully because they need the money. Is the solution for people to stop hiring them specifically because they’re living paycheck to paycheck, or because they’re working to pay off debt?

          • I’m not deciding for them. They can do what they like – I just don’t want any part of it. Say you find out that the company that makes your favourite shoes treats some of its staff well – but abuses and exploits others. You still stop buying those shoes, right?

          • That’s not a helpful analogy. There’s no monolithic company that runs escorting. It sounds like most of the women you were seeing were independent escorts, actually. And I think it’s sort of twisted that you decided that the ethical decision was to absent yourself from the marketplace rather than provide more Sophias with nice guys they can laugh with to help them pay their utilities. It’s just kind of sounds silly to me, really–I mean, were I to read a column you’d written in your salad days, should I enjoy it less b/c you might have needed the money to pay *your* gas bill? Asking for a higher standard of job satisfaction from sex workers than other service workers/emotional laborers is just a subtle form of paternalistic whorephobia. Why do I have to love my job more consistently than you do? Why are you, in fact, not honoring my job as a *job* by insisting that I need to be doing it as some sort of avocation in which the money is circumstantial rather than as paid labor? I really think the honorable thing to do would be to write a postscript to your Good Men article admitting your decision was about your needs as a consumer and that it isn’t, in fact, some sort of feminist moral stance.

          • **Why do I have to love my job more consistently than you do? Why are you, in fact, not honoring my job as a *job* by insisting that I need to be doing it as some sort of avocation in which the money is circumstantial rather than as paid labor?**

            Agreed. I respect Andy for soliciting feedback from sex workers and I only hope he would have enough courage and self-reflection to process it. And I too think it would be more honest of him to either give a link to this discussion, or sum up the responses of many sex workers to his position.

            But his stand dismisses all sex workers who see their work as work, dismisses their agency and ability to make rational choices about their lives, while prioritizing a client’s sex positive stance as somehow more moral. The self-reflection and choice to stop seeing escorts are perfectly fine, he should be comfortable with his actions. But trying to make it sound morally superior is about the exact same ego thing as what Charlotte Shane’s post is about, and it does not make for a good client. It actually reminds me of a Canadian academic paper, where police wanted to encourage sex workers to exit by making life more difficult for them, seeing anything else as being “enabling”.

          • It seems having to face the fact that sex work is always work *did* ruin the illusion for you in an irrevocable way. There’s no reason a woman working from “choice and not necessity” (which is a useless + empty dichotomy, btw) is going to like you more, or at all.

            I think I’m on record somewhere in one of my other posts for this site that guys who can’t handle the fact that it’s a job shouldn’t be clients, so I agree you’re someone who is better off not seeing escorts. I don’t think any of us are hoping we’ll convince you to run out and make a date right now. What all of us here are bothered by is your insistence that it’s some type of comprehensive ethical stance rather than a personal issue (ie, your not being able to buy into the illusion of being liked for who you are and not your money.) I don’t think there is anything moral about your decision, which is fine, except that you’re trying to frame it as such even while admitting that it was motivated by selfish reasons.

        • I see what you’re saying about the illusion, but the financial coercion argument has always seemed silly to me. There are very few people in the world who are not “financially coerced” to have jobs, and most of us are happy to find a job that entails ANY combination of being good at it, making enough money to live on, and liking it. In reality, we usually get to pick two of those three, sex work or not.

        • To add to what Caty and Charlotte said, I guess you won’t be buying clothes made in Bangladeshi sweatshops, because that would be “perpetuating” the decision of women to work in low-paid, unsafe working conditions? Or eat food picked by migrant workers? Granted, judging and feeling morally superior to the decisions of other is a lot easier to apply when it’s someone right in front of you.

          Ethics in commerce is complicated. By all means, do not engage in a transaction which makes you feel uncomfortable, but don’t think by doing so you’re automatically “helping” the other person.

        • (Can’t find a way to reply to Caty and Charlotte so maybe they won’t see this)

          While Andy’s article isn’t without problems, I honestly think he’s got more empathy than many of the commenters here. The last girl he saw was a poor migrant who was clearly wishing she was anywhere but the situation she was in. This could be because she normally loved sex work and Andy gave her the instant heebie-jeebies but if she was an experienced and confident sex worker then it’s likely she’d have known to put on an act. What’s much more likely is it’s because she’s one of the very many women who isn’t cut out for sex work (I include myself among these) but has found herself in a foreign country with no other options. Acting offended by a man saying “She shouldn’t be there” when it’s obvious he means “I wish she had the option not to be doing something that made her miserable” makes it look like you’ll use the modern conventions of feminist discussion and the moral currency that comes with them to sell a disadvantaged girl down the river just so you don’t have to answer basic questions about the role of poverty in your chosen industry. You think you’re doing anyone a favour with that one except yourself?

          And you should know, the “What about a shit job at a cafe/gym/whatever” line makes zero sense to someone who doesn’t want to sell sex. Sex is exceptional. That’s why we lose our shit about rape. If you don’t like sex work and you hafta do it then it’s going to be a shit job and coerced sex at the same time! Destigmatise, fine, but not if it involves telling men that it’s bad feminism to lose their boners in the face of female misery.

