Why Sex Workers of Colour Give It Up for Less

T.T. James

 GUEST BLOGGER:  T. T. James worked in the sex trade for six years from
 age 19 to 26 in Toronto.  She is a mother, visionary thinker & poet who
 writes, edits, and blogs. 

 Check out her personal/opinion blog The Female Sex.
In the sex industry, everyone discriminates.

The fit, youthful, white sex worker is the standard of beauty; the middle-aged white male is the standard of wealth; and everyone discriminates according to those standards.

Customers have their preferences; they generally prefer the standard.  Owners, operators, etc. prefer to employ the standard sex worker because that’s what customers prefer.  Law enforcement officials often target marginalized sex workers for arrest.  Even sex workers are guilty of prejudging customers based on age, race, gender, or presumed wealth.

Customers who don’t want the standard prefer so-called “exotic” ladies.  “Exotic” in this case means non-white, slender, with distinctly fine facial features, different from the standard but still familiar.

White sex workers make more money and get the right of first refusal because they’re the objects of the average erotic fantasy and can afford to be more picky.  Exotics, however, usually have to take what we can get, and we rarely refuse customers unless they’re a threat to our personal safety

In fact, marginalized or exotic sex workers—particularly sex workers of colour—are expected, if not forced, to compete in other ways for the same amount or for less money.

I worked in the sex industry off and on for a total of about six years and was considered “exotic” as a black woman.  Like other exotic sex workers, I was either the object of someone’s race fetish, the object of someone’s race fantasy or second choice for cheap tricks who didn’t always want to pay in full for the standard.

In certain areas of the sex trade, a client looking for someone “exotic” likely wants to fulfill sex fantasies that go beyond the type of debauchery that his sex partner or even the average sex worker is willing to be a part of.  That client wants to get down and dirty to explore the darkest depths of his own sexuality and to do and say things that he would never admit publicly.  Typically, this type of client also wants to pay as little as possible for all that raunch because he expects sex workers of colour to charge less money than the standard.

In 2003, I was working at a strip club just outside Toronto when a club regular requested two dancers for a VIP show: one black, one blonde.  He was very specific about the complexion of the black dancer, the hair colour of the white dancer, and the type of show he wanted to see.

The blonde dancer “Trish” and I were with the customer for 12 songs.  At $20 a song, we could each expect to earn $240, right?  Nope.  Just me.  “Trish” got $300.  We both gave him a nude show.  We were both involved in the girl-on-girl acting.  And we both let him feel us up a little.  So all things being equal except for our races, I had to ask, “No tip for the black girl?”  I asked jokingly so as not to scare him away but I was dead serious.  It took about half a song for me to kindly convince him to cough up another 60 bucks for me.

in 2011, the cost of a mandatory license was between $250-$300 (not including police & medical check)

A year earlier when I worked at a body rub parlour in Toronto, a guy came in and requested an attendant.  I told him I would show him to a room but he said he’d wait to see the other ladies.  After a few minutes, he decided to settle for me.  I had just been passed over by the last two customers who both preferred the standard so I couldn’t afford to take his initial decision personally.

He started off with a basic massage, which according to house rules was to include a rub and tug.  Whenever I could, I would avoid basic sessions because three quarters of the base rate had to go to the house.  But on that quiet afternoon when there were just a few clients, too many attendants, and very little cash to go around, that basic was a godsend. Still, I told the client that the towel had to stay on, hoping he’d want an upgrade.

Before upgrading to a nude-reverse (where a client massages a nude attendant), he started negotiating down the house price of the nude reverse.  I told him I couldn’t negotiate below the rate.  He said he’d stick with the basic.  So I agreed to a $20 discount.

Those are only two examples but there have been plenty of instances where I was expected to give more for less or had to cheapen myself to avoid going home with nothing.  I sometimes had to reduce rates to keep clients.  On other occasions, I’d give my regular clients free upgrades so they’d keep coming back to me.  And in other scenarios, I’d allow certain clients to touch me in ways that were not included in the price of a session.

Sex work is ruthlessly competitive.  Racial discrimination is rampant and acceptable in the industry.  And sex workers of colour end up having to do more favours—reduce rates, offer specials, or get down real dirty—just to stay in the game.

6 Responses to “Why Sex Workers of Colour Give It Up for Less”
  1. tricia says:

    http://bodyrubusa.com is a great place to post your massage ad for free. It’s set up like craigslist or backpage, but for body workers only. I get about 8 calls a day from there. Usually serious buyers. Hope this helps. I cant wait for the next post! Great blog!

  2. I am a sex worker of colour and I have been in the industry for quiet a while it could be that I only worked as an escort, web cam model, phone sex operator, porn star, and very little time in a massage parlor.rub n tug or strip club. but I have always been able to get my full rate never been talked down by a client to lower my rates. I have always been able to stand my ground in my rates and get what I deserve. this is definitely from one sex worker of colour experience not mine.

    • I think it’s great when sex workers of color can make as much or more than our white counterparts! Unfortunately, the sex industry reflects much of the racism in the larger world resulting in workers of color being underpaid, underscheduled, & disrepected in ways that white sex workers rarely if ever experience. I think it’s great that you hold your ground on prices & being treated right. It’s one of the strategies that I’d suggest. But the reality remains that when a client offers less because you’re a person of color, he might easily find another sex worker who will do it for his price just so that (s)he keeps the income for herself. It would be great if sex workers could agree to minimum prices & refuse to allow customers to underprice them so that there’s a minimum that everyone is comfortable with.

  3. al says:

    I want to meet and hopefully start seeing u.

  4. I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] in less desirable parts of the industry and face more danger including law enforcement. eg youth, people of colour, trans women, migrants, drug […]

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