6 types of sex work – A breakdown

Just like the use of apps and the internet to shop online, speak to a doctor, or to meet new people, digital has played a prominent part in changing sex work. The industry has moved online.

Moreover, the role of the internet has meant that sex workers can now:

  1. maximise their profits
  2. find new platforms
  3. reach a wider audience
  4. take more control
  5. reduce risks

When the general public think of sex work, typically ‘street sex work’ comes to mind, with little awareness into how the industry has progressed over the years.

In reality however, sex work is ubiquitous and takes many forms.

‘Sex work’ refers to an adult who receives money in exchange for consensual sexual or erotic services.

There are a number of ‘adult jobs’ which fall under the umbrella of sex work.

Whether you’re looking for the occasional casual encounter or seeking a professional sex worker, there are a variety of options available.

Although academic research has cited that there are 25 different types of sex, we’ve rounded-up the most common definitions and tried to demystify some recurring misconceptions.

 Types of sex work

  1. Escort

The term escorting is used to cover a wide range of services, which can be either sexual or non-sexual.

There are also two different types of escort; independent and agency.

In the first case, escorts will manage every aspect of their profession: market their services using a number of channels (most of them online, from generic social media platforms to specific directories), and deal with direct customer communications prior to their booking.

For the latter, escorts working with agencies don’t usually have to do as much self-promotion, as the agency they work with will provide this instead.

Agency escorts usually show up to meet their clients and provide the service that has been booked. All the preparatory checks are cleared by the agency. 

For either type of escort, the client can hire the escort for a specific amount of time.

They also have the choice to opt for either an outcall service; the escort will meet the client at a hotel or the client’s house, or incall service; the client will be required to meet at the escort’s accommodation.

Rates will vary based on the service provided. 

 It’s worth pointing out that escorting is a profession open to all sexes and thus caters to all tastes.

From heterosexual escorts, (both male and female), and gay escorts to transgender escorts, all will differ in the sexual services offered to the client.

Again, some escorts will not offer sex at all, but rather will simply accompany the client to public functions, whilst others will provide a service that will include some sort of sexual service.

 If you are a potential client, it’s important that once you arrange to meet an escort, you make it clear where your interests lie prior to the meet up because -again- the services are at the escort’s discretion. Be sure you don’t waste your, or the escort’s time.

2. Phone

Phone sex involves a phone conversation between the sex worker and client.

Conversation is sexually explicit, usually involving candid discussion revolving around sexual fantasies. Its aim – to evoke sexual arousal. 

Phone sex and the hotline service boomed in the late Eighties, helping sex workers to monetise without having to leave the comfort of their houses.

The caller was not calling the service provider directly, but was usually re-routed from a switchboard and charged by the minute.

Today a wide array of technical options are available at all levels, and phone work is often provided via VoIP lines and other online messaging services.

3. Lap dancer

An exotic dancer or lap dancer will perform a striptease for clients. In some cases this may involve some sort of nudity. This type of sex work usually involves close proximity with limited sexual contact.

These superficial contacts may include some touching, and some nudity.

This type of interaction takes many different names and is sometimes referred to as a ‘contact dance’ or a ‘couch contact dance’.

Lap dance should not be confused with ‘pole dancing’ as generally in this case the performer will keep a clear distance from the audience and will often only dance on a stage.

4. Webcam

Most commonly known as ‘webcamming’, this type of service usually involves someone performing sexual acts streamed online. It is the latest development in the adult entertainment sector and the technological evolution of phone sex.

Clients can enter via video chat and provide ‘tips’ for sexual acts, requesting what they’d like to see.

Prices for this type of service can vary. Clients can opt between private cam-rooms or public ones, where the cam-girl performs for an unlimited number of people joining the video-chat.

Webcam has meant that sex workers can reach a wider audience, while taking control of the final marketing and distribution of their product.

This is evident from the number of camgirls that have successfully launched their own subscription services.

5. Pornographic actor

A pornographic actor is an adult entertainer who performs sex acts on film. These videos are then uploaded to adult websites and TV channels, or sold in adult shops.

As mentioned previously, digital innovations have meant that access to porn and adult entertainment has never been more accessible.

For porn actors, the internet has ultimately translated into higher autonomy and more control over the final product due to the lack of need for a director, crew or distribution body.

6. Massage parlour (includes sexual services)

Although, there are many massage parlours that offer strictly massage services, there are also massage parlours, and specifically erotic massages, which will see the masseuse offer the client a finishing sexual act to accompany their massage. 

As said for escorting services, if you’re looking for a happy ending, it is advised that you do some research to ensure that the establishment (and the masseuse) offers the service.

The Nuru massage is one of the most popular types of erotic massage.

Read more about this Japanese service in our Nuru massage blog.

Other careers exist that could be classed as sex work, include adult film directors, sex toy sellers and escort agents. However, these roles don’t directly provide sexual services to clients (though they are still a very important part of the industry).


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