          • But that’s what I was responding to–the idea that him losing his boner in the face of her misery is doing her a favor, that not seeing her is doing her a favor. I’d rather the Sophias of the world see the Andies of the world, not people who don’t give a shit about their situation. And I’m not totally sure your interpretation of the situation is correct. I’ve commented to clients I felt comfortable with that I was happy to be able to pay such and such a bill b/c I was seeing them–isn’t that just something people say sometimes at work? Nor am I convinced your sympathetic interpretation of Andy is correct–from what he was saying, he seemed really offended that sex work was labor, not a hobby, not extrapolating further that Sophia was broke and in a bad place . And the survival sex workers I’ve spoken to and worked with wouldn’t agree with your interpretation of survival sex work as coerced sex, either. A lot of them hate the job, but when antis try to paint their situation as rape, they get really angry to have the significance of their choice and their consent taken away.

          • Yea but I go to minimum wage McDonald’s & just bc the cashier hates her job or the burger flipper does..i dont walk out and not eat

  4. I have been thinking for several years about the question, “Could I pay for sex and feel ethically okay with that decision?”, as well as the related question, “What does it mean to be a ‘good’ client?” To try to answer those questions, I have spent a fair amount of time reading sex workers talking about their own experiences.

    Your post makes something clear that I have picked up on but have had a hard time fully grasping, so thank you for that.

    I think focusing on enthusiastic consent in my own sexual interactions has led to the point where, for me, my enjoyment is heavily tied to my perception of the other person’s enjoyment. I eventually started to realize, though, that if one is truly going to pursue enthusiastic consent (putting aside the important question of whether that is a good goal), doing so can’t mean “making sure the other person enjoys it” – it has to require being continuously open to the possibility that they *don’t* enjoy it, and being willing to accept that possibility and not turn it against that person.

    On the other hand, it’s also possible that the things that make someone a good sexual partner are, at a certain point, in direct opposition to the things that make someone a good client. Like, even if I don’t demand that the other person enjoys it, if my pleasure is so tied to theirs, at a certain point that desire (or expectation) might inevitably shine through. Does that mean that it all comes down to my ability to suspend disbelief? Is that a good ability to have, outside of the context of being a client?

    I *definitively* agree that this is a conversation that applies outside of context of sex work, as you point out. At least according to the research I’ve read, unwanted consensual sex is very common more broadly, much more common than some people would like to admit, I think.

    • “It has to require being continuously open to the possibility that they *don’t* enjoy it, and being willing to accept that possibility and not turn it against that person.”

      Absolutely—I think that is the best (only) attitude to have when one is a purchaser of *any* service (as well as being a sexual partner in any situation.) I’m so grateful that my experience providing sex work taught me that, and I don’t get angry at someone for expecting to me to obey the rules of their transaction, like paying fees if I cancel last minute or miss appointments, because “I thought they liked me.” And I’m glad I’ve shaken off the inexperienced and naive idea that I could learn one certain technique or give a “really fantastic” blowjob that every man would always enjoy, without exception. Making other people’s sexual experience all about you is screwed up.

  5. “Sometimes I resent any sexual pleasure I feel, either because I find the guy irritating and enjoying his cock is like a compliment I don’t want to give…”

    I love this. I loved reading the whole thing. Thank you!

  6. I do think that it is this issue of “unenthusiastic consent” a part of many people’s discomfort with the concept of erotic service as labor. Would that these people realise that “unenthusiastic consent” is not unique to Sex Work, but is a component of most forms of wage labor, especially if service is involved in the labor.

    Our entire service sector provides smiles, cooperation, helpfulness, and courteousness in the execution of their work with customers. Service employees are usually expected to present these service qualities to customers, regardless of their actual feelings; and when well – executed, the customer hopefully will “suspend disbelief” and take the employee’s help as driven by genuine hospitality, instead of being driven by the employees need to play a particular role well innorder to get paid

    • “I do think that it is this issue of “unenthusiastic consent” a part of many people’s discomfort with the concept of erotic service as labor. Would that these people realise that “unenthusiastic consent” is not unique to Sex Work, but is a component of most forms of wage labor, especially if service is involved in the labor.” – YES YES YES.

      Also: the pussy-eating totally resonated with me…

      I’ve worked as a teacher. And I like teaching. And I found students who were intent on entertaining or pleasing me to be hard to deal with. I imagine a psychologist, who generally enjoyed working with clients, would find a client who was intently focused on the psychologist authentically being entertained by or liking him/her… to be just as difficult as I find clients who want to produce a long chain of orgasms with their tongue.

      It’s interesting that we understand sex and conversations to be so very different: It’s okay to pay someone to listen to you and focus on your needs through conversation in therapy; it’s not okay to go through life expecting everyone to listen to you and to find everything that comes out of your mouth to be truly fascinating; it’s not okay to continue to talk when the other person — clearly — does not want to talk to you; one-sided friendships and relationships, where one person talks about their interests and needs constantly without trying to make sure the other person’s interests and needs are addressed as well, are unhealthy.

      Is it so different with sex?

  7. Real talk. This is absolutely the most exasperating aspect of the business for me, so much so that I have dropped regulars because of it. The emotional labor going into pretending I’m having the best sex of my life is so exhausting that it affects me long after the date is over. So thank you for writing this, because I’ve been struggling to figure out why that type of customer is harder to deal with than one who gets off and “pays me to leave,” as they say. And you’re right on, it’s because it’s not actually about my pleasure, it’s about their ego, as measured by my experience.

    Finally, it is just me or are those also the guys with the absolute WORST pussy-eating skills imaginable?

      • OH I’ve gotten some fantastic head from clients. Always totally out of the blue, too. They’re the ones I think will be the worst. I’m actually thinking of one in particular, with whom I also–true story–had an orgasm even though he was barely touching me at all. Yet I can’t stand to talk to or dance with him. :/

        The others, TOTAL SHIT. I can literally think of the worst cunnilingus I’ve ever received, aaaand now I’m laughing.

        • But more in line with this sub-thread, it’s true, the ones who want it the most are the worst at giving. And vice versa, IME.

  8. This is an amazing piece, thank you for writing it. I agree that consent discussions should include sex workers and that we need more articulation and calibration in general around consent.

    Unenthusiastic consent for heterosexual sex was such a fixture of my unpaid sex life for so long that the first time I got paid my immediate reaction was “Why did I ever do this for free?” I prefer getting something, anything for my boredom than feeling obligated to fuck a man for free because we are in a relationship or somesuch. Being a ho gave me the perspective to be able to have the boring sex for money, and the fun sex for fun. And occasionally the fun sex for money as well.

    • I am obsessed with this line:

      Unenthusiastic consent for heterosexual sex was such a fixture of my unpaid sex life for so long that the first time I got paid my immediate reaction was “Why did I ever do this for free?”

      So many of us feel that way. It’s one of the most common sentiments I come across, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone articulate the source as clearly as you have. I am so glad you shared that little nugget of genius, and so jealous I didn’t think to put it that way myself in the article.

  9. This is really thought provoking. I orgasm very easily, and generally come during sex with clients. I am also like you in the priviledged position of being ablle to turn down bookings when I feel my head is not in the right space. (I suffer from depression.) Even though I rarely have to fake so much of this resonates with me. There is a difference with client sex that it seems to me is rarely talked about. With my partners ( i have two) sex is mutual, even though with one of them I am in a D/s relationship, this mutuality is based on an honesty which can never exist with a client.

    “It’s easier for me to fake enjoyment with a man who assumes it, since I feel we’re both implicitly joining in on the fantasy that he’s bought. The man who must make it explicit, who needs me to initiate every time, who has to be told I want him—he’s the one who asks too much.”

    This really resonated. Bookings with men who just want sex I find very easy, ones who want to be sex gods and demand that I respond to their amazing skills, who want me, the real authentic me, they are the hardest. Funnily enough these are the clients who those who quibble about sex work would no doubt approve of the most. After all they want to see the real me, the fact this steps outside the contract we have, and is far more insulting than the cleint who understand the boundaries of the transaction never seems to occur.

    • “Bookings with men who just want sex I find very easy, ones who want to be sex gods and demand that I respond to their amazing skills, who want me, the real authentic me, they are the hardest. Funnily enough these are the clients who those who quibble about sex work would no doubt approve of the most.”

      For real. I’m thinking that sometimes this is a case of taking the “humanizing” issue too far by pushing us to be “real”: real name, real face, real pleasure, when reality is best accessed when they just accept the illusion before them. In the context of our transaction, most clients would not want the “real” me in the room.

  10. Love the article! So very true for this hooker as well. The primary characteristics I want in a client are:

    1) good hygiene

    2) comes easily with a condom

    3) doesn’t put his tongue in my mouth too much

    3) goes with the flow and doesn’t have a lot of expectations

    That’s it, really. There’s no way I’m really going to be all that compelled by sex outside the context of a committed, romantic relationship, no matter how cute or sexually skilled the guy is. It’s just not who I am.

    Andy, I agree with the other hookers here that if you’re not comfortable seeing escorts, that’s fine, but don’t pretend it’s a moral stance or anything. Those hookers want your money, whether it’s to buy fine jewelry for themselves or a basic meal for their kids. Don’t pretend that by choosing not to give them your money you’re helping them in ANY way. I started out hooking for “play money” when I already had a full-time job. Now hooking *is* my full-time job. I *need* that money to pay my bills, and sometimes business is slow. I’ve been in exactly the same position as the girl paying her gas bill, more than once. And let me tell you that there is zero difference in my level of enjoyment when I “want” the money vs. when I “need” the money. ZE-RO. Whatever distinction you are making is all in your head. It’s all about *your* ego, trust me. Did you even talk to any hookers (off the clock) before making this grand decision or writing about it publicly? I doubt it.

    • “Doesn’t put his tongue in my mouth too much” — hah! This is so true. It’s the best surprise to have a client who doesn’t seem to like kissing much or who sticks with relatively chaste and dry surface kisses. I always make a mental note to never hesitate to see him again once I find that out.

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  12. I’ve had 2 incarnations in this business (upscale work but the first was purely hourly, while now I do mostly 12-24hr (or longer) appts only).

    Anyway, over 200 clients by now and +/-1,000 appointments, I’d estimate the ones I truly sexually desired (the ones I would do again if I could go back in time) can be counted on one hand with a thumb left over. I don’t think it too surprising that a women, even a sex worker, might have chemistry with 2% of her clients (in 1 of every 250 appointments), or at least that’s been the case with me. Did those 4 gents know they were the exceptions? No, no more than the other 196 gents probably were aware that I didn’t really enjoy sex with them, even if I did orgasm (which I do 95% of the time these days, and to be clear, solely because it’s great for repeat business, otherwise I’d reserve all my orgasms for my personal life).

