This is an interview I did for a spanish online magazine and since it took me a few days to complete it and it has 7000+ words and tons of ideas regarding sexwork I wanted for my english readers to be able to understand it too.
Disclaimer: I am currently in one of my busiest times and translated this in the span of a few days while I was working on art commissions. I didn’t proofread it after because honestly I can’t find the time. You will find weird translations and things that may sound absurd in english but my little brain is working at full capacity in several different projects now and I tried to make it make sense in the best way I could find. Even in my broken english I think it’s still fully understandable and if it’s not you can come to me with pitchforks and torches. Preferably after Christmas, please.
When did you start doing sexwork and how do you evaluate its current social situation regarding rights and stigma?
I started in 2013 when I was 23-24 and did webcam to pay for my studies. In less than 3 months I saw it was not for me, but I wasn’t uncomfortable with the sexual component. It was more on the conditions of the place I was working for and that working at a distance with anonymous clients I didn’t knew who I was talking to and that caused anxiety for me. In general the people were nice and that started to break away the stereotype that sexworkers’ clients are always violent and nasty. The majority I met were shy and quiet.
After this start I went directly to a brothel in Barcelona. I was curious and afraid at the same time, because I thought that going from online work to meeting people in person would change people’s behaviour, but this wasn’t true. Not only they were just the same types of people, just average normal people, but also in person I had the advantage of being able to read their intentions more easily than through the webcam. There I saw that the sexwork I enjoy most doing is in-person dates. I was treated well in that place but the achedule was too crazy for my sleeping pattern so eventually I left it.
After finishing my studies and starting my career as a videogame artist outside Spain and seeing first hand that it was as exploitative as waitressing I decided to go back to Barcelona and started working at a massage parlour. Again, I did like the job itself but not the conditions. I wasn’t against having sex again but it wasn’t offered at that place. I did have some offers from clients that tempted me a lot but by then I had a partner and we had decided that the limit was on massages.
After this one and another parlour afterwards I finally decided to become an independent escort. I did like the job but every time someone else was managing any part of it I wasn’t going to be comfortable with it. I wanted control of my life and job. The beginnings were chaotic because suddenly you have to decide your rates, conditions and be aware that a lot of people is going to try to wear you down and haggle them. I didn’t know what a timewaster was until I was working independently. On a brothel you’re not that used to clients coming to just peek and leave. There are some, but not as much as what you get when you work on your own.
When you work the phone and e-mail yourself the quantity of timewasters just skyrockets. People have the capability of accessing an escort’s attention with minimal effort and you need to learn filtering who is serious and who isn’t. With time and experience you end up realising where the red flags are and knowing within the first message if that person really intends to be a client or not. We try to teach these red flags to the new ones so they have some tools until they develop their own intuition.
This problem is precisely derived from a lack of rights and recognition as work. I’ve been a freelance digital artist before and I never had this volume of message from people that don’t intend to hire you at all. If society thinks that our job “is not real work”, it’s basically telling people that they’re free to approach us to take advantage of, laugh at us or mock us and make us lose our time. After all, they think it’s not that bad because “we are not working”. This also leads to people believing they’re entitled to free sex and companionship from us. They refuse to pay for something that is “not work” and therefore “not valuable”, but they DO want it so it actually is. The main goal of gaining rights for sexworkers is to be safe while working, but a secondary consequence from them would be for society to slowly see us less as inferior, dumb beings to take advantage of for any purpose (be it the free wanking of a timewaster or the goverment money grabbing excuse for SWERFs who don’t offer realistic solutions) and more as real workers with conditions that must be respected like any other worker should have.
The current situation regarding rights and stigma depends more on a given country and their social movements but it’s more or less similar for everyone. The lack of labour rights means we can be exploited by “managers” way more easily and without any legal way to report it or have it solved. Places can impose the conditions they want because they know we can’t sue them since we are “not real workers”. The SWERF narrative helps them immensely. Oh! Since “it’s not a job” they can’t be forced to respect your labour rights and if you don’t like them, just go away and they’ll keep having desperate enough workers to fill their shifts. They can literally have conditions that no other place would be able to legally force onto their workers, all thanks to our labour not being recognized as work.
