17 Secrets That Sex Workers Want You To Know About Them And Their Jobs
There are so many misconceptions.
Let's just cut to the chase: Sex work is highly stigmatized in today's society. And since it's taboo, it can be difficult to normalize — let alone understand any nuances of — sex work and sex workers.
In an effort to help dispel misconceptions about sex work and sex workers, we recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community who are (or were) sex workers to share things that people get wrong about them or their profession.
Naturally, this is an incredibly small number of people sharing their stories and thoughts to help destigmatize sex work. There is still a vast number of people in the sex industry from various backgrounds who are not represented by these stories.
Here are some of the responses we received:
1. "My life is on the line with every wrong move."
"People think that I don’t put in effort or have to try to make money. Once I find someone I can trust, it’s a huge power imbalance with every paycheck that I have to be mindful of. It's not an easy job. There's no way to sue or report misconduct. It’s up to you and your fists."
2. "The experience of dancing taught me to embrace my sexuality and sensuality. And I think that's a large part of self-acceptance as a whole."
"When I was 19, I worked as a stripper for a few months. I'm 30 now and I haven't done it since, but I am so glad I did. Firstly, it was the most supportive and positive environment of any job I've ever worked in ever. DJs, security, management, dancers, and waitstaff lifted each other up and always had each other's backs. I'm sure it isn't like that at every club, but it was at mine.
"Secondly, and most importantly, I went into it thinking that this was me hitting bottom, but I found it to be one of the most empowering things I've ever done. Prior to that, I felt embarrassed and ashamed by any sexual impulses I had. The experience of dancing taught me to embrace my sexuality and sensuality. And I think that's a large part of self-acceptance as a whole.
"Today, I'm living a life I love, and I doubt that would have happened if I had not done this. Stripping is not always some seedy boss taking advantage of women. In the years afterward, when I would share this with people, I would often get, 'Oh, you were a stripper...? I'm sorry.' Cool story, hun. I'm not."
3. "People think that we are all sex-crazed and horny all the time, even when we are on a legit date."
"We’re human and we aren’t always in the 'mood,' regardless of what our job entails. Sometimes I just want to eat ice cream and watch Grey’s Anatomy, so please don’t assume I want to fuck nonstop because I’m a sex worker."
4. "Just had a guy customer last night tell me, 'Being a stripper is easy.' It's not. It's so hard and painful for your body and your mind."
"After being laid off because of the pandemic, I started stripping, and at first, it was okay. The stress of not making enough money really messes with your mind. You grow insecurities. Sometimes there are horrible people who come into clubs to start shit and talk shit about you, even to your face — especially the drunk ones, which is worse.
"Right now, the worst mindset customers have is thinking that they don't need to tip you because 'You make a lot anyways, since you're a stripper.' After dancing all night — either in VIPs or onstage — your body hurts all over, especially your joints, knees, back, and thighs. Everything you see on YouTube is a fantasy experience. Don't let them fool you; it's not like Atlanta or Texas in every club."
5. "One common misconception is that a lot of people think sex workers like OnlyFans."
"It is a very controversial topic in our community, especially for those who were doing sex work before OnlyFans and the pandemic."
6. "Sex work is not something that only people who have been abused or otherwise mistreated go into. I had a loving relationship (though it took him some time to accept my profession), and I didn’t hide my work from my friends."
"I worked as an escort for almost five years in my late teens and early twenties. I didn’t come from a horrible background (though my childhood was a bit chaotic), and I was very comfortable with my sexuality. Sex work is not something that only people who have been abused or otherwise mistreated go into. I had a loving relationship (though it took him some time to accept my profession), and I didn’t hide my work from my friends.
"I made more money in a year than I would have at a 'straight' job in five years. I didn’t do drugs, I never had unprotected sex, and I was generally treated well. There were a couple of times that I was in some physical danger, but it was the result of one of my colleagues lying about performing services (we were on a double call together). I was always straight up — here’s what you pay for my time, and I’m not going to rip you off. I found that approach always worked well.
"I am now a senior leader with the largest healthcare organization in the country. I am married and have a great life. I wish people would understand that sex workers don’t need to be pitied. A lot of women can be in the game not of their own volition, but those of us who choose it do so intentionally. Could I have gotten a straight job somewhere else? Yep. But I had a great time. I loved the girls I worked with, and I went on some unbelievable calls. I saw celebrities who were in town for concerts, NHL players, TV personalities. It’s easier to order the sure thing who is guaranteed to leave and not want you to call her than it is to try to pick up someone at the bar. It was fun!
"One thing I will say is that I saw more 'happily' married guys than any other demographic."
—Anonymous, 40, Alberta
7. "I always tell people, 'There are pros and cons to every job.'"
"It's not all glitz and glam, as social media has portrayed. I always tell people, 'There are pros and cons to every job. This one just involves cons that will affect you for the rest of your life.' Choose wisely."
8. "Overall, it was actually very empowering, and I learned a lot about myself and my own sexuality."
"I was an 'escort' when I was 20 to 21 years old. I was out on my own for the first time in my life and, well, life is expensive! I called the number in the newspaper advertisement, and within a week, I was making $100 an hour, which was way better than the $6.85 per hour I was making at my retail job.
"My friends knew what I was doing, and I had one I called at the end of each night to let her know I got in okay. I felt safe because I was working for someone who dropped me off and picked me up at each call. Yes, I had to give him a cut, but it felt worth it for my safety.
"The biggest misconception is that I felt forced into it or that there was no other option. Everything was my choice, from the hours I was available to the type of call I would take. Overall, it was actually very empowering, and I learned a lot about myself and my own sexuality.