    I’m able to compartmentalize my orgasms better than most sex workers I think, but that’s a new thing and it comes with age (among other factors). I still rarely allow clients to go a 2nd round in one session but if I do I always tell them ahead of time I won’t be orgasming again and won’t really be enthusiastic about the 2nd round of sex either. If I really like the guy on a personal level, he’s welcome to this encore “dead fuck” and I won’t resent him for it. However I will resent anyone who tries to make me seem like I enjoy it and in fact I’ll stop the encore immediately if he does go there.

    Most clients don’t take me up on the “dead fuck” option but that’s indicative of the kind of client I see anyway. Older gents who are as much into the emotional connection aspect as they are into the physical stuff. It’s how I market myself and I’m very clear about that style of companionship I offer so no one is surprised by this attitude once we’re in bed. I don’t think I’d be as successful at this style in my early years (my 20s & 30s), nor would the clients I saw back then have tolerated or embraced it the way my clients do now.

    Charlotte, you amaze and inspire me. Thank you for this (yet another) brilliant piece.

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  14. What a great post. I’ve had long discussions with escort girlfriends over faking it. I used to do that in my 20s quite easily. I just can’t anymore. I know I lose clients because I don’t bother to pretend the sex is anything other than what it is (generally bad). I can do many things for money but I can no longer reconcile faking it. The idea alone sets up more internal conflict than I want. Not faking it makes things tougher because clients are used to a) the same woman for the past 30yrs and b) other sex workers who are capable of faking it much better than I can. (I’ve never faked it in my real life because there is absolutely no point.)

    What sucks is that I’m extremely sexual, love sex, and love men but the work is no longer giving me the opportunity to enjoy it like I used to. I’m always happy to give authentically of my sexual self to clients and have no issues doing so (those clients become very fond memories). My conflict with faking it may be a symptom of burnout, but it also seems to be closely tied to the fact that I’ve gone from hourly to higher-end (which includes a lot of much older men). Perhaps some of my feeling is a rebellion against the idea that I have to “perform” even though I don’t allow reviews.

    The concept of enthusiastic consent is interesting and has only come up in my sex work due to clients’ ego-needs and not due to any of my own introspection — which is something Charlotte and other girls have pointed out. This is especially true when dealing with erectile dysfuntion or guys who consider themselves good lovers (especially those who think they’re good at oral sex). These two issues in particular just blow any chance of me faking it. I bow to the acting skills of girls who can salvage these situations.

    “Sometimes this is because I’m seeing a regular who I know I have good chemistry with, but other times it’s a hope I have when someone is new and there’s the possibility—which more often than not, doesn’t become a reality—that we’ll be sexually compatible.”

    So true! And when meeting someone new, the worst thing is dashed hopes of having a truly good time once the sex starts.

    The only other thing I have to add is that this seems to be mostly a problem American men have. American men, on the whole, are incredibly sexually insecure, requiring heavy-duty acting to temporarily feed their insecurity. I have a lot of theories on this, which isn’t the point of my comment. Suffice to say that the best lovers I’ve had (clients or civilians) are secure men.

  15. Just chiming into say, from the strippering side of things, that I always felt there was that division of the Good Guys who Got It (ie, that they were paying, hopefully lavishly, for a fantasy) vs. the Guys Who Didn’t – not to say that the rude or obnoxious guys weren’t also bad, but uuhgggh I despised the guys who couldn’t grasp that no, I wasn’t wowed by their skillz in dry humping or trying to make-out with me or “massaging” me or dirty talk or whatever and therefore really liked them! And I didn’t hate strippering nor customers, either, I actually kind of liked my work most of the time! But those guys, the “Other men are so desperately lonely, so insecure, and so floundering in their lives and in themselves, that they want a piece of your soul. (“What’s your real name? Do you like that, (real name)?”)” guys that want to “win one over” on you, to “prove” your desire or your lack therefore, that was totally not worth it. It my job were solely the guys who got it, the kind I walk in, I do lapdances and chat and move along to the next, heck I don’t think I ever would have stopped! But no, even in the couple of years I was there it was more more more, not only do I need to be AMAZINGLY enthusiastic but I have to shower them with compliments about their cocks, their touches, their words, in fact I really should just hang out with them all night, maybe quit the club to be saved by them, let them know every detail of my life to cross-check, be eternally grateful that they want to value me as a person and not a sex object that I just can’t help but sex them up… Exhausting! And frankly, getting to be non-lucrative, which was worse.

    • Ha, it’s true that I hear “I like you because I can tell you’re really into it!” a lot at work and think “well, I’m a better actress than some, at least.” But the nice thing about the truly intrusive guys is that in a strip club, as opposed to the one-on-one interactions an escort has, you can just walk away from someone who’s a complete pain and leave him to be the next girl’s non-lucrative problem.