In New Zealand, where it is recognized as work (the model is not perfect but it’s the one that has shown the best results until now) a worker sued her workplace for abuse and won. The place had to compensate her like any other company would have had to in non-sexwork enrionments. In any country that is not recognized at work that’s just impossible to achieve. Workers keep having to accept shitty conditions because no one empowers us against owners and managers. The ideal scenario SWERFs contemplate is for them to “not exist”. What else would I want, I, an independent worker, that for them to simply not exist and that for all of us to be independent and earn our own money without intermediaries. That would be paradise.
But I don’t live in paradise land, I live on earth, where if there’s no universal basic income, no real support to disability, no real ways for people to work and care about vulnerable, disabled and/or old family members at the same time, the workforce is usually not compatible with being neurodiverse, there’s not enough fight against racism, transphobia, LGTBIQphobia and a long etcetera of the necessary conditions so that no one has to accept a shitty job, whatever it is, in order to survive; there’s no point in having magical unicorn ideas about brothels “not existing” and not accepting any other solution that is not that one. It’s all or nothing. And since they’re not able to give us “all” (a.k.a. Sexwork not existing at all, or brothels not existing) they pick the “nothing”. They’d rather see us dead, injured, unprotected and working in exploitative and unsafe conditions rather than just doing sexwork in normal ones. They’re sadists. With no rights, no defense and in many countries (particularly where full criminalization and noridc model are present) with no way of contacting police without risking losing a lot. They are criminalizing survival.
This “salvation” narrative, and that sexwork “shouldn’t exist” is dangerous. Without fixing the reasons why we go into sexwork first (and solidly, not just in theory) you won’t make it not exist. Never. And after that you won’t be able to eradicate people who prefer sexwork other options either. Trying to make something that is done out of need disappear without eliminating the need in the first place has similar results to criminalizing abortion. You’re not making it happen less, you’re making it more dangerous to do.
And we don’t buy the old-debunked “but the nordic model guarantees alternatives to sexworkers”. Best case it’s naive as fuck, and worst is a paternalistic lie because it considers that “helping us fill some work papers” or offering super exploitative work options in already impoverished industries such as sewing or cleaning is a viable alternative for everyone. As if we hadn’t already done that! As if there weren’t already lots of sexworkers who come from those industries and were tired of not being able to make ends meet on those jobs. This is also part of the stigma: the idea that if we are sexworkers it must mean that we are dumb, uneducated and basically idiots who would have an opportunity should they learn how to clean a bit. The majority of sexworkers I have met through all this years are way more intelligent, capable and able to survive than those who think they’re better because “at least they didn’t end up being a whore”.
Then why do they end up being sexworkers? Racism, transphobia, LGTBQIphobia, immigration status, poverty, neruodiversity. A BIPOC, trans, queer, poor or disabled person isn’t dumber, less capable or has less knowledge. But they do have less access to resources and this is one of the entry points to sexwork. Stop treating us as if this means we need to learn how to fold sheets for 12 hours a day having to take medication to sustain joint paint so you can “save” us from what actually gave us a chance of surviving in this society.
What do you think of the relationship between sexwork and feminism? How do you perceive the sorority associated to the people involved in sexwork? Who influenced you?
Sexwork has to be one of feminism pillars along with care and domestic labour and any other industry that is heavily feminized, impoverished and exploitative. I would even include those that aren’t much feminized but still have a great deal of abuse, such as farming or hostelry amongs many others. The fight for labour rights has to be intersectional and absolutely be included in feminism.
Linking with when I talked about those who expect free labour from you there’s an interesting point from a feminist perspective here. As criticized sexwork is, there are still other forms of paying for sex who are broadly accepted in society. Men who expect to have sex after paying for dinner and drinks are just clients in disguise. Women who “compensate” their husbands with sex when they do the home chores they should be doing in the first place because they share a house are using sex as currency. Just because they don’t exchange notes and coins doesn’t imply sex can’t be transactional there. Even when we talk about mutual desire the transaction currency is lust. That’s why the important factor when having sex is consent, not desire. You can consent to have sex because you enjoy someone’s physical appearance, or personality (or both), or because you get something in return, be it money, status, access to something you want or need, attention, admiration, etc. They are all currencies.
At this point I realized how much free sex I had given to people who didn’t compensate me in any way. The simplest one would have been me enjoying it too. But if they had no intention of making me enjoy it, it would have been great if they compensated it with money. Which is something I know exactly how to use to make me comfortable and happy. If I travelled back in time I would have preferred for all those people to pay me instead of paying for dinner and drinks or empty promises. That currency is worthless.
