The 1980’s film Pretty Woman singlehandedly did two things. It launched Julia Roberst to A-list status, forever, and it rose-tinted our American idea of sex work, for what seems just as long. Vivian Ward and her pleather thigh high boots and heart of gold became the image we associated with sex work, and somewhat ludicrously, with street level sex work.
It gave birth to Pretty Woman syndrome — where men fall for women who are unavailable. And, in each John’s interviews, men admitted to falling in love with sex workers. They’d point out, that it was complicated, there were spiritual aspects, emotional aspects to sex work. And also, often these men were married.
Now we get to hear what the sex workers think about all this. In the second half of our round-table of experienced, savvy and celebrated sex workers weigh in on falling in love with “Johns,” marriage in sex work, and the of experiences of women buying sex.
Many men told me that sex workers got turned on during commercial sex — OR — they said they weren’t ridiculous enough to believe the sex worker would be turned on. They seemed obsessed with the idea. What is going on here?
Kendra: With every man I met, I treated him like a VIP the entire time we were together. I made sure to dress sexy, hang on to his every word, and have lots of orgasms, real or fake, depending on the situation. Most men LOVE pleasing women, it fills them with pride and a sense of accomplishment and they feed off the energy.
Veronica: We fake a lot of orgasms and I hear most women do this as well - for free! That is the part that mystifies me. Why on earth would a woman fake an orgasm for free? As for the clients, they are all obsessed with feeling "special" and being the one client who can make you cum.
Collette: I actually get very aroused while I am working. I think my clients are so sexy.
Mariko: My rates can be flexible, depending on how much fun I am having. My website states this. Guys love this. It is always more beneficial to both parties in sex work, if you enjoy your job.
Do you date your clients? Has it ever been hard for you to toe the line of love as a client and love as something more?
Collette: Of course they will fall in love with you — they cannot have you!
Wendy: One of my friends has been dating a guy for over 6 years ago who she originally met as a john, and they have one of the most loving, humorous, and compassionate relationship I’ve ever seen. I have been in one relationship with a regular I saw, and it only lasted two weeks as he quickly turned abusive, calling me a whore for what I did for work. For the most part I try to avoid dating clients, it can get complicated as the guy usually becomes jealous real fast leaving you without a partner and a regular.
Mariko: I do DATE some of my clients, pulling them out of the paid encounters into my “real world” if they choose to tow the line of “really dating” me. I explain that the service orientation is gone once the payment is gone and that I expect certain things in order to provide sex and companionship “for free”.
While dating your former client begins on the premise of understanding the basis of what you do for work, the sudden loss of catering to the man may be too shocking and the desire to put the effort into what it takes to nurture a romantic relationship may not be there or possible for some of these guys.
Many of them men I spoke to had wives. Do you think it’s wrong of these guys to see sex workers while in committed “monogamous” relationships?
Kendra: I don't think it's wrong for married men to see sex workers and I agree with the men interviewed, sex workers can help marriages stay together. For example, I know of men who choose to utilize sex workers instead of ripping their family apart physically and financially. There are also men who are caring for chronically ill spouses who are devoted to caring for her but still have their own physical and emotional needs. Seeing a sex worker is a good respite for these men.
Veronica: All relationships deserve the dignity of honest connection built upon integrity. Polyamory and open marriages provide for this variety of personal expression. Compulsory abstinence and monogamy do not. Compulsory anything invites deceit and betrayal, all of which create lack of trust and deep hurts. It is the dishonesty and manipulation that hurt and destroy.
Would there be sex work in a sexually free/sex positive society? Why or why not?
Veronica: We all prepare our own food and yet we also love paying someone else to cook for us! The bonobos are extremely promiscuous and yet they have prostitution too. Sex for pay is literally in our DNA
Kendra: There will always a need for sexual healing and gratification, which not everyone has free access to. The people working in sex fields would be honored and respected instead of shunned.
Wendy: As long as we live in a commercialized society where even the necessities of life come at a price (think water and food, hey people even charge for air at ‘oxygen bars’!) there will always be sex work, I don’t think that’ll ever change.
Tracy: Our culture is a lot more positive about sex than people acknowledge. In the affluent liberal west, sex for pleasure is quite mainstream. And we have not only prostitution, but more forms of sexual commerce than ever. We are already living in a sexually free society!
Are there deeper benefits to sex work--Do you think seeing sex workers can help someone--spiritually, mentally, emotionally/psychologically?
Kendra: Sex work can be very therapeutic. The human touch is vital, and some people would not receive it for years at a time unless they paid a massage therapist or sex worker. I had one client tell me he hadn't touched his wife in months. She flat out told him, "I'd rather do a crossword puzzle than be intimate with you." We all deserve to be worshiped and lavished with attention. Some get that at home, and some don't.
Colette: Every human being on the planet has a uniquely different sexuality. When someone's sexuality is not judged, but honored, something very empowering happens. Perhaps, in that moment they understand that sexuality is our most powerful human drive, most soul fulfilling connection to another human being.
Mariko: Most of us just need compassion and someone to listen and understand. The sex worker’s job is to not discriminate in exchange for a donation, this can be extremely impactful for clients who have mental/physical disabilities, weight issues, whose spouses have beat their self esteem down or who simply haven’t found anyone who can deal with their drug use or their kinks in any kind of sane and rational way.
One of my favorite articles in this series was on women who buy sex. I covered the women who flock to Jamaica or Bali who pay to spend time with the men on the beach. Have you ever come across female buyers? Would you buy sex yourself?
Veronica: As a female escort, I had female clients. Not a lot of them, but they were great. And yes, I have paid for sex with prostitutes several times. It was wonderful and I truly got why men were paying me, after the experience. Paid sex is just in a genre all its own! It will leave a big smile on your face if you are not too shame-based.
Kendra: I think it would be really cool if my man, who is a natural Dominant, became a pro Dom and offered his services to woman craving that experience. You hear of so many pro Domme/Dominatrixes - do you know of any male pro Doms?? I'd love to hear about that.
Wendy: I have provided sex services for women as well and paid for sexual services from female sex workers. Most of the women I saw were in a relationship and wanted me to join them and there partner to explore threesome fantasies. I had about 6 regular female clients that I saw. All of them were very friendly, respectful and attractive. When I was a sex worker I called up an escort agency and saw a beautiful sex worker who
provided me with a sensuous massage while we talked about the biz. My former fiancé and I hired two transwomen sex workers as he had always fantasized about being with transgender womenI also love going to strip clubs and hiring strippers for my parties. There ain’t no party like a sex worker party!