  16. I have no experience with paid sex work, but I have experience with what I would call transactional sex, which is sex carried out under a tacit or explicit understanding that we were doing what the other person wanted irrespective of my own desire or lack thereof. Feel free, therefore, to disregard my opinion on this matter if you think it doesn’t apply:

    I have also felt very uncomfortable navigating people’s attempts to bring the transaction into the realm of mutually enthusiastic desire. While those experiences have never felt like any type of violation to me, I have felt icky after the transactional sex I’ve had in which the other person tried to blur that line in a way that I have not when I feel that everyone is on the same page. It’s possible for me to feel desire during or for a transaction, but it’s usually not the source of my enthusiasm or consent. In those circumstances, my enthusiasm comes from the knowledge that I am giving someone an opportunity to feel pleasure, that I am helping someone try something new, that I’m working with my body, etc. etc. It’s not desire, but there is an enthusiasm that leads to my consent that is not coerced.

    So when I think about enthusiastic consent models (and how learning about and internalizing them was what led to my interest in transactional sex. I mean, thinking about that woman who said “why the hell did I ever do this for free?”, I’d like to have as much feeling of difference between the transactional sex I have and the personal sex I have as possible. I’m interested in transactional sex BECAUSE it is different for me and for the people with whom I have it, and that’s a dynamic I want to explore), I think of them not as a way of determining whether an interaction was rape or not, but as a way of teaching people—especially women—to actually check in with themselves about whether they’re having sex they want to be having. I think that it can still apply to sex workers and people having transactional sex in that it’s still necessary to check in with yourself about whether you want to have sex, and if not, what will make it worth it to you?

    Also, in my friendships with both people who have engaged in survival sex and people who have engaged in sex work by choice, it’s seemed clear to me that coercion is still an important factor in determining how a worker will feel about sex as work. Friends of mine who have felt little choice in the matter (either in terms of who the client was or whether to be doing sex work at all) have not felt as positive about saying yes even though they didn’t want the sex as you seem to. Which again, isn’t to say that their clients violated them or that clients should be making judgements about who is and isn’t coerced into sex work, but it is to say that in their cases, understanding (and slightly modifying) enthusiastic consent can help them heal from shame or regret they might have about saying yes when they wish they could have said no. It isn’t so much about placing the label of violator on the person they had sex with as it is about giving them room to claim their pain as valid. Sex work is not, of necessity, emotionally harmful, but when it is, modified enthusiastic consent models can help folks think about what went wrong so that they can try to avoid those factors in the future if possible.

    Which is also why I’m set on edge a little bit by the idea that lots of people who don’t engage in transactional sex unenthusiastically consent to sex all the time and it’s fine. I think, again, that this “fine” is about whether or not there is coercion involved. Unenthusiastically consenting to sex to avoid a fight is very, very different from unenthusiastically consenting to sex because you want to give your partner a little pick-me-up after a hard week. In the latter case, it’s something you could equally say yes or no to—maybe you’re even initiating it—and that’s fine. We can all choose to do things we don’t want to do because something else makes it worth it. In the former case, however, the option of no is not really on the table, and that’s a circumstance I never want to be relaxed about being common.

    • This is a wonderful piece of insight. Thank you, Enoch. Of course thank you to the OP and all the other commenters for one of the best reads I’ve had in ages.

      I have been wondering about this topic and how the conversation might be changed in a post-capitalist system, perhaps for the sake of argument we could even use a hypothetical utopian world of abundance. In that place I imagine the lens regarding sexual interactions would become more focused as the financial aspect vanishes, and the frameworks we would have for understanding sexual transactions/interactions would be based on whether coercion was involved, rather than strictly regarding consent. It seems to me that ideas of consent, enjoyment and even the self are confused by cash, at the very least when we’re talking about sex. I wonder how sex work would manifest if we needed for nothing?

      Forgive my amateur psychoanalysis, but my feeling is that in this world we position ourselves as entrepreneurs. Not just in a purely financial respect, but even in an existential way; our time is ‘invested’ and we judge our lives by the emotional, spiritual and physical successes or losses we have. A life of seemingly idle contemplation is not revered as that of the self-made millionaire. This kind of transactional way of life has even infected the language we use when discussing love, “I need to invest some time with the kids.” As though we expect some ‘return’.

      So my suspicion is that this is the dominant way of thinking, and therefore there are people out there who take this economic way of living to greater extents or extremes than others. There are those people with financial success also suffering from existential crisis and who still, while demented, are convinced that happiness exists in the exchange of coin. What better example of this than someone who wants your soul for money? “What’s your real name? Do you like that, (real name)?” I think there is something telling in the language there, if that’s all it is. I can probably hardly imagine the spectrum of folk that sex workers come across, but there is to me a perhaps small but significant difference between someone asking “Do you like that, (real name)”, and “You love it, whore”.

      Perhaps I’m being overly generous to the former kind of client, but it does seem to me that there is a subconscious yearning to be pleasing, to be connected, and to have themselves validated, absent in the psychopathic latter. In this world of economic rationalism, why shouldn’t a woman be happy with a man paying her for [sex]? The absurdity of that question is obvious to any person who hasn’t been conditioned to believe that ‘success’ = happiness, but I feel like those aren’t the societies we’re born into, and therefore, their behaviour becomes understandable, however confused and pathological.

      I am completely naive on this subject, and so I don’t mean to cause any offence with my conjecture, I’m just wondering about the roles of emotions and gratitude within service industries, and its particular expression in sex work. Perhaps there is the additional, and I suppose, patronising pretence of caring that makes needy clients so creepy.

