A punter’s guide

A punter’s guide to sex work.

Artwork by Elizabeth Mora.

Recently, I stumbled across the blog ‘The Rules Revisited’ which claims to provide advice (from a man) to women on how to better attract the opposite sex. The description reads ‘I’ve dated countless women and it has always amazed me how little they know about men and how to attract them. If nothing else, this blog is an outlet for voicing my astonishment at the typical female’s ignorance of the male mindset’. Well, if he has the right to write an (albeit incredibly patronizing) guide to how women should behave, surely I, as a sex worker, have the right to write a guide on how clients should behave?

Approximately 16% of Australian men will pay for sex at least once in their life; I am willing to hazard a guess though that the amount who have had a paid interaction with a sex worker in some sort of situation is higher because many are not willing to admit it and ‘paid for sex’ could be interpreted to exclude having an erotic massage with hand relief, which is given by a sex worker. Almost all of the clients who come to see me are university educated; many of them have been to the University of Sydney, specifically. Many of the current male students and staff at this university will see a sex worker at some point in their life, if they haven’t already.

So to any future clients of sex workers, I direct this advice to you now:

1. Just because I am a sex worker does not mean I forfeit the rights over and possession of my own body. 

My body is still my own, you may only touch what I say you can touch and the idea of consent does not vanish just because there is a monetary transaction. Every sex worker has different boundaries. I work at a massage parlour with a brothel licence. That means you can pay $160 for a half hour with me, which includes being able to touch me above the waist and a hand job and anything else is legal but extra and up to me. No, you can’t kiss me. No, I don’t do anything with my mouth. You want to touch my pussy? That’s an extra $50. You want to touch inside my pussy? That’s another $50 on top of that. You want to lick my asshole? That’s $250 (and no, that doesn’t mean you can lick my pussy too).

It is not hard to ask ‘may I touch you here?’ or ‘do you do any extras?’ before beginning the massage. It is not hard to ask if you can please suck on my tits before reaching for them and sucking them (for the record, if you ask I will say yes – if you just dive for them I will move away). Slipping a finger in my asshole unasked and unwanted is invasive and insulting to me as an individual. Pressuring me into giving a blowjob with no condom because ‘all the other girls here do’ is ridiculous; their rules are not my rules and one sex worker’s consent does not speak for all sex workers. When asked the other day if I do full service (industry word for sex) in an intro to a client I said no and his response was to spank me on the ass and say ‘I could just get you so horny that you roll with it’. Number one: it is not appropriate to touch me like that when you haven’t even booked me/paid for me yet, number two: you are deluded if you think I am going to change the service I offer because you have some special quality the other men I see don’t, and number three: ‘rolling with it’ is not a particularly enthusiastic start to sex – do you really want to have sex with a girl that is like ‘oh dear this has already started so I just won’t stop it, might as well let it keep going’ – fuck that!

2) Pay good money. 

Go to a licenced brothel for the sake of your sexual health and for the sake of the girls. Cheaper places, illegal places, mean the management is dodgy and the girls aren’t treated well. Sure, you can pay $80 for a massage and full service but how do you know how much of that the girl is actually getting? Many places take more than a 50% cut. The parlour I work at has a no drugs policy, girls are fired if they are caught giving natural services (meaning any service without a condom) and Asian workers are paid the same rates as girls of other races. Due to the fact there are a high number of Asian sex workers in Australia many establishments do not pay Asian workers equal wage. You may pay more, however, what you are paying for is the good and fair treatment of the girls, and not feeding the underground and unrestricted part of the industry that leads to the exploitation of many, many women.

3) Be respectful.

If you say something crude to me like ‘I’m as tall as an Eiffel tower right now and raring to go’ and ‘how about I teach you to ski [whilst gesturing to do a simultaneous double hand job to you and your nineteen year old son next to you]?’ don’t be surprised when I say ‘I don’t like your attitude’ and turn and walk out. We are not a joke and we are not to be taken for granted – this is not a game of ‘I’ve paid for this girl so let’s see how much I can belittle her now I know that she’s a sure thing’. 60% of the clients who I see are lovely men who it is a joy to massage and chat to. They enjoy their massage because I enjoy their company and it shows. I send them away knowing that I have made their day a little bit better by providing that service – spreading positivity! Of course, I realize that many of the clients inside are just a reflection of what they are outside. Those who say disgusting things to me and touch me without permission are the very same harassing women in clubs and on the street. Or perhaps they treat woman in their public life well but don’t view sex workers as deserving of the same respect. We are providing you a service that you want and like, surely in the business world that means that we should be afforded at least common politeness?

I originally intended with this article to write what many sex workers have before me; a piece about how my body is my body and it is my choice what I do with it, I can sell my mind and I can sell my body and that does not mean I value either one more or less than the other, or one is somehow wrong. I can’t believe that is still needing to be stated in 2014 though – of course it is the woman’s choice. It is perfectly acceptable to want sex and it is perfectly acceptable to buy or sell sex. The debate of whether or not sex work is moral and should it be legal or not is irrelevant (it will continue regardless of what people decide on this front); what needs to be done today is an addressing of the problems within the sex industry. In Europe, this may involve an attempt to clamp down on sex trafficking, and discovering individual by individual which girls are there by choice and which have been coerced/forced into sex work. In Australia, there needs to be a clamping down on illegal brothels, where women are underpaid and mistreatment passes under the radar. The discrimination against Asian women (they are paid lower wages than women of other races across the board) needs to stop.

I am a firm believer in that many of the problems with the sex industry come from the clientele base, or at least can be changed with conscious change by clients. The harassment of streetwalkers comes from the clients and their attitudes towards women. Clients need to also be aware of what they are paying for and if the girls are well treated by their management. They also need to be conscious of their own treatment of the women they see, and if they are making the women feel uncomfortable in their job. I am very aware that as a white, English-speaking, educated woman it is very easy for me to feel empowered by my choice to work in the sex industry as I have other options. I am also aware of the economic factors that partly contribute to me being here: I am living out of home, I have a single unemployed parent who can’t support me financially. This is, all while, some of my friends sit in Paddington mansions and make comments such as “prostitution just seems a bit desperate.”

The variety of women I work with is astounding. A nurse who was so over being sexually assaulted by patients she decided to take control over her sensuous body and wield her sexuality for monetary gain. Middle aged mothers who are paying for the legal fees for their divorces whilst they raise three children. A professional masseuse who got so sick of having male clients turn over with a hard on and try to grope her that she said ‘I might as well be paid for this shit’ and came to work at an erotic massage parlour. A Laotian woman whose husband divorced her when they moved to Australia because she wasn’t ‘sexually confident’ enough and is now training to be a nail technician because her language skills don’t offer her much else. The other day she announced to us that she is so happy to be working with all of us women because never before has she been able to talk about sex or her body parts without feeling ashamed. Every single one of these women deserves respect. We are all individuals and our identities shouldn’t be undermined or eliminated by our profession.