Covid-19 – Coronavirus and the sex industry

"Here's a tip for you!"

Dear community, clients and sex workers,

My name is Cristiano Terra. I am 34 years old. I have been an escort and massage therapist for 3 years now. I’m proud of my accomplishments as a sex worker. Pleasing my clients makes me happy and has supported me through my studies. However, today I would like to talk about serious matter concerning many sex workers all over the world for which I urge attention.

Everyone already knows that we are going through a pandemic, that affects without exception all the countries around the globe. The whole world has come together around Covid-19 to fight the pandemic and the crisis it is causing. Collective action is essential for the fastest possible resolution of this issue. The WHO recommendation to address this problem is to isolate human contact as much as possible and detailed hygiene recommendations.

How does Covid-19 affect the sex industry? Well, it may seem obvious, but in the midst of a global crisis, many have not stopped to think about it. An intimate encounter between clients and sex workers runs counter to the basic principle of isolation proposed for protection against Covid-19. For a successful meeting, kisses, hugs, caresses, massage, touching, physical contact, human warmth, eye-to-eye conversation, are essential items. None of this can happen from safe distance. The ways of safe enjoyment are reduced to phone sex or video call sex. The reality is that virtual contact is not what most clients are looking for.

Sex workers become one of the most fragile and vulnerable of all occupations. It is worth remembering some essential facts. For most sex workers, prostitution is not an “alternative income”. It is their main income, if not the only one. Many of us use our income to support our family, some of us are married, some have children, some have parents or siblings who depend on our contribution. And remember, we sex workers (and “love workers” if you allow me to add), have often have expensive CBD apartments. These apartments we have carefully chosen to provide privacy, security, comfort and convenience for our clients. We often go above and beyond to provide excellent service. And one most aggravating factors, as we belong to the informal economy, a large number of sex workers do not have access to government assistance.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, I think you guys know where I'm heading with this. During such crisis, please notice how many ads are still active. With drastic loss of income, lack of resources for basic expenses and support their dependents, sex workers, even knowing about the pandemic and that it’s time to be safe, feel an enormous pressure to take risks and remain active during the crisis. I myself have been able to self-isolate and decline clients so far. But most sex workers are now caught between breaking self-isolation to work or starving.

I know that many of you are in a situations of stress, with partial loss of income, or unsure about the future of your own employment. But for those who can work from home in healthy isolation and have their income guaranteed, I plead for help on behalf of all sex workers. You can help however you want, here are a couple of suggestions:

1. Belated tip. Remember that dedicated worker who gave their best to provide you with unforgettable moments? They may have overdue bills and no money for basic needs. Send a message. Check how they are doing. Check if you can help, if possible, weekly. Another way of seeing it: Think of it as a well-deserved tip that you didn't pay on the last date? “That meeting was great! Thank you! By the way, here's a tip for you.”

2. Hire future services. Instead of donating, you can buy now a service you will get after the crisis. It may be essential to cover for rent, for example.

3. Donation. Never hired? Hiring is not in your plans? How about donating? If possible, weekly for as long as the crisis lasts. Better a constant little than a lot just once.

4. Shopping. Don't want to donate? Then consider making weekly grocery shopping for someone. This is likely to alleviate expenses.

It may seem easy to ask for help, but it is not. Admitting one's own fragility and vulnerability is not a comfortable place to be. I am aware that many sex workers might criticize me for this message I am writing. But let us all be reasonable. We are at a crucial historical moment. If each boy or girl can at least cover the bills and survive the crisis caused by Covid-19, the pressure to work and take risks decreases and this way we protect everyone. That is why your help is so important, so that we can join forces in fighting against Covid-19.

So on behalf of all the sex (and love) professionals in New Zealand (and the around the world), I ask: Please remember those who have been so kind to you in the past. It's time to give back. Taking care of one is taking care of all. This will be essential to protect everyone from Coronavirus.

My deepest gratitude,

Cristiano Terra