Sex workers have become much more visible in politics and culture over the last couple of decades. Thanks to a surge of activism starting in the 1990s, memoirs and essays about sex work have become their own subgenre. Even in liberal circles, a lot of stigma still remains, but publicly admitting that you're an escort, stripper, or porn star is a lot more likely to be accepted as a valid choice.
But while the workers have been able to edge ever so slightly into the daylight, the clients have remained securely and silently in the shadows. With their new anthology, Johns, Marks, Tricks, and Chicken Hawks: Professionals and Clients Writing About Each Other, co-editors David Henry Sterry and R.J. Martin, Jr. are trying to shift the conversation to include both sides of the transaction. Sterry, and Martin will be reading at The Booksmith on Haight Street tonight along with several contributors. Sterry, who worked as a rent boy when he was 17, talked to us about sex, money, and how to be a good client.
SF Weekly: Why did you take the approach of doing a book about clients?
Well, the first book that we put together [Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys] was all sex workers. I just felt like it would be cool to see what people who are buying sex are thinking about it as opposed to people who are just selling it. People buy and sell sex for such different reasons, depending on who they are and what their circumstances are. People who are buying sex -- they're not heard from. It's this billion-dollar industry with no customers. So, I really wanted to find people who would write articulately about what the experience is like for them.