As unjust as society is to the working women who call the sex industry home, an even crueler fate awaits their clients. Even those who readily admit that sex work can be empowering and healthy for the provider remain quick to demonize and stereotype the purchasers. An excellent example is the Scandinavian approach to policing sex work, which criminalizes the buyers of sexual services while giving the sellers a pass. In the cultural imagination, clients are pigeonholed as either the cheating scumbag husband — who’s ruptured his sacred vow of monogamy, breaking the heart of his naive partner — or the sketchy misogynist — the wealthy, abusive American Psycho who’s perpetually lonely and likely an addict. Not only are these categories fantastical and overgeneralized, but they strip the humanity from those present in these consensual transactions between adults.
In my ten years as a sex worker, I’ve realized that the reality couldn’t be any more different. Sure, these stereotypes exist, but contrary to popular belief, you can’t tell a “client” just by looking: They’re everywhere, they come from every background imaginable and the purchases they’re making often satisfy far more than rote physical needs. Some clients are in non-monogamous relationships with their partners, agreements that allow for both parties to seek outside intimacies. Some clients were born with significant physical disabilities that have made establishing and sustaining desired sensual bonds impossible. Other clients have a particular fetish that they’ve been shamed for by past partners, are desperately seeking validation or can only get fulfilled from an experienced professional.
Case in point: The clients who see me in search of fetish wrestling. Men pay me hourly to wrestle with them, usually topless or in a bikini, and it supplies a significant part of my income as a sex worker. Sessions can be athletic or playful, competitive or whimsical. My monetary rates and physical boundaries are clearly negotiated ahead of time, and we meet in a secure, private, comfortable location of my choosing. It’s an incredibly fun job that keeps me fit and allows me to meet a multitude of interesting folks with whom I would never interact otherwise.
For example: my clients Michael, Scott and John with whom I’ve worked extensively over the years. Michael, a 52-year old tech executive, has been hiring sex workers for almost 25 years and likes to incorporate BDSM elements in his sessions. Scott, a 59-year old urban planner, organizes taped competitive wrestling matches between women (referred to as F/F matches) in addition to hiring them privately. John, a 36-year-old app developer, loves session wrestling more for the playfulness than any sensual component.
All of them agreed to chat with me about why they seek out paid sex work in an effort to show that they’re not scumbags; they’re just people, who only bite if you ask them.
When did you first realize you were into wrestling women? How did you find out that there was a market for it?
Michael: I grew up in Canada — Northern Alberta. I once had a female figure skating dance partner over watching figure skating finals. During the commercial before the finals, she flipped one of her legs over and around my neck and captured me in a scissor. I couldn’t move. Every time I tried, she just tightened more. She kept me in that hold for 15 minutes as the girls all skated. I missed the finals, but learned that I loved that style of play with women.
Scott: I met my first wrestler through wb270.com. My sessions focused on strength and size comparisons more than actual wrestling, leading to sexual intimacy in some cases. In the past few months my involvement has evolved into underwriting regular female-on-female (F/F) wrestling events attracting top names, mid-level wrestlers, and those just starting out (I pay for training). I now want to learn wrestling moves myself to provide girls with some competition, and am going to the gym to build strength and form so I can maintain my masculinity!
John: The year was 2000, and I learned that the internet was good for more than just computer science research. I found this Hungarian women wrestling site with a steady stream of matches that were very competitive and very erotic. It combined the thrill of rooting for your favorite sports team with the thrill of watching internet porn. What more could a college guy ask for? I discovered the market for wrestling 10 years later, when I decided it was time to stop fantasizing. I don’t know why I spent 10 years just watching women wrestle on the internet without even saying hi and introducing myself to any of them. Once I decided to look for a session, I found a trove of online resources for setting up wrestling matches, and I haven’t looked back since.
What about session wrestling appeals to you?
Michael: I think it’s amazing to have women who are not only interested in playing physically with men, but who also have the ability to beat them — whether through strength or technique or both. I love teaching [my playmates]. I enjoy sharing techniques that ultimately have me begging for my life as she practices them.