"I stopped because I saved enough money to buy a house and moved to a small town. I met my now-husband soon after. I told him early on in our dating that I had been a sex worker, and while it took him a bit to process, he accepted it and we just don't talk about it."
—Anonymous, 40, Ontario
9. "We are NOT products, and just because you pay doesn't mean that we don't have boundaries."
"There's a misconception that we don't deserve basic human respect and anyone can do whatever they want with us. We are NOT products, and just because you pay doesn't mean we don't have boundaries."
10. "In my experience doing phone sex and cam work, my regulars are just nice, normal people."
"One thing I find frustrating is the assumption people make about my clients. Sure, there are many creepy, gross people. But generally, in my experience doing phone sex and cam work, my regulars are just nice, normal people. I respect them and allow them to have access to my time because they respect my boundaries and my fees.
"People used to always ask if my phone clients were lonely old men, perverts, etc. But they're just people who know what they like sexually. For some, it's a part of the sexual relationship they have with their partner. For others, they have a specific kink that's easier to pay for. There are all sorts of folks who pay for sex, pleasure, and companionship. That includes me! I love watching other cam performers and tipping them!"
11. "I feel like people assume that people get in the business of being a sex worker because they don't have the money."
"It's untrue and low-key rude and unnecessary."
—Anonymous, 23, Las Vegas
12. "One thing that men specifically ALWAYS get wrong is thinking that I will give them a discount or freebie just because they’re 'good-looking,' they 'have a big dick,' or they're 'not some ugly, old, small-dick man.'"
"First of all, a lot of my clients are young and attractive. And even if they are old or unattractive or overweight or whatever these shallow guys consider to be 'gross,' I honestly don’t care. As long as they’re clean and kind and not cheap, looks DO NOT matter.
"Oh, and having a big dick absolutely DOES NOT mean you’re good in bed. Anyway, I’m really small and thin, so large penises just hurt me. The stigma that porn created about big dicks being great is the worst. But yeah, I’m absolutely not giving you a discount just 'cause you think you’re 'so hot.' Honestly, I probably won’t even consider seeing you just because you asked me that.
"Also, people ask if I chose this line of work because I want or need the sex. No. Absolutely not. If I wanted sex, I could easily get it without being a sex worker. Gotta pay my bills, y’all!"
13. "Not all sex work involves having actual sex."
"Strippers, content creators, and professional dommes are all considered sex workers, but we will never have sex with our clients. So please be mindful of that, and don’t make assumptions or inappropriate solicitations. It’s very disrespectful."
14. "There are many of us who don't like what we do but are doing it to survive. I don't find it to be some bastion of female empowerment."
"Not every sex worker is happy about and 'empowered' by their job. There are many of us who don't like what we do but are doing it to survive. I don't find it to be some bastion of female empowerment. I find it demoralizing and degrading, and morally, I don't agree with a lot of what I do — sleeping with married men and contributing to the objectification of women as sexual objects. But I'm disabled and living so far under the poverty line that I can't afford both rent AND food. For a lot of sex workers, it's our only choice, which doesn't make it a choice at all."
—Anonymous, 34, Canada
15. "I am a college graduate with a bachelor's degree from a 'Public Ivy' school, and I’m not stripping because I have no ambition or brains."
"I've been stripping for four years, and so many customers and friends of mine just assume that I give blowjobs left and right. Everyone assumes that all dancers and sex workers do everything in the book, but that’s just not true. We all have our own boundaries and rules. I’ll have customers tell me, 'It’s OK, I always do it at this club' (when they’re talking about paying for sex or blowjobs), and I always have to be like, 'Well, honey, you’re not about to do that with me!' It astounds me that so many people get the job so wrong. Some sex workers do, others don’t. We are all different because we are all individual human beings. You can’t just generalize and rely on stereotypes.
"I also hate when I’m giving a guy a dance and he tells me, 'I can tell you're turned on,' or 'Are you gonna come?' Like?? Sometimes, yes, I can get turned on. But 99% of the time, I’m just doing my job and counting the songs in my head. And I'm probably not about to come from dry-humping you, sweetie.
"Lastly, I really don’t like that so many people assume that sex workers have no other options, are uneducated, or have daddy issues. I am a college graduate with a bachelor's degree from a 'Public Ivy' school, and I’m not stripping because I have no ambition or brains. I’m stripping because I don’t want to waste my young years sitting in rush hour traffic twice a day, sitting in front of a screen for hours on end, or being told what to do and how to do it by someone I work for. I don’t want to work 40 hours a week to not be paid what I’m worth.
"There are so many people dancing to be free, to be independent, and to make a ton of money doing something that’s actually fun and empowering while also having the time to truly live life! Sex work isn’t for everyone, but it’s a passion of mine, and I cannot imagine never having started doing this job. It gave me my confidence and freedom. Anyone who sneers at the thought of being a sex worker just doesn’t have the right mindset to do such a unique, beautiful job."
—Anonymous, 25, Texas
16. "Most clients are boring and dumb, and you spend the whole time looking at the clock."
"I really wish people could understand that being a full-service sex worker isn't enjoyable because you're having sex as your form of work. It's work."
—Anonymous, 28, New York
17. "I don't particularly enjoy making nude content and having sex with strangers, but I don't think it's worse than, say, working in a supermarket."
"What I don't get is the idea that sex workers are either forced into their work and hate it or absolutely love their job. I don't particularly enjoy making nude content and having sex with strangers, but I don't think it's worse than working in a supermarket. And it makes a lot more money in less time. So the choice is easily made for me."
—Anonymous, 20, Netherlands
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.