But I pity their wives even more.
I began manipulating men for money when I was seventeen.
Manipulating is a very strong word, actually, since I was so used to being treated poorly by men that asking them to pay a small amount for my participation felt tantamount to extortion. When I was seventeen, struggling with chronic illness and unable to ask my parents for money for the school trips that were a compulsory part of my education, I decided that I would harness the power of my femininity and make men pay for everything. From a purely financial perspective, it kind of worked: an accountant named David gave me a grand total of £550 (about $750) over a few weeks, and all I had to do was send some flirty emails and go on a single date to see Les Miserables in the West End with a kiss goodnight.
David, who had the time of his life behind the velvet rope of the Sondheim theatre sipping champagne with a teenage girl who he was pretty sure was over eighteen, was probably enacting some kind of moderately-expensive midlife crisis. I, enjoying the idea that I could monetise the gross sexual attention I was receiving from old men anyway, paid for my school trips and even went to Brighton for my birthday.
When I talk about how much I hate my clients, I don’t quite mean David, even though I do think he is gross and creepy. While I had transactional sex before that, he was the first person who had given me actual money. He was the first man I would ever consider to be a client, and the most harmless man I met in the short time I spent as a Sugar Baby. The other men I saw were not so easily controlled.
I am asked a lot about my clients. People think about sex work as something done to people, some trauma inflicted on us as a result of poverty rather than something we do to survive. Women, in particular, agonize over the men I see, asking if I am disgusted by them, desperate to conceptualize them as a monstrous ‘other’ instead of their own husbands.
This disappointing answer to most of the questions about my clients is that I simply do not care. The reason I campaign for the decriminalisation of the sex industry — both selling and buying — is not because I think men have an unequivocal right to purchase what I’m offering, but because it would have catastrophic…