There is something about sex work that causes people to completely lose their social sensibilities. Polite, socially competent people suddenly start frothing at the mouth when they realize the gold mine of vicarious living they have stumbled upon in their new acquaintance. The prospect of getting the kind of titillating information they typically find in the supermarket’s collection of gossip mags causes them to lose all of their so-called grown up manners.
Who needs a politicians’ sex scandal when you have a bonafide man-eating, wallet-hollowing woman of the night right before you, clearly ready and waiting to satisfy all your probing inquiries?
If you would like to actually get the opportunity to know the sex worker you’re now acquainted with, particularly if she’s a pro-domme, here are some tips on what not to say.
10. “So you make a lot of money, don’t you?”
When has it ever been socially acceptable to ask a near stranger for the details of their income?
There’s this misconception floating about that sex workers are either raking in the cash with very little effort, or are starving on the streets, spending their money on crack.
There may be sex workers who fall into both of these categories (although I think the first one is rarer than the second, since sex work is, in fact, work, and sometimes difficult work at that), but it is an ill-founded stereotype that needs to die. Sex work is like many industries, with lots of variety in the level of income and the “type” of person involved.
Sadly, no, I am not some über-wealthy Cruella DeVille who, upon discovering that there was a serious shortage of Dalmation puppies (and that Dalmation puppies are far too cute to be slaughtered), decided to make herself a coat made of man-pelts.
And fortunately, no, I am not one of the sex workers who was forced into this industry due to an abusive relationship or an addiction. I am lucky.
The question is still problematic, though: If I wasn’t so lucky, would that be any of your business either? Would you really want to have that conversation over a beer?
I didn’t think so.
9. “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done?”
The answer to this question is almost always going to disappoint you because every sex worker I know has a helluva different definition of “weird” than any civilian.
It feels a little dehumanizing to feed a sensationalized view of sex workers with additional fodder that doesn’t accurately reflect the range of complexity that each day can (and often does) offer.
8. “So all the dudes you see are like, total freaks, right?”
I have some really bad news for the general populace; the vast majority of clients are regular, normal people. They are not that different from the people you know. Clients of sex workers are not some isolated population. They are not evil, they are not especially weird and they are not who you would expect. You would not be able to pick them out in a crowd.
Although, like any customer service job, there are many obnoxious, disrespectful folks who come to see us, there is a small portion of clients that we develop a fondness for. We have our regulars who warm our hearts, have intimate conversations with, and develop long term relationships with. They tell us their fears, their concerns and their insecurities. They share with us things that they are unwilling to share with their closest confidants. It would be impossible to not develop a bond with these folks. Most often, that fondness isn’t born of an exceptional compassion for their “freakiness,” but for the humanity that they share with us.
I love me a freak too, but that’s just not the majority of the people we see.
7. Any pun on whipping, beating, or involving the word “naughty”
No. Just no.
6. “I don’t know why you were nervous to tell me. It’s not a big deal.”
Now, I know you may be thinking that I am being a real hard-ass for including this on the list. After all this talk about sex worker acceptance, isn’t this something that would be good to hear?
Absolutely, it is always fantastic to hear someone say that they don’t care about someone’s past or present as a sex worker, but please don’t diminish or dismiss concerns about the very real stigma against sex workers. Please appreciate that telling you is a leap of faith.
5. “You’re…actually smart!”
If you think that most sex workers are stupid, you clearly aren’t paying attention. The sex worker community is rich with incredibly intelligent (some are even well-educated!) minds (that accompany some very sexy bodies).
This question is problematic because it reinforces the idea that if you are tapped into your sexuality, you cannot possibly be tapped into your brain, too. This idea in particular is wrapped up in some hideous misogyny; contrary to popular beliefs, women don’t have to pick between brains and beauty. We actually are whole human beings with nuanced personalities, sexualities, and minds.
The geeks won the war, y’all. Smart is sexy. Stop insulting everyone with this terrible presumption.
4. “But you like, don’t have sex with them, right?”
The part that is upsetting about this question is not that someone is implying that I am a prostitute. Sex work is sex work is sex work, and there’s not a huge difference between the bunch of us.
