Sex Work in a Nutshell – An Overview of the Industry
The sex/adult industry is a bizarre, intimidate, mind-blowing, confusing ground of sexual desire and craving. It is this ever-growing, imperishable, interchanging society that you hide from your children and hope they never learn of.
But you know they will.
It is a place where you are simultaneously judged the harshest, but also forgiven for your misgivings. You are analysed for who you are, what you have to offer, the sound of your voice, the feel of your skin, the look in your eyes or the number of notes in your pocket. There is no other industry where it is as acceptable to be as sexual, to pour out your intrinsic emotions onto another, to fall to shambles, to stand naked next to another and have a regular conversation during intimate times. The adult industry is a collective of raw uncut emotions, it’s an escape from the fabricated world created before you were born. A world that will make you and break you.
This is my workplace and a second home. This is a place where I hope to help people and make them feel good about themselves – I’m sure millions of woman and men work with the same ideas in mind. Human sexuality, being sexually active, having a sexual lifestyle, this is all an important activity for the human body and soul as much as physical health, an exercised mind, a good heart. We, as humans, know this deep down. I would say that’s why the industry is immortal, people need to be sexually engaged because it’s a huge part of feeling good, healthy, worthy, deserving. And having sex is not nearly as dangerous as its painted to be, not when you’re in control and know what you’re doing. The thing is, a lot of people don’t know how to control or channel their desires or they don’t know what they’re doing. That’s how emotions are and there is no universal answer to handling emotions. However, I can confidently say being hush-hush about it is ineffective. Sure, an emotion can go away, but it can also reappear just as quickly and you might as well learn what to do with it the first time round.
This is my job, it’s where I make a living as honestly as I can. And this is a place where some might think of as the bottom of the rung. The breeding ground of the desperate. A place you go when you have no other place to go. The sex industry is a place that I assert, people come to with choice. Whether they picked this choice of a hundred choices, or this within fifty choices, or this within ten choices, or this within five choices, or this within two choices, or this within one choice. They choose to be here and you have no one has the right to question the validity of that choice.
There are victims in the sex industry, if that is what they wish to call themselves. But they don’t have to be victimised, to be victimised is entirely other thing after the fact. That too is a choice: of yourself and when you encounter someone you would describe a victim, and a choice of the person who would describe themselves a victim. How do you react to such an assertion? Do you react the same to victim in the business of agriculture or domestic work? Do you react the same to someone of a different colour or race? Do you react the same to a woman, a man or a trans? Where does you sympathy start and end? Why?
A person under the age of 18 is not a sex worker, legally speaking and technically, they’re victims of rape. But again, it’s a choice and it’s important to not dismiss these people from any discussion about sex work, or to disempower choice. Once you start doubting the validity of choice, you remove personal responsibility and that doesn’t mean a person can’t be a victim, it actually means they have to be. It doesn’t help the discussion or the person or the reality. The people who are trafficked here are not sex workers. How do you define trafficking? Does your definition differ from my own? Sex trafficking or slavery is not sex work. If people are not identified for what they actually are, if you just boggle up as many people as you can into the sex trafficking/slavery sector, that whole section becomes deluged and increasingly difficult to manage and help. Perhaps for this reason the rescue industry is so fruitful.
Above all, and as I have always asserted, the legal framework of decriminalisation is the best model for this industry to function, though it will continue to function under any legal framework. The question is just how safe, healthy, supported and empowered sex workers are within their industry.
To sum up: Sex work or the adult industry is the business of directly or indirectly providing sex-related products or services for adult entertainment by business operators and sex workers.
I’ve written a dummies guide to sex work if you need to further your understanding. Feel free to refer to this guide to educate yourself
A sex worker is or can be: male or female or trans, old or young or underage, of the whole pallet of skin colors and ethnicity, tall or short, big or small, highly educated or not, wealthy or poor, straight or gay or bisexual and sex work can be their only job or a second job or just something they do within their life. You can literally get any type of person for a sex worker. And yes, sometimes even stereotypes can be sex workers.
