If you see sex workers and they’ve made your life better, you probably feel strongly about looking after us. Perhaps you’ve spoken with enough providers to have an understanding of why sex worker rights are so important, and you’re keen to talk about it.

But there’s a big difference between bragging and advocacy. Instead of making a difference, some clients bluster about on social media, taking up the time and attention of sex workers instead of actually advocating for or supporting them. It’s annoying and tiring for providers. How can you ensure you’re doing advocacy right?

Of course, your needs are important too. Your personal journey in the sex industry – and the professional relationships you’ve formed – do matter. I don’t want to minimise that! It’s understandable that you’d be keen to seek out support from your friends or from like-minded folks online, and talk about your experiences.

But if you genuinely care about improving the working conditions of the sexy people you spend time with, you’ll need to think hard before you jump into the next discussion. Here are a few situations where things could go either way, and how to ensure you’re being a good advocate when it matters.

During a booking: Gossiping versus showing you’re a good client

For many clients, it’s important that their provider understands that they 'get it'. They’re not ashamed to see sex workers, they know the etiquette, and they see their providers as people, too. They’re GOOD customers.

It may feel tempting to make this clear by talking about all the workers you’ve seen before. Some clients might name-drop specific people, talk about past bookings, or even share gossip or other confidential information that they’ve been told during sessions. This isn’t a good look! Gossiping will often make your provider uneasy, as it shows you may not be as discreet as they would like. And, just as on a regular date, it’s tacky to spend the whole time talking about the experiences you’ve had with other people. We’d much rather you concentrated mainly on enjoying our company.

I’d recommend that the best way to prove you’re a good client is through your actions, not your words. Rather than saying ‘I’ve seen TONS of escorts’, focus on being on time, being well-presented, paying the right way, and being a generous and thoughtful date. All these actions show that you’re experienced, and you won’t need to mention who you’ve seen or what you’ve done in the past, unless it’s a topic your provider indicates they’re comfortable with and keen to talk about.

On social media: Advocating versus grandstanding

If you’re active in sex worker online spaces, such as social media, you’ll see more than a few arguments about the nature of sex work. The ignorant comments of others can be stigmatising and offensive. As an anonymous user with stakes in the game, it may feel easy and satisfying to shout down or call out a bad actor online – and, of course, many workers will read your posts and like/agree! But if you really want to change minds, those conversations take a little more work.

Rather than shaming or calling out, it’s often more helpful to provide measured, reasonable refutations to the arguments of SWERFs and antis. Linking to good sources and providing the right arguments might not change that specific person’s mind, but it can definitely help bystanders who don’t yet understand the issues! All this is useful in a way that shouting isn’t.

Of course, these kinds of interactions take work. You’ll need to have a solid grasp of basic sex work issues and take the time to write a thoughtful reply. But this kind of ‘good content’ can be a huge relief for workers themselves. Often, we’re expected to do all the emotional labour of educating the wider community, and it becomes very tiring. To have someone else step up and provide the RIGHT information can be a huge relief.

In the community: Standing up to be counted versus bragging anonymously

There’s a lot of power in being able to say, ‘I spend time with sex workers, and there’s nothing wrong with that.’

Not everyone can be ‘out’ about being a client, of course. But the more clients do talk about their experiences, the more the general public can understand that sex work really just is another kind of service. If this is something you’re comfortable doing – whether it’s to friends privately, or to the world in general – you’ll be doing a lot of good.

Sometimes, when folks don’t feel comfortable being ‘out’ in this way, they’ll look for other ways to feel supported and validated. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Being on social media, getting involved with donation drives, or making friends with one or two other clients online can all be excellent ways to feel as if you belong.

But one approach that isn’t so helpful is posting explicit ‘reviews’ on punter forums. I’m sure plenty of clients are going to disagree, but this kind of stuff can be really harmful. Some forums are just about clients supporting each other, which is great. But often, the reviews they post turn into the ultimate bragging competition. Details are often shared that a provider isn’t comfortable with –- such as the kinds of services they performed, what they discussed on the date, and even confidential information that could be compromising, such as details of their working space or personal circumstances.

This stuff puts sex workers at risk by creating expectations around a certain type of service, when many providers offer different experiences to different clients. And having that personal space – the private time of a booking – shared in detail can feel really icky and violating.

I understand that feeling as if you belong – and getting validation around your sexual adventures – can feel really good. But if you’re betraying a sex worker’s trust to do that, you’re not helping. If you’re a huge review fan, please ask your provider’s consent before writing about them… and check which details might be off-limits.

Ask yourself: “Is this about the issues? Or is it about me?”

Are you looking for validation? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. As someone who sees sex workers, you’ve already been brave enough to step into this world, despite the social stigma! You’re getting your needs met with honesty and (hopefully) feeling a sense of adventure. That’s fantastic! But you’ll need to do it in the right places, such as on your personal social feed, or privately, by asking friends for support.

On the other hand, if your intent is to advocate – to intervene in political discussions, to make real change and change people’s minds about sex work – you’ll need to leave your ego behind and focus on doing the stuff that actually makes a difference.

As you make yourself at home in our industry and interact with providers, it’s always helpful to check in with yourself before you jump in. Ask yourself, “Is this about me? Or do I actually want to make a difference?” This helps ensure you’re advocating for us in ways that actually work.

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