Speaking Truth to Power: The Achilles Heel of the Sex Industry

silenced

This may not be a popular thing to say; however, I think it’s time to have an honest conversation about the sex industry.  Here’s a confession:  there are many times in the sex industry that I DO feel like a victim.

When clients intentionally no show and/or cancel at the last-minute they cause fiscal and emotional trauma.  In addition to these abuses, for years I, as well as other sex workers, have endured unending debasement from review boards.  Clients don’t understand, or care, that when hobbyists are abusive to sex workers on review boards, it enables other clients to follow suit.  Bad behavior is infectious: when you talk about sex workers in a negative way, it conditions you to treat them in a negative way.

Now, many clients intentionally abuse sex workers because it gives them a sense of power that they don’t have elsewhere in their lives.  They abuse sex workers with impunity because there are never any consequences for their behavior.  Who stands up to abusive clients?  Almost no one.

Sex workers are continually under pressure to portray an image of empowerment in order to secure clients.  They understand that clients often feel guilty seeing SWs such that they willfully hide the negative aspects of sex work in order to lessen a client’s guilty conscience.  Sex work advocates and sex work organizations also willfully hide the negative aspects of sex work for political expedience.  It is easier to “sell” decriminalization to mainstream society if they brand it as empowering.  But, in doing so, they ignore the internal abuses that occur.  Sex work advocates and organizations are supposed to be the voice for sex workers.  It is incumbent upon them to speak were sex workers cannot.  If sex workers do not feel as though they can stand up to clients, then it is up to sex work organizations and sex work advocates to do it.  No more excuses.  No more bystanderism.

For the sex industry to be truly empowering, then we need to speak freely about its attributes as well as its downsides.  Currently, we distort its reality by only discussing its attributes.  This needs to change.

Remember: it’s not enough to say that sex work is empowering.  Instead, we have to MAKE it empowering through our words and, most importantly of all, our actions.  It’s time to speak truth to power.

 

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Regarding the Increased Expectations for Time

timeWhen sex workers began working independently, clients could contact them directly.  When communication is done in a reasonable manner, it is a win/win scenario for both parties.  Clients want to feel comfortable with their choice of sex worker and sex workers want to feel comfortable welcoming a stranger into their home.  Some communication prior to an engagement, whether by correspondence or telephone, alleviates nervousness for both parties and helps to establish a positive relationship. 

Oftentimes, however, what begins as a reasonable expectation for a client to be assured by his choice quickly becomes an unreasonable expectation for increased time.  Before an engagement, some clients go beyond the realm of reasonable when they expect daily correspondence for days/weeks on end.  During an engagement, some clients go beyond the realm of reasonable when they expect that their appointment should be double the length of time to which they have paid. 

We should never forget that sex workers have commitments outside their lives as sex workers.  Some sex workers have children; some sex workers go to school; some sex workers have other jobs, etcetera.  Their time is valuable and should be respected as such. 

When first communicating with a sex worker, send a formal introduction based upon the preferred communication medium as stated on the sex worker’s website/advertisement.  Contacting a sex worker on an unstated medium, for example direct message on Twitter (unless it is explicitly okayed), demonstrates that you are a client who pushes boundaries.  Direct message on Twitter is a personal medium which is usually reserved for other sex workers and return clients.  In truth, the reason why many sex workers do not “follow back” clients is because direct messaging has been abused.

The proportion of communication should be an amount which establishes comfort for both the client and sex worker.  One or two e-mails prior to an engagement or a brief telephone call is a reasonable expectation.  Unlimited e-mails and persistent phone calls/texting is unreasonable.  Please note that, after an engagement, an e-mail or phone call expressing thanks to the sex worker is a welcomed, reasonable action.

With respect to time during an engagement, it is a reasonable expectation for a client to not want to be rushed; however, it is unreasonable to expect unlimited time during an engagement.  Because many sex workers fear being labeled a “clockwatcher” they have become so generous with their time that they are the ones who are being taken advantage of by some clients.  As such, clients should be reasonable in their expectations.  An hour engagement is an unrushed hour, it is not two hours or more.

This does not mean that there are not times when sex workers correspond extensively and/or give extra time to clients.  However, the clients that receive these perks have earned it by putting in the time to get to know the sex worker over many engagements.  Why should a first-time client get the same treatment as a gentleman that you have known for months and/or years? 

