This is the most common question I am asked by sex workers. I give up answering now because a part of me feels like they’re suggesting it’s a bad thing but also, because I don’t want to keep having to explain my circumstances over and over again. You might also be surprised to know that street sex workers also work indoor too, there is a mix between the two at times. We take clients numbers and then work indoors – we just don’t always have access to the same tools as you such as AdultWork or OnlyFans due to lack of internet access. It’s not as if we just love the street and refuse to do anything else, street sex workers choose indoor too wherever the opportunity arises. It surprises and sometimes threatens indoor workers to hear this, they get scared us outdoor girls are now going to lower their prices (thankfully this is a minority).
There was a point in time where I worked independent, street and agency at the same time. It wasn’t because I was greedy for money but because sex work, as i’m sure all sex workers will know, is unpredictable and not steady income. Another street worker told me she has an AW account but can’t work the busy periods anymore due to looking after her children, so she works the street at night instead. For me, I sometimes got no money working indoor at all so I would work street instead. Since the pandemic, street sex workers have started working indoor and I was exceptionally proud of my friend who bought an iPhone, set up her AW and began earning the money she deserved. Would I encourage anyone to be a sex worker? No, but I will always encourage safer sex working and earning more so she can work less.
I don’t have a place to work from, I currently live in temporary accommodation and would get kicked out in a heartbeat if I worked from here. Not only that, but it’s a single bed! Occasionally, I would work out a hotel but not earn enough to cover the cost of it, so would do street to make sure I wasn’t out of pocket. It also felt a bit crap to give large chunks of money over to a hotel and deal with the risk of being caught, being kicked out and exposed. It was worse if I then didn’t walk away with profit. I was then also caught in the net loss because I would earn cash in hand but pay for hotels by my bank account and this was becoming a out of control spiral, and slightly suspicious bank activity, booking hotels then dumping money in the account. We all know how infamous banks and platforms are at shutting down sex worker accounts.
People see the stereotypes of street sex work and forget the many benefits it has. I can earn money quicker at times because although it is significantly less than indoor, the turn around time is quicker too. However, this is not to encourage outdoor because the risk is greater, and you can equally spend hours out there, in the cold, be abused by passers-by and earn nothing. The turnaround time is one of the reasons I prefer outdoor sex work, it is simply sex and nothing more. There is no pillow talk, there is no disclosures, there is less time for me to put on a therapist’s hat and above all, it’s exactly what sex work is – money, sex and goodbye, in that order. This isn’t always the case but there is less expectation of me so I feel less guilty cutting them off whilst they’re talking about their marital problems. I sometimes find this is the best way for me, particularly if i’m already overwhelmed.
There are different sexual expectations and I can be even firmer than when I work with an agency. For example, my agency would take money off your hour charge if you did oral with a condom whereas outdoor, I always do with a condom and if I choose otherwise, I can charge more. With agency and independent, the girlfriend experience is the most common and I felt pressured to agree to oral sex which I hate receiving. Outdoor, nope. Not only is this physically difficult to do but clients do not come with that expectation either because many of us say no straight away so they don’t ask – I have actually never been asked. They also know if I said yes, I would charge an extortionate price but it is more included in the booking with indoor. Of course, if any sex worker says no, in any working environment, it means no – regardless of GFE or what you paid. I just didn’t like the pressure and the thought that client would contact the agency owners who would tell me off.
Gaye Dalton, a former street worker shares this notion, arguing that street work is less degrading than what people think. The feeling of being degraded is different to each person, what is for me can be empowering to another and both are equally fine. For me and Gaye, dirty talk feels degrading and something I can’t handle – it makes me feel like i’m encouraging something I hate or that i’m giving too much of myself. It’s outside of my comfort zone and makes me wanna squirm and at times, want to burst out laughing. However, I absolutely support phone sex operators. As Gaye argues, this can feel less degrading then simply ‘fast sex’. I once had a guy ask me to bend over so he could stare at my ass, when I told him no he said ‘well i’m paying’ and I wanted to cry. I would have given anything in that moment to have just done fast sex in the dark and gone home.