Scott: In sponsoring F/F wrestling matches, I like to see female athletes go all-out against each other. Whether there or in my own limited grappling, there’s a power dynamic going on, and a level of erotic intimacy too.
John: The erotic part of session wrestling is what drew me in at first. It’s an intense, sweaty activity. Most session wrestlers are in amazing shape and wear outfits that drive a guy crazy. The idea of a woman who knows how to fight just gets my attention in a raw, primal way. And the idea of being wedged underneath a woman while being genuinely overpowered and helpless — not just pretending to be helpless — is maddening. But after my first session, my perspective changed dramatically. In a word, playfulness is what keeps me going back to session wresting now.
Do you see session wrestling as a form of sex work, or no? Why or why not?
Michael: For years I believed it wasn’t a form of sex work. However, I found that adding in things like bondage (having my hands tied behind my back to “‘level the playing field”) were pretty common. I also had an amazing play partner in Toronto who had two aliases — one for wrestling and one for BDSM. She helped me understand the power of that overlap and created an immense gray area that I love to play in. I do now believe that treating it as sex work is important because of the very fluid borders around that gray area.
Scott: In many ways, yes. Providers may experience some of the same stresses as escorts. From my standpoint, wrestling lacks the nudity, intimacy and “girlfriend experience” (GFE) I really appreciate in an escort, but I find the strength, skill and competitive challenge of athletic females to be compelling.
John: I see session wrestling as very different from sex work. Simply put: I could see myself organizing an outdoor backyard party and hiring some mud wrestlers for some of my best friends. I think that would be an unusually fun day. But I can’t say the same thing about sex. I would say session wrestling is a kink. I consider it light form of BDSM, which I also see as very different than sex.
Do you ever feel like wrestling sessions satisfy a psychological and/or emotional need as well as a physical one?
Michael: For me, the appeal to wrestling sessions is much more psychological and emotional than most people would believe. Of course there is a common belief that guys who run companies and lead huge teams need someone to take control physically. I think that’s a huge oversimplification of the dynamic in the play. My own philosophy is focused on understanding what my playmate loves to do. How she loves to play. Creating scenarios that leverage the interests that we have in common.
I also know that the opportunity to play has often been one of the elements of continuity in my life. If I move to a new city, if I travel to London, if I get a new job (or am out of a job) — the sessions are a constant. They ground me. They are like therapy.
Scott: For sure. I find it satisfying to write the script for F/F wrestling matches after a controlled upbringing and shy adulthood. As discussed, wrestling competition can be erotic, especially where strength and size differences come into play.
John: Wrestling sessions absolutely satisfy a psychological need as well as a physical one — playfulness, in a word. More than anything else, session wrestling makes me feel like a kid again. As a kid, I got giddy with anticipation when Christmas came around. I had trouble sleeping the night before because the anticipation was so intense. As an adult, it is very difficult for me to get that same feeling. The only way for me to feel giddy as an adult is if I find a woman I like, and I negotiate with her exactly what we are going to do to each other when we meet.
Do you feel like there is a societal stigma around people who purchase sexual services? Can you speak to that a little bit?
Michael: A couple of weeks ago, I shared some of my interests with a friend whom I’ve known for several years. They felt uncomfortable enough with the discussion that we ended up agreeing to go our separate ways. Yes. There is absolutely a social stigma.
John: There is a social stigma, a moral stigma and a legal stigma about purchasing sexual services. My moral perspective is clear. I think we as a society need to stop confounding morality with sex. They are two entirely separate issues. Legally, I think we need to be very clear about voluntary versus involuntary sexual acts. There are no excuses to be made for forced sexual acts. Unfortunately when we make rules, we often paint with a broad brush and we forget subtle nuances, or even blunt ones. And so we sometimes put adults engaging in a mutually consensual, victimless act with an independent provider into the same box as criminals and rapists committing forced sex. This is just plain wrong.