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How to talk about sex with a sex(ualized) worker: some talking points

I dealt with this issue as a phone sex operator; now I'm dealing with it as a performer and host producing "sexy"-ish events. So I thought I'd lay out my thoughts about how to talk about sex with someone who is a sex(ualized) worker, outside of any situation where they are already talking about or doing sex with you; this is basically advice for the approach.

(Sex workers and sexualized workers, current and former, if you have additional thoughts on this list, or items to add, I would love to see your comments!)

For the purposes of this piece:

  • sex worker = someone who sells a sex/kinky/sexy experience for money, an experience that may be live or recorded, remote or face to face, that may or may not culminate in orgasm for either party during the experience. Some examples: escort, stripper, webcam performer, porn actor, phone sex operator, pro-dom(me)
  • “sexualized” worker = someone whose job requires them to talk or write about sex, or to act kinky or sexy for the purposes of performance, sales, atmosphere, persona, or supporting other workers. Some examples: sex-toy salesperson, dispatcher at a phone-sex company, erotica writer, sex educator, host or volunteer at a “sexy” event like a Smut Slam or a burlesque show.

If you know that the person is a sex worker and you want to hire them, ask them politely how you can contact them. Do not do this in public spaces or when they are clearly off the clock, but only in spaces where it is obvious that they are offering their services (e.g. private dances at a strip club, online chat rooms, etc.) or when they have specifically mentioned it. Follow their directions (especially in regards to how to contact them) and be polite. If they say they are not available, then you can ask them once, and politely, for references to someone else whom you could hire.

If you do not know whether the person is a sex worker, do not ask. If they wanted you to know that they were a sex worker and available for hire, they would find a way to let you know.

Do not approach a sexualized worker about sex with them when they are on the clock, either in person or online. Because their work may hinge on seeming accessible, sexy, and/or flirty, sexualized workers may understandably be reluctant to have to set boundaries and break that image. Also, if they have to be there—say, they are staffing a booth at a con or volunteering at an event—they may feel trapped, and their performance of their duties may suffer. Let them set the tone and the direction of the conversation; when they leave or turn their attention elsewhere, then accept that. At most, you can slip them your number or card, with a non-gross invitation for a coffee or something. Do not shadow them or hover. They now know how to reach you if they want.

Do not ask on-the-clock sex workers about sex with them unless that is a service that they explicitly offered during your negotiation. Trying to get more services in the middle of an encounter, especially when those are way outside of the sex worker’s area, is a douche move.

If you want to ask a sex worker about sex with them off the clock, i.e. a date, a) wait until they are off work, and b) offer the invitation as you would to someone with any other kind of job. Your chances will be enhanced if you do not bring up their line of work in your initial invitation.

If you want to ask either type of worker general questions about sex or their line of work, ask them politely if you can ask some questions. If you are friends, consider inviting them out for a coffee or dinner; if you are not friends, ask them how you can send them a little bit of money for their time. Sex workers and sexualized workers are frequently expected to provide free information and support when we are off the clock, and while some of us will do that to a limited degree, it’s not everyone and we all have limits to our generosity.

If you want to ask either type of worker general questions about sex or their line of work, with the idea that you will be able to finagle that conversation into unpaid sex with them, don’t. 

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If you want to give this particular sexualized worker some financial support in recognition of all of the pro bono work I wind up doing in pursuit of sex-aware theatre, storytelling, and other events, that'd be FANTASTIC. Just head over to Patreon and become a patron, at any monthly level that works for you!

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