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  18. What a great, thought-provoking piece. Thank you. Interesting too reading Andy’s piece. I have to say I would have found a client who brought flowers and champagne and booked an extra hour with me (eek!) to be worrying and hard work. It smacks of neediness – and what on earth are you going to do with that extra hour? Much simpler is the guy who wants a short booking and to just stick it on in, wham bam thank you ma’am. But there’s a stickiness, an uncomfortable crossing or blurring of boundaries with someone who somehow wants you to act as though you’re their girlfriend. It’s funny, isn’t it. The guys who genuinely want you to come, genuinely want to know about you, genuinely appear to care about your feelings – well, that’s what we want in our private lives, right? So the guys who make good lovers or partners may not be very good clients, if they then take those behaviours into the massage parlour room or whatever. And the good clients, the ones who allow a sex worker not to disguise her lack of desire for sex – who don’t care if you’re not enjoying it – might not make such great lovers. Maybe there are guys out there who understand the difference between sex in the context of a personal relationship and sex with a sex worker. Dunno.

    For me work was work and it had to be kept separate. I didn’t want it to impinge on me any more than it did already. I always faked orgasm with clients. And I have a clear memory of a client who – a rare thing – actually touched me in a way that aroused me. I thought he might make me come, so I moved myself so he was missing that sweet spot, and I faked it instead. Much simpler.

  19. Thank you for this excellent piece – you’ve described very well some of the major problems I have with the standards of “enthusiastic consent”.

    Coming from a bit of a different perspective, this is also a topic that comes up in asexual communities – since many of us will probably never “enthusiastically” desire sex, it doesn’t work well as a standard for determining consent, and can be harmfully limiting. It’s been occasionally used as a reason to argue that asexuals are actually incapable of consenting to sex, which is bullshit – I can decide perfectly well what I am willing or not willing to do, regardless of my sexual desires or lack thereof.

    What enthusiastic consent fails to understand is that there is a difference between not *wanting* to do something (not particularly motivated to do it, but not necessary being totally opposed either) and wanting *not* to do something (as in being completely unwilling and unwanting under any circumstances).

    There are so many reasons other than pure desire that people might engage in sex, and holding that as the single standard ties into this idea that the only “good” sex is sex for love or desire, with an undercurrent of disdain for those who choose to have sex for other reasons – which is not okay.

    • Yep, on a similar vein with how my aromanticism and chronic pain influence the sex I have.

      I’ve noticed that a lot of (at least younger) guys are afraid of being that jerk who only thinks about his pleasure, but the goal has switched to “make sure she orgasms as well” rather than “ask her what she wants.” They want to finger me for my pleasure (but really for theirs) even though orgasms cause me pain. And thus I don’t seek them from sex. Ever. So basically they’re trying to make my experience what one would expect to meet the criteria for good, enthusiastic sex, even though what they’re doing is something I explicitly never consent to.

      The aromantic side is less pointed in sex itself, because I find that the “I don’t like kissing people” limit gets crossed a lot less than “Don’t try to make me orgasm. I don’t want it.”

  20. How do you think this kind of mentality relates to the johns who say it is impossible to rape a prostitute? When the line of what is and is not rape becomes so blurry, isn’t it hard to tell?

    • Which johns say this? What “mentality” are you referring to? How is the line blurry? What about an adult’s consent so confuses you, and did you even read all of what I wrote?

          • Thanks for linking to the articles. I read through them and don’t see much discrediting her except that she is coming from a position of personal bias, and this doesn’t really earn much truck with me. Many activists (Walter Rodney, Noam Chomsky, bell hooks, Edward Said, etc) become scholars and vice versa – scholars are not objective human robots. If her views result in a sample bias (I don’t see proof of this), well, Monto and Hotaling (2001) pulling 1,286 johns from jail to interview is a pretty heavy sample bias too. Thanks for linking, though, I was very interested to read the criticisms against her work.

          • If you’re curious to read more, you can just google Melissa Farley and “criticism”; plenty will come up. One journalist put it this way:

            “While I’d never heard of Farley, I was only 200 words or so into the piece before I knew it was based on the work of someone, or some group, with a Tea Party-like opposition to prostitution and pornography.[…] when you alienate your natural allies with overblown rhetoric and outlandish conclusions, when an undergrad would earn an easy A pointing out the flaws in your methodology and analysis, you just make critics, if not enemies, where there were once potential allies.”


            If you truly read through all of the items Jessie linked to, including the Emi Koyama piece and Dr. Calum Bennachie’s, and maintain that the only criticism anyone has is that she’s not objective, you were reading pretty selectively.

          • I don’t know why I can’t reply to the comment you posted, but I don’t think anything else was particularly substantial in the criticism against her. The arguments against her methodology and against her analysis are pretty shallow, to be honest. I’d love to see other cross-border, large sample studies that focus on the same issues, but she seems to be the most prolific, reliable resource outside of perhaps UN reports which also underscore the harm done to women worldwide in the sex trade.

            Going back to the assumptions against it, if you compare it to other subjects this is not usually such a damning factor in the work’s validity. Researchers who study the occupation of Palestine generally have pro-Palestinian views; they see the injustices done and are strongly affected by it. Their work generally supports their views. Either way, you can take people’s work separate from their views if you extract the data. I certainly don’t agree with everything Farley has to say, but I never really agree totally with most researchers anyway.