For special treatment to be sincere, it has to be earned.  It cannot be forced by a client overstepping boundaries.  When clients push their way into extra time/attention, they are not only devaluing a sex worker’s current service offerings, but they are also devaluing the sex worker in the process.

Review Culture Has To End

reviewcartoonWhen reviews first came into being, I was initially supportive because I prided myself on being a companion that gentlemen would want to visit.  Over time, however, my attitude towards reviews changed.  As review boards went from being information-sharing to ego gratification, I began to understand that it was the act of reviewing, itself, that was the problem.

When a client reviews an engagement, he puts his mind into evaluation mode to determine an appointment’s service quality.  This critical assessment is problematic because it diminishes the personability of an experience.  Even when clients do not explicitly state that they are seeking “value for money” it is implied through the act of reviewing, thus making a personal experience a commodified transaction.  When this happens, it has the potential to affect the interrelationships between clients and sex workers.

Before I proceed, it is important to state that I support verification systems to confirm the authenticity of sex workers.  This verification would be limited to: “Companion X is friendly and safe to see.”  Any information beyond that, moves into the realm of client subjectivity and arbitrary bias which has, far too often, been used as service coercion by hobbyists.

Although some people consider reviews to be innocuous, I respectfully disagree.  The public nature of reviews inherently shapes both writers and readers.  For client writers, the desire to be considered authoritative sources directly influences how they write reviews.  There is an unspoken rule that a review is only considered legit if a client critiques at least one aspect of the engagement.  This philosophy compels clients to scrutinize their appointments with a more critical eye, thus contributing to a culture of criticism that negatively impacts sex workers.  It also leads to client dissatisfaction.  Remember: negativity is self-fulfilling.  If you seek it out, then that is what you will find.  As such, by actively seeking out the worst in things, clients will miss out on the best of things.

Furthermore, I would be remiss if I did not caution that, in the worst case scenario, reviews are also influenced by a desire for entertainment.  Because many clients thrive on the attention garnered from their reviews, they continually up the ante of service expectations in order to have juicier details to share with the online world.  As the behavior of some clients becomes more provocative, it directly affects how they treat sex workers.  This cannot be said enough:  when you talk about something like a game, it is inevitable that you will treat it like a game.

Even true gentlemen clients who do not fall into the hobbyist trap, are still influenced by their writing of reviews.  When a client goes into an engagement knowing that he will review it, there is the potential that he will disengage from the moment because he is thinking about how he will eventually write what he is currently experiencing.  Through this preoccupation, the client loses the intimate ambience of a mutually-pleasurable experience.

Recently, there has been the suggestion on sex worker forums that reviews should be optional.  This is a step forward from mandatory reviews; however, it does not address the fundamental problem that the act of reviewing harms sex workers.  Although countless sex workers delisted from The Erotic Review, they could not escape the culture of commodification that permeated the industry.  This is because the act of reviewing is bigger than one client or one sex worker; instead, it operates on a macro level by influencing the entire culture writ large.  As such, the platform that hosts reviews does not matter, nor does having limitations on reviews.  Because reviews cannot be divorced from their evaluative component, reviews, themselves, are the problem.

Regardless of a client’s original intentions, writing a review is a negative act that depersonalizes intimacy and turns the client/sex worker engagement into a transaction.  Once an engagement becomes commodified, it not only dilutes the pleasure of the experience for both parties but it also has the potential to impact how many clients treat sex workers.

Because reviews are inherently commodifying, they will never empower sex workers.  There is only one way to empower sex workers: review culture has to end.

The Sex Industry Cannot Go Forward by Repeating the Mistakes of the Past

contemporaryWhen I began in the sex industry, it was customary that all services would be covered.  Yet, within a decade or so, sex workers who offered covered oral services became the minority…all because of review board culture.

Although review boards started with honest intentions – as information-sharing websites – they quickly deteriorated into forums for client bragging.  Within this hobbyist-centric arena, clients pressured for uncovered services.  Some review boards even went so far as to establish review criteria which stipulated that sex workers must offer certain services in order to secure the highest ratings scores.  Even on boards that did not use this ratings system, it was customary to only give sex workers favorable reviews when sex workers offered certain uncovered services.

Over time, the demands from clients for uncovered services created a snowball effect.  Newer sex workers entered the industry thinking that they could only be successful in the industry if they offered the uncovered services that clients demand.  So, even more sex workers changed their restrictions.  When sex workers began changing their service restrictions, it immediately put pressure on other sex workers.  Soon, clients began to have “dealbreaker” services such that many sex workers had to choose between: doing a service or losing a booking.  Considering that sex workers do this job for the money, what option do you think that many of them chose?

