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The Gentleman’s Guide to Buying Sex

Sadly, John School isn’t the title of a touching film where John Turturro plays a grizzled teacher who shows a ragtag crew of disadvantaged kids that they can achieve their dreams. Instead, it’s the name for a set of programs aimed at teaching the apprehended clients of sex workers that they’re bad men who don’t respect women — either as a diversion from court or as a sentencing condition. Just like similar programs for sex workers themselves, John Schools are patronizing and spread misinformation about sex work; for instance, they paint sex workers as universally coerced victims and play on unfounded fears of STIs to scare men out of buying sex.

While sex work isn’t likely to achieve the accepted cultural status of therapy, massage or other personal care services anytime soon, it doesn’t have to be a shameful experience. In fact, it can be the exact opposite.

So what if there was a John School where people could learn how to be respectful, valued clients? A program that understood implicitly paying for sex doesn’t make you a terrible person? One that recognized all kinds of people might want to seek out the services of a sex worker but need advice on how to go about doing it?

Well, it exists, and you’re in it right now! Below is a guide to being a client in a way that makes things as easy and fulfilling as possible for you and your prospective sexual provider, drawing on knowledge of the field, conversations with workers and a study of general etiquette.

Long Before the Act

Before you even try to hire a sex worker, you might have to deal with some ideas and feelings you have bouncing around your head and heart. Shame, disgust and other unpleasant emotions are best dealt with — or at least acknowledged — in advance of your session, both for the sake of your sex provider and your own enjoyment. To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong about hiring a sex worker. It doesn’t reveal any deep truth about you; it doesn’t make you a failure; and it doesn’t mean you’re unethical. If anything, seeking out the services of a professional reflects your self-knowledge and adventurous spirit.

Once you’ve processed some of your feelings, the next step is to figure out what it is you’re after. Are you looking for a session with a pro domme? A more relaxed multi-hour date, perhaps with dinner? An ongoing relationship where sex is only part of the picture? Be honest with yourself about what you’re seeking and try to find someone who matches that.

You could check out provider advertising on sites like Slixa or Eros, local dungeon sites or services that set people up with “arrangements.” Here you’ll probably run into the myriad acronyms and lingo of the sex work world: GFE (girlfriend experience), PSE (porn star experience), Greek (no, not the Socratic method) and so on. You can find online guides that explain most of them. (Warning: Some of them are gross.) But if you’re after more of a personal fit, it might be best to ignore them entirely and focus on how the provider describes themselves.

Depending on the type of sex worker you contact, you might be asked to furnish references as part of a screening process — i.e., other workers you’ve seen who can vouch for you as a safe, respectful client. If you don’t have any references, you can give some providers your workplace information as a means of verifying your identity. You might worry about the idea of a sex worker having your personal information, but remember that in most cases, your provider has more to lose from a breach of confidentiality than you do. Not to mention that a worker who mishandles their client’s information isn’t likely to have much of a career.

Regardless of the particulars of the screening process, you should resist the urge to explain what a good person you are and why you should be exempt from it. Also, don’t make jokes about not being an axe murderer. Most of all, if you aren’t willing or able to comply with someone’s screening process, understand that and move on.

Just Before the Act

The big day’s here, and you’re finally in the same room with your provider. Now there are just two things to keep in mind: honesty and boundaries.

By honesty, I mean being upfront about your desires. You might think a shortcut to being a good client is to act passive and suggest that you want to do whatever they want to do. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. Sex workers aren’t mind-readers, and putting your provider in the position of trying to guess what you really want is much more stressful than being honest. Furthermore, you should trust and respect your provider’s ability to say “no” to things they don’t want to do — or can’t do.

A little more about those boundaries: You probably want to get to know this new, exciting, sexy person, and you probably have a lot of questions for them, which is great. Just keep in mind that many sex workers don’t want to give away too much about their personal life. Questions about hobbies and interests are perfectly fine, but those about family, relationships and personal history are topics to avoid until a repeat meeting. The most frequently asked client question is whether or not providers have a partner. Regardless of the answer — and many providers will spare you the truth — you should know that client-to-partner conversions are rare, extremely fraught and best to sidestep.

After the Act

Now what? Well, the simplest thing to do would be to send your worker a brief email thanking them, and if you’re so inclined, indicating your interest to rebook at a future date. If you’re feeling especially moved, a gift — especially one that reflects their interests — is a good way to leave a strong impression.

At this point, you’ve hopefully had an amazing experience. Given that, it’s okay — and even normal — to catch feelings. It’s only human to feel positively toward someone who is caring for you in some capacity, especially a sexual one. But remember: Just like in a therapist-client relationship, you’re both there to address your needs and wants.

And just like with a therapist, your provider may enjoy working with you, but at the end of the day, they’re doing a job. A lot of clients want to forget about this, and certainly things get blurrier with a provider who may be accompanying you to events, or with someone with whom you have an “arrangement” rather than a predetermined hourly rate.

In the end then, the key to making things work is to always remember one thing: This is a service relationship catering to you.