Staying safe in any profession should be seen as an inevitable right.
Unfortunately, we know that sex work can present its own set of unique challenges meaning this isn’t always a given.
So what can you do to ensure you can operate as safely as possible? We sat down with National Ugly Mugs, a UK-wide organisation who provide justice and protection for sex workers, to reveal some of their top safety tips and advice.
Staying safe: An interview with NUM
There are no schools you can go to learn how to sell sex. Most things you’ll have to figure out on your own, by making your own mistakes. But there are a few things that you can learn from your colleagues with experience. This is where we jump in.
We are a bunch of people at NUM – National Ugly Mugs, a UK-wide organisation that operates a reporting and alerting system for everyone who sells sex – with experience in various types of sex work.
We want everyone in the sex industry to be safe, no matter what your reasons are for doing sex work. And so we’ve put together this list of tips to help not only keep you safe but to maximise your earnings too.
1. Spot the time wasters
Time wasters are rife in the adult industry and they will be one of your biggest expenses. Time is money, and any time wasted on queries or messages from people who don’t intend to pay you is, therefore, an unnecessary cost.
Time wasters are frustrating, but there are a few telltale signs you’ll see all over their messages – other than them breathing heavily:
- They ask many questions, lots of them unnecessary
- They are not specific about the time they want to see you
- They suggest the amount of money that is different from your rate, either too much or too little
- They start with things like “if I like you, I’ll be a regular”
- They text you if your ad says to call and call you if your ad says to text
- They say they are too shy to meet/call and want more reassurance
- They ask about things that are already explained in your ad
- They pretend that they called/ texted the wrong number
- They want you to travel (to a place far away) to visit them
Calls from withheld numbers should always go unanswered. If a caller isn’t willing to give you contact information, they can ghost you and no-show with no way of being reached.
It is also common to ask for a deposit from clients you’re unsure of to confirm a booking – this is another way to weed out the time wasters.
2. Have a buddy system in place and screen clients
A buddy is a trusted person who knows what you are doing, where and with whom. This way, if anything happens during your meeting, there will be someone who can take the client’s information to the relevant authorities.
Usually, this isn’t necessary, as at the beginning of the session the client will see you call your buddy to check-in and confirm everything is going as planned. Then afterwards, when you leave, call again and confirm everything is ok – maybe even with a secret code word or phrase.
If you don’t have anyone appropriate, there are sex worker forums and groups you can post in and ask if anyone is willing to be that person for you.
Also, set up some kind of screening procedure and stick to it. You can, for example, ask a potential client for a reference from another sex worker, or for some other information that will make you feel safe to meet them, like their driving licence or council tax bill if you’re visiting them at their home.
If a client refuses that or attempts to manipulate you into foregoing screening, they could be even worse than a time waster.
3. How to handle money
You should always always always get the money FIRST. Whether it’s cash or some kind of digital transaction, the money should be safe in your hands, counted and correct before anything else happens.
It might help you to say something like “Let’s sort the paperwork first, then we can forget about it and enjoy ourselves” – this maintains a friendly atmosphere while also being firm, and most clients will happily get their wallets out as soon as you ask.
If possible, make sure you deposit cash into your bank account regularly. The tellers will not bat an eye because that’s what they do all day – they just want to make sure they’ve counted it right. They’re not the police, they’re used to large amounts of cash being paid in. Try to keep your deposits roughly around the same amount – it’ll help with budgeting, too.
If you can’t or don’t have a bank account, try to have smaller amounts of cash stashed in a few different places around your home – especially if you work from home. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and REMEMBER WHERE YOU PUT THEM.
4. Keep your clothing simple
Yes, it’s tempting to invest in extravagant lingerie, corsets and escort attire with lots of straps, laces and rhinestones, but in reality, most clients don’t care and all of those accessories will end up getting in the way or lost.
Keep it simple; leave the big fancy jewellery at home and pick clothes and shoes that you can easily (and sexily) take off and quickly put on again in case you need to leave in a hurry.
If a client requests that you wear anything special, make them buy it and have it ready for your arrival and don’t spend your own money. New clothes and lingerie are a business expense, so you want to keep them to a minimum and ask your clients to sponsor your new looks.
5. Separate your bags
Don’t carry any personal things that could identify you, or more money than you need to get home from the client. On top of your dedicated work phone, also have a separate “work handbag” that is always ready to go.
If you’re worried about keeping your identity secret, you need to make sure that you either aren’t carrying ID or other identifying information OR that your client goes absolutely nowhere near your bag. Take it with you to the bathroom, hold onto it like your life depends on it. If you have any medical ID or medication, make sure you keep those with you.
Also, make sure that you have the essentials – condoms, lube, any sex toys you might want, mints, basic makeup, baby wipes/tissues, maybe a change of clothes or just fresh underwear. Be as prepared as you can!
6. Alcohol and drugs at work
Clients will sometimes ask if you want ‘to party’ – this usually simply means they want you to get drunk and/or high with them, so don’t expect a birthday bash with balloons and a cake. As with everything, don’t be pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do.
Drunk clients can be especially unpredictable and risky. While some might be laid back when they’re tipsy, others find it difficult to ‘perform’ and blame it on you. Some of them may become violent. Weigh the risks, reject the booking or remain firm on your boundaries.
7. Sign up to reporting services such as NUM
You can report any dangerous clients to NUM, and also access alerts about other potentially dangerous people in your area using the NUM alerting system. There’s also a phone number and email checker so you’ll be able to see if the person contacting you has already been reported.
We recommend making this part of your regular screening process to make sure you’re not meeting with any known dangerous clients or serial offenders.
Signing up is free for sex workers and our caseworkers can also support you managing the criminal justice system in case you want to report any crimes committed against you.
If you want to sign up to National Ugly Mugs, visit their website today.
Find out more safety information and advice on sex work here: