As you may have noticed, in lieu of an actual column last week, the lovely Amity Simone posted about the event Sex & Absurdity! The event was held at the Center for Sex & Culture and emceed by the devastatingly charming Editrix Abby, who asked me to be a part of the line up for this variety show. If you didn’t make it, you missed a damn good time!
Abby wrote up her perspective of the event, and if you haven’t already, you should check out her blog. She is a hilarious and honest writer who shares her megahot erotica and dating disasters. Her experience is incredibly unique, and she has an incredible ability to speak very frankly and vulnerably about her feelings. Find more of all that right here.
I wrote up a little summary of the event from my perspective here. I decided to tell a story about one of my clients; the first session I met him in was particularly poignant and silly. It’s not a story I have told before, so if you’re interested in the juxtaposition between counseling and BDSM coupled with a downright fascinating story, I highly recommend giving it a watch. Note: Not safe for work!
After doing this talk, I realized that I have spent a lot of time talking about the good clients who challenge the typical expectations that most people (including myself) possessed when I began doing sex work. There is Bailey, whose lingering love for his ailing wife is evident as he plays. There is the client who broke up with me, who was one of my first regulars and showed me how things can fall into the gray area. There’s Sammy, who uses professional BDSM as, according to him, a more effective form of therapy. These clients are all exceptional cases who presented particularly intimate information and unique stories. Most of our clients fall on the same side of the spectrum as these extraordinary clients; they are generally sweet, respectful people who need to work their kinky shit out with a professional.
While I am reticent to break the “They aren’t that bad!” bubble, it would be inaccurate to portray all of the clients, and all of the work, as perfect and completely misunderstood. Some of the clients are not that great. In fact, some of the clients are downright awful. Some of them repeatedly push boundaries. Some of them are, to put it plainly, assholes. To ignore this aspect of the work would be to lie about what it really looks like.
A friend recently contacted me, stating that she was applying for a pro-domme position, and had some questions about the clients. She wanted to know the worst that had happened, what most of the clients are like, and what the job really looked like. As I was describing it to her, I realized that describing the negative aspects of it were vital to preparing her for entering this world. It also became clear that the negative aspects of this job are not nearly as threatening as most folks would expect.
Female sex workers are more likely to be victims of violence than other women. While violence against women is already a systemic issue, the rates against sex workers is even higher. While sexual violence is already dramatically under-reported, whorephobia and a rape culture that enforces the idea that victims of sexual violence are somehow responsible for the acts committed against them. There is a history of sex workers being preyed on by serial killers; we are easy targets because we are considered disposable, insignificant, and otherwise less than human. The sex workers who are at the highest risk are those who work on the streets, in the open. Working as a pro-domme carries less risk, but the risk still feels present.
When folks see this kind of information, especially since the definition of sex work is nebulous at best, they think that any job as a sex worker must be terribly dangerous. For the most part, though, it seems that professional BDSM is so off the grid, not only due to the stigma against sex work, but also due to the stigma against BDSM as a whole, that the danger of violence is lower. No one wants to bring their kinks, not to mention their interest in “professionals”, out into the open.
One thing I did want to prepare my inquiring friend for, though, was the assholes who can make you worry. Most of them are relatively benign, but this is the thing: making people feel unsafe doesn’t require threatening to take their life. It was vital for me to warn her that my experience is not the only experience: I have the benefit of entering into this work willingly, I work in some pretty damn privileged spaces as a whole, and my sex work career is still new. Even so, it has been an integral part of my experience with sex work, and I wanted her to be prepared for it too.
Not too long ago, there was a client who hired me for a switch session. Switch sessions are when both parties take turns being submissive and dominant. Although I no longer take sessions where I am purely submissive, switch sessions can be a ton of fun! The exchange of power and the battle back and forth can be a joy when they are done with the right folks. When I looked up this client’s record, it stated that he was bad at negotiation, and would sometimes take it too far without prior discussion. Having that heads up made a world of difference, and allowed me to prepare for what was to come.
When we sat down in negotiation, he was very vague about the activities he wanted to participate in. As I have gotten more experienced in this line of work, I have gotten better at reading between the lines, and better at eliciting genuine responses to my questions. I tried to draw some things out from him, and had hoped that despite his vagueness, we would have a successful session. Oh, boy, was I ever wrong.
During the session, he was much more focused on being dominant than switching. Part of what is hard for me, as a professional submissive, is that not much humiliates me. The things that truly humiliate me are things that I am unwilling to do professionally, and often, when clients try to get a rise out of me, they aren’t successfully embarrassing — simply annoying. This can often provoke clients who want to cross lines and act inappropriately when they want to get a “real reaction”.
This particular client took it too far, though; when he had suggested that we roleplay, we decided upon a coworker/boss scenario. He had me lay on the floor, and through his jeans, pressed his crotch on my thigh, telling me that he was going to rape me, and have all my fantasy coworkers rape me as well.
What. The. Fuck.
At no point, at no point, during negotiation did we discuss incorporating rape roleplay into the situation. There is nothing inherently wrong with consensual nonconsent; it’s something I am interested in personally, and I firmly believe that as long as the basis of it is consensual, it can be an incredibly fun form of play. That said: this was never discussed or negotiated beforehand. As a rape survivor, I specifically do not participate in that kind of play with clients because it runs the great risk of being triggering and otherwise psychologically damaging, if not merely ruining my day.
Another client started to choke me without negotiating this prior to the session. Again, immediate safeword, and then a lecture about the importance of negotiation and how integral it is to consent.
When I was advising my friend on her potential job expectations, the details of these stories were alluded to, but not explicitly offered. These kinds of interactions are rare occurrences, and while it may be hard to believe, they sound far scarier than they are. All it required was a solid, “Knock it the fuck off,” and it stopped. The important thing to take away from this is that these clients felt entitled. This (and worse) is what happens when sex workers are seen as less than human.
Clients get grabby. They grope without permission. They make assumptions about who we are and why we do what we do. They condescend when we tell them that we have other lives–that we go to school, have professional jobs, work on creative projects or have intellectual interests. It is not every client, but it is some of them. There are enough of them to make it worth discussing.
When advising my friend, I want to stay true to what I have said in the past: So many of the clients are wonderful, genuine, respectful, “normal” people. No one wants to think about their father, uncle, husband, brother, son or boyfriend going to see a sex worker, but I can almost guarantee you that it isn’t as rare as you think. The good guys — the real good guys — stay good guys when they walk through the front door of the dungeon. We may be all fantasy to them, but they don’t treat us like scum.
It is a spectrum, with the lousy clients on one side and the fantastic clients on the other, with all these folks who fall somewhere in between. For the most part, there is so much to learn and so much warmth, but like any job, there are days that wear the soul a little thin.
Tizzy Wall is the Playpen Report’s petite spitfire sex-worker, here to talk about queerdom, sex work, and other kinktastic wonders. Take a peek into her big, lovely brain on both Tumblr and Twitter, or like her on Facebook. Have specific questions, topic requests, or the sincerest of flattery to offer? Email her !