Come rain or snow, recession or economic boom, sex work continues. It's happening everywhere, from high-end hotels with underfloor heating and a wide array of pastries, to grotty back alleys littered with fag ends and used condoms. And it's happening all the time, even if we – as a society – don't talk about it all that much.
When we do talk about it, though, we tend to talk about the workers themselves – whether that's because they're being rounded up and sent to detention centres, or because some entrepreneur with a very flimsy understanding of the law wants to open a cafe where you can have a blowjob with your coffee. What we don't talk about are the people keeping sex workers in business: the clients.
To find out a little more about that side of the deal, I asked Sarah, a 22-year-old escort and blogger, to take me through every category of customer.
The socially strong type of client; the ones who are very confident about themselves and typically have a high-powered job. Solicitors, people in finance and celebrities, for instance. People who like to talk a lot about how much power they have.
What they're trying to get from the experience is either an ego boost or an ego slashing. It's these clients who often want to be dominated; they have high-powered lifestyles and the opportunity to absolutely take control of other people, so – behind closed doors – want to be talked down to and demoralised, because it's the opposite of how everyone treats them in their day-to-day existence. A lot of power clients liked being pegged, for example. Or they want me to financially take advantage of them, asking me to ask for really expensive presents. I have a lot of expensive shoes that I don't even like from clients with foot fetishes.
I've found that clients usually want the opposite of the way they live when it comes to sex. The "party client", for instance, is the antithesis of the "power client". These men want to own a human being for a little bit. The power client will automatically have that dominance in a real life social setting, whereas the party client craves it.
He's usually a very laddish, party animal kind of guy: loves coke, loves drinking, oozes confidence on the surface but maybe doesn't really have any. I mean, he does have confidence – you can see that in every single swagger or story about a fight in a pub – but it only comes out with the help of drink and drugs. After a couple of lines he'll swan out of the bathroom reformed as an amalgamation of an 80s porn star and a TOWIE cast member.
He will ask you what you're comfortable with so he can just try to push you to go further. It's almost as if that list of things you have made it clear you won't do is some kind of challenge for him to overcome. "I'm sure you'd like it if I did it," he'll say. Erm, no. "What if I paid you more? Or gave you a better review?" Still no.
So those are the two main categories, but there are rarer types who pitch up occasionally, such as the guy who has a sudden, last-minute attack of guilt during the deed. The last one I had was a client, around 35 years old, who walked in with a big hat. Once he was inside he double checked the door was locked – proper paranoid. We were literally mid-way through me going down on him and he suddenly shot up and said, "STOP! I really can't do this." I asked him if it was something to do with me and he said, "No, I've got a wife; I can't stop thinking about her."
Maybe just take her paintballing next time you're looking for an adrenaline rush, eh mate?
GUY WHO THINKS HE'S RICHARD GERE IN 'PRETTY WOMAN'
These men have a fantasy about whisking a lady of the night away and showing them a better life, presumably because the idea that I could be a good girl just for them gets them all riled up and sweaty. The last one of these told me he was going to train me to be an estate agent so I "didn't have to do this any more".
Thing is, I would rather choke on my own saliva than have to drive a little branded Smart car around all day, trying to convince people to bankrupt themselves on flats we all know they hate.
GUY WHO'S GETTING MARRIED IN THE MORNING
This client will book a hotel room for the end of his stag-do. He'll often make a duel booking and turn up with his best man. They'll openly admit that they're on their stag-do and sometimes they'll even show you pictures of the bride-to-be on their phones. Some of them were really attractive.
GUY WHO CAN'T PERFORM AND THEREFORE WANTS A REFUND
Seeing a sex worker can be a daunting task for some men – we're very experienced, they might not be – which can affect their performance. Some will just laugh it off and leave, while others try to get their money back. But it obviously doesn't work like that; we're not no win-no fee injury lawyers.
GUY WHO ISN'T GETTING ANY
Their partner may have recently died, or they've come out of a long-term relationship and they've not yet got into the swing of how dating has changed. Or they're totally satisfied with every aspect of the marriage or relationship they're in apart from the sex. There are more people than you think out there who'll say: "I am absolutely in love with my wife and I want to be with her until the day I die, but I don't want to have sex with her."
There are so many people who say that, in fact, that it genuinely puts me off marriage a bit.
If a guy gets to around 20 and still hasn't popped it he'll be feeling the weight of social pressure heavy on his head. So you'll occasionally get guys with mates who will pay for him to lose it, stand outside the room when it's happening and cheer when he walks out de-flowered. Every prostitute has experienced this. I sometimes wonder how many guys have lost it this way.
THE EMOTIONAL CLIENT
There was one guy I used to see who was in his fifties. When I first saw him I was expecting him to want to have full sex, but he said, "I just want to lay here and cuddle, if that's OK? And maybe we could talk about how our days have gone." He was a widower who missed that connection where you have skin-to-skin contact. Or that moment where you both feel exactly the same and you just want to lie together. They are some of the most difficult clients, because although you want to satisfy that need in them, you want them to go and find it in the real world.
THE DARK CLIENT
These people have what I'd consider perverse sexual tendencies. Coming out about their fantasies would be absolute social suicide – like men who enjoy working girls over the age of 18 dressing up as young children, or even making the room they're in look like a child's bedroom. Most girls in the trade would never do that kind of stuff, but it's not unheard of.
GUY WHOSE WIFE ARRIVES HALFWAY THROUGH
The agencies that take your bookings get a lot of phone calls from women saying: "My husband keeps ringing this number." They know the script – they've seen it a thousand times before – so they'll play it off by claiming they're a work agency. But some wives are much more persistent than that; they'd follow their cheating spouse to the flat where the deed was taking place. Then you get angry, heartbroken women shouting outside.
I was halfway through a booking with a middle-aged man in a city centre flat once when the intercom starting going "buzz, buzzz, buzzzz". We were both naked, heels up to Jesus, showing no sign of stopping. Usually that means the agency has double-booked, but on this occasion when I rang the madam said they hadn't. So I answered it and it was a woman's voice just saying "hello" over and over again. The guy, who was fully dressed by now, ran out the front entrance and made his escape to the car he'd parked at a nearby supermarket. That's one of the reasons we tell people to park nearby and not outside the flat where the action is taking place.
GAY GUY WHO'S TESTING IF HE'S BI
You don't get them a lot, but it's definitely a subset of the clients. Sometimes they find out they are, other times not.
GUY WHO SPENDS WORRYINGLY BIG
A client spending money is good, but this goes too far, to the point the girl starts to question it. It's very rare that a regular client – or a "bread and butter punter" as it's known in the trade – would only see one girl. So if they're spending, like, a grand with you every single week, you know they're dropping a crazy amount of cash with the agency in total. More often than not they are the ones who want to try and sexually gratify you and don't want anything doing to themselves. They get off on the notion that they have a beautiful woman that they really satisfy in the bedroom.
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