"I've recently gotten into a bit of sex work, and so far I really enjoy it. Most of the clients I've seen have been nice guys who are respectful and fun to be around - at least for an hour, anyway. And although I'm still getting used to the idea of sometimes viewing sex, something so inherently personal and intimate, as a commodity, I feel a lot better about myself after making a guy's day by showing him some stress-free attention and getting him off a time or two than I do about (her other job.)
Honestly, I have about a million questions I want to ask you right, but I'll start with the one that seems most important so far.
What do you do when a client says something like, "You know, you're a smart girl; why do you do this?" First of all, could that be any more insulting? And secondly, why doesn't he consider how much money he's paying me? I do it BECAUSE I'm smart!
If someone I was dating had that attitude about my choice to do sex work, I'd kick him to the curb, but a professional setting is entirely different, of course. Money is the primary reason I'm doing sex work, not to educate men about sex-positive feminism. At least clients with this attitude seem to be the minority, but I haven't yet figured out how to deal with this issue.
But I expect more respect from someone with whom I've just had sexual contact, even if it was a business transaction. Is that the wrong mindset for a pro?"
Well, I can see both sides of this. I have certainly heard some version of this line myself, lots of times, and I do understand being annoyed by it. If nothing else, people who say it tend to act like no one could ever have possibly have said it to you before, when in fact, you’re heard it 943 times. Anything grows annoying with repetition.
One generally hears it from a man the first time he sees you, and one always hears it after the sexy part, whatever it is, has been completed. Having someone say this to you as they are literally pulling up their pants is enough to try the kindest woman’s patience.
(As I write this, I’m wondering: do male sex workers get this line? Either from other men, or from women? Or is this an exclusively male client/female sex worker thing?)
I am acquainted with the writer of this letter, and like me, she participates actively in the sex-positive community. Within that world – what I sometimes call “the love bubble”, a term I yoinked from Jane Duvall – being a sex worker is not considered highly scandalous, nor is it assumed to be the last refuge of the otherwise-unemployable. There is a range of opinion even there, but most folks will at least admit the possibility that a smart person might decide to be a sex worker for all the right reasons.
But we must remember: most clients of sex workers do not come from the sex-positive community. They live in a world where being a sex worker can never be viewed as a smart choice. In that world, a woman who “sells her body” (and what a stupid phrase that is) must be either morally corrupt or too dumb to have any other options.
If you’re a sex worker hearing this line, take comfort in the fact that at least the client has realized you don’t actually fit that description. I myself have certainly met sex workers who were as dumb as a box of rocks, so also understand that the guy may well have personal experience of that cliché.
True, it’s exasperating to have to deal with the assumption that while he is saying you’re smart, he somehow also thinks you were unaware that you could do something else for a living. But try to be charitable and assume that you rocked his world so much you temporarily lowered his own IQ fifty points or so. It's better for your own blood pressure if you can frame it to yourself not as "He has no respect for me" but rather as "I am a new experience for him."
One of the many unacknowledged roles of a sex worker is to be a sexuality educator. This is a teachable moment. So don’t answer from a defensive place, that’ll close the door on an opportunity to raise his consciousness. My suggested response? “Well, in my world, this is not viewed as something that smart girls don't do. I like sex, I'm completely comfortable with my sexuality and other people's as well, so I enjoy this. My friends think I'm very smart for doing something I like and making extra money too!"
If you are the client of a sex worker: do not say this, okay? You may think it’s a compliment, but it’s actually the reverse: it suggests you expected her to be an idiot. And she’d have to really be an idiot not to know she has other options. She’s choosing to exercise this one, and you should assume that she knows more about her life than you do, and that she’s better positioned to make choices.
If want to make pillow-talk about your everyday lives, you could say, “So, a girl as smart as you must have lots of other irons in the fire. What do you do when you’re not making people glad they’re alive?”