At first, the demands from clients were reasonable.  They wanted a genuine connection and kissing.  Then, they wanted unlimited releases.  Then, they wanted uncovered cunnilingus.  Then, they wanted bareback blowjobs.  Then, they wanted to cum in your mouth.  Now, they want anal sex included; and all within a one-hour session.

For years, as clients demanded more and more services, few in the sex industry stood against these increased demands: few clients, few sex workers, and few sex work organizations.  We all became bystanders.  We all became silenced.

The only voices heard were the vociferous voices in review board culture clamoring for more uncovered services.  Because almost no one in the sex industry stood up to hobbyists, the sex industry allowed a minority of hobbyists to change the game for everyone else.  Even sex work organizations – whose job it was to speak for sex workers – did next to nothing against coercive review board culture.

Because few stood against the demands of hobbyists, many sex workers began to believe that client demands could not be challenged such that acquiescence became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  As a consequence, even more sex workers jumped on board and began to offer uncovered oral services.

This cannot be said enough:  service restrictions in the sex industry only changed when clients could punish sex workers with negative reviews for not offering them.  That punitive effect changed the contemporary sex industry.  Now, far too many clients view sex workers solely upon a checklist of services.

At the same time, in review board culture, hobbyists thrived on the attention that they received from their reviews.  Wanting to up the ante of their high, many hobbyists increasingly spoke about sex workers like commodities.  Because review board culture is a learned behavior, over time, the jokes, the disrespectful tone, and inappropriate comments by a few hobbyists, emboldened other clients to follow suit.  As such, the tone on review boards became more negative, and even more clients began to treat the sex industry like a game.

There is a reason why there are more last-minute cancellations and intentional no shows than ever before:  when hobbyists repeatedly speak about the sex industry like a game, it is inevitable that many would treat it like a game…all to the detriment of sex workers.

At the same time that hobbyists treated sex workers like commodities, anti-sex work groups organized together to bring down this industry.  Anti-sex work groups even used disparaging reviews from disrespectful hobbyists to demonstrate why the industry should never be legal and/or decriminalized.

The sex industry can no longer ignore the coercion that has existed within the contemporary sex industry.  If sex work is real work, then it is incumbent upon us to eliminate this coercion.  This means eliminating abuse from hobbyists on review boards.

With newer platforms becoming available within the industry, we must leave behind the hobbyist mentality that allowed coercion to flourish within the consensual sex industry.  The sex industry will never be a legitimate profession whilst a minority of hobbyists make the rules for everyone else.

Review board culture has to end.

The Ever-Changing Expectations in the Girlfriend Experience

gfeAt one point in time, more sex workers offered safer sexual services.  With the inception of the internet, the public forum of review boards allowed clients to offer feedback to sex workers.  Clients wanted a more personal atmosphere and to be treated as though they were more than just a transaction.  This desire for more personalized relations soon became known as the girlfriend experience.  Although the girlfriend experience began with a preference for a more natural environment, it soon became defined by the physical services that sex workers offered.

In the early stages of the girlfriend experience, clients pressured sex workers to offer kissing and uncovered cunnilingus.  To many clients, these intimate services made the engagement more real and personal.  Although clients stated that personality and attitude were important to their engagements, few sex workers were classified as a girlfriend experience unless they offered physically-intimate services.  Sex workers who offered the girlfriend experience were praised by clients in their reviews, thus influencing other sex workers to also offer the girlfriend experience.

The effect of this offering was immediate.  As the girlfriend experience became popular, it categorized sex workers into two camps: girlfriend experience and non-girlfriend experience.  Because the term non-girlfriend experience was a negation, it was deemed by many clients to be an inferior service.  On some review boards, administrators devised ratings guidelines wherein only sex workers who offered higher-risk services could be given high scores.  There were no scores for personality or attitude; it was simply a checklist of services.

Even on review boards which did not use this ratings formula, sex workers who did not offer the girlfriend experience were oftentimes given negative reviews.  At the same time, the more that clients read about other clients receiving girlfriend experience services, the more that they, too, wanted to receive them.  Over time, the girlfriend experience became the norm in the sex industry, making it difficult for non-girlfriend experience sex workers to preserve their client base.  As they lost bookings, some sex workers began offering the girlfriend experience, regardless of their personal thoughts on the matter.

