Sexwork Harm Reduction Tips (adapted from “Tricks of the Trade” by L. Synn Stern-Leslie Peterson)

Adapted from “Tricks of the Trade” by L. Synn Stern-
Leslie Peterson, PBDL 12/07

from Sex Worker Outreach Coalition (SWOC) Portland, Oregon


• Tell someone where you are going and how long you will be gone.
• Try to work in pairs if possible… not side by side, but in sight of one another. Never let the client know you are alone. Let them think you have a friend that knows where you are.
• Try and carry a phone if possible. You can get a 9-1-1 cell phone from some DV/SA agencies.
• Carry a small bag with the essentials: condoms, lube, hand wipes and extra change of clothes for emergencies.
• Shoes should come off easily or be appropriate for running in
• Never carry a lot of money, or else hide money in a place other than a handbag—your shoe, your stocking, inside pocket, your sleeve…
• Walk against traffic, not with it
• The further from the stroll you get with a customer, the harder it becomes to turn him down. If he gives you a bad feeling on the stroll (your territory) It will get worse once you’re in the car (his territory).
• Stand where you can be seen and where you have good, glare-free vision of the stroll and approaching cars.
• Stash keys and other important personal items where they will be accessible and safe –keeping them in your pockets or purse makes them available to customers who want to rob you.
• If dancing in a club, always have a bouncer walk you to your car.
• If accepting drinks from clients, always make sure you watch it being made and do not let it out of your sight.
• Never accept food or drink from a client, unless you have seen him indulge in it first.
• “Act as if.” Always pretend to have security, wealth, health and calm.


• Approach the driver’s window keeping enough distance to avoid being grabbed, engage in small talk to assess any potential risk. ALWAYS GO WITH YOUR GUT INSTINCT. If it feels bad, don’t go. There will always be another customer.
• Study the customer, the car, and the door lock system.
• Arrange price, service and location while you’re outside the car.
• Circle the car completely before entering to ensure the number of passengers. Check it all out.
• Take the license plate number (or pretend to).
• Wave goodbye to work partner (or pretend to) and shout expected return time.


• Ensure that you can re-open the car door.
• In a two-door car, try to remain in the front seat. ?Position yourself on top and facing him. This way you can move easily and keep an eye on his hands.
• Get a good look at the customer and the car. Its still not too late to back out. For example, he’s drunker than you thought, you see a weapon under his seat or you get a creepy feeling.
• Let him see you stash his payment and keep it separate from the rest of your money. If he tries to rob you maybe he won’t find your entire bankroll.
• Put your purse where you can find it without looking. For example, open on the floor between your feet.
• Act in control, and take charge of the action.
• ?Keep eyes on him and his hands, at all times.
• Don’t let him get between you and the exit
• Keep the door open a crack if he allows.
• Look for well lit, open and secure areas to work.
What to do if things go wrong:
• Like diseases, it is better and easier to prevent violence than to treat. The best defense is a good offense. Be aware.
• Carry a whistle or a personal alarm. Do not carry a weapon that can be taken from and used against you.
• Try using your voice and speed instead of your strength- Make a lot of noise. Scream. Turn on the car lights. Hit the horn- Create a HUGE scene to get attention.
• Run and scream “FIRE” as loud as you can.
• Run against traffic and towards lights and people.

On fighting back:

Even small men are often stronger than large women. Do not try to fight a man unless you’re certain that you can escape or that you will win. Attack areas that are easily injured, such as throat, eyes, adam’s apple, nose, underside of nose, testicles, shins, insteps. Kick, poke with fingers, nails, keys, spray hairspray in his face. Don’t bother trying to pull his hands off your throat since he will probably be stronger. Break a strangle hold by joining hands and swinging your arms up against him while simultaneously moving your body down and away.

A note on Clothing:

Shoes should come off easily or be appropriate for running in. Long earrings or big hoops for pierced ears may get pulled accidentally or intentionally. Wear small earrings, clip-ons or none at all. Avoid necklaces, scarves, across-the-body shoulder bags, or anything else that can accidentally or intentionally be tightened around your throat. Wigs should fit so that they can’t slip and cover the face. Wear clothing that doesn’t have to be removed to have sex. This saves time, hides money and tracks, and if there’s a problem you won’t lose your clothing if you have to run away or leave in a hurry. Clothing should be “straitjacket-proof.” A half zipped or buttoned jacket can be pulled over shoulders to trap arms. Wear nothing that can get caught in or on car doors, like loose bracelets, billowing dresses, wide sleeves, or long coats with dangling, attached belts.