    • Hey Taryn, I think you might be a bit confused (I know I am, after reading your comment). The myth that it’s impossible to rape a prostitute is the direct result of victim-blaming and misogyny (commonly referred to as rape culture), not individual women deciding for themselves how to talk about their experiences.

      I certainly hope you’re not suggesting that sex workers are somehow responsible for their own sexual assaults (by which I mean nonconsensual sexual acts, as distinct from simply having sex for money) because we choose to have sex for reasons other than love or sexual desire. Because it kind of sounds like you’re heading down that road. It’s a bad road. I suggest you do a U-turn.

      • I have no idea how you pulled all of that out of what I wrote. I would certainly never suggest that women are responsible for being sexually assaulted.

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  22. This is certainly an interesting conversation, and one particularly difficult for sex workers to have. For that I applaud you ladies. I remember reading in a book once about a stripper who mentioned how horrible it must be to experience sexual assault- that not only would she be scrutinized and blamed for her work, but now also for the fact that she was sexually assaulted. So the burden on the sex worker would be twice that of any other woman who suffered the same fate. This conversation is reminiscent of that. And you have all done a fine job reclaiming your right to feel any damn way about your work you wish. I love that!! It certainly needs to be said.

    I personally love my work. I am one of the women you mentioned “who raves about how she gets to have sex for a living, or is paid for orgasms.” I have always been someone who needs to love whatever I am doing, and if the day should ever come when I feel icky or hate the man on top of (or beneath, or behind) me, I will find another line of work. Not that every encounter is blissful and hot, but for me, even bad sex is better than no sex. But I haven’t had “bad” sex since my civilian days. Maybe it is my age. I am in my mid-40s and have been working with the pleasures of the flesh for over 20 years, and honestly, my sexual experiences only continue to improve. I kept thinking I was at my peak in my 30s, but I just keep on peaking. lol! I have come to believe I could have fabulous sex with a fire hydrant. I have incredible multiples and have only faked an orgasm once with a client. I feel like faking is cheating myself.

    I read a chapter in a book once which was an interview with someone who danced at the Lusty Lady by the name of Minx Manx (Carol Queen). I identified wholeheartedly with her take on the sex industry and how she embraced her sexuality as a journey on which her work led her. She revelled in her work orgasms and came completely to terms with her body in her work. That has been sincerely my own journey and I also embrace the pleasure I get from working.

    I used to dance myself, and sometimes during a rather close lapdance, I would orgasm. I remember the first time that it happened, and I was pretty surprised. I didn’t let my customer know (funny how we call people who pay for lap dances “customers” while we call people who pay for escort services “clients”) because I was still shocked at the fact that I could orgasm during a lapdance. Once I got used to the idea that I could orgasm that way, I still kept it secret from my customers, because I felt they hadn’t paid me enough to take part in such an intimate moment with me. But my escort clients, I feel, compensate me amply for that. I am only too pleased to allow them to pleasure me as long and however they wish, and encourage them along as vocally as I can without getting us kicked out of the hotel.

    But I also remember feeling as a stripper that I would be judged by my coworkers for getting pleasure from my job. The whore stigma creates a virtual cage of its own by and among sex workers. Like somehow you’re *really* a slut if you like it (as if you’re only pretending to be a slut normally, and that pretend sluts are infinitely more acceptable than real sluts). I remember a floor manager from a club who once said that how far a girl goes in her dances depends on how much of a “whore mentality” she has. I remember feeling really incensed at his remark, but couldn’t put my finger on why until I began exploring the whore stigma concept more academically.

    At the same time I can see how some sex workers may feel pressured to fake how they feel about their work (i.e., “No- but I really *do* like it!!”) by public discourse, in the same vein as the sex worker who may get sexually assaulted may feel unable to come forward. The sex work prohibitionist crowd tries to paint us into a corner. So this conversation here on this blog is so incredibly important, and I once again applaud you ladies for speaking up (and so eloquently, I might add).

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  24. I came here on the advice of another blogger – we were talking about consent, and she said to look here….so I did….this is an amazing discussion actually, as was the post that triggered it all.

    My view I think fits here somewhere – consent does have contexts, and questions sometimes need to be raised about it, but it is a good place to start.

    Anyway, I am a customer/client call me what you will, like Andy at the start of the responses. Nearly all the discussion has been about sex in some form, and whether or not he can expect to get a show in which, unrealistically, his escort is willing to fake it for him. I don’t get that, I suppose. I mean it would be like eatig chocolate all day, and then after about 12 cakes someone coming in with their little chocolate cup cake and saying, here eat this…and expecting you to like it.

    As for me, I pay not for sex (which I cannot really do anyway) but for beatings….and the sessions usually turn end up with us laughing. I guess it is mainly nerves on all sides, mine because I always wonder if I will survive it, and hers because, well, it is pretty weird, I guess. Anyway, that is a total sideline to all the amazing discussion here….and I just want to say, well, thanks.

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  26. Wow, thanks for writing this. I’m not and have never been a sex worker, but now I realize that my first sexual partner was one of those egotistical douchebags who would demand a prostitute be into it. I know this because he treated me the same way: I found his cunnilingus boring and told him I didn’t like it, but he would insist I was aroused and keep doing it when I wanted nothing more than for him to stop. He’d brag about liking to give oral sex like it was some great achievement, and so on. What he did to me–I was in that “frozen” mode where I couldn’t move or speak–left me with trauma. It also left me with a lot of confusion and blaming myself. Some of you are speculating that the worst clients (the ones who fully expect and attempt to authentically please you) would be the best lovers are wrong. The guys who can’t get that someone who’s only with them because they’re getting PAID most likely also can’t comprehend when their girlfriends tell them, either indirectly or directly, that they don’t want something.

