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Advice from a Phone Whore, to sex work clients everywhere

Me as the Phone Whore. (Photo credit: Joseph St. Marie)

Nearly seven years ago, I pounded out a post about the weird, squicked-out responses that I got from people when they found out that I worked in phone sex. Those responses were less about me, I had found, and more about how could I stand to work with them?

The them here are of course unkempt, perverted wankers who don’t know how to go out and get laid the normal way—they’re probably old or ugly or both—so they have to use phone sex services in order for anyone to even talk about their dick in a nice way. And when it comes right down to it, look, they literally are wankers; they’re paying for sexual services, but they’re not even getting any actual sex! What a bunch of losers!...

… so went the stereotypes.. The level of hostility for some people went even higher if they had seen Phone Whore and heard Call 4. How could I support that kind of monster?

The answer to that and other questions, whether they were spoken or implied, always came down to a sort of basic respect, from me to them. I understood that my clients were individuals, probably pretty similar to a random sampling of American cis-gendered, mostly straight men with valid credit cards. I never othered them. I didn’t always enjoy their roleplaying fantasies, but I supported their right to have them and find a consensual adult (me) to share them with. I listened to them and did not mock them (unless that was part of their fantasy!). And I defended the hell out of them in public, time and again.

Seven years later, I’ve stopped doing phone work, at least for now, and I’m not performing Phone Whore as much. I’m not as active in sex worker rights as I once wanted to be, but I still try to stay in touch. I keep my eyes on sex worker-driven social media. I see the same debates being waged, online and in actual geo-political policy space. The clients are still scapegoated and othered.

But since that blog post, I’ve come around and refocused my righteous irritation a little more, reoriented to the following position: clients can take care of themselves. They have more power in this world, where mostly sex work is criminalized. And how easy is it, when you’re in the closet about using sex workers’ services, to just … fade back.

So look, if you are a client of sex workers or ever have been, you have more leverage here, at least generally speaking, and you need to be applying that leverage for good. I don't even have to talk about ethical considerations and repaying kindness with kindness, although those are there and you are a better person for thinking about it. I'm talking selfish motivations here: without real rights-based support, sex workers don't have the stability and safety to keep giving you good service.

How to help? There are big and small ways:

  • Pay/tip your sex worker well.
  • Buy ethical porn as much as you can. (Like, buy your porn. This is related to “pay them well,” and is already more ethical.)
  • Read up about the different approaches that governments take toward sex work. (Spoiler alert: decriminalization is the one that most sex worker-led organizations support. This is a good primer.)
  • Get involved in sex worker-led organizations and campaigns around sex worker issues. Don’t take over! Just, offer your help. If you can’t do it publicly, send money. SWARM, based out of the UK, is currently my home branch of sex-worker activism, and they do amazing work.
  • LISTEN TO WHAT SEX WORKERS ARE SAYING about their working conditions and lives, and respect them in that basic, “you are a human too” way.

*****

It's not any of those special observance days like International Sex Workers' Rights Day (March 3) or International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (December 17). It just felt like a good time to remember my roots as a sex-aware activist, educator, and playwright/performer. I was a phone sex operator. I was a sex worker. Consider supporting me in my efforts to keep those connections alive through art and writing, and become a patron of mine over on Patreon.

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