One often overlooked part of a provider-client negotiation is sexual safety, and for good reason. We’re socialized to believe that we should possess some kind of intimate telepathy when it comes to others’ bodies, and that the alternative – communicating openly about our desires, hesitations and boundaries – runs the risk of “killing the mood”. This pervasive and harmful fallacy serves only to silence us, reinforce sexual shame, and detrimentally impact both professional and personal interactions with intimate partners.
Clients may also feel awkward inquiring about a provider’s sexual health status for fear of offending them; after all, one of our society’s favorite industry stereotypes is the depiction of the dirty, disease-ridden ‘prostitute’, who sneers at condoms and cares little about consequences. Even if it isn’t your intention, the wrong approach to your inquiry could signal to a provider that you invest in such stereotypes. Which is why I’m here to help!
A common cold… for your junk.
It’s important to keep the broad stigmatization of incurring an STI in mind in the discussion of sexual health. While rarely pleasant to experience, the vast majority of infections transmitted sexually – including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and more – can often be treated with a round of antibiotics, much as with strep throat (an infection that is also often transmitted sexually, just saying). While keeping that in mind, it’s also important to remember to get thoroughly tested as often as you are able, even if you are asymptomatic.
We’re socialized to have less of an empathetic response to folks based on the way an infection is transmitted, in order to actively dissuade us from engaging in casual sex. Which, although outrageous, has long been a successful tool of a puritanical, abstinence-only political agenda. Moral of the story? Getting a STI is way more common than you may think.
Refine your approach.
Instead of asking your provider, “Do you have any STIs I should worry about?”, try, “What are your sexual health practices and screening protocols?” This assumes that the worker has them (they do, trust me). It shows that sexual health is just as important to you as it is to them, though not every provider will necessarily agree, or react positively, this is a kinder way to ask such a question. Please refrain from using any stigmatizing language, try to steer towards neutral vocabulary like “positive” vs “negative” as opposed to “clean” vs “dirty”. When I ask after someone’s status, I will also often ask more specific questions like, “How often do you get tested?”, “When was your last STI panel?”, and “What safer sex materials do you prefer and/or require?”
Be prepared to answer the same questions.
Sexual responsibility is a two-way street. If the status of your provider is important to you, then you should be keeping up your end of the bargain by getting tested regularly and disclosing your own health status and preventative practices. Many of my regular clients see other providers, and I always really appreciate when they tell me about recent exposures so I can make the most informed decision about performing that BBBJ, or not!. Let’s normalize these dialogues and help protect each other!
We’re HIGHLY motivated to stay safe.
Do you know why you rarely ever hear of a STI outbreak in the porn industry? It’s because they have their own rigid internal testing system that everyone must adhere to in order to work, and it succeeds 99.9% of the time. While there are no mandated testing protocols involved in direct client work, the end result is similar: You’re significantly less likely to get a STI from a sex professional than if you took a random stranger home from a bar.
Why? Well, aside from our literal job requiring a sexual health savviness that mirrors other necessary career-specific competencies, we’ve got a lot of people to protect. Ourselves, our partner(s), our other clientele, and – depending on how delightfully slutty we are – potentially our friends and coworkers as well. That’s a lot of responsibility, and we take it very seriously. Additionally, we really like money. This is our job, our livelihood. You know what you can’t do when you’re an escort and you have a STI? Work. Therefore, being careless about our own practices not only could damage our personal relationships, but it could also damage our finances. That’s pretty fucking motivating!
Are you a sex worker or client with tips or experiences to share? We'd love to hear from you!
The Good Client Guide destigmatizes sex work while providing guidance on how to be a better client and ally. Better experiences for workers mean better experiences for clients! To make this happen, we’re welcoming submissions from both providers and their customers.