Ask Bish – Should I Get Paid to Have Sex?

Advice for a reader who is unsure about whether she should keep getting paid to have sex. Advice on the risks of sex work and how to make it safer.

Two years ago I tried my hand at modelling and had no success. I’d had a couple of bookings but it went nowhere and I gave up eight months ago. Then two months ago I got an email through my profile that I had left online. I ended up taking a booking with this guy at my flat. He came a few days later to photograph me which he did. He was charming and funny but about an hour into the booking he pulled some money out of his pocket and offered it to me in return for sex. I refused point blank at first but he was really persistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I ended up giving in and letting him have sex with me as he was quite nice and I thought it would be a one off but he wanted more bookings. I’ve ended up taking regular bookings with him and now he’s just paying me for sex. I didn’t think there was any harm in it as the extra money is helping pay off my credit card but in the last few weeks two of his mates found out what is going on and contacted me and now I’m letting them pay me for sex as well. I like having the extra money and even get some enjoyment from the sex but sometimes I feel really dirty afterwards. I know I shouldn’t do it but I need the money. Should I let this continue?

Hi

Thanks for your question (I left your name out, in case that was your real name).

It sounds like you want someone to tell you about whether you should have sex in exchange for money (sex work) or not – I’m afraid I can’t tell you what to do. Sorry about that. I think this is something that you need to really try and work out for yourself (especially as you’ve had people talking you into it already). I can try and give you some stuff to think about to help you decide but, before I do that, I think there’s stuff for you to think about what you’re doing now.

Is sex work really your decision?

In your question you said that this first guy was really persistent and “wouldn’t take no for an answer.” As you took more bookings you were perhaps making more of an active decision to do sex work, but then his friends got in touch and I’m sensing you’re maybe less enthusiastic about it.

Decisions don’t always have to be black and white. It’s rare that we make a decision about what we do without the influence of someone else or something else. But think about how much this is your decision – if you could give it a percentage how much would it be your decision and how much would it be the other people persuading you to do it? More than 50%? Less? How much is this your active decision and how much is it a decision being made for you.

Are these people good clients?

In sex work there are clients who are respectful of the wishes of the worker and those that aren’t (and some in between). A good client would respect:

  • the fee that the sex worker asks for and doesn’t try to negotiate them down (or tell them what they should be paid),
  • the time of the session (how long a job lasts is agreed in advance),
  • what the sex worker does and doesn’t want to do,
  • will be happy to wash and use condoms if the sex worker wants them to.

I’ll provide a link to some brilliant advice about this stuff at the bottom, but think about your clients – are they good clients? Are they even clients?

Are these people even clients?

A client is someone who would contact a sex worker, agree the transaction and then go away. If the sex worker didn’t want to see a client again they wouldn’t and it would be their choice. A client would (should) listen to a sex worker’s ‘no’ and go away. A good client would make sure he had your enthusiastic permission before giving your contact details to his friends.

You’ve already had the first guy being all ‘persistent’ about you doing this in the first place – could you stop this and everything be okay? Do these people see themselves as clients of a sex worker or do they see it as something else?

Sadly (and you may have heard about this in the news) there have been a number of cases of young people (usually young women) being targeted by men and sexually exploited. Sometimes cash can be exchanged to begin with but then they are coerced or forced into sex, or they might be tricked into thinking that this is a relationship.

Are you safe?

From your question I am guessing that you are over 18 (you have a credit card) but even so this doesn’t mean that I’m not concerned about your situation. It’s good that you feel able to trust your instincts about the first guy you describe as “nice” but really a nice guy would have listened to you when you first said ‘no’ and left it alone.

In fact a ‘nice’ guy wouldn’t have made this offer, especially in person where you might have felt you couldn’t say no. A nice guy wanting to see a sex worker would, ya know, go see a sex worker. How do you feel about these other guys?

You’re seeing these guys at your place. Many sex workers prefer to take ‘in-calls’ as they feel safer in their own place but there are ways to reduce the risks that you need to know about. For example this advice from the National Ugly Mugs scheme: “Have a buddy system. Let someone know when you’re starting work and finishing. Have a plan if you do not make contact.” Does anyone even know you’re doing this?

From a legal standpoint it doesn’t sound like you (or these guys) are breaking the law (if you are in the UK, which I think you are from your email address). However sex work is not decriminalised like other work, so there are lots of laws which actually makes sex work less safe because they prevent people working together or sharing a flat. More about that here.

If something bad was to happen you could go to the Police but often (sadly) they aren’t as sympathetic to sex workers as they should be and may not take offences against you very seriously (such as theft or assault or threats or harassment). In fact they may be able to prosecute you if they feel you have broken any laws around sex work. This may also put you in trouble with your landlord if you are renting your home.

So should you do sex work?

It’s not my job to talk you into or out of sex work. You’ve seen (and maybe have some experience) some of the difficulties about getting paid to have sex but also some of the positives too.

You mentioned feeling really dirty afterwards and you say that you know you shouldn’t do it. Do you know where that is coming from? It might be worth exploring some of that for yourself. Is it about the sex work? Is it about sex outside of a relationship generally? Think about how you learnt about sex when you were growing up and who you learnt from.

Sadly there is a lot of stigma about sex work (just like there is about sex right?) and there are a lot of negative words and stories out there. We can unconsciously believe in these without realising we’re doing it. Perhaps you can try to gently tease this stuff apart from your thoughts about what you’re doing right now: then you might be able to reach a decision you’re happier with. What are your own values and can you act according to those?

Also you’ve experienced some of the plus sides of sex work – in your case money and some enjoyment from sex. So it’s only fair when you’re thinking about the risks of you doing this to the potential rewards too. Maybe it feels good after what happened with your modelling career to do something that people will pay you for. It can feel great to get paid and we pretty much all need money, I know I do.

Remember also that there are many many people doing sex work who do enjoy what they do – even if they don’t necessarily enjoy the sex. It can be a really difficult job but many people find it rewarding – just like other jobs. This is especially true if sex workers mainly have good clients, which I don’t think you do. If you did want to continue, maybe you could get better clients?

But as I say, this is your decision.

My advice to you for now

But my advice to you is to think about what you are doing now and to think about your rights, your safety, your fee, your boundaries, your home and whether these are the right clients for you.

The National Ugly Mugs scheme is a project to keep sex workers safe and to promote sex worker rights. Please please please read this whole section on safety very carefully – it is really sound advice (written by sex workers I think) on how to lower the risks of sex work. They also have a section where you can login and see if there are any clients that you need to worry about (‘Ugly Mug’).

You might also get an idea from that site about what makes a good client and why these guys are possibly not great clients.

You can also find a sex worker support project near you. They can help you if you want to continue doing sex work, but also if you want to stop. You can find a list of projects here.

Often there are specific sexual health services for sex workers, but all sexual health services should be (and often are) sensitive and supportive of sex workers. They can put you in touch with people who can give you support locally if you wish. More on sexual health services (and a link to where you can find your nearest service) here.

Also have you told anyone you trust about this? Is there anyone who you know won’t just give you a lecture and tell you what to do? Someone who will listen and provide support no matter what you decide to do? If not, perhaps you might be able to find some other avenues of support – for instance, in spaces where sex workers can meet each other.

Hope all this helps!

Justin


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