    These lines were painful to read, though:

    “I’ve unenthusiastically consented to sex many times in the past, and my reasons for doing so are myriad: I’ve felt obligated; I knew I would feel closer to my partner afterwards, even if I wasn’t horny in the moment; giving in was easier than having an argument about it; etc. Some of those reasons may be deemed more or less worthy or good than others, but my active consent was present, even if in the form of a less than excited “okay.” In these situations, I wouldn’t say the person I had sex with was coercive (no threats, no emotional abuse) and I wouldn’t call any of those circumstances “rape.” That’s my civilian side speaking.”

    I can’t agree that there’s no abuse present if you expect your partner to argue with you when you say “no” to sex. That indicates someone who’s more concerned with their own wants than with your boundaries and consent, and who’s willing to use psychological force to try to override your clear non-consent. Someone getting angry and upset at you *is* a threat and *does* do you harm, if their anger isn’t justified and is instead anger at you for having boundaries and exercising your right to say no. I don’t think people should tolerate or normalize that kind of behavior.

    • I love this! “Some of you are speculating that the worst clients would be the best lovers are wrong.” Yes. Anyone who makes sense about their own ego is not going to be a good lover, and that’s often what the “I want to please YOU” is really all about.

      I could not disagree with you more strongly that an argument is evidence of abuse, and think you’re inventing an awful lot around what I wrote. Couples—*healthy* couples—can and do argue about sex because it’s almost a guarantee that if they’re together for long enough, one of them will want it more or less (or differently) than the other, and that will be a source of conflict. Wanting to avoid that conflict rather than face it may do a disservice to one’s self and the relationship, but it hardly makes the other person abusive, particularly if the other person has no idea of what went on inside their partner. It’s incredibly dangerous to appoint oneself the arbiter of what is or isn’t abusive in spite of what the person experiencing it says.

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  30. I just want to say thanks to not just the writer but to every positive comment in these threads. I worked as an escort last year and just got into cam modeling as a method of survival. I don’t have any qualms with the work I have done/ am doing, but the pressure that the author speaks of and the pressure of cam modeling are so different. Yes, I make less money and yes, it isn’t as reliable, but not having to worry about faking it makes the whole concept so much easier to process. I am so glad to have read this and to feel so connected to a community of workers. My boyfriend understands but it seems like none of my friends do. Like I am making them mad by having gone back into the profession. Having a community that at the very least I can read about is amazing. Thank you. So much.

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  34. Hello! I know this is an old post and old comments, but I just now found this article and read through it all. I was doing research for a blog post and that’s how I ended up here. I loved your perspective so much that I linked this article in my blog post. Here it is:


    I know the world isn’t quite ready for signed consent forms, but I’m all for it personally. I have heard a few responses to my post already, mostly people who are not in favor of the idea. But I still want to start a discussion about it (not here, I mean by creating my own blog post), even if we aren’t quite there yet.

    Thank you for this awesome article.

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  36. You don’t have to be a sex worker to relate to how completely invasive the insistence on you ‘really wanting it’ is. Yuck and gross.

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  39. Pingback: Q&A: Consent – Beyond No Means No :: The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health

  40. Pingback: Consent in the context of sex work | G-Strings and Infamy

  41. The whole point of sex for me is enjoying it and having my partner enjoy it. If my partner is unhappy then i have failed as a man. I understand women who are being paid may not have an undying need to orgasm that only i can fulfill but if they are honest when something hurts or is unpleasant i would change it in a moment. Of course this makes me the guy that wants to please and if that would make me a bad client i just dont think i get this whole thing.

    • I don’t think that would make you a bad client. Not wanting to hurt your partner, paid or otherwise, is great, as is avoiding things you know she doesn’t like. I would say that makes you a good client, as long as you aren’t obnoxious about it. Just tell her (or him) before the act to let you know if you’re doing something they don’t like, and hopefully they will be confident enough to actually speak up. That’s how most people have sex really.

      Also realize that you don’t have to orgasm to enjoy it. I rarely orgasm, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a good experience.

  42. thank you SO MUCH for this! I often find myself thinking of the complex ways consent and desire and sex work interact. And you’ve very clearly expressed what’s been floating around in my head. 🙂

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  49. #evolveconsent More ambiguity about the shades of agency and consent. While I’m grateful for the work of Antioch students in creating consent culture, for a long while I’ve been quite worried about the backlash of it. The insistence that it is either consent, or it is violation. I love how this piece begins to tease it apart.

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  54. Thank you very much for writing this and sharing it. It is indeed very interesting, and we should speak more about unenthusiastic consent. It’s fully legitimate. I still have some discomfort with the idea of doing ANY job you do not enjoy, but tolerate all your life long. This would personally make me very unhappy. Life is made of compromises, but for me a compromise concerning work issues is a job I enjoy at least 60%. I have never paid for sex, but I am pretty sure I could not regularly see sex workers who I know they don’t enjoy sex with me. Likewise, I am very happy you do not fake pleasure for clients.

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