This article originally appeared on VICE UK
When people hear I'm a dominatrix, they often start asking me questions, most of which I'm happy to answer. But I've heard one too many times: Who are your favorite clients? People seem to want exciting stories about weird and wonderful fetishes, about celebrities and politicians. I get it. The relationship between sex workers and clients fascinates us because it's taboo. But sex work is work, and my favorite clients are like a writer's, or a plumber's: they're the ones who treat me with respect.
That's where demystifying sex work comes in. As organizations like Amnesty International and the UN's World Health Organization have shown through their research, sex workers worldwide battle systemic violence and health risk, not because of what we do but because it's stigmatized and against the law. Because sex work and the activities that make it safer are generally criminalized, we often can't expect support from police if we're assaulted or raped. Black sex workers, trans women, immigrants and disabled people face higher risks, as do as sex-working parents and street-based sex workers.
We're still seen as social pariahs, even here in the UK, where a single sex worker working alone is legal but breaks the law if she works with a friend for safety. So, really, our favorite clients are the ones that respect our screening processes, that pay us, that don't bully us or stalk us or subject us to their racist rants while we, on the clock, smile and nod.
My favorites read my website properly, learning my hours, fees, services and how I prefer to be contacted. They don't whinge if I ask for a deposit, and they don't request services I don't provide. They respect my time. They don't call with cocks in hand for free sexy chat, or show up early while I'm still lacing myself into my corset.
Favorites communicate well, and come back: the longer I'm seeing someone, the more fun we have. A three-year client of mine enjoys severe pain, and she's a favorite because we've put our heads together to invent novel ways to give her the experience she's looking for safely and effectively. I asked some other sex workers about what makes a client a favorite, and here's what they had to say.
25 years old
Midwest United States
I find that my best clients are often older (65+) gentlemen. This may because they're in a new phase of life that leaves them feeling lonely. At the same time, they also understand the boundaries of a client-provider relationship, without challenging their position within it. These clients visit again and again.
Neil is 96, adorable, and ancient. We've never gone beyond cuddling or light kisses across my body while we're both still clothed from the waist down, in panties, or underwear. Being respectful of limits doesn't even begin to derive his cautiousness with me. It's so refreshing to know that my safety, health, and privacy aren't at risk when with him! In spite of how prude our appointments seem, they're often quite intimate as we candidly share pieces of our lives with each other.
Then there's Terry, in his late 60s; a firecracker attorney who loves latex fashion and spike stilettos. He's slowly been losing his witty banter over the past three years. Despite being an adventurous fella and creative in the bedroom, his vision is deteriorating and he definitely needs his heart monitor with me. Our sessions are physically demanding, and his generosity spills over in the form of gifts and tips. Ultimately, our client-provider relationship sits on a firm foundation of trust and appreciation that doesn't go unnoticed.
19 years old
N was intrigued by my honesty and outspoken opinions. Unlike the worst of my clients, he isn't condescending because of my education level or age. Our professional relationship very closely resembles a friendship, but one where the boundaries are still firmly drawn and kept clear. He's a favorite because, through working with him, I learned that I like to market myself based on personality as well as looks. Now, I make it explicitly clear that I don't want clients booking me because I'm a hot teenager, but because I'm a hot teenager "and more."
K, another favorite, likes to run the show during our sexual encounters—which I like, as I can sometimes get a bit self-conscious taking the initiative. Over time I've felt comfortable suggesting new ideas for us. With K it feels very much like a growing professional relationship, sexually, but also like a friendship.
My best bookings have always been with clients like these that appear to enjoy their time with me, not just thanks to the quality of the service I provide or how I look but also largely in part because they genuinely like who I am as a person. I'll always appreciate clients who are clean, on time, respect my personal and professional boundaries, and pay me well, but what makes a client a favorite is when we actually like each other as people, too.
26 years old
My favorite clients aren't the youngest or the most attractive. They're the ones who make me feel like they mean it when they tell me I look fabulous, even if I turn up with a run in my stockings or a chipped nail, or shoes they've seen before. They send me pictures of their pets, not their dicks, and we respect each other's privacy.
My favorite clients understand that when I cancel, it's because I'm human, and I also have health, travel, or family emergencies. They never act entitled to my time, either online or in person. They pay my full fee when they cancel at short notice, because they understand that I'll have been counting on that income and, as a business person, that I have expenses that must be paid regardless of whether the appointment takes place. My favorite clients are playful, clean, generous, and respectful.
They don't expect me to listen to transphobia or racism, and they understand that our transaction is an unusual one, often made possible in part because of forces of marginalization and oppression in our society.
Some of my favorite clients introduce their partners to me, and give sessions as gifts, without any thought to themselves, other than they are making us both happy. This is, in my eyes, a very feminist act: it says that women deserve the kind of pleasure that men routinely pay for. It's important to note, though, that the gender spectrum of my clients isn't all men with women partners.
*Some names have been changed