Of course I have also enjoyed plenty of my free sex, which I keep having when I want to. But I also enjoy sex way more (free or paid) now that I know it has value and that I’m not going to exchange it again for worthless currency.
And this is the interesting point, where a lot of men believe sex should be absolutely free
but for any kind of transaction. Many try to trick you into having sex with them instead of compensating it properly. They don’t offer mutual care, enjoyment for you, commitment or money. Sex is done by two (or more) people that should consent to all the terms they deem for having sex together. If one is trying to go away with all the cake without compensating or sharing it with everyone else that’s what I find wrong. Not what your chosen currency is.
A second important point for feminism is the work part. This job is mostly done by people in economic need (just like the majority of people, no news here) and has a great deal of poverty and bad conditions. If we add it not having recognition as work and it makes it worse. Feminism has to be next to sexworkers, not against, and let them have their voice; like it should do with similar industries that are rife with exploitation. It must be intersectional and understand that if we get into it due to necessity, the last thing we will care about is academic theories about desire coming from privileged white middle-upper class women who don’t have the need to do sexwork to survive. For many sexworker the theory of desire is bullshit, just like that. What they want is to work safely and have rights while they do so. And if they want to leave sexwork they should be able to, with safety and realistic and solid alternatives, not the extreme exploitation of impoverished industries they already came from in the first place.
There’s a specific section of feminism that isn’t realistic at all, that don’t care about coming to meet the people who do sexwork out of economic necessity, racism, transphobia or ableism and actually understand our lives and drives. They use our needs as ammo for their speeches but they don’t actually care about them being solved.
If they were so worried about poverty opening the door to sexwork they would be working towards implementing universal basic income and public policies to eradicate poverty.
If they were so worried about racism being a door to sexwork they would be working to implement anti-racist policies, demand an end to abusive immigration laws and calling out the deportations of trafficking victims and sexworkers alike to their countries of origin where they can just be trafficked or they’ll try to flee from again.
If they were so worried about LGTBIQphobia and transphobia opening the door for sexwork, which is particularly true for trans women they would be listening to them and joining their fight for their rights instead of actually siding with the people who want to eradicate them. We tend to say “Scratch a TERF, find a SWERF”. You just can’t yell that prostitution is filled with trans people in extreme situations while you contribute to create those situations in the first place with your transphobia.
If they were so worried about disability being a door to sexwork they would be campaigning for policies that reform our workplaces so it stops being so rigid that doesn’t allow disabled people to adapt to them. It’s useless to teach us how to sew or fold clothes if our physical and/or mental conditions will keep us being excluded from workplaces.
If your feminism isn’t intersectional, if you don’t include people with vastly different life experiences as yours but equally valid and if you leave apart all those who don’t have the same privileges as you because you can’t understand why they make the choices they do, then I leave your feminism and join the one who actually understands diversity as the main point to achieve equality for all. And I don’t care the least bit that you don’t want to call it feminism. People’s lives go before wording.
My personal influences tend to be actual sexworkers rather than theorists. Id’ say that from the most known ones Virginie Despentes would be my main reference, and she did sexwork. I have had the pleasure of meeting some others more directly and from those I would point out Grace Sumner. She does an incredible work showing how speaking up about rights has nothing to do with luxuries, a high life or getting constant gifts as a high end escort for millionaires. She’s an ex-street worker who always has wanted to leave it and has fought against drug addiction. It’s literally the example SWERFs tell you when they ask you to “go talk with the drug addict ones that work the street” thinking thet they’ll say something different than the rest of us. Looks like we already speak with them and many of our speeches are actually based on the work they have done first. She has a very complete blog filled with lots of interesting entries.
Regarding sorority I have to say I haven’t felt more understood and cared for than among sexworkers. Inside this industry there are some of the kindest, knowledgeable, strong and understanding people I have ever met. The nature of our situations and the stigma can make us understand what a colleague needs better, sadly, than the services that want to treat us. In my experience the best support for me has come from sexworker-led organisations and groups. Society treating us with a stereotyped view can help us understand and support someone who has a different situation from us. Of course there’s still something we call “whorearchy” and refers to the classism that sometimes occurs inside our industry. It usually comes from very privileged people who can afford to charge higher rates and can overlook people who have less options to thrive or have to accept worse clients.
Where would you put the limits on sex? What role do you think pornography plays in the way fantasies and expectations for sexual encounters are created?
