Miranda was experimenting with her first girlfriend when she realized that pain turned her on.

Her girlfriend bit her in the heat of passion and it was an instant orgasm.  At first she felt confused by this and then she felt ashamed.    Wasn’t pain supposed to turn you off?

When Pain Turns You On

According to current statistics, 1 in 10 people has tried BDSM at least once.  This suggests that pain turns people on far more than expected.   Biologically, pain is more related to pleasure than one might think.   A variety of chemicals are released in the brain in response to pain messages.  Endorphins are the ones that most people are familiar with.  These are the body’s natural opiates.  Anandamide is known as the bliss chemical and binds with cannabinoid receptors in the brain.  It blocks pain signals and brings on a warm, fuzzy feeling just like cannabis when it binds to the same receptors.  Adrenalin is also released and the raised heart rate adds to the feeling of excitement.

People who gain sexual pleasure from some types of pain are called masochists.  If you are a masochist, you will find that pain turns you on when it is part of a sexual and intimate experience.  Masochists do not find stubbing a toe exciting.  That pain just hurts.  It is the pain that is deliberately produced as part of an intimate activity that becomes pleasurable.

When Pain Turns You On

The pain is not simply turned into pleasure as some people have described.  The masochist feels the pain and is also turned on by the pain.  People talk about transmuting pain into pleasure.    If you are finding this hard to grasp, the easiest example is that of the serious professional athlete who practices and exercises until her body starts to signal injury or overexertion with pain.  If the person pushes on, she will begin to experience feelings of euphoria.  This has become known as a ‘runner’s high’. Masochists have the same experience during different types of sexual activity.  They seek out the pain which then turns into intense pleasure.  It goes beyond seeking an intense orgasm.  Many people seek out catharsis as well.

Barry Komisaruk from Rutgers University has done lots of fMRI research on pain and pleasure.  He has found a link between the pain pathways and the orgasm pathways in the brain.  He also points out that facial expressions made during orgasm are similar to those when people are in pain.

Even knowing that pain and pleasure are mingled in our biology sometimes does not diminish the shame people feel when they discover that pain turns them on.

You may feel when pain turns you on that there is something wrong with you.    The shame can add to the turn on for some people but for many others makes it impossible to enjoy feeling turned on.

Jan noticed she enjoyed pain when she was 14 years old.  Her boyfriend held her down while they were having sex and instead of being outraged, she had an intense orgasm.  Initially, she didn’t worry about this connection between pain and orgasm.  It was only after she told a couple of boyfriends who reacted with disgust that she began to feel intense shame around her desires.  After years of fantasizing about pain instead of being in safe and consensual relationships where pain was an integral part of the sex, she finally decided to seek some professional help.  Jan said she was tired of only feeling like sex was lukewarm.

After a few months of personal work, Jan was able to approach her desires with acceptance.  She began to date men who shared her interests and met Burt after a few months of dating.  They enjoy a committed relationship that includes lots of satisfying sex.

When pain turns you on you need to be careful about who you decide to share this with and how you decide to bring pain into your sexual life.  There is more danger associated with sex that involves masochism than there is in other types of sexual relationships.    Before agreeing to sexual activities that include pain and higher levels of physical risk, make sure that you fully trust the person you are inviting into your sexual world.  Take the time to negotiate the types of activities you wish to engage in, your boundaries (including hard limits and safe words).

Start gradually and take the time to talk about the experience afterward.  If the person you are engaging with is not staying the night with you after the experience, make sure that you have support available to you in case your reaction is not entirely positive.  With those precautions dealt with, relax and enjoy the experience.

If you want some help exploring how/why pain turns you on, schedule a free discovery session with me here.

Join me for my teleseminar with Lisa Steadman on 23rd August.   4 Secrets for Arousing and Igniting your Authentic Sexual Self.

I ask this question of clients a lot and surprisingly, people often cannot answer it.   Many people look to others to turn them on.  Their expectations are that partners will somehow know what to do.    Many people are still brought up to think of sexual self-exploration as shameful.  Women are often taught to attend to their partner’s pleasure and that if they make a partner happy they will be happy too. Sadly, though making your partner happy will make you feel good, it won’t often give you sexual satisfaction.

If you want to learn what turns you on, first learn to take responsibility for your own pleasure.

Serious as this sounds, it is actually lots of fun.  The first step is to pay attention to your body and notice the things that make you tingle, hum, or purr.    If you are not used to pleasuring yourself, you might find it more comfortable to have a partner touch your body in different ways while you focus on your response to see what makes you tingle, hum or purr.  If you are going to do this with a partner, start by telling them that you are doing this experiment to learn more about what turns you on, that you would like their help in doing so.  Tell them that you would like them to touch you sensually and sexually in a variety of different ways and that you will be focussing on your own responses.  Make sure that they don’t expect you to start focussing on their pleasure.


What Turns You On

If you are happy with masturbation and self-pleasure, explore on your own.  Take the time to stroke your body in different places, in different ways.  Use a variety of toys as well as your hands and notice your body’s myriad responses.  Pay attention to the sensations that make you take in your breath sharply and the sensations that cause you to say ‘ahhh’.  The goal is not necessarily to reach orgasm but rather to see what gets you so turned on that you are close.  Feel free to use erotica, pornography, other movies and anything that you find stimulating.  Spend this time with yourself daily over at least a week.    Notice how you feel about taking the time to just enjoy yourself.    Taking responsibility for your pleasure is empowering.  When you know what turns you on, you can ask for what turns you on.  When you are able to provide yourself with pleasure, you need not look to someone else to give you that sexual satisfaction.  You can choose to be with a partner to gain sexual pleasure or you can choose to pleasure yourself.    If you find yourself becoming turned on, you can see to your own needs.

Extend your exploration from noticing your reactions in your body, your feelings and your thoughts about what turns you on to looking at what turns you on in other people.  When you know this as well you will make better relationship choices.  What type of sex turns you on?  For many people the answer is many types of sex.  Pay attention to what you like and when you like it.  Give yourself permission to push your own boundaries and try something new.

So many people have been brought up with shame around sex and sexuality.

They have been brought up hearing ‘no’ repeatedly, being told that sexual feelings and activities are shameful, wrong and sinful.  So many women have been told that their pleasure is not a priority.  Sexual pleasure is not wrong or sinful.  Sexual pleasure is part of healthy sexual activity and relationships.    Your body is made to give you pleasure.  Give yourself permission to experience pleasure and particularly to experience sexual pleasure.

What turns you on?

Try to remember the first time you felt turned on.  Can you remember the event in detail?  Leslie said ‘The first time I remember feeling turned on I was about 10 and I was watching a movie with a really sexy actor. There was a scene where he was in bed with the leading lady. I felt tingling and my breathing was faster.  I didn’t really understand why I was feeling that way but it did feel good.  It felt so good that I watched the movie four times so I could feel that way again.’    Roger describes the first time he felt turned on.  ‘I was 9 and I was in bed and having a really good dream.  I woke up with my hand on myself and it felt really great until I remember the nuns telling us that it was a sin and then I was afraid I was going to hell.  I stopped for a while and thought about the nuns.  But the next night I was touching myself again.   This time I didn’t stop but felt guilty after.  It took a couple more years before I stopped feeling sure I was going to hell.’

Do you know what turns you on?  If you want some help exploring, schedule a free discovery session with me here

Are there polyamorous D/s (dominant submissive) relationships? Yes there are.

Polyamorous D/s relationships come in an infinite number of configurations.  For more about how different open relationships might look, you can find one of my articles here and a series of podcasts here.

