I wrote and deleted this post many times. There are so many misconceptions about “johns” and sex workers’ experience thereof, that differs from my actual lived experience as a sex worker. I knew that I wanted to address them, but didn’t know how. So I decided to write down major misconceptions and counter them as best as I can. This is by no means complete or even universally true. I am only one person after all.
*Not all clients are men and not all sex workers are women. However I can only write about my experience as a cis woman sex worker whose clients are 99% men.
1. They are awful misogynists.
Misogyny is very much present in the world we live in, and it is ingrained in everyone’s minds. I am not going to sit here and claim that my client base is somehow an exception to that. However clients of sex workers aren’t particularly worse than others. Misogyny affects everyone and everything; it is hardly unique to sex work.
It certainly is true that many sex workers experience violence, often at a higher rate than the general population of women. But consider this; men who set out to harm women choose sex workers as their targets because we are less likely to come forward (and easily dismissed when we do come forward) due to criminalization and stigma. If it weren’t sex workers, they would (and they do) prey on another vulnerable demographic. I don’t think they should be grouped with our actual clients, who simply want to pay for what we offer.
There is also this argument that is often thrown at myself and other sex work advocates, that paying a woman to have sex with her is seeing women as objects to be purchased, and therefore is inherently misogynist. But let me tell you what is misogynist: equating paying for sex with paying for the woman, and therefore reducing her down to her sexuality. We are more than sex just like teachers are more than classes and bakers are more than bread. We are people and we were never up for sale.
I also find that the culture of consumer capitalism contributes to this viewpoint. Often, the consumer is seen as the one holding more power in that framework, because money is power. And there most definitely are men who approach sex workers with the mindset that we should bend over backwards because they are the paying customers. I doubt that they do it exclusively to sex workers; they probably do it to all salespeople. However sex workers are the ones quick to put them in their place. Attempts to negotiate our boundaries often result in being blocked or ridiculed.
2. They “can’t” get sex otherwise and it is pathetic that they “have to” pay for it.
This is very rarely the case. Most of my clients could get sex elsewhere. In fact many of them do. But I am not here to write about how conventionally “desirable” my clients are. I am here to write about the politics of that desirability. Why do we place so much weight on it when it is racist, classist, ableist, ever other -ist? Why do we measure a man’s masculinity by the number of women willing to have sex with him, and why does masculinity dictate a man’s worthiness as a person?
My clients have many reasons as to why they come to see me. Busy schedule, frequent relocation, discretion, or just because they can. It does not matter. Any reason to see a professional is valid.
I do have clients who do tell me that they couldn’t get sex anywhere else. They are the severely disabled clients. Most women do not know how to safely have sex with a man who has cerebral palsy nor do they care to learn. So what, if they “can’t” “get it for ‘free?'” They want intimacy just like anyone else and they deserve to experience it in a way they can.
3. They only want sex.
Also rarely the case but even when it is, I honestly do not see why that is a bad thing. Is it bad to go to a hairdresser only wanting a haircut? I do have clients who just come for the sex. I have to say it’s less fun and less special, but I don’t mind at all. Again, only when you reduce women’s value down to what men desire from them is it demeaning for men to only want sex.
I also feel that many people have a very warped idea about sex, that it is something men is supposed to “earn” by putting in work to persuade a woman, and something a woman bestows upon the man as a reward for putting in such work. Therefore a man who wants to bypass this work is a heretic and a woman who lets the man bypass this work is too “easy.” That is why even when money isn’t involved, many people still look down on casual hook-ups.
Nonetheless, as I said this is rarely true anyway. Many seek connection and intimacy, and sex is just one way of experiencing connection and intimacy out of many. We share conversations, meals, drinks, vacations and much more. We share time. We share a small section of our lives. “We sell our time and companionship” isn’t just a euphemism or a juridical exemption clause. It is very much true.
In my actual experience,
Men who want to pay for sex are not the problem. I absolutely adore my clients. It is men who feel they are entitled to it for free that cause me grief. Men who try to get out of paying or try to pay as little as possible are the ones who disrespect me. And when I say disrespect, I’m not just referring to the fact that they are trying to not pay my rates. I can sense the entitlement and insolence in the way they speak to me before they even ask for freebies or discounts. Gentlemen who see me for the provider of service that I am approach me with the deference and regard they extend to any other businessperson. And I am grateful for them.