The Politics of Protection, or Why I won’t do OWO

Since this blog is partly to reach out and make contact with clients, I have definately made a blogging fail already: many clients will have mentally switched off or clicked away already- these are clients who seek OWO. Oral With Out (protection) is one of my personal buttons-you-press-for-a-rant, and that button has been sorely tested twice in the last 24 hours. I’ll tell you how, but first let me explain my position- it’s a carefully reasoned one, and because I’ve a lot to say, I’ll try to make it interesting.

OWO is fundamentally risky. The risks of catching an STI are indeed lower than having unprotected vaginal/anal penetrative sex, but they are real. Read more here. I admit, we live in a risky world, but since I’m lucky enough to choose to do this work (sex workers who aren’t choosing their work almost certainly have more to worry about than OWO), happily I can choose not to engage with the risk of infecting myself with HIV at work. I visit a GUM Clinic specifically for sex workers, where the latest research regarding risks is available to my specialist nurse (the lovely Sarah at the Open Doors project, at  The Ivy Clinic, Hackney I started doing this work around August 2010, and in my first few months I also offered OWO. I was told by another sex worker that the risks were negligable and that she had done it herself for many years and never caught anything. However, as far as I am aware, the girl who had “never caught anything” had not identified herself as a sex worker to the GUM clinic- and therefore crucially would not have been tested- the general public are NOT routinely throat-swabbed for STIs. Many STIs are asymptomatic. This is my first piece of advice: everyone should try to access appropriate GUM care for themselves; whether sex worker, client, LGBT person, BDSM practitioner (eg. engaging in certain at-risk activities) or otherwise. If your sexual activity puts you at unusual risk, you owe it to yourself and all your sexual partners (paid or unpaid) to honestly and openly engage with health services, as this is the only way that appropriate care can be given.

Having taken specialist advice on the matter, I’ve decided that to me, OWO is the same as bareback. I will treat it in the same manner. I am constantly approached for both activities, and this surprises me- why approach someone who does not advertise such a service, when other providers do? When I posed this question recently, a client explained “I can’t risk bareback with a girl who advertises it, but since you don’t, I can at least offer a high fee and hope that you’ll consider on that basis.”This client also offered the following information; that he was married, and had been for several years, and that he had a valid certificate from a clinic. This is very poor logic on many levels, but I will explain how I explained to this client.

1) If a client is seeking bareback/OWO with me, who is to say that he is not engaging in these activities with other partners (paid or unpaid)? And how can it be guaranteed that those partners are necessarily NOT engaging in bareback/OWO with their partners? Even if he was married/had no other sexual partners (paid or unpaid)- this client was seeking bareback/OWO with me- how would he know that his wife was not also having sex with other partners (paid or unpaid)? I doubt very much he reported his activities with escorts to his wife.

2)I do not believe in the existance of “valid certificates of sexual cleanliness”. There is absolutely no way for me to verify that you have not been engaging in any risky behaviour unless you have been in controlled conditions in a laboratory since your last test. Risky behaviour includes having sex with your wife- as before, if you are seeking sex workers, how can you guarantee she is not? Hands up all those who have protected oral sex with their wives. *tumbleweed* I thought not. If a client has sexual partners other than me who he does not tell about our engagement, then he owes it to this person(or these people) to safeguard their health by using condoms for oral and penetrative sex at all times.

3) If I agree to bareback with you for a high fee, how can you guarantee I am not regularly paid a high fee for this service?  If I do it with you although I didn’t advertise it, perhaps other men may be successfully accessing this service the same way.

4) Many people have sex with their partners unprotected- imagine I did agree to have bareback sex/OWO with you. We have already discussed the possibility of *your* partner bringing an unknown risk into the equation. How about my partner/s? I have no way to guarantee another person’s health status. [Actually I now never do OWO/bareback in my private life either- but that is of no consequence, because as I have said many times now, there's no way for me to verify /you/ haven't engaged in any risky behaviour].

What irks me the most however, is clients who spend a great deal of time and effort engaging with you about a booking, especially a lengthy (expensive) booking and then say that they will not carry out the booking without bareback/OWO. I’m very, very fortunate in being able to say no, even to bookings of such monetry/other value. There are clearly sex workers who are not in my position. As we have already discussed- bareback/OWO with a sex worker is unlikely to be undertaken in agreement with any other of your sexual partners (ie. your wife). Non-consensual activities are rape.

If the sex worker you visit is in the position of having to agree to an activity s/he does not want to do, for financial reasons, they’re pretty unlikely to enjoy it. I certainly wouldn’t enjoy giving oral sex if my mind constantly had to wander to the possibility of whether I would catch HIV by doing so. If you are titillated by having your cock sucked by someone who is forced to pay the price of his/her health for your cash, then you are not the client for me, and I am certainly not the provider for you. I do see many married clients, and we both go home safe in the knowledge we have protected ourselves and our loved ones by having protected sex at all times.

condom heartSome sex workers, like myself, are in an ideal position to be disseminators of safe sex education and refuse OWO; others are too oppressed to consider it a possibility, so clients must also demand protected oral sex. Capitalism works on supply and demand. I have heard that OWO was rare in the 80′s, when AIDS was foremost in people’s minds, clearly clients were not seeking it and providers not providing it.  My dream is one where sex workers unite to decide that bareback and OWO will not be provided under any circumstances. Until then, these things will still go on, but STIs will continue to proliferate. STIs are *preventable*and thankfully, my clients and partners agree with me: Safe Sex is Sexy.

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