Good Clients

There’s a movement out there to apply a lopsided model of criminalization to in person sex work. Often called the Nordic or Swedish model, this legal structure makes it a crime to patronize or support sex workers in any way. You can’t hire them, rent an apartment to them, work for them, live with them, or even let your sex worker friend buy you lunch without putting yourself at risk for felony charges. The provider themselves won’t be arrested for sex work under the assumption that they’re operating under economic duress and can’t be held responsible for their actions. Unless of course *they* are hiring another provider, renting an apartment to them, working for them, arranging duos, or even letting them buy you lunch.

This model of criminalization has rebranded itself as the equality model, claiming to support the equality and freedom of women everywhere while, ironically, unequally applying legal responsibility onto male clients.

Sex workers work because we need money. Sure, some of us would be having sex with men for free, but certainly not many of us and we wouldn’t be having nearly as much of it. Money buys safety, security, food, clothes, housing. It pays for our current financial freedom and out future financial security. And it all comes from clients.

By vilifying and criminalizing our clients, those who push the nordic/Swedish/Equality model vilify and criminalize our income, our security, and our future. If one wanted to end the demand for sex work, they must first end the demand for money. Every sex work abolitionist, every end-demand advocate, should focus on pushing universal basic income and single payer health care for immigrants and citizens alike. But they don’t. They fight to throw our clients in jail and they do it under the guise of helping us. It’s slimy and disgusting and it’s one of the few things that makes me angry and not just excited.

But that’s not what hurts me the most. It sucks when there is less income to go around, when a good client is hit in a sting and their stimulus removed from the sex worker economy. It sucks worse when good clients have their reputations trashed, their work visas revoked, get thrown in actual jail, fined, and are overall traumatized.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again a hundred times before I retire. I love my clients. Most of them are men and men have some issues to work through, but my heart grows full when I close the door behind a beloved client and remember that I am valued. Valued so highly that this gentleman, this lover, has trusted me with a little bit of their heart.

But I don’t have to love my clients to recognize their value. For those who purport to wish freedom and safety for women, clients of sex workers should not be their enemy. A good client is a provider’s second line of defense. A good client can give a provider breathing room. A financial cushion against the agonizing decision between financial security and one’s better judgement. A link to other providers who can support them.* A good client should be an anti-trafficking agency’s best friend, able to refer exploited workers to those who can help them.

While those agencies figure that out, be the kind of client who offers those things. Encourage new providers to reach out to their peers. Show up clean. Pay their rate. Appreciate them. Don’t participate in ‘hobby culture’. And have fun!

*The few women I know who had been working under a pimp went independent with the help of other providers they met through shared clients. Good clients can help isolated providers find their community. Community is our first line of defense.