Sex life: My clients are easily spooked, like horses

Sex workers have to strike a balance between appearing welcoming and savvy
February 29, 2024

I once had a young Nepalese client who came to see me on a recommendation from his friend. “He said you are very nice and that is important, because this can be hard,” he told me. It is a compliment that has stayed with me long past the meaningless ones I often receive on my appearance (I always say you’ll sleep with someone once just because they’re hot, but it’s personality that brings people back for subsequent bookings), and has made me think about the environment that I create with each client, and the skill it takes to make them feel safe. 

On the way to a booking last night, I thought about my own safety—the fact I could be killed, and how little I could do to stop that happening if someone wanted to do it. I think this every time I see a new client outside of a brothel (my fear is much less acute when working in-house, mainly because of the other girls and staff who are on shift). I pushed the fear down, knowing it wasn’t the sharp jab of intuition, which all sex workers learn to listen to and will usually get from the very first text or instant with a man. Instead, it was just a philosophical pondering on the dangers of my job, a job which demands that I am alone with a physical threat (something straight women also experience in dating). I pushed the fear down because I knew that if I went in scared it might set off something in the client. I treat my clients like horses: they are large and easily spooked, and I must approach them with calm and confidence to generate the same response. 

I have worked with other women who enter the room with energy and chaos and a contrived, manic horniness, which can work for those who are prepared and able to handle escalation, either because they are physically a lot more powerful or running on uppers. I’m sober and smaller than my clients, so I operate with de-escalation in mind, only pushing things along when midway through sex if I want to hurry up an orgasm. 

I must approach them with calm and confidence to generate the same response.

I was glad that I subdued my nerves last night, because it turned out this client had enough for the two of us. Awkward and shy, his anxiety would’ve only snowballed if I had shown that I felt the same. It reminded me of the clients I’ve seen in South Australia, a state where sex work is still illegal, and how jittery they are because they run the risk of legal trouble, just as I do. Working there takes more vigilance and emotional labour than normal, because not only do I have to worry about my personal safety, I also have to worry about being arrested. On top of that, I have to ease my clients’ valid anxiety, especially if they are new to seeing escorts. It becomes much harder to create a vibe in which you can both relax—to create room for escapism—when very real risks are knocking at the door. Criminalisation makes my job more dangerous not just for the obvious reason of it being illegal, but because of these adjacent and creeping side effects.

As I drove home from my booking last night, I tried to parse the skill itself. I realised that it is really the ability to hide your own fear or nerves to the extent that you appear professional and respectful—and can ease any fear on the other person’s behalf, too. Meeting a new person is naturally nerve-wracking, but as a sex worker you must learn to hide your distrust while at the same time giving the impression that you are not so amenable that you can be taken for a ride. It’s a hard balancing act, to seem engaging and open to a client but also allowing them to sense your assessing of them, without letting that discernment seem like off-putting criticism. Perhaps my ultimate skill is hiding my own fear, so that I can ease that of my clients.