We believe all sex workers deserve a safe space to access support – without judgment – regardless of their backgrounds and experiences.
This non exhaustive list contains advice relating to sexual violence against sex workers alongside violence of any kind and sexual health.
If you have been affected by the issues we outline here or if you have been in a situation where you could not comply with our advice please do not feel ashamed or like you have done anything wrong, we are here to support you. Sex work can be tricky to get right and no one is ever shamed for learning on the job in other fields. Nobody should put you in a situation where you are not safe and if you have been put in an unsafe situation, the fault is with the client and not you. It is natural to blame yourself in situations where something goes wrong in sex work but this is not how anyone should feel over the actions of others.
We operate on a harm reduction strategy and whilst we have no intention of glamorising or promoting the sex work industry, we believe everybody deserves to be safe whilst at work, whatever they do to make a living. We believe in the full decriminalisation of sex work and support sex workers’ rights to choose their line of work.
As a community that is discriminated against and often overlooked in social protection schemes, it is important for us to work as a community and with ourselves to define our own standards of safety.
With great appreciation of the fact that sometimes these precautions may not suit your situation, here is some valuable advice to bear in mind when working in the sex work industry:
To maintain your physical safety
- Always take payment before you have provided any services whatsoever. Make it clear before a client arrives that they will be paying up front. Do not do anything sexual before you are paid, ask for payment as soon as you are able to at the start of a meeting and count the money before you provide any services. If working from a premises familiar to you, it is a good idea to leave the room, count the money in another room and hide it so there is less risk of the client taking it back. Any client who does not agree to pay up front is displaying serious red flags which should never be ignored. If a client doesn’t agree to pay upfront, leave as soon as possible.
- Underpayment or non-payment following the selling of sexual services is rape. When you agree to have sex for a sum of money, you are agreeing under terms of conditional consent and when someone does not uphold this agreement they have broken the terms of your consent. This is rape. You are completely valid in however being underpaid or not getting paid makes you feel. It is wrong and sexually exploitative and it is never acceptable. Always get support if this happens to you. You deserve to talk to someone who understands what you’ve been through and you are not alone. This happens to every sex worker in some way. Many clients try to scam. We can support you if you have experienced non-payment or being underpaid and need someone to talk to.
- Never go upstairs to a flat or into a house without being let in by the client at the door. There is more chance of them being seen on CCTV this way and this may impact how they choose to behave. When you do enter someone else’s space map out your exit strategy when you enter. Meet in a public space wherever possible so you can leave safely if you get a bad feeling.
- Never get into a car without being sent the registration first. Always check the registration of the client’s car online before you go on a date. Any person who refuses your request for the registration before you get into the car is someone you should not trust to go on a date with. In someone else’s vehicle, they have control of the situation so never get into the car of anyone who has said anything to give you an uneasy feeling. Send a picture of the registration to a friend wherever possible. Street sex workers may not be able to follow our advice here. If you are street sex working and without a phone, always try to work in areas which are protected by charities and organisations who protect sex workers. To look up relevant charities and organisations in your area which may be of use to you, a good place to look is The North East Sex Work Forum’s list of sex worker friendly charities and organisations.
- Make sure there is a log of your interactions with the people you talk to and meet. It is better to find arrangements and dates through websites and keep conversations as online or through text as possible. There will be a virtual log of conversations and this means if anything happens, you have evidence. Try to keep as much communication as you can on the website and try to talk through text messages more than on the phone where you have no proof of the conversation.
- Always let someone know where you are going and if possible, get them to to check on you. If you do not have anyone to talk to about this, please contact us and we will arrange for someone to check on you.
- Always read all the terms and conditions on any platforms you work on. Research and understand exactly how they work, what to expect and how to stay safe.
- If you experience violence of any kind, even if you do not wish to report it, it is important to talk with someone who understands with the ability to guide you through your options. If you can, gather as much evidence as possible as quickly as you can in case you do ever want to report something. We are here for you if you experience any kind of violence.
- Any person who does not comply with these standards is someone who you do not want to meet. There are plenty of people who will comply and this number will keep increasing as more sex workers refuse to work if these standards aren’t upheld.
To maintain your online safety
Keep your work persona and your private life separate wherever possible. Use a different number for business and for your personal phone. Make a separate social media account for sex work and try to use an alias.
Always take payment up front and do not provide any services unless you see the payment come into your account. Even if someone has paid you many times, it is never worth the risk.
Do not accept payments as business transactions as the client can say your ‘goods’ never arrived in order to claim back the money. Always use ‘friends and family’ settings on platforms where possible.
On days where you do not feel up to it, try to take the day off. It is emotionally exhausting to force yourself to work if you are not in the right headspace. Always ensure you are having plenty of breaks from work. Everybody needs a break from work.
