"What words should I use when talking about sex work?"

"What words should I use when talking about sex work?"

Georgie Wolf
Georgie Wolf
What sort of language is most appropriate to use when describing sex work? Some words and language around sex and sex work can have a complex web of meanings (especially to someone like myself who is just starting to learn about this industry from afar). Words can of course include both derogatory and positive connotations - sometimes perhaps even for the same word. One example would be what word to use to refer to sex workers, another might be choosing between words such as breasts, tits, and boobs. I guess context is important here, but do you have any tips for respectful yet sexy word and language choices?

Thanks so much for this question! I love it when people get in touch asking how to do things better. I know you’re all here to learn about the sex industry in general - and about sex workers in particular - but it can still feel hard sometimes to change the way we think about things or the way we do things. So whenever I get a message like this from someone who genuinely wants to know the right way to do something, it’s awesome.

Here’s a quick run-down on using the best possible language when talking to and about sex workers. Not that this answer isn’t the be-all-and-end-all; I’m only one person, with very specific experiences. Language changes over time. And I’m located in Australia, where the language might be a little different from, say, the United States. so I’d encourage you to take the specifics as guidelines and stay open-minded as you interact with sex workers. As with all things, the right attitude is more important than knowing the ‘rules’.

But first, why is it important to try and use the right language? Well, language is powerful. It changes how we think about other people. And, unfortunately, a lot of the popular terms people use to describe escorts and other full-service sex workers - such as ‘hooker’, ‘call girl’, or ‘prostitute’ - have negative connotations. They encourage the idea that sex work is shameful or harmful. And it’s just not true. If you want to be free of sex work stigma, you need to find better words.

Here are a few general sex work terms that are great to know…

  • Sex worker. A sex worker is any person who swaps sexual (or sexy) services for payment. It’s not just about escorts - the term ‘sex worker’ can include dozens of different roles: such as phone sex workers, brothel workers, stripper, adult content creators, and cam performers.
  • Escort. Let’s get more specific. and escort is a kind of sex worker who provides in-person services of companionship and/or physical intimacy. This often includes sex (although, of course, what you and your escort get up to will depend on the situation and what you both agree to.)
  • Provider/companion. These are more discreet terms that can refer to an escort or any other kind of in-person sex worker.
  • Full service. This refers to a kind of sex work service that typically involves sexual intercourse. But, as noted above, that doesn’t mean a full-service worker is guaranteed to have sex with you! It still depends on what you both agree to once you meet.

What about sexual acts? Well, it depends on the culture you’re in! But here are a few fairly safe bets, if you’re discussing these topics with a worker. Please note that it’s not always appropriate to mention sexual activities when you request a booking - if you’re in a location where full-service work is criminalised, you may need to wait until you’ve met your worker in person and they’ve indicated it’s okay to start talking about the specifics.

  • Sex. If you’re interested in getting laid, the best word to use is ‘sex’. I know there are ten million other euphemisms, but let’s keep it simple and avoid any misunderstandings, okay?
  • Oral sex/blow job/eating pussy. If oral is your favorite past-time, you can ask for this during a session. As with intercourse, it’s best to be direct: ‘Is it okay if I eat your pussy?’ Or vice versa.
  • Anal sex/Greek. This can mean anal sex on the worker, or on you - make sure you specify so they don’t get confused about who is giving and who is receiving!
  • Pegging. This is anal sex using a strap-on, usually performed on you by the provider.
  • Hand job. Yep, it’s fine to ask for a hand job. I’m sure many of us would be only too happy to oblige, once the fee is paid!
  • Threesome/double. Requesting a threesome with two providers is a very common fantasy. Usually, a booking with two female workers who have sex with each other is called a ‘lesbian double’. If it’s two workes who only interact with you, it’s a ‘straight double’.

When it comes to sexual activities, the golden rule is to be direct and honest. Using obscure words or dropping hints because you’re embarrassed to ask isn’t the best way to get what you need. Once you’ve asked, wait for a clear ‘yes’ from your provider before proceeding.

Now, let’s talk about body parts. As with sexy stuff, I think it’s best to be direct. Lots of guys feel awkward using the anatomical words but it can feel a lot more cringe-ey when a client uses euphemisms! It’s really obvious you’re embarrassed, and it might ruin the mood.

  • Vagina/vulva/pussy. When it comes to female anatomy, the most common words are usually the best. But make sure you know what’s what! Fun fact: the vulva is the outer part of the genitalia, and ‘vagina’ refers to only the internal tube. When communicating during sex, using the right word for the place you want to explore is sure to impress.

Penis/dick/cock. The same rules apply here. Try to be matter-of-fact.

Breasts. To be honest, I’m not a fan of the word ‘tits’. But I don’t think it’s inherently disrespectful; it’s all about how you say it. Shouting ‘show us your tits!’ when you meet a provider for the first time is sure to turn them off - but it’s much less about your choice of words than your behavior. If you’re getting intimate, a range of language choices might feel okay in the moment - consider checking in with your companion to make sure they feel comfortable and, of course, respect their ‘no’ if they say they don’t like a particular word.

This brings me to an important point - asking permission before you use language that could be seen as disrespectful. If you’re really into dirty talk in the bedroom, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, as with all things, your provider needs to consent too. Saying, ‘Would you be down for a little dirty talk?’ is the best way to ensure everyone is having fun. Pro tip: When getting consent for this, also ask, ‘Are there any words you’d prefer I didn’t use?’ Words that a sex worker might find hurtful, such as ‘slut’ or ‘whore’ could completely ruin the mood…they’re best avoided unless you’ve specifically negotiated this beforehand with your provider.

No matter which words you use, the main thing to keep in mind is attitude. If you respect the person you’re getting sexy with, the terms you use are more likely to be well-received because your companion will be able to see that you mean well and you’re trying to treat them right. On the other hand, if you secretly think sex workers are gross or shameful, that vibe is going to seep out into everything you do or say. Chances are, your provider will pick up on the fact that you don’t care about them, and you won’t get a great service.

In summary, the best approach is to use language that is respectful, professional, and considerate of your provider’s preferences and boundaries. When you recognise our humanity and professionalism, you contribute to a more positive and accurate understanding of the sex industry.