This year has been stressful for everyone…and that’s putting it mildly. Lockdowns, restrictions, hard economic times, social distancing. Many escorts have been limited in the ways they can work, and some of us have taken a break entirely. Like you, we’re struggling with our families, finances, and mental health.

If there’s a special sex worker in your life, you may not have seen them in a while. If they’re not online much or aren’t replying to your emails, you probably feel worried. But before you reach out to check in, there’s something you need to know.

When it comes to supporting escorts right now, there are some ways that help – and some that don’t. That concerned ‘how are you?’ message might not be the best approach.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to start lecturing you. I know how hard it is to lose contact with someone you rely on, even if they’re your sex professional. This is a lonely, difficult time, and we all need all the help we can get. I’ve swapped a few emails with regulars, the ones I’ve known for half a decade or more. But if you REALLY care about our wellbeing, there are more effective ways to show it.

Why is checking up on your worker such a problem? So that you can understand my point of view, we need to talk about emotional labour.

Emotional labour is any sort of interaction that requires someone to limit their own emotions to take care of someone else’s. For escorts, emotional labour is 80% of the job – no matter what kind of mood we’re in we need to show up for our bookings smiling, to help our clients feel good. And it’s essential. Think about it – would the sex be any fun without flirting, compliments, and the fact that you felt comfortable enough to get your clothes off in the first place?

Understanding (and noticing) emotional labour is important, because often when clients try to offer emotional care to their escorts, they accidentally end up demanding it. What starts out as an innocent ‘how are you?’ email might turn into a long conversation about how the client is feeling. And because the interaction happens outside of a session, there’s no compensation for our time and efforts.

I know some guys will be thinking, ‘My escort cares about me! We talk all the time when we’re together!’ But remember, that’s your paid time. Your escort might enjoy your company during bookings, but they’re still a professional. You wouldn’t expect your therapist or your hairdresser to chat to you when they’re not on shift, so why your sex worker?

Even if you don’t expect a reply, sending the message can still stress us out. We’ve all had clients that have gotten upset when we didn’t return their emails or messages promptly. If we’ve taken a break mid-pandemic, feeling pressured to write back can be super stressful.

Here are a few well-meaning moves that I’d recommend you avoid:

Don’t ask for support under the guise of giving support. It’s amazing how easily a ‘How are you?’ can turn into a ‘Let me tell you about me…’ This might be fine for your friends or family, but it’s not fine for your escort. A pen friend might not be what we need right now – and we often feel obligated to act as if it’s business as usual, even though there’s little prospect of being paid for our time.

I understand that this can be a hard thing to hear if you’re feeling isolated. Consider where else you might find support – friends, family, and local crisis lines might be able to help.

Don’t send job booking requests when you know your escort isn’t working. Many of us have added ‘on haitus’ to our ads or social profiles lately, and it’s there for a reason – so you don’t waste your time. It’s discouraging to receive a job offer we can’t take; it reminds us of the income we’re losing. Best just to avoid asking, no matter how much you’re missing the company.

Don’t ask ‘how can I help right now’? Honestly, this is more of a personal thing for me – I hate being asked the question because, right now, most of my problems can’t be solved. Explaining what I need uses up more of my energy (there’s that sneaky emotional labour again!) And it feels depressing to say, ‘there’s nothing you can do.’

Please don’t feel bad if you’ve ever done any of the above. I don’t expect you to know all this stuff. If And don’t despair! There’s plenty of time to do better. If you genuinely want to help, here are a few ideas:

Pay for our online content. Many workers are offering video cam sessions, sexy text packages, or subscriptions on third-party online platforms. Paying a worker for their content is a great way to keep their business going. You can read more about seeing sex workers online in this interview with Jenna Love.

Gift a substantial donation. If you want to support an escort who’s doing it tough, and you can afford it, send them a substantial sum of money. I’m not talking ten or fifteen bucks, guys- spare change won’t go far! Contribute the cost of an hour or two of their time, something that can help them pay rent and put food on the table. Make it clear your contribution is obligation-free. A gift should be just that – given without expectations.

If you don’t have a worker in mind but you’d still like to help, please consider donating to the Emergency Support Fund for Sex Workers in Australia; it helps those who desperately need it.

Stay in touch on social media. DMs (direct messages) and emails can feel onerous. If you’d like to keep in contact with your escort, it’s safest to stick to public platforms such as social media. I love getting public mentions on Twitter or replies to my posts because I don’t feel obligated to reply if I’m having a hard day. This is just me, of course; every escort will have different preferences. But if you’re not sure of your worker’s boundaries, social media is a safer choice.

If you want a casual chat, offer to pay for it. Need to connect? Why not approach your escort and enquire whether they’re able to do a social booking via phone, video or email? Asking shows you respect the time and effort we put into our conversations. And it’s a great way to get your needs met if you’re craving companionship. Every escort is different in what they offer. At the moment, for example, I’m doing ‘sexy question and answer’ sessions via video – having fun chats with my customers about our sex lives. But not everyone does this kind of thing. You’ll need to ask first.

Pandemic survival is about more than just COVID. It also means making sure the relationships that are important to you survive – and that includes your relationship with your sex worker. Wanting to support someone you care about is great, but it needs to be effective. If you connect in ways that your worker finds genuinely helpful, you’re more likely to keep that flame alive.

If we can all be kind and respect each other’s personal space, we’ll be in a much better position to meet again in person when the time is right.

Achieve your peak experience with sex workers

The Satisfaction Project is Georgie Wolf's comprehensive guide to sex workers, for clients just like you. Get the know-how for life-changing encounters with escorts and other independent, hands-on providers.

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