Clients: An Introduction
When I look back on the thousands of clients I encountered over the years, none was typical. Each brought their own charms and challenges. There were certain types, to be sure: married men, lonely bachelors, closeted kinks, and shy geeks. But one client—I’ll call him D—does stand out as elemental.
At first, I liked D a lot. He was young and strong and smelled good. The sex was potent. He loved that I genuinely responded to him. He was a truck driver, distributing goods from the Oakland port throughout the Bay Area. Blue collar, not educated or interesting, but he always showed up on time. My fee stretched his budget so he couldn’t see me often, but initially, he never made money an issue. However, after seeing me regularly for about a year, he called trying to negotiate a lower rate, which I refused. As it turns out, he’d lost his job and was having no luck finding a new one.
A few more months went by. Now he’d call wanting to see me for free. He’d want to tell me about his job search and his money problems. How he could no longer afford to buy Rogaine; he was losing his hair. I’d let the answering machine pick up when I saw his number.
My apartment at that time faced east towards downtown San Francisco. My building was set on a steep hill overlooking a gas station, which sat six stories below my window. I’d instruct clients to call me from the gas station pay phone—this was before cell phones were common—so I’d know when they had arrived. A couple of times D called from there, leaving long, rambling messages, begging me to see him “because things were so good between us.” He might have known I was home, looking down on him. He probably guessed I would never pick up again when he called. I wondered just how weird he might possibly get. Not long after, I moved.
D’s story illustrates several core client dynamics: the desire for pleasure, escape, and validation. Boundary encroachment. The pursuit of free sex on his terms. Behavior that guaranteed the exact opposite of his aims. Ironically, my sexual attraction to him complicated matters—if he sensed I was only going through the motions, things would have been simpler between us.
As sex workers, we navigate emotional landmines every day. Anyone making a living in the Biz needs to have some curiosity, some working theory about why clients come to see us, and a plan to attract and retain good ones. We need skills to counteract bullshit. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’ll share what worked for me and other successful sex workers I’ve known.
In this next section, I’ll discuss what motivates clients, what they’re looking for, what they need. I’ll offer my thoughts on the competing pursuits of fantasy and reality. Then I’ll talk about sending out the right signals to cultivate a clientele that enriches you. I’ll suggest when to cut dead weight, and offer advice on managing coercion and intimidation because, unfortunately, some clients don’t ask nicely. Speaking of not nice, I’ll make a case for avoiding review sites, if at all possible, because the online world doesn’t play by real life rules. And finally, I offer my best heartfelt advice on what to do when a client denigrates, humiliates, or frustrates you—demanding free sex, for example—or otherwise makes you feel like crap.