In our modern capitalist society, we’re all pretty familiar with the concept of exchanging finances for services. Increasingly there are more services available to make things more convenient. While everyone you know is most likely comfortable with the idea of going out and paying for someone to cook them a meal, considerably fewer people are comfortable with the idea of going out and paying for someone to satisfy them sexually; even though sex work is an industry that has been around for significantly longer than restaurants. There is evidence of the sex trade as far back as 3000-2000 BC, but eateries that offered some choice to consumers only came into being around the Middle Ages (500-1500 AD).
The number of people seeking sex workers has increased significantly over time. In addition, the average age of clientele seeking services from sex work has come down significantly, from middle aged to young adults. As a fetish/fantasy provider, my clientele is a fairly even mix of young adults and middle aged folk. I have a significant number of people in the age range of 18-25 coming to me for their first BDSM experiences. Unfortunately it is hard to provide accurate statistics on sex workers and their clientele as due to the taboo surrounding sex work, much of the research on the subject has been poorly conducted and biased. So I did a bit of my own research, asking some sex workers I know about their experiences and conducting an anonymous survey of sex work clientele.
Where in the world is sex work legal?
Sex Worker Findings
Of those surveyed, 61% were in the age range of 18-24 with the rest falling between 25 and 44 years old. 83% identified as female, another 11% as non binary, and the rest as male. The majority of respondents said their favourite things about the job are the money they make and the flexibility of their work. While some disclosed they entered the sex work industry because they felt they did not have any other option or were forced to do it, almost 80% of those surveyed said they entered into sex work out of their own free will because they wanted to. One respondent stated:
“As a sex worker I demand respect and safety from my clients first and foremost, and I also promise that this is a service I provide for them too. Regular std tests are a must. I am not doing this because of ‘issues’ I have, I am doing this because I am sure within myself, I am confident and I know sex that is consensual and safe is amazing and fun in all different forms.
“Sex workers provide comfort for people who need it. Whether it be sex, affection, company, or just talking. I have clients who have a disability, and without the service of a sex worker, it would be near impossible for them to get the satisfaction of the closeness of another female/male that every person deserves. We aren’t dirty, diseased or riddled with ‘daddy issues’. We are a diverse mix of amazing people who have done this for our own reasons whatever they may be.”
Most respondents said they felt FOSTA/SESTA does not work as intended. They said the only way it could work and save people who are trafficked and forced into the industry is if consensual sex work was not only legalised, but regulated and destigmatised (or at least decriminalised). If people trafficked in the sex industry feel that if they come forward they will be treated as criminal, then they may stay imprisoned by guilt as much as any other ways their captors use to keep them.
Also, due to the widespread online censorship of sex and sex workers, many legitimate sex workers are unable to vet their clients as easily. Many disadvantaged sex workers are now struggling to find work easily and safely online, and are turning to the streets. If legitimate sex workers are unable to verify their clients’ legitimacy due to censorship as a result of FOSTA/SESTA, these sex workers have a higher risk of being trafficked themselves. Many feel that the only thing FOSTA/SESTA is currently achieving is further marginalising legitimate sex workers and making it harder for investigators to actually save trafficked sex slaves, as they no longer have a presence on the internet to be able to track them down from.
The clientele surveyed have a much broader age range than the sex workers surveyed. The majority of respondents disclosed that they first paid a sexual service provider between the ages of 18-24; that they’ve seen a sex worker 30 or more times in their lives; and they see sex workers several times a year. Over 90% of respondents have said their experiences with sex workers were overwhelmingly positive. The majority of respondents said that if the negative stigma surrounding sex workers did not prevail, they would have seen sex workers earlier in their lives and would probably seek out their services more often. Many of those who completed the survey also claimed they were unsure if any of their friends saw sex workers or not as many do not talk about it openly due to the taboo surrounding the sex industry.