• Check your head—psych yourself up, be clear headed, don’t be dope sick or too drunk to think clearly.
• Have a price list and stick to it
• Having a time limit for each service is important because a customer who can’t come within reasonable period costs you money by preventing you from seeing other customers. And, his failure to get off may make him agitated or violent.
• Decide what you are and are not willing to do.
• ?Pick your own parking spot or hotel, don’t leave it up to the customer.
• ?Have a time limit for each service, and tell him upfront how much time you have, even telling him you have to meet with someone directly after your time with him.
• Do not brush your teeth—use mouthwash or gum.
• Urinate often- friction from sex with a full bladder may cause a bladder infection.
• Female condoms can be inserted before you go out to the stroll and will guarantee some protection.
• Have a supply of condoms, lube, and handi-wipes with you and put a condom in your mouth. Stash a bag of extra condoms and supplies in a bag somewhere on the stroll.


• Tight pants, nylon underwear and pantyhose can cause vaginal infections. Wear cotton or crotchless underwear, thigh-high stockings, or nothing. Change panties daily (or turn inside out on alternate days, or use pantyliners). Wipe front to back after pissing and shitting.
• ?Keep toenails short to reduce foot pain. Shoes that are too large are safer and more comfortable than shoes that are too small.
• ?Sanitary napkins can provide a pathway for bacteria from anus to vagina, causing infection. Wear tampons while having your period and change them frequently. A diaphragm can act as a tampon if your flow is not too heavy.
• Don’t douche. If you must do it after work, not before, with a mild salt solution or white vinegar in warm water
• Shower or bathe daily if possible. Avoid perfumed soap and bubble bath which can cause genital irritation and bladder infections. If you can’t bathe, wash your genitals and allow them to dry completely before dressing.
• ?Keep lips, teeth, gums, vagina and thighs well lubricated to prevent irritation.


• ?Become familiar with your local public STD clinic. They are specialists and have tests and up to date information that a regular doctor may not. They often have sliding scale payments, walk-in hours, and well trained, non-judgemental-type folks to serve you.
• Go to the STD clinic and get tested regularly!
• Try to negotiate out of performing vaginal or anal sex. Offer to do it with hands, mouth, between thighs, tits and ass cheeks OR charge a very high price for this service.
• Use a lubricated condom and lubricate entire genital area.
• Use hands to get him hard, keep him hard enough to get a condom on and prevent him from coming too soon if this means you’ll have to give his money back.
• If he won’t use a condom, try hiding a condom in your mouth and putting it on, and swing yourself on top of him quickly (while hiding his cock in your hands) so he doesn’t see it.
• Open labia yourself after first spitting on fingers to reactivate lubricant and push hairs to the sides.
• The closer together your thighs are, the shallower he’ll be in your vagina.
• If you have A LOT of pain when he bangs your cervix, you probably have an infection. See a medical provider as soon as possible.
• Never let him (or anyone else) put fingers first in your ass and then in your vagina – the bacteria in your butt makes a vaginal infection highly likely. This is also true for the mouth.
• ?Keep a hand on the base of his penis to keep him hard, make sure the condom doesn’t roll up, keep your labia spread and reduce trauma, and limit depth of penis in your body.
• Once he comes, get him out fast or hold condom tight to the base of his penis so semen doesn’t leak into you. If you snuck condom on, sneak it off. Don’t spill semen on or near your vagina.
• Its hard to sneak condoms on without giving head. If it isn’t possible to sneak one on, try appealing to:
1. his safety,
2. his libido (condoms make it last longer, condoms excite you and you’ll fuck longer)
3. his status as a customer – he’s paying you as an expert in giving pleasure – he should trust that you’ll be sure to please him while keeping both of you safe
4. his sense of honor about your safety.