The main limit regarding sex is consent. And consent is still very badly understood in society. There’s still people who believe we sell consent for money. That’s wrong. Consent isn’t something that you give once and that’s it. Consent has to be informed, constant and revocable at any moment for any reason. The narrative stating that we sell consent is not only wrong, it’s also dangerous. It tells society that once we are paid “people can do what they want”. No, no and no. We consent to specific conditions to the greatest extent we can afford and the ideal scenario would be for everyone to be able to impose them. If they’re not respected is not because we have been paid, but because not everyone can afford to strongly enforce them. And the problem is in not being able to afford that, not in that paying means negating consent.
We have the right to not continue if we don’t want to, regardless if we have been paid. Payment doesn’t buy disrespect and being uncomfortable. Precisely the model we defend guarantees this right. Under decrim you can say no to clients and the law backs you. A common argument to say this is not a job is that if people pay you it means you can’t say no, whether you want to or not. That is wrong for our work and for any other industry. If you’re in a taxi service and abuse the driver they have the right to kick you out. If you abuse a shop assistant or waitress they have the right to kick you out. We could say not everyone is privileged enough to be able to enforce this. And that it’s true. If there are clients that can abuse people at their jobs it’s not because those jobs imply slavery and abuse but because their personal situation doesn’t allow them to enforce their rights. What we have to fix is the lack of capability to enforce rights.
Porn is playing a role that shouldn’t be playing. Porn is entertainment and fantasy. It’s perfectly clear for us that superhero movies do not represent reality but society still has problems understanding that porn does not represent reality. And this does not only occur inside sexwork but also outside. To me it has happened more outside sexwork than inside though. Men obsessed with doing an impossible posture that requires extensive training and strength or not realizing a scene has used visual tricks to achieve an effect.
It’s common for sexworkers to teach clients the difference between porn and reality, consent and a healthy sexuality. This idea that all clients are violent, aggressive or want everything their way no matter what is wrong. It’s not that is not true, for many it is. You will find controlling, manipulative and abusive people anywhere. No news. But there’s a great deal of people who are simply inexperienced, shy or insecure and come to us looking for answers. If they approach with respct they tend to find them. I personally like watching the evolution of someone who started with bad habits but had the desire for improvement and in some time I can see them developing their sexuality in healthier ways and even their manners towards women.
People are complex and just because someone does one specific action (buying sex) doesn’t mean you can stereotype and profile them into defining their whole personality and actions as a single monolithic idea. It’s such a simplistic idea that I’m still suprirsed people keep piling sexworker clients into a same closed group and thinking a single law is going to affect all of them the exact same way. It’s just absurd.
What’s the importance of social networks, websites and contacting platforms in creating a pre-image to dates and how do you think the feminine beauty canon has evolved from its historical prejudices?
Having an online presence is of great importance currently. Back then the contact was mainly based on newspaper adverts and those very rarely had photos attached. Physical descriptions or service lists were used. Now with the internet the main contact method is through an e-mail, text or phone call found in a directory or private websites.
The game is now about having the branding that attracts you the clients you want to have. Client demographics and economic ranges are different and there are lots of different market niches. The popular belief is that the prettier or hotter you are the more you are going to earn, and this is true to some point. There’s an ample demographic of clients who only look for mature women or workers who charge from a certain rate up or who read what we write because they look to connect with a personality aprt from the sex, or a combination of many other different factors.
Of course the beauty canon is still prevalent and sadly important. We know that BIPOC people, less normative bodies or with personal needs that limit their working hours or without access to high quality pictures among many other reasons have less chances of earning the same as people who are not affected by this oppressions. There are still many stereotypes and prejudices and this makes many workers having to advertise themselves as a different nationality from their own or hide other details that could make them less desirable for the average client.
In your opinion, what’s the most harmful stereotype against sexworkers?
That we “sell our body”. This is related with what I said before about consent. This narrative is very dangerous because it tells society (in which clients actually live) that once we are paid we are objects, things. And this is not true. We are people and we sell a service that has conditions that have to be respected and if they are not that is not “part of the service” but abuse and disrespect that shouldn’t happen. When the clients leave they don’t carry any of our body parts with them. We are not meat neither merchandise. We are people working. People who keep using those terms to define us are telling clients “go on, you can use them as you want, go do it”. How about stop telling society to be violent on us? How about stop saying that we sell ourselves as objects, no matter how many clients are there who do think that? This idea that saying we sell our bodies as some form of “social critique” is just absurd. You’re not going to change someone’s mind just because you are “blunt” and “say it like it is” (even when it’s not). You are not going to impact them because they have already heard it countless times. If the first one didn’t impact them, yours isn’t going to do it either. Stop this narrative of trying to invoke lightbulb moments in the heads of people using blunt language. It doesn’t work that way.
