The admirable Maggie McNeill has declared Friday 13th to be a day for non sex workers to speak out in defence of sex workers’ rights. Many bloggers blogged in support yesterday. Yet one important group remains in the shadows or maybe just prefers to keep its collective head below the parapet. These are the clients. It is not hard to see why as clients of sex workers are regarded in many quarters as the scum of the earth. They are often referred to in the UK as ‘punters’ but in the US as ‘johns’, a word that seems to be catching on over here. The New York Police recently had a campaign to trap, arrest and publicly humiliate sex workers’ clients, whose photographs they published. This campaign was called ‘Flush the Johns’. The message was unambiguous. The clients are no better than toilets or maybe something unpleasant you might flush down a toilet. In the popular mind a client is seedy, unwashed and both socially and sexually inadequate. In radical feminist discourse he is a rapist. It is hardly surprising that clients are so reluctant to speak out.
Yet talk to sex workers and they will tell you that their clients come in all shapes and sizes, just like men in general. Some may be unwashed and inadequate but most are not, there are even those that the sex workers enjoy spending time with. Did I say men? Not all clients are men. I am a woman. I am a client. Here is my story
A few years ago I was working away from home on an interim contract, in Manchester to be precise. I loved my time there. It is a city with a vibrancy I find rather lacking in Birmingham where I live. Every other week my partner took time off work and came to visit. We had great sex, somehow being in another city, in the impersonality of a hotel room took us out of ourselves and encouraged us to try new things. In short we were uninhibited.
Then, for my birthday we decided to do something we had often discussed and booked a girl from a local escort agency for some three in a bed fun. I felt nervous but once the girl arrived and the money had been handed over I relaxed. She was friendly and chatty and put us at our ease. As she slipped into something more comfortable, we slipped into ……nothing and the fun began. I quickly relaxed and found an enjoyment I had not known in being kissed and touched by a woman who knew instinctively which buttons to press. I felt an incredible high after she had gone. It had been my first ever sexual encounter with a woman and I did not want to be my last. Some months later we repeated the experience with a different girl.
You may ask why we had to pay to do this. Surely we could have found someone to play with us? Yes but that would have taken time, involved getting to know the person and possible emotional entanglements. To pay someone was easier on both counts with the advantage of knowing we were meeting a woman who despite only being in her mid twenties was both experienced and erotically skilled. Both the escorts we saw opened doors for us, helped us to explore our sexuality. Apart from that we enjoyed their company and they, I hope, enjoyed ours. Our experience is not unusual. Both girls told us that they have couples among their regular clients. One of them has a number of professional women among her clients, women who enjoy sex with women but prefer it without emotional ties.
So I am a sex worker’s client. I do not regret it one bit. The girls we saw were bright and attractive and fully aware of what they were doing. Everything we did was discussed beforehand and a price agreed. We paid them well and they provided us with what we wanted. It was, in other words, a business transaction of benefit to both parties. No coercion, no exploitation, no rape. There are those who would make what we did a criminal offence. I would have a criminal record and the girls would be forced underground and exposed to the dangers of real criminals. So I say thanks again to Christina and Alex and I promise I will continue to do my little bit to defend your and other sex workers’ rights. .