Essential safety for sex workers

General safety advice

Always trust your instincts/gut feelings. If you feel uncertain about someone, then there is a good reason for it. It’s not worth ignoring your instinct and later wishing you hadn't. Appearances can be deceptive. Don’t assume someone is OK just because they look ‘respectable’. The same goes for ‘regulars’. When talking to a client, keep a confident look on your face and be assertive, strong and in control. Stick to your prices and limits. There is no negotiation when it comes to a contract you make with yourself. Before meeting with a client, decide what you are and are not willing to do. Be friendly but firm when negotiating services with a client and explain your limits. Remember to say what services you provide, where you will go for business and how much you charge. Be willing to turn down a client, a particular request or offers of payment below your standards. Carry a personal safety alarm or a whistle, and don’t be afraid to use it. Keep it handy, somewhere you can get it quickly. The bottom of your bag is not handy! Pockets are better! If you have one, carry a mobile phone. You can programme it to speed dial a number at the press of one button. Make this the number of the police or one of your friends, so you can get help quickly. You could also put your local sex work project’s number in.

Plan your exits. Wherever you work, always be aware of escape routes and don’t let a client get between you and the nearest exit. Avoid working when high, stoned or drunk.  Keep focused on the behaviour of the client and keep your eyes on your client and their hands at all times. Remember-being ‘Streetwise’ does not guarantee you safety - if in doubt GET OUT!

Getting ready for work

It is important to think about your personal safety and to plan before you go to work. Always tell someone when you are going out to work, where you are going and when you expect to be back. Ideally, agree what they will do if you don’t return, and who you want them to contact. It might be helpful for this person to have the number of the local sex work project and let them know its fine to contact them if they are worried or you haven’t returned when you were supposed to. Take your mobile phone, charged and with credit; or a phone card; or some money if you don’t have a mobile. Remember, you don’t need cash or credit to call 999 from a mobile or land-line. Take your personal safety alarm and check before you go out that its working. Take a pen/pencil and some paper to write down any info like registration numbers. Have a small amount of cash with you in case you don’t make any money, or get dumped by a client and you need to use a payphone or get public transport home. Read the latest ‘ugly mugs/dodgy punter’ info or check the website alerts. Dress for safety. Your local sex work project can advise you on dressing safely for work or scroll down this page and look under the heading Dressing for Work. Try to be rested and alert.

Drugs and alcohol

If you use drugs or alcohol, avoid taking them when you are working, if you can, so that you remain in control. You are much more at risk if you are under the influence of drink or drugs.. If you do use when you are working, try to use an amount that keeps you stable. Use just enough so you are not withdrawing but not so much that you are ‘drunk’, ‘gouching’ or ‘off your head’. If you are in any of these states, you may be less likely to use your safety strategies effectively, and might be targeted by some people. Letting customers know you use drugs gives them more opportunity to try and take advantage of you. It can allow them to tempt you with drugs rather than cash, which means you, might lose out.

Spiked drink, drugs and food

If your client offers you a drink in private, ask for an unopened can or bottle, or serve yourself. Don’t take any drink you haven’t seen prepared from start to finish. Make sure your client is happy to drink from the same bottle or glass as you. If your client offers you food in private, don’t accept it unless it’s pre-packed and still in its sealed wrapper, or you have seen it prepared from start to finish. Make sure your client is happy to eat the same food. Avoid accepting drugs from or taking drugs with clients; you can never be sure what they are or what they have been cut with. This also makes you more vulnerable as you don’t know how they will react when under the influence.

Dressing for work

Keep clothing simple: the fewer pieces of clothing you have, the fewer items to keep track of have stolen or lose. Also the fewer items to be grabbed if you need to leave quickly. Check that your clothing is ‘straightjacket proof’ and can’t be pulled over your shoulders to lock your arms. If possible, wear clothing that doesn’t have to be removed to have sex, or that is easy to put on and take off. If you work on the streets, wear clothes that make you visible at night. Wear comfortable shoes that come off easily but allow you to run. It’s best to make sure you can run in whatever shoes you wear to work. Avoid tight skirts as these will slow you down. Wear trousers with easy access especially if you go with clients in cars. If you are wearing trousers/jeans and need to take them off for business, remove them completely if possible. You can’t run with them around your knees, and they will slow you down.

It’s best to avoid jewellery, but if you choose to wear necklaces or earrings make sure they are small, come off easily and that you don’t mind losing them in an emergency or if the client tries to rip you off. Avoid large hoop or dangling earrings which someone could grab and pull off (unless they are clip-ons). Avoid heavy or thick necklaces. Be careful of crosses or charms which could be used as weapons if taken from you. Avoid sharp jewellery which can damage condoms. Remove body piercings before meeting with clients: the jewellery can be grabbed and ripped out. If piercings are a selling point, be clear with clients about proper play so they don’t cut their mouths or accidentally injure you during a session. Don’t wear a scarf or other item round your neck as someone could grab it, possibly from a car, and choke you. That feather boa may look great but… Be aware that over-the-shoulder bags and backpacks are a risk. Their straps can be used to hold or choke you, and can also get trapped in car doors