• Get condom on (with hands or mouth) and check to make sure its on properly,
• If he won’t use a condom, try hiding a condom in your mouth and putting it on
• Try not to rest any part of your face (chin, cheeks, forehead) on his balls or thighs. If he has sores, herpes, lice you may got them too.
• Breathe through your nose and don’t close your eyes.
• If he wants to touch his dick and doesn’t know he’s wearing a condom, distract him into touching you.
• Scrotum tightening signals imminent ejaculation.
• Once he comes, keep firm pressure on condom with lips and hands to prevent semen leaking into your mouth.
• If you have gotten a condom on without him knowing it, sneak it off and hide it in a baggie or napkin in your purse.


• Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis and herpes can be passed to the inside of your mouth and throat, and not only do these diseases suck for their own, nasty symptoms, they do create abrasions that make you more susceptible to HIV infection. If you give head without a condom, get yourself to your local STD clinic to get tested.
• Keep lips, mouth and throat as wet as possible. Don’t swallow your spit, let it droll out.
• Throat tissue is fragile, try to keep contact shallow. Don’t panic. Tension will make your throat tighten and tissues easier to tear.
• It is better to have him come on you than to have him thrusting in your mouth. Try to finish with your hand.
• As soon as possible when its over, gargle with astringent mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, or hard liquor -don’t brush your teeth.


• Birth control is necessary for all female sex workers. Weigh the costs and benefits of each method.
• Female condoms are good—if you can get used to them—since you control them. They can be inserted before you go out to work and can be used more than once (although they should be cleaned with warm, soapy water between customers). The drawbacks of female condoms are that they are expensive and do not prevent the customer’s semen from coming into contact with the area around your vagina, leaving you at some risk for STDs. Find out if your local AIDS service or family planning agency distributes them for free or at a discount
• If you have sex without a condom, not only are you at risk for HIV, but gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and herpes, too. Not only do these diseases suck for their own, nasty symptoms, they also create abrasions that make you even more susceptible to HIV infection in the future. If you have sex without a condom, get yourself to your local STD clinic to get tested.
• Urinate after vaginal sex to help prevent bladder infections.
• Keep labia and inner thighs well lubricated with water soluble lubricant
• Re-activate lubricant with spit as needed
• Infections cause small cuts in mucous tissue which increase your chances of getting STDs, HIV and hepatitis. Prevent as much as you can- If you do get an infection get it treated immediately.


• Anal sex can be uncomfortable, make shitting more difficult and is a very efficient way of getting HIV, hepatitis B. and other diseases. Try to negotiate out of it with another service or charge so much that a cheap customer won’t be willing to pay.
• If you think you can pull it off, try faking by using your hands, ass cheeks or vagina.
• Use a well lubricated thick condom and lots of extra lubricant on your anus
• Female condoms can be used for anal intercourse.
• ?To prevent infections, don’t let him go from your ass to your mouth or vagina. Forbid fingering or insist he use separate hands for the anus and vagina. If you must perform another service following anal sex, change condoms.
• Anal sex without a condom is the A-number-one way to get HIV! Not only that, you are also at risk for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and herpes, too. These diseases suck for their own, nasty symptoms, they also create abrasions that make you even more susceptible to HIV infection in the future. If you have sex without a condom, get yourself to your local STD clinic to get tested.
• When he enters, exhale slowly while pushing down like you’re taking a shit (you won’t). His penis will go in more easily. If you’re nervous, your sphincter will tighten and can tear. Try to stay relaxed and control the movements.
• If become constipated, drink lots of water, eat some oily foods and/or fruit and vegetables, or use a reliable laxative pill. If you must use an enema, do it an a day when you don’t have to work.
• You might drip lubricant and a little loose shit for a while- It can cause an infection if it gets in your vagina. Wipe front to back and if you want to catch the drip in a pantyliner, place the liner to the back so the bacteria can’t “walk” along the pad and into your vagina and/or urethra.
• It’s never safe to get shit in your mouth (even your own shit), vagina or near your urethra.


• It’s possible to get diseases like hepatitis A or B, worms and amoebas from licking the ass of a person who’s infected.
• Fake it with spit on a knuckle while lowering your head- Wash your hands afterwards.
• If you can’t fake it use a dental dam, a cut condom or latex glove, or a doubled up piece of plastic wrap. ?Using lube between your customer’s asshole and the barrier will increase his sensation, (and will be more convincing if he thinks you are doing it without a barrier).


