When 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.