Google yourself and your alias (if you have one) on a regular basis to check if your security has been compromised. Google your work phone number and your personal number as an extra precaution.
Do not do anything you do not want to. Set your own standards and follow them. You decide what you are comfortable with and you deserve to have your wishes respected.
Turn off location tagging and metadata on photos you post online. Be careful about what you post online and keep private social media accounts private where possible. People can look into you by using your photos so never post photos on both your private accounts and your business accounts.
Keep all correspondence with clients and do not delete messages. It is easy to see if someone has wasted your time or acted inappropriately in the past if you keep messages and this also ensures you have evidence if anything goes wrong.
Doxxing or outing a sex worker is violence against sex workers in every instance. You are completely valid to feel sexually exploited if this has happened to you and it is important that you are supported through this difficult time. Please get in touch to find out how we can support you if you have been outed or doxed.
If something happens which you do not like, make sure you get support. If you do not wish to report what has happened, that is your prerogative, and we understand your wishes. We run a confidential service for you to talk about these experiences. However, if you do wish to report unsafe clients, we offer services to support you with this.
To maintain your sexual health
Try and insist on wearing condoms where possible. We understand that there are many situations where this is not possible and you have nothing to be ashamed of. If you are in the position where you are having unprotected sex to support yourself make sure you get sexual health check-ups as often as possible and try to ensure you are on contraception.
Whether you are practicing unsafe or safe sex, get regular tests and check-ups to be on the safe side.
Research the sexual health services in your area and know where to find free condoms, contraception, STI checks and advice on sexual safety. Protecting your sexual health is a priority when working in the sex work industry.
oMake yourself known to sexual health clinics and services which offer free STI checks. Be honest about your position as a sex worker if you feel safe to do so because this will allow the clinic to have a better understanding of the situation and they will often prioritise your check.
Always bring your own condoms. Never rely on clients to bring condoms or trust a condom given to you by a client.
Try to use more than one form of contraception where possible. Birth control is as important as STI prevention.
To maintain your mental wellbeing
Know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You haven’t done anything wrong and you would never tell one of your friends that they should be ashamed if they were in the same situation as you. You would be proud of everything they’ve overcome, show that kindness to yourself.
Only do what you are comfortable with, especially sexually. Set your own rules and standards and follow them. Do not meet anyone who does not meet these standards, because the more you do anything you do not want to do, the more you lose control of the situation, which can dramatically affect your mental wellbeing and your feelings towards yourself. You deserve to be treated how you want to be treated and no one should pressure you to do anything you don’t want to do. Sometimes it might feel like you have to do something you don’t want to because you’ve been paid to do so and you feel like the client is in control because of this but as long as you feel safe to do so, always say, “No” when you want to say, “No”.
Self care is a chore that is important to keep up, even if it feels like procrastinating. It isn’t procrastinating, it’s an important part of maintaining your mental wellbeing. Always make time for self care in between working.
Make sure you take time out of work – like people in square jobs do – so that you get a break like all workers deserve. Sex work can be mentally draining if you push yourself too hard to work all the time. Breaks are good!
Speak to a professional with experience working with sex workers when you feel like you need to talk. Friends with no experience in the industry can sometimes give advice without a good knowledge on the experience of sex workers and it is good to get peer led support.
To support sex workers as a friend or family member
oNever assume that the sex worker coming to you for support is trapped within the industry or that they want to leave it. They may well want to transition to another line of work or they may just want someone to talk to about their job like people in other lines of work do. It is always the sex worker’s decision to choose where and how they work. Trying to discourage a sex worker from their role when they do not wish to leave makes them less likely to reach out for support in the future.
If you appear like you do not agree with a sex worker’s decision to work in the industry or if they feel like you are alarmed by what they are saying, this will prevent them coming to you for further support. Try to stay calm and make sure they know they are understood and not judged.
It is never up to you to inform someone of someone else’s decision to work in the sex work industry. Even if the person you are talking about seems comfortable being open about their involvement in sex work, it is always violence against sex workers to out a sex worker.
Always correct your peers on anti sex work language and call out anti sex work behaviour. You never know who in your close circle may be sex working.
Make it clear that you do not have a good knowledge of the industry if this is the case. Refer to organisations like ours if you need support and encourage sex workers who come to you for support to get in touch.
Avoid terms such as “prostitution”, “prostitute” and “prostituting themselves”. Refer to sex workers as “sex workers” and let the person coming to you for support define their role for themselves.
Avoid shame inducing statements like “you’re better than this” and “you poor thing”. Not all sex workers feel vulnerable. Let the sex worker coming to you define how they feel and follow suit.