How do you handle a client who makes you feel icky, even if they’re nice and appropriate? He wants the GFE (Girlfriend Experience), and it makes my skin crawl. But I NEED his $$$ right now. Can you please help me to figure out how to get into the right headspace so I can keep seeing him without losing my mind?
– Going Nuts in Nyack
Dear Going Nuts,
You’ve just described one of the most challenging kind of clients or fans: The supposedly “nice” guy who only wants what’s not on the menu. (You didn’t mention whether you’re seeing this guy IRL or online, but it doesn’t matter — the dynamic works the same.) I have no idea why this is true, but this type always seems to have a sixth sense knowing when you need their money bad enough to make it nearly impossible to say “no” to them.
So, let’s stipulate that (most) clients want MORE — It’s just human nature. There are all kinds of reasons: to ratchet up the thrill, to get more while paying less. Perhaps the hope is, ultimately, not to have to pay at all..? Resisting encroachment is just part of sex work.
Where it gets tricky is when a fan asks to move the goalposts and, for whatever reason — such as the money is too good to pass up — we agree. I’m generalizing here, but as a rule, the sex worker’s position is: There is, and always will be, a 100-yard professional distance between us. If I move one goalpost ten yards to the left, I’m moving the right one ten yards to the left, too. But I’ll move them to keep you happy. You’re welcome!
Unfortunately, fans tend to interpret that concession as: The goalposts that used to be 100 yards apart are now 90 yards apart, because you want to be closer to me. Actually, since we both want to be closer, let’s make it 70 or 60 or 20 yards apart, okay? Actually, why don’t you just live in my lap?
That disconnect is why weirdness happens. Here’s my best advice for navigating this emotional — and financial — minefield.
Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries
For you: If this guy’s persuasiveness makes it hard to negotiate in real time, you might find it helpful to write out precisely you’re willing to do and what you’re not, both to get clear in your own mind and hold yourself accountable to yourself.
For him: Keep a close eye on whether there’s a gap between what he says and what he does. That will reveal whether this is someone you can ever get comfortable with. Someone who is a bit socially awkward or comes on a little too strong, but whose words and deeds are always in alignment, is someone you can trust. The sweetest fan in the world who agrees to one thing, but then constantly haggles to get something else, is not.
Carrots and Sticks
If a client wants something from you, then they’ve got something to lose. This guy may be using charm, plus hinting he’ll withdraw his financial support as leverage, but remember that you hold power as well.
- Tell him up front what you expect from the situation. Don’t make him guess, give him every chance to succeed.
- Praise and reward him when he gets it right.
- Warn him that if he screws up, there will be consequences.
- If he does screw up, follow through. You don’t have to threaten to cut him off if you don’t think he can’t handle it, but put him on notice that he must behave.
Try A Little Tenderness
Boundary-pushers usually have a desperate desire to be affirmed. The sad irony is, needy behavior makes it far less likely for us to get what we want. Insecure folks crave hearing something along the lines of: I thought about you the other day, and it made me smile. Here’s a fantasy I wouldn’t dream of sharing with anyone else. Our time together is the best part of my week.
Someone who can be satisfied, once they learn that they’re “special,” will be content. Someone who can’t be satisfied, well, no one and nothing is ever going to fill that emotional black hole. Needless to say, that’s not sustainable.
Plan Your Exit Strategy
You need this guy right now. But if he’s unmanageable, then it’s time to start thinking past him. Set yourself a goal of finding new fans to replace his income, and as soon as you can afford to, fire him.
Your predicament isn’t easy, but these challenges are precisely what forge us into the sex workers we want to become. Stay true to yourself!
Until next time, be sweet to yourself.
Lola Davina is a longtime veteran of the sex industry and author of Thriving in Sex Work: Sex Work and Money, her forthcoming (out September 1, 2020) followup to the formative Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry. Contact Davina at Lola.Davina@ynotcam.com and visit her on Twitter at @Lola_Davina.
Image of Lola Davina courtesy Pat Mazzera.