Love & Sex

Why Viagra Ruined Sex Work

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A three-day woody simply isn’t cost effective.

Since Viagra came onto the market a sweet 16 years ago on March 27, 1998, it has been a game-changer for erectile-challenged men everywhere. Limp chimps were standing at attention and fellas at half mast no longer had to worry about feigning headaches or feeling humiliated when the wind whooshed out of their sails mid-thrust. Most significantly, this meant that a gentleman’s active sex life could carry on as long as he had a prescription and a doctor willing to write more.

While there could be some unpleasant side effects (like, say, heart attacks), for the most part, Viagra — and its Johnny-cum-lately sidekicks, Cialis and Levitra — were greeted with great enthusiasm by nearly everyone. Nearly. One big exception came from sex workers. When boners are your business, a three-day woody simply isn’t cost effective.

“I wouldn’t say ED drugs are the worst thing, but they are really annoying,” laughed a 26-year-old California-based escort, who goes by the name, Jolene Parton.  Parton says that contrary to what the pill-poppers might believe, ED drugs don’t necessarily turn mild-mannered johns into sexual dynamos. “Viagra has a couple of really irritating side effects; it makes the person who took it very sweaty, red-faced and unattractive.” But even worse, she says, “it also makes it harder for the client to come.”

Anna Gristina, the so-called “Soccer Mom Madam,” dubbed the advent of the little blue pill, “The working girl’s worst nightmare come true.” She says, “It went from wham-bam, thank you ma’am,’ to ‘Oh my god, can you just finish, man.’ It also marked an increase in the use of lube.” Whereas the effects of Viagra only last for about four hours, Cialis can give many erections over about 30 hours, making it a favorite for Gristina’s old clientele, who were more likely to favor — and be able to pay for — an extended “girlfriend experience,” which can last for hours, days, or weeks.

Sex worker-turned-writer Zoe Hanson got out of the game before Daddy’s Little Helpers came on the market, but snorted with derision when asked about the drugs. “Viagra must make these horny men into chest thumping supermen, which they stupidly think we whores are impressed with.” With many friends still in the business, she shares, “I know that girls today have to do way more for less money, because times are hard, and this dreadful ‘girlfriend experience,’ combined with the internet-based sex industry, has ruined the whole flow of old-school whoring where $200 gets you a blowjob and vaginal sex for about three minutes max. But with Viagra — yikes!”

Amanda Brooks, author of The Internet Escort’s Handbook, says the ED-drug users she sees are mostly older and could stand to lose a few pounds. She says the problem comes when the men become obsessed with having an erection at the expense of any enjoyment for anyone. “They’re so erection-based that they don’t even consider doing something we might find mutually enjoyable,” she says. “They seem to think the pill’s a substitute for being a better lover.” She offers a pro tip: “You don’t pop a pill and become better in bed.” 

Parton has a younger clientele and says that “the kind of guy who takes Viagra is not the guy who has erectile dysfunction for some medical reason — it’ll be guys who are just working themselves too hard, and might have some compulsive sexual behavior.” She believes that if these guys were to ease up on the throttle, they might not have any difficulty at all popping wood. “Their inability to get an erection without a pill is not a physical problem, it’s just that their body is tired.”

While most female sex workers are less than enthusiastic about the drugs, male escorts are reaping their benefits. Hawk Kinkaid, an escort-turned-harm-reduction activist at Hook Online, says it’s not only expanded their client base by “expanding the ages of sexual involvement for older men,” but sees its effect on the worker side too. “It is certainly part of a trend that we have seen in the business where men are working in the sex industry far longer than they had in the past. We are seeing workers in their 50s, now. That is something that just wasn’t perceived to be a possibility a decade or two ago.”

Because these drugs are often used without medical supervision (and often in conjunction with other illegal drugs and alcohol), Kinkaid worries about the users, so his group often hosts workshops on safer sex (and drug) practices. “There are psychological needs, as work in the industry is often emotional labor, as well as physical needs, that can result in an exhaustion and present a barrier to constructive decision-making. In other words, when you are tired and you go for that third espresso, do you always feel like you make your best choices?”

Brooks would agree that her pill poppers aren’t making wise decisions. “Men need to realize that sex, from a woman’s perspective, it’s not about the erection — it’s about him. They’re so penis-oriented that they fail to understand this.” Hanson, relieved that she never had to deal with this aspect of the business has a less sympathetic take on the situation, saying, “Viagra turns men into ‘lovers,’ which I couldn’t handle — unless I was getting paid big time.”

Image via FotoDB.de