Is there a more iconic movie scene than in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts goes on a shopping spree funded by her client, giving two fingers to the conceited shop assistants who had previously snubbed her? As far as fantasies go, it scores pretty highly for a lot of people. Who doesn’t like the idea of spending someone else’s money?
The reality of sex work isn’t always so glamourous. For all that society has progressed in the three decades since the film’s release, we’re still surprisingly far behind when it comes to understanding the multitude of jobs that fall under the banner of sex work, how many of them involve actually having sex (not many), how much skill it takes to be successful (a lot) and how often a high-roller (or “whale”, as they’re more commonly known) like Richard Gere’s character comes along (not that often).
But “not that often” is not the same as “never”. Every single sex worker I’ve ever spoken to knows of someone who had a client drop $1 million on a single transaction, or whisk them off on an all expenses paid trip around the world at a moment’s notice. To find out more about these lesser-spotted whales, I interviewed some hugely successful womxn in the sex industry.
CATJIRA, ADULT ENTERTAINER, PLAYBOY MODEL, CAMGIRL AND COSPLAYER FROM LAS VEGAS, US
VICE: Hi Catjira! What’s the most any client has ever spent on you?
Catjira: Tough question, but I think it would be a guy when I had just started out. I’d made enough to move into my own place, and was camming from an empty house. He noticed as we’d speak quite often, and so decided to furnish the whole house for me. He literally sent me every single thing I needed. All my furniture, my make-up vanity, my soft furnishings. You name it, he bought it. He must have spent over $10,000. I still have some of it now years later in a different house.
That sounds really kind! And super convenient. Did you ever meet him?
No! It was genuinely so generous.
What other expensive gifts have you had over the years?
I remember when my laptop broke, a cam member sent me a voucher to go and pick up a brand new Macbook from the Apple store so I could keep working. Actually, that’s happened twice! I’ve also had YSL earrings, and loads of Agent Provocateur and Honey Birdette underwear that cost a bomb but are really helpful for work.
What about high spenders for your content?
I once put an option on my site for someone to buy a bespoke clip of their ultimate cosplaying fantasy with a price tag of $6,000 and I never expected anyone to buy it. But one day someone did! I love video production so put so much effort into getting all the little details right and threw in loads of extras. I had a blast! — @catjiraTV
GODDESS JASMINE MENDEZ, FINDOMME, FROM NEW ENGLAND, US
VICE: Over the years you’ve worked as a findomme, how much would you estimate you’ve earned?
Goddess Jasmine: Oh I don’t know, but millions for sure. Enough to pay for three houses fully funded by financial domination. On average I make about $2,000 to $5,000 a day, so I do pretty well for myself.
Impressive. Tell us about some of your highest-paying clients.
My biggest single transaction was this military guy who sold his house and transferred me $50,000 in one go. Other than that I have a submissive that comes in from Tokyo sometimes and gave me $20,000 in cash one time after I took him round Times Square on a leash, and a doctor who pays me around $40,000 a year. One day I was shopping in a mall and a random guy came over and asked if he could pay for all my stuff – we ended up spending the day together and he bought me loads of expensive things, including a $10,000 necklace.
How much work is involved?
Oh, it’s not easy. But I’m a lifestyle domme [someone who lives as a domme 24/7] so it’s harder to separate what is work and what is just life, as they kind of blend.
Ever been taken on any amazing trips?
I once had a sub give me his card details and tell me to book a holiday for me and my boyfriend at the time to go to Bermuda, all expenses paid. When we were there he wanted photos of us kissing and having sex paid for by his buck, and kept sending surprises to the room, like champagne and strawberries. Overall it cost him around $26,000 – but all of us, him included, had such a great time! — @laughinglatina
NAOMI COLLINS, ESCORT AND OWNER OF ENNVY, AN ESCORT DIRECTORY, FROM LONDON, UK
VICE: Hi Naomi! Tell us about your high-roller.
Naomi Collins: He was very high up in the aviation industry. He started off as a normal client, paying £200 a session, but I soon began seeing him a few times a week. One night he asked me for dinner and took me to a fancy restaurant. We got talking and he asked me if I was financially stable. That’s when things changed.
Well, I told him my car needed some work the following week and that it would cost over £2,000. He sat across the table from me and wired me the money just like that. From then on he would book long sessions and overpay by a lot – paying double the normal rate, if not more, each time. This went on for about eight or nine months.
Did he take you on any nice trips?
Oh yeah, he paid for me and a friend to go to Madrid, Amsterdam and Venice, all expenses paid in five-star hotels. I went on a couple of ten-day trips with him, once to Dubai and once to the Dominican Republic. He was busy most of the trip with work, but I didn’t complain as I was being treated like a queen with spa treatments.
Do you stay in touch?
Yes, he decided he wanted to start a family in the end so we went our separate ways. We’re still friends, though. — @ennvyUK
PENNY BARBER, ADULT FILM AUTEUR, CALIFORNIA, US
VICE: You’ve worked in the industry for almost 20 years. Who’s been your highest-paying client?
Penny Barber: There have been a few, but the one who stands out would be a particular guy I met on cam just as I was divorcing the father of my children. This gentleman was so generous and supported me and my kids financially during a very difficult time. He bought me whatever I needed, often in the luxury version. Le Creuset kitchenware, furniture, and appliances were some of the most welcome gifts. He even bought my kids some toys. Once he was so eager for me to watch a TV show he was into, he sent over a new TV and DVD player, along with the DVD! He took me to Las Vegas on a shopping spree and once bought me a ruby necklace.
Did he expect a lot in return?
Not in the way you mean. I only met him once. There’s a saying in the adult industry that the people who spend the most expect the least, and the ones who spend the least make the most laughable, outrageous demands – which of course I simply ignore.
What would you say is the proportion of whales to normal, low-spending folk?
For every whale you come across, you have to dodge hundreds and hundreds of little fish. The work part is representing yourself as the type of person towards which a whale will gravitate. — @pamperedpenny
MEGGERZ, FINDOMME FROM NEW YORK, US
VICE: What’s the most expensive thing a sub has ever bought you?
Meggerz: Probably my BMW M3. I went to the dealership and picked a car, and he paid the $10,000 deposit and all the subsequent monthly payments.
Have you had any other high-rollers?
Oh yes. One month I earned $54,000 from Iwantclips.com and it mostly came from this one guy. As the highest earner that month, the website blew up a cheque and displayed it at AVN in Las Vegas later that year.
How much would you say you’ve earned over the years?
Definitely well over a million. I’ve also had holidays funded by subs – one sent me and a boyfriend to Germany, Turkey and Egypt on a big trip, all expenses paid. He also paid for me and another domme to go on various trips. The only difference when I went with my boyfriend is that he said “if you’d have gone with a girl I’d have put you in business class!” — @meggerz