What you can actually do to help is saying that while there are indeed people who think this way, and yes, some of them are our clients; they are wrong and that narrative is harmful and incorrect. You know, instead of parrotting their words and actually fueling those ideas. Stop being speakers and representatives for abusive people and turn to be speakers for the safety of the people you brag so much being worried about, for once.
This one goes hand in hand with the idea that we would “do anything for money”. Just because we have sex for money doesn’t mean we would accept absolutely anything for any money. This idea is widespread among clients who are surprised when we say no to something even if they’re offering good money. I’ve seen bewildered faces from beginner clients who were proposing something I did not offer. They genuinely didn’t understood that I was refusing money. In their minds I would have sold my grandma if she was alive. Please, stop spreading this idea because then there’s people who
actually believe it’s true. And what’s worse, some of them try to force people to accept their offerings and reinforce the idea that none of us has any morals at all. Remember what I said about conflating one single trait into a whole close group and profiling people that way? Yeah, if it’s not okay when done to you it’s not okay to do it on anyone else. We are people. Like anyone else. Some of us could work in the most aggressive marketing agency in the world and some of us wouldn’t catch the least bit of attention in an abbey.
What associations do you find between sexwork and mental health? How do you think it can help or hinder it?
There’s a big stigma regarding this. The popular belief is that sexwork “causes” mental health issues and at the same time that people who have mental health issues end up in sexwork because of them. Although both are somewhat correct, it’s not in the way society thinks. This is helped by the added stigma from mental health issues itself, creating a specific stigma: “being a sexworker damages you and you have to be “crazy” or “damaged” in order to be a sexworker”.
This idea takes away the agency of neurodiverse people, strips us away from the ability to make our own informed choices and assumes a whole industry has risks not everyone shares and heavily depend on the conditions you are working under, not on the job itself. There are many other sectors that can cause mental health issues and it’s not because those jobs “are bad for mental health” but because they are rife with exploitative conditions and poverty among a great percentage of their workers, and that is what causes a descent in their mental health quality. Working under exploitative conditions, whatever the job is, has a mental cost. However we don’t say that being a waitress or folding hotel bed sheets “causes mental health issues”.
Being a sexworker can cause mental health issues if your working conditions are abusive, if you really don’t want to be there at all or if you suffer the stigma way more heavily than others. From here comes a hurtful stereotype, the one that says sexworkers are so “damaged” that, unless you speak to say that everything is horrible, your lived experience and opinions on the matter simply don’t count. Your agency is invalidated on the basis that “you are crazy because you are a whore” and that no one should listen to you. There are perfectly valid testimonials from people who have greatly suffered inside this industry and wanted to leave it yet they keep saying that decrim is the model that would have protected them the most. And evidence actually backs it up. There’s people who wish no one should have to be a sexworker yet they think that people who currently ARE need rights and not paternalistic rescue that denies their agency and lived experiences. Speaking about the negative aspects of this job is quite hard because it’s quickly used by SWERFs as “proof” that it shouldn’t exist. What shouldn’t exist is abuse, exploitative conditions and poverty. We should have the right to speak freely about what we like and dislike, problematic issues and solutions we need; like everyone else can do about their jobs. And this is not opssible if even the least bad thing you say about it is going to be used to push for a model that has already proved to kill us and increase the violence we receive.
In my own case and having seen it hundreds of times in other sexworkers too through the years, sexwork actually helps me with my mental health issues. I have anxiety and this works against me to be able to hold a “normal” job even if conditions and salary would be good. None of the jobs I held before becoming a sexworker had that, though. I spent years trying to get back into studying and working like that it was just impossible. I’ve been a waitress, receptionist, shop assistant, hotel cleaner and call center clerk. In all of them I ended up either being fired or left myself when I saw it was impossible for me to keep up with the normative schedule.
My need for an ultra flexible job that I could have access to when I was healthy and being able to rest when I needed to was simply impossible in this system. And if I wasn’t able to study at the same time, how would I access to a higher job tier with presumably better conditions?
So when I got into sexwork, straight up from the first day I thought the same I would later discover was a rather common opinion among sexworkers: “Why didn’t I tried this earlier?” This job perfectly matches my mental health needs. I work when I can and rest when I need to. I get a salary that is enough to live doing this. I’m not even speaking about luxuries, just living without being worried about being evicted has a great effect on mental health.
In my particular case my anxiety is related to social situations. So changing from attending a store counter, bar or call center where I had to interact daily with dozens of people of which I rarely could read their intentions and who could freely verbally abuse me (sometimes even physically) without consequences; to attending a phone and email, one on one and speaking with them about the conditions of the meeting and being able to get a feeling on their intentions and stopping the communication when I didn’t feel safe; the difference it made in my mental health was notable. I’m still nervous sometimes if I don’t get enough information to feel comfortable, but the difference between that and the enormous amounts of uncertainty I got at the call center are simply impossible to compare.
One of the perks of sexwork is precisely this ultra flexibility that you can adapt to your personal needs. When a new sexworker asks us about advice we tend to tell them to look at their needs first and then decide where their limits are. You can work a lot or few hours, combine it with studies, another job or taking the rest you need for your health. And that is something that almost any other job can offer, let alone those with low requisites or qualification level. If someone pretends to save us from sexwork they should first achieve for the general jobs to have this options available for everyone who needs them. No matter how many sewing classes or any other knowledge you provide to me you won’t make my mental health needs go away so then I will be a sexworker, whether you like it or not. And like me, thousands more share this stance. You will be only hurting us if you pretend to save us with alms. We are already working hard to live, we don’t need you to make it harder.
What’s the main goal of the KLE Collective and since when are you a member?
KLE wants to fight against the presence of directories and escort websites managed by people who are not sexworkers and almost never have our well being as workers in mind. It’s a collective exclusively comprised of independent sexworkers who offer BDSM services within their escort experience. Agencias or brothels are not accepted and there is a vetting process for each new member to be sure that they are who they say they are and that they are working independently.
I’ve been a member for approximately six months and was on waitlist since last year. Right now it’s only open to BIPOC, trans and disabled people to allow for more diversity.
What do you like about BDSM? What three toys or homemade items would you consider good to get started at home with a partner?
I have always been curious about it but never tried to seriously get into the scene due to previous bad experiences due to my lack of knowledge, inexperience and the zero awareness about consent from the partners I tried it with. There’s still too many myths around BDSM that have to be debunked. Now that I went into the scene again I can say people inside the BDSM tend to have way more knowledge about consent and healthy sexuality than the general population, and that the people I met in my first experiences weren’t actually part of the community, but people who thought that what society thought about BDSM was correct and wanted to have it their way. The way it’s portrayed in the media and the stereotypes asociated to it cause problems like these.
It’s important to say that tools have to be of good quality. You shouldn’t improvise homemade tools at all unless your knowledge of BDSM is so extensive that you perfectly know what you’re doing. And still most of the people buy their tools from experienced crafters, don’t try to make them on their own. There are so many different practices people can like, so there’s not a single tool that can work for every couple or group. More important than toys and tools is knowledge on boundaries and limits. Not only submissives have limits but dominant people also have them. There’s things I wouldn’t do as a domme no matter how much money they offer.
Another important aspect is to have a basic health and first aid knowledge, red areas where you should never hit no matter how much the sub is asking or begging for it, and mental health care. These things are way more important than any toy or tool. The first BDSM plays can be done without any toy at all, exploring the limits of everyone involved and getting used to security words. You could get someone hurt (without them wanting to) if you go willy nilly here.
What traits would you say spanish people have when it comes to sex? Is there a different socio-cultural concept for us here?
Personally, I haven’t seen a substantial difference between the “spanish way” and other cultures regarding sex. I have met clients and had partners from different nationalities and ethnicities and they tend to differ in other cultural differences rather than in sex. I do feel that british people have more comprehension and respect for BDSM than spanish people, but this makes sense since it has been more prevalent and less hidden in their culture than ours.
During all this conversation we haven’t said anything about male sexworkers. What would you say is the cause for the drastic difference between men and women in this industry and on what ways do you believe they should involve themselves in the fight for rights? What opinion do you have about the “feminist ally” tag?
