As a sex worker, dealing with strange requests is not unusual. But a new exhibition shows a client's idea of what makes a great gift is frequently just as bizarre.
Objects of Desire is a collaboration between sex workers and artists which looks at the stories and experiences of sex workers via the weird and wonderful objects they have been offered or given by clients. We asked them to share some of their more baffling presents.
"This client decided he couldn't call me Lily because it was too much of an 'escort name.' He said when he shouted 'Hey Lily!' in public, he might as well be shouting 'Hey, hooker!'
"He said he initially wanted to call me Gretzky after the record-breaking hockey player, because he had broken his personal jerk-off record thinking about me. Then he decided he disagreed with Gretzky's support of the Bush Administration, so he chose Mizuno after the Japanese golf brand, because of their slogan, 'Nothing feels like a Mizuno.' So he gave me this visor and started calling me Mizuno." Lily
Assorted Marks & Spencer, Fortnum & Mason, and Tesco jams and preserves
"I can see that this client gets a lot of pleasure from giving me food and feeling that he is caring for me. But I've also noticed that he is very into bodily fluids and often says how nice it is that we "taste" each other. I wonder if the jars of sticky jam are a symbolic substance, a kind of proxy for bodily fluids, if me storing them in my cupboard and ingesting them is a way for him to transcend the boundaries of our sessions, inserting himself somehow into my home and body." Rori
New Testament Bible
"I got this Bible from a regular client who I call 'The Germophobe.' It was wrapped in the same kind of thin plastic bag that he puts around his hand to handle the TV remote in a hotel room or to pick up a button that might off his jacket onto the floor.
"I met The Germophobe at a hotel bar. He had instructed me beforehand to wear something sexy, approach him at the bar as though we were strangers and attempt to seduce him.
"I was shocked when he showed up in priest's robes and this copy of the New Testament. I stroked his thigh and tried to convince him to take me up to his room.
"Two days later a company he had invested in imploded and he lost half a million pounds. He feared that he was being punished for his priest stunt and felt compelled to give me the Bible to set things right. As he passed it to me he looked up at the ceiling and said 'I'm sorry! Please don't destroy me!'" Lily
Blue Balls Fucking Machine
"My client insisted on giving me the money to buy a Blue Balls Fucking Machine. I tried to use it once and although there was something vaguely hot about getting fucked by a machine that looked like it belonged in a 19th century factory, I was too scared that the thrusting arm would slip out and bash me in the perineum to really enjoy it. My boyfriend tried to fuck the fleshlight attachment but ended up laughing so hard that he lost his boner.
"It's become part of the furniture at our house, with all of the phallic attachments stored in an empty laundry detergent box for discretion. Mostly it just stands in the corner like a strange sculpture." Sara
Salt and pepper shakers
"My favorite client gave me these pig shaped salt and pepper shakers. I think he bought them in California. Although I've never actually used them, I always have them sitting on my kitchen window sill. Looking at them makes me smile when I'm doing the washing up." Rori
Carbon monoxide detector
"This was from my favorite client. I recently realized how many of his gifts were protective. That day when I went to see him the first thing he did was clean my new belly button piercing with antiseptic. Then he asked what the stove was like in my new house. He gave me the carbon monoxide detector and told me a story about some kids in Greece who died in their sleep. Then he gave me a USB stick because he was afraid I might delete all my uni work. That's useful. I was thinking, Wow, this guy has really got my back." Laura
Lonely Planet guide to Cape Town
"I was going on a trip to South Africa with a client but he had to cancel at the last minute so he changed his ticket so I could take my friend instead. I called her up and said, 'Do you want to go to Cape Town tomorrow?' We had the most absurd holiday staying at all the romantic hotels he had booked and driving around in this luxury Mercedes blasting Prince." Janis
An ex-girlfriend's clothes
"One time a client turned up to our meeting with four large holdalls full of gifts. There was a gift set of teas, toiletries, a fleece jacket, a cape, and lots of his ex-girlfriend's clothes. He didn't want me to wear them for him; he would just bring them and say, 'I've brought you some riding jodhpurs and a riding shirt because they can be really useful to have.' And I was thinking, In what scenario?
"But then because he knew I suffered with a bad back, he bought me a plug in electric heat pad—I still bless him for that!" Eve
"When I moved flats, a client turned up with the most horrible print. It's like one of those old Punch cartoons of this Victorian bloke leering round the corner at two women in petticoats and it's just hideously rendered. It's still in its original packaging. I never put it up because it was too repulsive for me to even consider. He never mentioned it again. It's still got the sticker from the shop it's from on Charing Cross Road." Audrey
Objects of Desire opens on August 4 at Red Gallery in Shoreditch, London. For more information, visit the Twitter page.