• Its risky to lay under a stranger- Try to stay on top.
• If you have HIV or another STD you may pass it to somebody else this way, even if you’re not menstruating. Use a dental dam, cut condom or latex glove, or a double layer of sandwich wrap.


• Try selling only hand and mouth work.
• Go easy with vaginal sex. Use a condom, lubricant and avoid deep contact. Stay in control of the movements. Stay on top and keep your thighs close together—this will prevent deep penetration.
• Be alert for signs of infection, and treat immediately.
• You may develop hemorrhoids. These can bleed, itch, and provide another route for disease to enter your body.



• Men working as women may wish to tuck the penis between their legs, securing it with bathing suit thickness underwear, surgical plasters, or tape. In many cases, however, the organ can still be felt An extra security measure is to hide the penis inside a maternity-length (extra long) sanitary napkin.


• The hormones in birth control pills and other hormonal preparations that enhance feminine physical characteristics (thinner skin, loss of facial hair, breast development) can also cause moodiness, mood swings and occasionally, severe depression. With combination or lower dose hormone preparations, this is often less problematic.


• Your inability to come when actively fucking or being sucked by clients may well be a problem as well. Concentration helps. Failing that it is probably a good idea to have a client flattering story prepared.


• Many men have tricks they can use to get hard should a customer wish to suck them. Squeezing the base of the penis or a gentle massage of the testicles or prostrate gland are two more common ones- Should you fail to get completely hard, try faking it by squeezing the base of the penis firmly, or by using a cockring or rubber band.
• Try to negotiate so that the customer sucks you either in the front seat or outside the car, in these places you are safer and more in control.
• If the guy wants to suck you, be aware that he could have gonorrhea, syphilis, or Chlamydia lurking in his mouth, as well as herpes. These diseases suck for their own, nasty symptoms, they also create abrasions that make you even more susceptible to HIV infection in the future. Get yourself to your local STD clinic to get tested.


• Use a lubricated condom! This will help protect you from gonorrhea, syphilis, or Chlamydia.
• Some people believe that there is no risk of getting HIV this way– but think again! It seems that topping has one tenth to one third the chance of risk of getting HIV as anal bottoming does. Who knew?
• A rock hard penis and a lubricated butthole will make entry less difficult
• Try not to get any fluids or solids from the rectum on your skin, hands or mouth. These can cause nasty infections, especially when in contact with broken skin
• Pissing afterwards is a good idea, even if you’ve used a condom, as this helps cleanse the uretha.


• Same warning as for biological women: having teeth so close to your genitals can be very unnerving and distracting and can draw your attention from where It belongs – ON THEM.


• Try to find support! There are now several good groups and publications for “straight” men on the game. Just like homosexual women, heterosexual men who sell sex sometimes have more difficulty with job-related stigma or the emotional aspects of their work- Don’t isolate. If you can’t find the network you need, form it. The pride you take in yourself will pay off, both during leisure time and at work.


• Try not to let customers know that you use or they may be tempted to play money and power games.
• Don’t let customers know that you’re dope sick. Prevent sniffling with antihistamines and mentholated salve in your nostrils.
• Insist on getting paid in cash, not drugs – you’ll look more professional and in control.
• Do not accept drugs—you don’t know what may be in them.
• Prevent track marks by rotating injection sites, using new, sharp, small gauge needles, and salve or hemorrhoid cream on injection sites and old tracks.
• Don’t get so pinned that you can’t see at night.
• It’s more difficult to work safe when you’re very high on cocaine or other drugs. Try not to use alcohol at all when working – your reaction time will be slower.
• ?Keep mouth moist by chewing gum or sucking hard candies.
• Drink a lot of water to prevent constipation, dry mouth and dry, itchy skin.
• Urinate frequently, even if you think you don’t have to.
• Be aware that sores in your mouth or genitals (or anywhere!) create portholes for the HIV virus to get into you and infect you.

Check out “Getting Off Right” at for a complete risk reduction guide for IDU’s. (under “resourses”)