D/s relationships are ones in which dominance and submission are the primary feature.  In these relationships, people usually take on one role (either the dominant role or the submissive role).  Sometimes people are switches meaning that they enjoy switching roles and sometimes they even switch roles within the same relationship.  But I will talk about that later.    For now,  I will talk about the situations in which a person takes on one role in each relationship.  Some polyamorous D/s relationships involve bondage and discipline or sadism and masochism but others do not.  The feature of the relationship which turns both parties on is the power exchange. One person is in charge and the other agrees to submit to their rule.  Submission can be part time, sexually only for example, or it can be full time (e.g. in all aspects of the relationship).  D/s relationships often have clear structures, with rituals, rules and expectations all spelled out.  Many people who engage in them gain pleasure from all of these aspects.  The submissives enjoy giving up control and being led by someone else.  The dominants enjoy the control over their partners, having someone do as they desire.  This is a simplistic description of what both parties might get out of the relationship.  For more on these relationships, listen to this series of podcasts from Sex Spoken Here and D is for Dominant from the A to Z of Sex ™  podcast.

Polyamorous D/s

D/s relationships can be very straightforward or very complex.  Some include significant role play as well as the exchange of power.  There are marriages that work on these principles as well as long term living together relationships.  However, it can be difficult to maintain these roles when living with someone full time especially if the person who is in the submissive role is dominant in the outside world (at work, within the household, the main bread winner).   As a result, in some relationships, the D/s aspects become watered down which often leads to dissatisfaction on the part of both parties.

One solution to this situation is to consider opening up the relationship.  A couple can agree to engage in D/s play with other partners and not each other or with other partners and still engage with each other.  Deciding who will do what with whom can require some intricate negotiation.  When done properly, this is a great solution that increases everybody’s enjoyment and fulfilment.

Polyamorous D/s

Myra and Robin were involved in a polyamorous D/s relationship for 10 years before they moved in together.

At first things work well.  Weekends are the time that they set aside for the D/s side of their relationship.  During the week they look like any other couple living together.    Robin sometimes finds it difficult giving up control on the weekend, especially on weeks where she is travelling for work.   But things are still working and they are both still happy together.  After 6 months living together, Myra decides to take a sabbatical.  She is working on a book and needs the time to write.  They agree that Robin will be the main bread winner for those 6 months.    This is when the D/s relationship truly begins to break down.

The women came to see me when Robin found it too difficult to submit to Myra.  They were both upset by this change and were motivated to look at how they could make sure their relationship would survive and thrive.  After 4 coaching sessions, Robin raised the issue of opening the relationship.  She proposed that they both seek to create a D/s relationship with someone else.  At first Myra was resistant to this idea, concerned that they would lose one of the best facets of their relationship.  After some negotiation, they decided to choose partners for each other and were clear about the limitations.  They decided to restrict the relationship to D/s in the bedroom.  After a few false starts, they found situations which suited both of them.   After a month of exploring new D/s relationships, they told me the spark had come back between them and they left coaching.  A year later they came back for a ‘check-up’ and reported that they had restarted the D/s part of their relationship and it was going really well.  They continued to keep their other relationships and said that this added richness to their sexual lives.

There are people in D/s relationships agree that the dominant person can choose to introduce other people into the relationship.   These are not truly polyamorous D/s relationships but usually occasional sexual liaisons with others controlled by the dominant partners.

Some people become polyamorous because they discover an interest in dominance and submission and want to enter power exchange or D/s relationships but their partners have little interest in exploring with them.  They choose to open their relationships.  In my experience many of these relationships are poly monogamous relationships.  For more on poly monogamy see my article here.  These relationships can work well however couples need to communicate well and negotiate extremely well in order for them to do so.  Coaching helps couples learn the communication and negotiation skills needed to create exciting and well-functioning poly monogamous relationships.

Check out my YouTube channel for videos on topics including polyamory, jealousy, and power exchange.  Listen to my podcasts: Sex Spoken Here and The A to Z of Sex â for more information on all of these topics and more.  Interested in exploring further?  Book a free discovery session with me here.

When I was first coming out, the acronym was LGB and even then, B was not much talked about.  In graduate school there was the Lesbian and Gay student organisation and I remember being invited to a party early on but not feeling comfortable since I wasn’t gay.  As a bisexual woman, I was not sure where I fit.  I wanted to attend events that gave me the opportunity to meet women but when I would say I was bisexual, there was an atmosphere.

By the time I came to the UK, T was added to the acronym to recognise the Transgender folks as LGB was not an adequate description.  Q was added to represent both Queer and Questioning in 1996.  These are very different identities!  Questioning is as it sounds – people who are questioning their sexual identity.  On the other hand, Queer is an umbrella term that is used to describe people who are either not heterosexual or not cisgender.  However, queer can be more of a world view than an identity (click on the highlighted word Queer for a discussion of this).    Sometimes people use two Q’s so that Queer and Questioning are added.  Since 2000’s many people add I for Intersex and A for Asexual.  And some use A for Ally – those people who support all the people who fall under the LGBTQQIA + rubric.


How do you figure out where you fit best?  And what does it matter?  It matters how you understand your own sexual and gender identities as well as your attractions.  It helps to be able to explain to others you meet as well.    There are some other ways of looking at gender identities, sexual orientation and attractions that might make it easier to figure out where you fit.  I like them because they create more detailed picture that allows for more people to find themselves in the model being presented.  This increases the ability to communicate between groups of people and also increases the information that can be given easily to allies and professionals we interact with on a daily basis.  Research highlights that when a group is invisible, poorer services (like health care) are available.

You can look at gender identity as running from genderqueer (or non-binary) through to male or female.  The way you express your gender may be different from how you identify.  For example, I can identify as a woman and express my gender in a butch (or more masculine) manner.

For the next continuum, you can look at your sexual orientation or the people who you are attracted to.  This can run from straight through asexual, bisexual, pansexual and to gay.  For the next continuum you can look at the expression of your sexual attraction.  You can move from monogamous through to monogamish to non-monogamous to polyamorous to relationship anarchy.  Expression of sexual attraction can also be measured on a continuum that looks at how often you wish to have sex from rarely to all of the time and on a continuum that looks at power dynamics in your relationship from dominant through to switch through to submissive.

bisexual men

Are you confused?  If so, perhaps some examples will help.

John is biologically male.  Their gender identity is non-binary and they use the pronouns they, their, them.   They express their gender differently at different times.   They are heterosexual in orientation.  (They are attracted to women.)   John likes lots of sex.  John is polyamorous.  Finally, when it comes to power dynamics, John switches depending upon partner and situation.

Rachel is biologically female.  Her gender identity is female.  She is bisexual in orientation (attracted to men, women, genderqueer, transgender).  Rachel is monogamish.  She prefers to have one central relationship where there is very limited permission to have sexual experience outside of the relationship.    When it comes to power dynamics, Rachel is dominant.

Dara is a transsexual male.  His gender identity is male.  He also identifies as transgender though he has already transitioned.  He is gay in orientation (attracted to men – cisgender and transgender).  He practices relationship anarchy.   When it comes to power dynamics, Dara is submissive.

All of these identities can shift over time.   I find it useful to have clients spend some time thinking about how they identify now and how they have identified in the past.  This can help people put issues from the past into better perspective and also frame current issues differently.    Just because identities can shift does not mean that they will shift.  I like to remind people not to make assumptions about other people.  Most people prefer to be asked.  It can feel awkward to ask someone about their attractions but with practice it gets easier.    Asking is far more respectful.

bisexual women

Where do you fit in?  Here are a few questions to help you consider what letters identify you.

  1. When you think about yourself, do you see yourself as male or female or sometimes one/sometimes the other or neither?
  2. What pronouns resonate for you?
  3. When you fantasise, who do you fantasise about? Are they always the same gender?
  4. Do you want to find one romantic and sexual partner to share your life with?
  5. Does the idea of only one sexual partner for the rest of your life feel stifling?
  6. When you fantasise do you like to be the one who is in control or do you dream of surrendering to someone else? Maybe this changes depending upon your mood?

If you find it difficult to come up with single answers to these questions, don’t worry.  You are not alone.   These can be very deep questions.    There is no problem with exploring and trying various ideas out to see what feels best to you.

If you find that you are really confused, it can help to see a therapist who is experienced working with gender and sexual diversity.

If you would like to discuss sexuality and sexual orientation further,  book here for a free 30 minute consultation.  For my podcast Sex Spoken Here series on non-monogamy, start with part 1 here.   Write me here with any questions.

I remember clearly being told that I wouldn’t come into my fully bloomed sexuality until I hit the age of 35 as women didn’t peak sexually until they were older.  As I was enjoying myself then, I didn’t really think about when I might ‘peak’.

As I started seeing more clients who wanted help with their sexual lives, this was a topic I thought more about.   I see women in their 30’s who have not yet experienced a sexual peak.  I also see women in their 30’s who feel their best sex is definitely behind them.    So I began to wonder if the idea that women don’t reach their sexual peak until their mid-30’s was a myth.

Unless it is in the consulting room or amongst really close friends, when people talk about their sex lives they talk of the best times.  I listen to lots of people wearing rose tinted spectacles, looking at only the positives in the past, present and for the future.     Clients come to me and talk about their struggles with sex and sexuality so I had their stories to draw on.  Close friends were willing to talk more frankly too so I had their stories to draw on.


Research seems to suggest that actually sex for women in their 30’s is extremely conflicted.    In fact, sex for men and women in the 30’s age group is often problematic.    There is a difference between married (or partnered) women with children and single women.  Female sexual drive is very connected to hormone levels.  When women are in their 30’s they are right in the middle of their child bearing years.  The biological clock is no myth!  The intensity of the drive to procreate should not be minimised.  Many ‘accidents’ occur in the 30’s.  Many single women suddenly become partnered (and often inappropriately so) and find themselves pregnant.

The drive to have lots of passionate sex is highest at ovulation.  For married women and women with children,  after ovulation passes there is little hormonal drive.  It appears that things may be a bit more stable over the month for unpartnered women.  Once women have children, the additional stress can cause a severe dip in libido.

Why am I talking about libido?  Because libido is what drives us to seek out sexual experiences.  If you have no or low libido, you may not even think about sex.  You won’t seek sex out.  When libido has completely gone, you probably won’t be upset by not having sex or opportunities for sex.  Low libido can be caused by stress, a number of health problems, various medications (some antidepressants, some blood pressure medications), low testosterone (in men in particular) and low oestrogen (in women).  Low libido is a big problem for menopausal and post-menopausal women that is rarely talked about in detail.  With most causes, there is a lot that can be done to bring libido back and when libido comes back so does the possibility of an exciting sex life.

When does female sexuality peak?

For women, sexual desire and sexuality is intimately linked to emotional elements.  Research continues to highlight that women become turned on more via their minds and emotions than by a pretty/hot/sexy visual.  Women who are stressed lose interest in sex.  If there are emotional issues in the relationship, women will find it really hard to connect sexually.  Women find men who are emotionally available very sexy, for example.    Many women find intelligence very sexy.  This isn’t to say that men don’t also find these things sexy but rather that men tend to look at the physical form first.  Also many men will use sex to create emotional closeness whereas many women need to feel emotionally close in order to become physically close and have sex.     As a result, it appears that women have a variety of sexual peaks during their lives.  Rather than have a sexual prime in the 30’s, many have one in the 20’s and then another in the 40’s and 50’s.

Scientists don’t agree about the depth or description of ‘normal’ sexual response in women or whether women even have a sexual peak.  Rather than being upset by this information, I encourage you to see it as liberating.  This means that however you are is fine.  Seek help if you are not happy with your sexual drive, desire or any aspect of your sexual life.  Seek help if you and your partner are not well matched or are having sexual issues.

when does female sexuality peak?

There are currently no particular drugs to increase female libido.  There is no equivalent to Viagra for women. A number of researchers have suggested that lower levels of testosterone after menopause are responsible for the drop in desire.  Lots of drugs are being trialled but thus far nothing has worked well enough with few enough risks to be brought to market.  However, there are quite a few doctors who are prescribing testosterone off label to increase female libido.  I know a number of people who have taken testosterone for this reason.  They have all reported increased sexual desire. They have also reported a variety of side effects including some increased facial hair growth, some increased hair loss, increase in anger and acne.  It is thought that part of the reason for high levels of side effects is that the dosages are too high.

When libido is not being negatively influences by low testosterone or low oestrogen, there is evidence that many women who have decided not to have children and/or are post-menopausal experience a sexual prime.  Sex is not related to procreation at this stage and is primarily for pleasure, love, power or other motivations.  Cindy Meston and David Buss found 237 reasons in their 2009 book Why Women Have Sex.    Is this THE sexual prime for women?  After listening to women and looking at the research, I think not.

The idea of one sexual peak or sexual prime is outdated.  After all, this idea came out of research on married couples in the 1940’s and 50’s.  Dr Kinsey’s research was ground breaking at the time.  There had been almost no research on sexual behaviour.  Relationship behaviour has changed significantly since then.   There is evidence from an evolutionary perspective that suggests an additional reason for women to have more sex in their mid 30’s to mid 40’s.  Pregnancy is much harder to achieve as women move past the child bearing prime of the 20’s.  In order to achieve pregnancy, often much more sex is necessary.

Women have more than one sexual peak and the peaks are influenced by evolution, hormones, emotions, relationship and family status and stress.   Orgasm creates more sexual desire.  So in times where stresses contribute to decreased desire, I often advise clients to push through the indifference and either masturbate or have sex with a partner.  Reaching orgasm will almost always create a desire for more orgasm which means more sex.  The feel and look of women’s sexuality changes over the life span so rather than looking at peaks perhaps looking at it as a wave with ebb and flow creates a clearer picture.

If you want to explore the tides of your sexuality, email me here or schedule a free 30 minute strategy session with me here.

The theory was when prostitution (and brothels) were legalized, the criminals (especially organized crime – responsible for most trafficking) would find some other easier more lucrative way to earn money. In turn, sex workers, on the street and in brothels, would be safer, healthier and paid better. Prostitution was legalized in 2000. People who own a sex business need a license and to follow the local rules and sex workers now have to pay taxes.

Despite legalization, Amsterdam’s sex industry has continued to be inundated with the victims of trafficking most of which is being done through eastern Europe.

For those who choose to be sex workers, the environment did not get better financially.  They have to pay taxes and the rent for their premises (the ubiquitous windows in the Red Light district) went up because there were fewer available. The city council of Amsterdam started an initiative to create a brothel space that is designed and managed by the sex workers themselves.

They set up a foundation called My Red Light and their first brothel has just been opened.  It has room for 40 sex workers to work and occupies 14 windows across four buildings in the Red Light District.  The sex workers have been involved in everything from creating the laws that govern opening, taxes, licenses through to the decoration and styles of the windows.

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What makes My Red Light different from other places sex workers work?

There is a client free lounge space in the buildings where the sex workers can meet, talk, have coffee, tea and light refreshment.  The rooms are lighter and more spacious than the typical rooms used by sex workers.

The people who designed this space hope this will combat some of the isolation that has existed and that women will be able to give each other advice about things like dealing with difficult clients. It also encourages the workers to become self-employed, allowing them to choose when, where and how they work.

The hope is that they will become less dependent upon pimps and others who seek to control and exploit them. By building a space together, they will learn about all aspects of business and will be able to share what they learn and potentially provide newcomers with personal and professional development paths.

There are plans to provide courses for the sex workers from massage to finance. A large Dutch bank gave the Red Light Foundation a start-up loan and they are also being given business advice. Additionally, the Red Light Foundation is leasing the space from local government so they do not have ownership of their own space.

But not everyone is happy about this project.  There are many who believe that the sex industry should be expelled from the Red Light District and that government sanctioning initiatives will only benefit the buyer of sexual services, not the sex workers.  They are concerned that pimps will benefit instead of sex workers.

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So why aren’t people happy about this…

One of the biggest objections to sex work is that so many people who become sex workers are coerced into doing so and/or the victims of trafficking. These people live lives full of violence and misery.

The argument goes that if there was no pornography and there were no sex workers (e.g. there was no demand for such) then the trafficking would not occur. I am afraid I must disagree with this logic. Legalization decreases the amount of value to be gained by trafficking but on its own does not do enough.Until we see sex workers as providing a valuable service, shame will be the primary emotion experienced by both those seeking out the services and the workers themselves.  And where there is a lot of shame, there is potential to control and humiliate.

Until we see sex workers as providing a valuable service, shame will be the primary emotion experienced by both those seeking out the services and the workers themselves.  And where there is a lot of shame, there is potential to control and humiliate.

Shame becomes toxic when internalized.  This type of shame produces feelings of disgust and pain that are intense and is triggered and retriggered by our own thoughts. Shame of this type convinces people that they don’t have a right to their own bodies and therefore to say what is done to their bodies or what they do with their bodies.  In particular, women’s sexual experiences are often

In particular, women’s sexual experiences are often stigmatized. Women are told that to enjoy sexuality is shameful, to enjoy their bodies is shameful.  Women who choose sex work are stigmatized even further and through this learn that their health and even their consent does not matter.

Perhaps creating a sex worker run workspace and learning space goes some way to de-stigmatising sex work and decreases shame for the workers as well as for the customers.  If it does, this is another step towards shifting attitudes around sexuality so that we begin to see sexuality as a necessary, joyful part of our lives.

Sex workers provide an invaluable service for people who are without sexual partners in the short, medium and long term.  I have worked with many clients over the years who were so socially phobic that the only way they could manage sexual contact was to see a sex worker.  Some were able to increase their social and sexual skills to the point where they found life partners and were forever grateful to the sex workers who helped them reach their romantic goals.

These sex workers helped the clients to embrace sexuality and to leave shame behind.  Other clients never moved beyond their contact with the sex workers.   In these cases, sex workers were even more important to the client’s well-being.  Long term lack of physical contact has long been known to be psychologically and sometimes even physically damaging.

Sex workers can provide a safe space for some clients to talk about and enact fantasies that they fear to discuss with their partners (or potential partners).  When sex workers are happy in their work, are well paid, have good health care and are treated with respect, they are better able to help clients let go of sexual shame.

Bottom line…

This experiment will work best if the sex workers continue to have a large voice in creating the rules and procuring the education that they want.  If their voice is valued their esteem will rise.  If they are given more ownership over their business practices perhaps they will take more ownership over the totality of their work environment. In turn, valuing themselves enough to institute a policy for standard health care (where it is highlighted that the sex workers are valuing their bodies rather than framing it only in terms of protecting customers as it often is framed).

Economic pressure will always be a large factor in choosing to be a sex worker.   Many people making this choice have few other options to earn money that pay even close to a living wage.   However, there are many sex workers who choose sex work because they enjoy it.  Many who do so for limited periods of time (such as working their way through university).

There are also many forms of sex work. Perhaps the people running Red Light Foundation will create space for sex workers to work online or via telephone as well as working directly. Having choice is the mark of having control over life. Choice increases your sense of esteem and agency in the world.  Choice makes consent real whereas when there is no choice consent is simply words.

When pimps are involved and violence is threatened, there is no choice and therefore no consent.  When sex workers are given agency to create their own working lives, shame and humiliation decrease while pride and self-belief increase.

It is my belief that societal attitudes towards sex workers can reflect attitudes towards sexuality in general.  Where society views sex for pleasure as shameful, sinful or wrong in some way, sex work is viewed as dirty, shameful and degrading.  As society begins to view sex for pleasure as an integral part of life, sex work begins to be seen in terms of economics rather than morality.

If the Dutch government is able to make sure that the Red Light Foundation has the muscle it needs to make sure that windows are only rented to sex workers who have chosen their profession and not to pimps and traffickers, this initiative will benefit sex workers, clients and society.

My weekly podcasts The A to Z of Sex and Sex Spoken Here can be found on iTunes.  Check out my free eBook 74 Hot Movies (that are not pornography) here and join my mailing list.  Got questions about sex, sexuality or relationships?  Ask them here.