As time went on in the industry, the definition of the girlfriend experience began to change.  On review boards, many clients insisted that only sex workers who offered bareback blowjobs should be considered a girlfriend experience.  As they praised sex workers who offered bareback blowjobs, they often censured safer sex workers as “restrictive” and/or “dispassionate about sex work.”  At the same time, as review boards became the predominant information source in the industry, nascent sex workers were socialized into thinking that the girlfriend experience, including bareback blowjobs, was the normal service offering that they, too, began offering them.

In response to client demands, new industry classifications emerged.  Sex workers who offered bareback blowjobs began labeling their services as the “true girlfriend experience.”  Conversely, sex workers who did not offer bareback blowjobs labeled their services as the “safe girlfriend experience.”  Similar to the distinction between the girlfriend experience and the non-girlfriend experience, many clients deemed that a true girlfriend experience was superior.  As such, over time, bareback blowjobs became the norm in the sex industry.

This industry-wide transition did not happen because sex workers, suddenly, became passionate about higher-risk services in the post-internet world.  Instead, it was a learned behavior, which happened over a period of time, and was the consequence of both competitive pressure and client expectations on review boards.

Now, on some review boards, offering bareback blowjobs is no longer enough.  Recent changes to the ratings guidelines of The Erotic Review mean that sex workers must now offer anal sex during their engagements in order to be considered for the highest ratings score in services.  As such, there has never been more pressure on sex workers to engage in physical services.

All the while, many clients have forgotten that the true purpose of the girlfriend experience is to be treated as though they are more than just a transaction.  For sex workers, the girlfriend experience means being treated as though they are more than just a checklist of services.

As I have stated countless times before, sex workers are unique and dynamic individuals who deserve to be treated as such.  This industry-wide obsession with acronyms, and the services contained within them, needs to change.

 

The Term is “Sex Worker”

Of all the various terms to describe an individual who engages in sex work, the most agreed upon term is “sex worker.”  This designation reinforces the notion that sex work is a legitimate career choice.  A profession.  As such, it is the term of choice among sex work organizations.

Individual sex workers, of course, proudly embrace other terms.  Some sex workers refer to themselves as prostitute, whore, hooker, etc.  These individual choices are often done to take back control of offensive words.  If you reclaim a word as your own, then it can no longer harm you.  It also makes the word less taboo which, in the long-term, can make the profession of sex work less taboo.

Although I respect the personal choices of sex workers to use the terminology that best suits their needs, I think it is important to reflect upon the language that we use when interacting with mainstream society.  Colloquial terms (prostitute/whore/hooker) carry powerful images that, more often than not, reinforce the stereotypes of sex work: that it is nuisance, abusive, a societal ill, etc.

As a profession, our goal should be creating a broader understanding of what sex work entails, beyond its baser stereotypes.  If sex workers want to be taken seriously by mainstream society, then it is important to use professional language.  When we elevate the terminology that we use, we elevate the debate.  We make the inclusion of sex work in mainstream society a serious topic which necessitates serious discussion.

If the goal is to change society’s mind about sex work, then we need to demonstrate that sex work is real work.  A profession.  That begins with professional terminology.

As such, the term is “sex worker.”

 

 

The Girlfriend Experience

As I recently wrote on Twitter, the girlfriend experience is about mutual respect.  It is when a sex worker treats a client as more than “just a client” and, conversely, a client treats a sex worker as more than “just a sex worker.”  Treating each other with dignity and respect creates unforgettable memories for both parties.

To me, everything in life is reciprocal.  When people treat others how they would wish to be treated, then there will never be negative energy or disappointment.  Positivity coupled with kind-heartedness is always a win/win scenario.

As such, when corresponding with potential clients, my favourite questions from gentlemen are always personality-driven.  I love being asked about my interests and future goals; the books that I’m reading; and what I aspire in life.

The questions that I do not favour are with respect to specific services that I offer.  Remember: sex workers are a sure thing.  I am pretty sure that clients already know what to expect.  To me, being asked to provide a menu is an immediate turn-off.  It makes me think that the client is more interested in checking off an arbitrary list of services than experiencing a connection with me.

In my opinion, if you want to establish a connection, then it is character-driven as opposed to a list of specific services.  Personality and mutual respect are what matter most.

The girlfriend experience is about reciprocal responsibilities:  clients should be treated as though they are more than just a transaction and, conversely, sex workers should be treated as though they are more than just a checklist of services.