We've all been in lockdown for two months now, and many clients are finding themselves bored, deprived of human contact (especially intimate contact), and lonely. But should you reach out to your favourite worker? And if so, how?
As of the writing of this post, face to face work is still legal in NSW and WA (but not at commercial premises). It is being phased back in soon for NT, and other states haven't commented on their return to work strategies for the adult industry yet. I left my advertising up for a while; partially out of optimism, and partially out of a total apathy at the idea of working or doing work related things - it felt really horrid to cancel my tours and accept a total lack of income for the foreseeable future, which I'm sure many of my readers can totally understand. During that time, myself and... yes, actually all of my peers received message after message from people "just checking in" (as well as an annoying increase in general timewasters and suspected cops), and Twitter has been filled with post after post of sex workers pointing out that their time isn't free... And clients explaining that their situation is totally different. Is it?
How many regulars do you think the average escort has? Back up: how would you define a regular? For the purposes of my income spreadsheet, that is someone who has made more than four bookings (because after that point, they're clearly returning to me because they like me and not because they're still sampling, the directory showed them my ad, or they have no other choice). For the purposes of "someone close enough to me to be checking in on my welfare"... look we better have a very good rapport. I don't have many clients I would consider myself close enough to that I would check up on their welfare during this time, and yet we are all receiving a lot of text messages from people who have seen us twice in the last five years for thirty minutes each time. Why is that? Clients define "regular" differently: we see many different clients in a month - hell, many different clients in a week and often, depending on your mode of work, many in a day. Clients see maybe one escort a month; perhaps one escort once every four months or so, and maybe it's the same girl. I guess they would consider that person to be their regular, despite only having seen them a few times, for very brief bookings. There is clearly a fundamental misunderstanding on what defines a regular client, and a measure of self delusion when it comes to assessing the actual closeness of their relationship.
I completely understand that most of us have a lot more time on our hands right now. I have been using it to do an online course, cook a LOT, and lie around shitposting on reddit - not always the most effective use of my time, I'll admit, but you do tend to get depressed when your income comes to a screeching halt. I've been reaching out to a lot of old friends! It seems like lots of people look for alternative methods to feel less alone when they are deprived of their usual avenues, and that's OK. Enter: online services. Not something everyone offers, and I've only recently decided to jump into that game myself, but a very valid way of attempting to both supplement your vanished income and provide a very important service to people who want intimacy in a new world that restricts physical touch. There are many ways to do this: subscription sites like OnlyFans, AVNStars, and ManyVids; texting packages; phone calls and phone sex hotlines; video chats and camgirl sites; custom images and custom videos. Basically, all of these avenues are offering intimacy, sexual pleasure, and engagement from afar - for a price. If you want free, it's time to hit up people you know through avenues other than sex work. Good luck.
If you're checking in on the escort you've been regular with - for any definition of regular - consider first if you know them well enough to be checking in on them. If you passed her in the street while with someone you know, would you be confident enough to smile at her without either of you giving the game away, or her averting her eyes and basically running? Does she know your real name? Do you know some of her actual aspirations? Have you swapped memes? If none of these things seem kind of like the relationship you have with her, you should consider it to be the same as the relationship you have with your doctor. You might check in with them and ask them how they are... at an appointment for which you are paying them and also getting something in return (hopefully the good drugs). You definitely wouldn't text your doctor to see how they're going when you've not made an appointment, would you? And you would expect your doctor not to casually message you to ask about your promotion at work. It's kind of strange to think about! Another good analogy: you have some friendly banter with your local bartenders at your favourite bar. You can check in on them... when they're at work and paid to be friendly to you. But if you tried to contact them out of work and strike up a conversation, I can almost guarantee you that they are thinking about a tiny amount of murder. "That's rough buddy," kind of counts for absolutely nothing when your previous and current position in their life is a source of income and not a source of emotional support - they, understandably, get their emotional support from people in their personal life, not professional life.
When you extend this to sex workers, "just checking in" with them is already kind of odd given the above. But add on an extra factor: our job is to create an experience for you, to make you feel special, and to have a cute back and forth that makes everything seem very authentic (it often is authentic, don't panic, but it is alive within a time frame and paid for). When you check in with them out of the blue and attempt to draw them into a conversation because you are bored, whether or not you have genuine intentions of making sure they are OK is irrelevant, because you are asking them to do part of their actual job without paying them in a time where they have lost part of or all of their income. If they are offering online services and text packages, this is actively insulting, because you are expecting something for free that others are paying for, by virtue of having seen them in person a handful of times.
I know that a lot of people are suffering right now; there have been an estimated 10,000 job losses so far, and many others have taken a severe pay cut or have been under unprecedented stress due to their work, family and housing situation, or financial commitments. I know that's just as likely to be clients as it is to be us sex workers, and likely a lot of you are now poorer or under financial stress. But if you're going to ask for us to perform our jobs for your benefit, please offer something. It gets a little upsetting when you receive 25 messages in a week, "just checking in" and seeing when you might work again (we don't know when we can travel interstate, stop asking), and absolutely none of those people are interested in helping when you say times are really damn tough - all they want to do is continue chatting like old friends and get some of their issues off their chest to their brand new free therapist.
Suggestions of what to offer, aside from purchasing designated online services:
- Money. Obviously. Let's get that one out of the way. A quick Beemit/Cashapp/Venmo/whatever you use and a "hope you're doing OK". This pays the damn rent, buys the damn groceries, and pays the damn bills. It also might assist in getting them out of a dangerous home situation exacerbated by quarantine, or feed the pets and kids, or pay for some medication they require. A gift of money is never, ever unappreciated.
- Grocery vouchers. I've had three gifted, and they have been an absolute relief at the counter, I can tell you. Ask which stores they use first - some people don't have the ones you might expect closest to them.
- Donations to the sex worker emergency relief fund run by our peak body here in Australia (if you're not in Australia, ask around because I guarantee there will be one in your country as well). As of this writing, they have received and dispensed (it goes out weekly) more than $53,000. I have personally donated, and I've donated on behalf of clients who asked me to pass the money along to a relevant charity - I'm not sure what it looks like on your bank statement, but I know some clients are not interested in risking it, so I'm happy to pass the donation along.
- Ask first, but offering to put money towards a future date. Not everyone will be interested in this, because it means that they may struggle for longer; they will have to make up for prepaid dates when restrictions lift instead of spending all their time making current money, but many will be up for it. It has so far helped me to get through!