It is interesting that people think working street instantly means I feel unsafe. When there are no other girls out working and the outreach van isn’t there, this is true. Standing on the street feels exposing and the thought someone might run me over lingers in the back of my mind too. However, you can also work in pairs on street, one writes numberplate down and waits for you, and then you swap. A fellow indoor and outdoor street worker once said to me ‘I feel safer working outdoors, there are girls here, they’re my mates and they know what i’m up to. When I work indoor, it’s me, him, 4 walls, a locked door, a knife in the kitchen and he could do anything to me. At least outdoor, I can run and the other girls can raise the alarm for me.’ This doesn’t take away from the danger of outdoor, you are getting into a car after all and they can take you anywhere, added to society’s view of street sex workers alongside the abuse we get from people driving around.
There are safety risks with all sex work, and working in a brothel or strip club means you’re more likely to be raided, have your money taken, possibly deported and deal with that awful trauma that comes with it and perhaps given a criminal recording depending on law. Indoor sex workers have also been killed, including those who do outcalls. Street sex workers go back to the houses of their clients and can be hurt there also – it isn’t the environment that is the issue, it’s the attitude you have towards street sex workers that’s harms us. This doesn’t remove the added dangers of street sex work of course, but I think stigma and the way society, and sometimes sex worker themselves, treat and think of street workers. Street sex work admittedly makes you feel more vulnerable and exposed because you’re out in the open, everyone can see you, drive past and the constant staring eyes feels uncomfortable.
I know a few street workers who prefer this way because they do not have to hand any money over to agency or brothel owner, they say it feels like a pimp and they deserve all their money. They are absolutely right, they do deserve it and if that is the way they wish to work, that should be respected and kept safe doing so. I used to hate giving a 33% cut to my agency, especially if it had been a bad booking, the money ended up making me feel dirty when it shouldn’t have done. Sex work is hard enough as it is, you wouldn’t then pay your boss a third of your wages then tax on top, you wouldn’t have much left. If you then challenged this, you could be kicked out and jobless. This is sometimes a reason a girl has moved to street after being booted by a brothel for arguing with them.
When I was using drugs, street sex work felt like a bit of a blessing because it was accessible and quick to do. I could work late at night and customers would come to me, I could be in and out of a car in 10 minutes with £40 in my hand to go and score drugs. When you are rattling due to withdrawing from drugs, someone touching your skin makes you rip it off, it is an awful feeling. It’s made me cry before and want to push them off me. I did not want to be doing an hour or so booking, because I couldn’t have coped. I earned what I needed to and left. This meant if I was withdrawing at 3am, I could find money instead of having to chase down a job in the middle of the night, or hoping someone is feeling horny at dawn. Also, if I worked in a hotel, brothel, strip club, or agency I would have to work the hours I said I would, street work is whenever between 8pm-6am.
There are many, and often complex reasons as to why people street work, it is never just one reason or one circumstance preventing them from doing other forms. When I wrote a tweet thread about the reasons why I couldn’t work online, I was inundated with messages from sex workers telling me what I should do, buy, what websites to sign up to, how to make content etc. Of course, these were all well-intentioned so I wasn’t annoyed but I ignored them all. I couldn’t keep justifying myself or my actions, or reasons why my circumstances meant I could or couldn’t do something. Sex work is different to each person, and I would feel shy and embarrassed to post nudes online whilst some online sex workers would never do penetrative sex with clients, let alone street work, and that’s fine too. It felt disheartening to say I’m too insecure to take pics and then have someone message me and say i’m not trying hard enough and should try better camera angles.
You should never forget, you are never too far from working the street yourself, especially if you’re already a sex worker. I started working indoor, never did I once imagine I would be on the street because at the time, I didn’t need to and was earning enough money to keep me going. If it is poverty that drove you to sex work to begin with, it will be that same poverty that will drive you into street sex work too from indoor. Your circumstances do not change, so you have to adapt yourself instead to make money otherwise you will simply sink. Do not judge the street worker, they do the same sex work as anyone else including the emotional labour that comes with it. You will also find we do sometimes do a mixture of indoor and outdoor.
The reasons I have written here are very much my own, street sex workers across the UK work this way for a variety of reasons and ultimately, if that is what is more appropriate for them and their circumstances, don’t force them elsewhere. Make them safer, break down the stigma that causes the violence we face, push for decriminalisation, lobby the government so that solicitation isn’t a crime, help and support when you can but most importantly, don’t judge or abuse them.
Big thank you to Gaye Dalton for her input and talking through experiences with me ❤
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