Think about the positioning of your bag and how visible it is. Some people feel it is safer on their shoulder, so it can’t be used to choke or restrain them if someone grabs it. It is best to avoid putting your bag strap around or near your neck or shoulders. If you don’t carry necessary items (condoms, lube, safety alarm, and phone) in your bag, leave it at home or in a locker. Stash keys and other important personal items where they can be safe. Pockets are useful. If you have long hair, tie it up. If you need glasses or contact lenses, wear them. Be careful getting in and out of cars! Long skirts/coats, flares, oversized belts and bags can get trapped. If you are transgender, think carefully about how you want to present yourself and whether you will disclose your gender. Be aware of how clients might react (go to the Trans section of the site for more specific advice by clicking here)

Sex workers provide a wide range of increasingly professionalised services

  • Anal, vaginal or oral sex
  • Bondage, domination, sadomasochism and asphyxiation
  • Fetish
  • Exotic dance
  • Strip tease
  • Lap and pole dancing
  • Peep shows
  • Pornography: films, photos and modeling
  • Phone, cyber and webcam shows
  • Escorting: a companion for dinner, theatre, social functions, holidays
  • Massage: erotic touch and genital

Sexual positioning: stay on top in every way

It is important to let your client know from the start that you are confident and in control of what happens between you. Be clear before you start about any sexual positions or activities that you do not offer. Be aware of body language. Suggest confidence and control by using eye contact, direct language about what you are comfortable doing with the clients, and watching their hands. State clear limits about what you are willing to do and stay focused on the behaviour of the client. Keep your eyes on your client and their hands at all times. Many sex workers recommend sitting astride (on top of) their customer for vaginal or anal sex as this gives you the best position for control; you have your hands free and your customer is lying below you. In this position, you can sit on your knees for penetrative sex and guide how much the penis enters you, particularly useful for large boys and when you are sore! Try to avoid the customer being behind you (doggy style) as you can’t see what they are doing and this position makes you much more vulnerable. Many sex workers, who work indoors, use a room with a large mirror so they can see their customer at all times. If a particular position starts to feel sore or uncomfortable try to offer an alternative by suggesting that something else would really ‘turn me on…’ etc! Avoid long necklaces and earrings as these can be grabbed or get caught up somewhere nasty!

If things go wrong

If you are followed: Cross the road, maybe twice, to be sure that the person is following you. If they are, head for the nearest pub, police station, garage or open shop as quickly as you can. Go the most public route to the most public place Try to keep yourself composed and your thoughts rational. Pay attention to what someone is actually doing, rather than what you think they might do. Don’t add to your fear by letting your imagination take over. Be positive and confident about your actions. Focus on the fact that you are heading to a safe place, where you will be with other people. Do not head for home, even if someone is waiting for you there. When you get to a public place such as a pub, if the person follows you in and takes a position where they can observe you, try to socialise with other people in the venue to give the impression that you are meeting friends. If you have a mobile, phone a trusted colleague or friend who could come and meet you at the venue. If you do not have anyone you can call, and you feel genuinely threatened, then you should contact the police. It’s safer to go to a public place than to let a stranger know where you live If the person leaves the venue, wait a good 20 to 30 minutes before planning your exit to ensure they do not return and are not waiting outside. Either wait to be collected by your friend, or if it feels safe to do so, leave the venue at the same time as other people If you think you need to, cause a commotion. Make lots of noise and fuss to attract attention and to deter the person following you-report it to us by clicking here.

If someone becomes aggressive

  • If they want your money or bag, decide if it is really worth the fight and potential risk to your life to hang onto it
  • Stay calm – try to calm the person and talk them out of it:
  • Use open-handed gestures
  • Speak in a low, quiet tone and don’t raise your voice or shout
  • Use friendly, sensitive language
  • Try to show understanding and sympathy
  • Keep thinking about how you will get out of the situation
  • Don’t allow fear, panic or anger to take over
  • Tell them someone knows where you are, is meeting you, expecting you home soon or waiting for you
  • Cry hysterically – even if you have to pretend
  • Pretend you are feeling sick and about to vomit
  • Don’t carry weapons which could be used against you
  • Consider giving an ‘ugly mug/dodgy punter’ report about the incident
  • Some local support projects run workshops on de-escalation techniques so you can learn how to calm a person down; how to talk them out of attacking you; and how to get away from an attacker

If you Are Attacked:

  • Make as much noise as possible by shouting, screaming or yelling
  • If you have an alarm, use it. If you can, hold it near the attacker’s ear or throw the cord so they can’t take it off you to turn it off
  • If you are in a car, hit the horn or flash the lights to attract attention, make as much noise as you can

Decision time

Although this is a difficult one, you may have to submit in order to preserve your life. Some people are sometimes physically stronger than you. DO NOT try to fight unless you are certain you can win or you are convinced they intend to kill you. If you decide to submit, cut your thoughts to concentrate on the fact that the attack will end and you will hold on for that moment and then get help. If you decide to fight back to escape, you must be confident that you are going to be able to immobilise your attacker. If you don’t know proper self-defence, aim for the eyes, throat, groin or chest.