Let’s make it very clear: People pay me money to see my boobs.
My fellow sex workers and I may have different boundaries regarding what acts we are willing to perform, but we are still in the same community.
This is often presented as a harmless, curious question when it actually has a looming black thundercloud of judgment ever-ready to rain down on the “wrong” answer. It is asked to determine whether or not the sex worker in question is actually as repugnant as suspected. The problem isn’t the question itself, but the attitude behind it.
Here’s the rub:
Sex workers are human. Prostitutes are human.
Whether I’m fucking for money or not, if you are going to judge any sex worker for their “acts of depravity,” then we probably won’t get along very well. If you believe that, then you have no respect for an individual’s agency beyond their sexuality; you believe that a person’s sexual proclivities determine their overall worth as an individual.
Please, don’t stop asking this question if you truly feel like that fine line of orifice penetration is a determining factor in whether I’m a “worthwhile” person or not. It’s a good signifier of who you are and why those in the sex worker/sexually progressive community should avoid you.
3. “Does [your partner] know?” or any variation of “I didn’t realize [your partner] was into that.”
Do you really think that if I am telling you, an acquaintance and/or total stranger, what I do for a living, that I would lie to my partner about it?
I suspect the question is more a marveling at the fact that sex work doesn’t have to be an illicit endeavor for successful dating. Kitty Stryker pointed out another unfortunate belief that motivates these questions: people want to know about how our partners “let” us do this kind of work as if we are property to be owned by another human being.
As for the second portion of that response: How awkward!
You are commenting on my sex life and my partner’s sexual proclivities, as well as potentially judging him for getting involved with a sex worker (and a woman who is paid to be dominant!). Should I detail what my partner is and isn’t interested in? Should I create a Venn Diagram showing you where work activities and personal activities overlap? How is this any of your business?
2. “I guess I deserve a spanking for that, don’t I?”
My standard response is usually, “How much cash do you have in your wallet?”
This may seem like its made in jest, but it is often followed up with a “Come on, really? Not even a little spank? Really?”
No. Really. The answer is no.
Do I ask you to design my website/build me a new house/give me a tattoo/test to see if I have strep throat for free? No, I didn’t, because expecting you to work for free is rude and presumptuous. Do not ask us to do the same.
1. “Some men say they aren’t into dominant women but I have always found it a huge turn on.”
Gee, thanks. That isn’t a creepy thing to say at all.
You have officially informed me that I can expect you to only see me in a sexual light, that you probably have boundary issues, and that, frankly, I should be wary of absolutely anything nice you do for me.
What’s more, random dude, I don’t care about what gets your cock to stand at attention.
The fact that I’m a sex worker doesn’t mean I’m interested in what turns you on… unless you plan to pay me to talk about it.
Book an appointment. Pull out your wallet. Hand me your money. Then we can talk.
I get that having a conversation with a live (!) professional (!) dominatrix (!) is fascinating when your primary exposure to them has been that one time you saw Olivia Benson go all domme on Law & Order SVU*.
I understand that, as a profession, sex work has been simultaneously demonized and sensationalised by the media, and that makes meeting a person who will openly tell you that they are a sex worker mind-blowing. All the questions you have! Is it really like the movies?! Do we really wear big shiny boots**? Is latex really a thing***?
Here’s the reality:
We are regular people.
I know your interactions with sex workers are deeply limited and skewed by public perception & media presentation, but if you could also be conscious of it when you talk to us, that would be cool. If you haven’t been in the industry, then you truly have no idea what it is like. There are so few, if any, accurate portrayals about who sex workers are and what the industry is like.
While I have outlined some of the responses that annoy me and, from a stringent analysis of anecdata, the other sex workers I know, I cannot speak for all sex workers. Generally, consider this a decent guideline to things we don’t want to talk about when we’ve barely introduced ourselves.
We are truly an incredibly varied bunch who come from vastly different backgrounds and have vastly different goals. And, just like you, many of us don’t need you to make assumptions about our intelligence, our worth, or our willingness to fuck you.
*Holy mother of hotness!
***Hell yes, and it is FANTASTIC.
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 need advice on your kinky sex issues? Email her !