The types of sex work/sex workers –
Opportunist workers: I will argue that by far, the most common sex worker is the opportunist worker. This is not someone who decides that they would like to do a specified service for a set time, this is someone who has an opportunity to make money in the moment, so they do. They can be a person at a bar who gets offered money to follow someone home, or a masseuse that could make some extra cash with a rub, or a porn actor who sees a fan with an offer, or anyone who gets invited to ‘party for cash’ or anyone who goes home with a dude because he has something other than a dong. The opportunist worker is everywhere, within everyone, as everyone has a price. That price might be $50 or a marriage with a house and a picket fence, whatever, everyone has a price to afford access to their sexuality, body or intimacy to another person. In a sense we are all opportunist workers and we all give a bit of ourselves for a price. The opportunist worker hides in the shadow so not to receive the stigma that comes with what they’ve done. They hide behind the shadow of blatant sex workers, who actively exercise their body in this capitalistic society and who get all the blows from society.
Phone sex operators: These sex workers provide a vocal entertainment service, making their callers feel beloved, sexually gratified, conversational and cared for. They work from a private space and have no physical contact with their clients.
Webcam performers/models: Webcam performers use a medium platform, a webcaming website, where they will do a variety of performances for ‘tips’. The webcam website that hosts their shows will take a percentage of their earnings (can be up to 50%). They can do private shows for clients or shows with a larger audience. An example of what they might do is masturbate, dance, play with massage oil etc. They work from a private space and have no physical contact with their clients.
Porn actor/actress: Porn actors/actresses are paid to engage in different forms of sex whilst being filmed. That film is then distributed for adult entertainment purposes. Pornography has many types of versions, from amateur, lesbian, anal, gay, group sex, creampie, oral sex, lesbian, toys, double penetration, fantasy, fetish, BDSM, hentai, masturbation, public, transgender, squirting, threesomes etc. Performers can be managed by agents or companies (like most actors/actresses) or they can manage themselves. Performers choose what they are happy engaging in and are paid by scene or film. They work from a studio space and work intimately with other performers.
Pornographic/explicit glamour models: These models sport for pictures that have sexually explicit themes. They’re paid to be the product of the photos which is distributed either privately, in magazine, as advertisement etc. They work from studios and have no physical contact with their clients. Porn actors/actresses may work as models to promote their other work.
Live peep show: Peep shows can be found in sex stores like Club X and feature a worker who reveals different sections of their body through a hole. They might be doing a strip tease, other sexual activities or posing. Like webcam models, they perform for a watching client but are separated by physical walls.
Topless/lingerie bartending/waitressing: There are some bars and clubs that have workers that are topless. Sometimes touching the upper body is permitted or is charged. There are also private workers or companies that send out workers for private functions such as bachelor nights.
Stripping: Strippers are best known for being provocative dancers. They can work privately at functions through a company or by their own management, or can work at a club or bar. They usually work for tips by patrons who visit them. They can get tips by dancing on stage, providing lap dances or doing sex shows. Depending on venue, touching the dancers can be permitted but is usually limited i.e. waist up. Sometimes they can do live sex shows, lesbian shows, ping pong shows etc. The list of the type of sexy shows is endless.
Massage parlour worker: These workers do their jobs in a variety of ways, with the common factor being massage. They can be massaging in the nude, giving bodyslides, or give hangjobs, blowjobs, kisses, touching of breasts etc. Can also be known as Rub n Tug.
BDSM worker (dominatrix or submissive): Workers of the BDSM realm are a type of specialist worker. BDSM culture is its own thing and no person is able to just be a dominatrix or submissive worker, they need some sort of training so they don’t hurt themselves or others physically/emotionally. There are BDSM workers who work from a BDSM house or can be hired privately. Often these workers might not even have sex with their clients.
Street-based sex workers: These workers usually work from a common place so clients know where they frequent. Working from the same area also acts as a form of protection from clients or police as workers often look out for each other’s safety. Street workers work from a street base because it’s easy to access, it ensures they receive all their earning (unlike brothels or agency workers), or because they have no place to host their services although this isn’t always the case. Street workers also work because it provides them with immediate income, which might not be possible in other forms of sex work.