I have known very few male sexworkers and most of them attend other men, so I’m not much qualified to reply properly to this question. In general the difference has to do with the fact that it is a feminized sector and there’s more work available if you are woman presenting attending men than any of the other options.
Male sexworkers have their space inside the fight for rights just like any other sexworker. But if we talk about non-sexworking allies their place is at the side and we thank them for amplifying our voices instead of trying to impose theirs. Most of the time sexworkers ourselves are better informed about our situations and what we need to improve them rather than people outside the industry. Even if they mean well (and I’m sure they do), sometimes they speak without being properly informed and could bring in the opposite effect to what we need. A clear example of this is when there’s a debate about prostitution in which there are no sexworkers present and there’s one side defending the swedish model and the other one talking about legalization like in Germany or The Netherlands. Sexworkers campaign for decrim, which is currently present in New Zealand and some states of Australia (has room for improvement, but it’s way better than any other as of now). There’s also a cooperative model in Bolivia that is being tested out and so far is giving out great results.
The German model, known as legalization, can look like it’s good and well intended, but it’s not. And when people don’t know the effect it has they defend it because they believe the simple theory behind it is true. We would prefer for those people to listen to us when we explain the different results of the current models being used. In many cases the line between theory and reality is enormous.
This is particularly true of the swedish model, which is sold as if it “protects” sexworkers by “not criminalizing them” but criminalizing everything around their work in a way that for them to be able to work they must break the law and therefore become criminals for trying to survive. And of course they can be criminalized for any of those things, just “not for selling sex”. Which is useless if you’re criminalized by everything else. Some people read the theory behind this model and may think it sounds amazingly good. They tag themselves as a feminist ally and ally of the whores and start spreading that it’s a fantastic model without actually asking us first. The reality of this model means that landlords have to evict sexworkers out of their houses or be charged with pimping themselves if they don’t obligue. It spends way more money on police to go after sexworkers (as they are an easier target to be able to “catch the clients” and makes deporting migrants easier) than in actual resources to help people exit prostitution. They force sexworkers to stop selling sex in order to apply to their help programs but their programs don’t provide help enough to live without selling sex. It asks people to stop doing what they are supposedly intended to do themselves. If people could just simply stop selling sex they would then have stopped themselves without anyone’s aid already. Increases violence against sexworkers and increased power for clients who, feeling attacked and persecuted with fines, increase their control on sexworkers demanding them to guarantee their safety and thus work in riskier conditions and reducing condom use, rates and negotiating power for sexworkers. Also enormously damages the police-sexworker relationship since sexworkers are more afraid of contacting police due to all the criminalization they face for trying to work.
The swedish model is an absolute paradise for the bad clients and the few clientele that has been reduced in the countries its present in is those who we call “good clients”, which respect out boundaries and conditions, and generally the law. If you take away our ability to say no to the bad ones because the good ones go away and we have to lower what we accept, you’re forcing us to get ourselves in the hands of abusive people and give more power to them. You can’t call yourself an ally neither a feminist.
How do you think sexual education has evolved for the new generations? Have you felt the need to teach sex ed to people you were going to have sex with?
I think I’ve seen imprevements over the last few years. With globalization and internet access widespread now it’s easier for people to access the things they were not properly taught when they were younger and for the new young generations to seek the info society tries to hide from them. There’s also a bit less taboo. There’s still a huge lack of it in schools, sadly. What I was taught in “sex ed” (if we could even call it that way back then) was about periods in the most plain and theoretical way. And it was done with this taboo-embarrasment-ish ambient that didn’t contribute to us understanding it properly. Now being an adult and having had to learn about sexuality and my period myself and due to (many of them bad and avoidable with proper education) experience. So I understand how important and basic a good sexual education is, specially to teach consent, limits, what a body can feel, to not feel bad with your desires and do feel bad with imposing your desires on others without consent. Even including an improvement on that period education (and the corresponding version for people with penises) with less stigma around it.
In the case of clients I have had, more than once, one of those that come to us seeking answers and learning. And it’s a beautiful thing seeing someone who really wants to learn in order to not give a bad experience to anyone. They ask tons of questions and are humble. It’s honestly a great approach, but it should have come first from education and not that later in their age. I have tried to teach mostly about the importance of consent and the revocability of it. It’s not enough for people to tell you yes, when they say no, it’s over. No questions. It looks like an easy concept, but then you venture into the world and discover it’s not. Fortunately looks like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.