When respondents were asked what they thought of sex workers and the sex work industry, the responses were delightful and positive. Many proclaimed they have the utmost respect for sex workers. They understand sex workers are just doing their jobs – making money to survive and support their loved ones. One respondent said:
“Sex/Fantasy providers provide a crucial service to our societies. They enable people to experience the pleasures and release of sexual fulfilment who are either unable to express their sexuality within accepted norms or are unable to find partners in their own for diverse needs. Many times, sex work can be an act of compassion and love to people who are thirsty for it and cannot find anywhere else. I think sex workers should not only be legalized everywhere but given a medal for all the crap they put up with but still bring themselves to continue working.”
Another said: “It’s a job. Just a very intimate, personalized job. It’s not just about having sex… The provider works with you to help turn your ultimate fantasy into a reality and for me, there’s a certain level of emotional intimacy involved, exposing so much of yourself (physically and mentally) to another person. They are just professionals providing a service and it shouldn’t be so stigmatised. If you wanted to have an amazing cake that looked and tasted incredible for your wedding, you probably wouldn’t make it yourself; you’d go to a professional who would discuss with you exactly what you want to ensure you’re thrilled with the outcome. As long as everyone is safe about it, I honestly don’t see the difference between that and seeing a sex worker.”
No Two Clients Are The Same
Everyone goes to sex workers for different reasons. I’ve had clients in high profile positions come to me for pro-domme sessions because they need a bit of time in their day where someone is controlling what they do as they are always the person in control and in charge. They want to shake things up. Some come because it simply relaxes them and makes them feel happy. Others come to me because they’re horny. I’ve had someone come for a session with me and all they wanted was to be cuddled for the entire time. I’ve had someone come to me that just wanted to talk and have a conversation with a pretty girl. Some come to see me because they want to explore themselves and their limits. Some wish to engage in a particular fantasy of theirs. Others just want to be in my presence and have me do what I enjoy to them. Any reason that you want to see a sex worker (that is consented to by both parties) is valid.
What is Sex Work For Me?
Sex work is work. It is a job I do. It provides me with money to live. It is also something I am good at and enjoy. Aside from the money, flexible schedule, wonderful co-workers etc. sex work has been beneficial for me and my mental wellbeing in countless ways I never could have expected it would. Some of these are:
- I’m more confident in myself.
- I’ve struggled with body issues throughout most of my life, often thinking I was to fat and ugly to be found attractive. Not anymore.
- Now that I relate to my body in a much healthier way mentally, I treat it better physically.
- I am happier in my personal sex life
- I’m able to articulate better what I want/how I want it so I rarely feel unsatisfied.
- I am more likely now to suggest new things/try new things that are suggested to me meaning I don’t get complacent and bored.
- I am happier in my everyday/professional/vanilla life.
- I stand up for myself and push to get what I know I deserve. Prior to sex work I might have let myself be pushed around more.
- I relate to people around me better.
- I’ve always been a very non-judgemental person and being a sex worker has just amplified that about me.
- I’m better at listening to people’s needs and wants, and being able to separate needs from wants, so I can be a better friend.
Many respondents of the survey echoed these same sentiments, explaining that entering into sex work has helped them in many facets of their lives they never expected it would when they first began.
So what now?
It is time we ended the stigma against sex workers and those that see them. It seems like an impossible task but there are variety of small things we can all do to make a change:
- If you think sex workers should have the same rights as any workers in other industries, then speak out. Make it clear that you are an ally to sex workers. Post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
- Know friends that are sex workers? Ask them if there is anything you can do to help them and be prepared to learn more ab out the sex work industry and the injustices sex workers face in order to better help.
- Sign relevant petitions and share them with others.
- Make donations to charitable organisations that help sex workers and advocate for them.
- Write to local politicians about why you think sex workers deserve equal rights to those in other industries.
- Speak to your family, friends, co-workers etc. to see where they stand – educate them and turn them into allies too.
- Go see a sex worker – we’re really lovely people and you might just have the best time in your life.
** Surveyed 31 clients and 20 sex workers who voluntarily completed an anonymous survey via a post made on twitter – respondents are from various global locations.
If you have any further questions or comments on this topic, or if you have read through the provided reading list and want to learn more, please tweet me – @_mistress_ava and tag #DesireIntoDiscourse in your tweet.