Brothel/establishment workers: These workers work for a brand or company not unlike any other shift work for any other organisation. They are rostered to come in, introduce themselves to prospect clients and explain the services they’re happy to provide, and then provide their services in a safe and clean room. A fee is given to the company for hosting fees and the rest is for the fee of the worker. Often these workers negotiate what they’re happy to do. These workers work from the brothel or parlour because it provides them with protection, security and privacy. Working closely with other workers also provides a remedy to the social isolation of being a sex worker. Brothel workers aren’t known for doing outcalls but this does sometimes happen.
Agency/branded escort: Agency workers represent a brand/company and are much like private workers. Agency workers often don’t deal with the business side of things and usually work outcalls. Agencies give a percentage of their earnings to their agency (about 40% give or take). These workers usually work for agencies because they provide screening, protection and steady clientele.
Private escort: A private escort is a worker who manages themselves, their business, for sexual services. Private workers receive full percentage of their earnings unless they are delegating, for example by having a driver; they manage marketing, administration and security for themselves. They can work incalls or outcall and their services represent what they are comfortable doing.
Sex surrogates: Sex surrogates are unlike other types of sex work because their main intention is to teach their clientele how to be better lovers. They are usually qualified counselors/psychologist and are often unacknowledged in the psychology industry. Sex surrogates usually don’t like being associated with the sex industry or as sex workers because they view their jobs as more ‘professional’.
Tantra teachers: Tantra teachers need to have hands on approach to teach their sexual practices which by definition would make them a sort of sex workers. Practitioners don’t focus on traditional methods of sex but rather a highly specialised method that closely relates to yoga, energies etc.
Sugar babes: A sugarbabe would be classified as a sort of sex work although it generally encompasses less volume of clientele, although that can be a bit of a stretch. Sugarbabes are workers who provide company, sexual services to clients in return for money or gifts. They are often more exclusive then other sex workers and do their work on a more part-time basis.
Workers at sex shops: Workers at the sex shop are a sort of sex worker in that they’re not selling anything personally sexual to them, but they are selling sex related products. They are more clerk’s then physical sex workers, but they need to be knowledgeable of the sex industry to profitably sell their products.
Promoters: I would consider promoters a type of sex work simply because promoters are more often than not, attractive people who are hired because of their sex appeal. Sometimes promoters just stand there handing out cards or sometimes they wet their tshirt for a level of transparency that makes their nipples visible. Either way their physical body is their key selling point.
Erotic fiction writers: Writers relate very indirectly with the sex industry. They do no physical work with clients but their work functions as a method of adult entertainment. They are literally selling their sex on paper.
As you can see, sex work has its variety methods. Which one is OK and which one is not? Why is being sexy in some forms OK but others not? Why can I wear a bikini to the beach and that’s fine, but take a photo and distribute that, that’s not OK. Why can I go have casual sex every time I go out, but when I have sex for money, that’s not OK. Why is the 3rd party judgement of context more important than the consent of the parties involved? The workers of this industry are not ‘sell outs’. They’re not unskilled, undignified, sullied and to be shamed. They are people trying to make a living, just like you. Sex workers are people, people like you, like your family, like your friends and they are working somewhere that works for them.
My industry needs help. People in this industry are having a hard time because of the lack of support and the elimination of human and labour rights. You need to respect the people in this industry if you truly want to do the right thing and help. All the awful things in this industry will not be minimised when you ignore it, delete it or shame. Once you can accept sex work, and every type of sex worker, you can start to eliminate all the hurtful factors that come with the work. To be an ally, you don’t need to condone working in the sex industry, you just need to condone human rights and labour rights.
If anyone has anything to add to this list or to correct, please let me know. I would like this list to be informative and helpful and that’s mostly possible with a collective effort. I am not an expert on all things sex work related and invite any expansion. If you disagree with something, same goes.