What it's like to be a sex worker in lockdown

The reason I first chose to become a sex worker is the same as it is for most of us: money.

I was a single mum of two and had just come out of a 13-year-long relationship. We had a very vanilla sex life, and I craved the chance to explore my sexuality.

While talking to a friend of mine, and finding out that he had put himself through university working in web camming, I signed up to become a cam girl, streaming live chats and video, which mainly revolved around sex, to both men and women.

The job came very easily to me and I enjoyed it, but I had to work at night (it was an American website) for next to no money, then do my part-time job and look after my kids in the day.

Some of the men kept asking if I did escorting, so eventually, I decided to try it.

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When I started out I wasn’t actually aware that sex work is legal, so I did it as a side gig. I’ve been in the industry nine years, but it has been my main income for the past 10 months.

There is a stigma attached to people who buy (and sell) sex; the stereotype is that they are all sleazy, overweight men in their 40s who want to fulfil dirty fantasies – but that’s not the case.

A couple of years ago, I had a client whose wife was seriously ill. He had quit his job a decade earlier to become her full-time carer. He wanted the ‘girlfriend experience’ – the compassion and tenderness that he couldn’t get from his partner, because she just wasn’t well enough.

He loved her very much, but he needed the kind of connection that only sex can create. 

Once, he told me that our weekly 30-minute session was the only thing that kept him going. It’s humbling to know that you can change someone’s life simply by giving them the affection they deeply crave.

Most of the men I meet want this type of experience, however, because of my size, I do get some more unusual requests. I’m a UK size 32 and often get asked to do ‘crushing’ or smothering. One guy wanted me to walk on his chest in stilettos – I said no, for fear of hurting him. Someone else asked me to fart on him (but I can’t fart on command, so I declined).

While I have limits on sexual acts, I don’t have an age range; I am happy to see anyone, as long as they are over 18. My oldest session was with someone who was 74 years old. He showed up dressed in a suit and tie, as if he was going on a date – it was very sweet.

Lockdown ending doesn’t mean I’ll head straight back to work – not until the death rate is significantly lower

I refer to my regulars as ‘my guys’, as I feel the relationships we have built would be lessened somewhat if I just referred to them as clients. During lockdown, I have been texting some of them regularly to see how they are doing and if they have someone who is able to get groceries for them.

They are too far away for me to help, but it’s important for me to know that they are OK, and it gives them someone to talk to for a bit.

There have been difficult times over the years, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

My family had a hard time coming to terms with what I do. My mum and dad were both shocked when they found out. I think they are embarrassed and I know that my dad would rather I got a ‘real job’. 

But I love what I do, and sex work is a real job.

At the start of lockdown, my business was at a stand-still. I’m a hypochondriac at the best of times, so when hotels and the schools closed, I stopped seeing clients altogether.

Having children also means that I can’t webcam or create new videos and pictures at home, so I’ve been renting a property on a short-term lease, where I can do this.

I’ve looked at the government’s furlough scheme for the self-employed, and I’m not eligible for it. I’m not surprised – many government officials don’t take businesses like mine seriously, in the same way they would with plumbers or electricians, for instance.

I offer an important service, I run a business and I pay my taxes. It’s frustrating that I am not given the same respect.

My regulars have been really great, because they understand how serious the pandemic is, and I’ve managed to convince some of them to try webcamming with me or phone sex instead. I also have a long list of people wanting to see me as soon as it’s safe to do so.

There have been people requesting to meet up though, I’ve had around 50+ texts or calls asking if I’m still seeing people.

Despite the current situation, I consider myself lucky, because I know people who aren’t as fortunate – like the girls who solicit in the street. They are the ones who are really suffering right now as they face a big choice: to work without safety measures or not to work at all.

To me, lockdown ending doesn’t mean I’ll head straight back to work – not until the death rate is significantly lower, and I have confirmation from official sources that sex work is safe to do.

I don’t have an underlying health condition, but I am overweight and it’s a frightening virus – I have children who depend on me.

As much as I love my job and the people I meet through it, I just can’t take that risk.

In her line of work, Sadie uses Smooci, an escort-directory app in the UK, where prospective clients can contact her.

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