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An Interview with Clara Fonseca - Why is there stigma in paying for Companionship?

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Hey everyone! My apologies that this interview is slightly late but I can assure you - it is worth the wait! A big thank you to @Clara Fonseca a Provider in Montreal, on sharing her thoughts on why she thinks the purchase of "companionship" has stigma.

Q: Hey Clara! Thanks so much for taking the time to be part of our interviews with the community. First of all, can you tell me a bit about yourself?

 A: I am a Montreal-based provider in my early 20s. At first, I started offering companionship because I was craving a different kind of intimacy. The intimacy I get during encounters with clients seems a lot more authentic to me because they escape all societal taboos about how sex should be performed and what should or shouldn’t be done. I love the vulnerability of two unknown bodies getting to know each other in a non-judgemental atmosphere. 

This being said, I have to mention that I am a white / cis / thin provider which means I am privileged in the industry. I am well-aware that my reality is not that of every provider. My answers are based on my personal experience only.

Q: The topic today is around shame/stigma surrounding the purchasing or selling of Companionship. Before we fully dive into the reasons behind this, can you tell me if you’ve ever experienced shame in this regard?

 A:  I have experienced shame in many ways. From having to lie to my relatives about a job I absolutely adore to clients making remarks about how ‘’I’m such a smart girl and I could do so much better than that’’. I am extremely lucky to have some wonderful sex worker friends I can be transparent with but it can be a very lonely job due to the stigma surrounding selling sex.

Q: If you did experience shame, what do you think were the reasons behind it? 

A: Mostly because people will listen but not hear what i say when I speak about my job. Very often I felt like the people I chose to open up to were just curious and excited about crunchy details, the possibility of gaining social capital and looking open-minded by associating with someone that belongs to a marginalized group. Other times I got reduced to ‘’the sex worker friend’’, ‘’the sexpert’’ or ‘’the slut’’ by individuals that though the universe of sex work was fascinating but still saw me as inferior. It honestly makes me sad that people would rather know how many men I slept with than hear me talk about how happy companionship makes me and how meaningful it is to me.

Q: It’s funny how purchasing other intimate things such as a massage is “normal” but anything a bit more intimate is considered taboo… how much of that do you think is because of shame around sex in general? 

A: Even with the secularization of society, sexual intercourse are still unconsciously associated with procreation and therefore given a sacred value. As women, we are often raised under the purity paradigm. Our virginity is turned into a physical possession for the taking and girls who uphold their virginity are considered more pure. This moralistic view of sexuality is a nuisance for everyone but it affects sex workers differently because what we sell is considered inestimable and should be ‘’a genuine gift’’. Intimate services such as massages are normalized because they are not seen as connected with the act of sex and leading to sexual gratification.  Often, people will be disgusted by the fact that we sell our bodies for a living while forgetting that under capitalism everyone does. 

Q: Another thing I find strange is how the media romanticises sex work (Pretty Woman being a classic example), yet we have such a long way to go in terms of sex workers IRL. What are your thoughts on that? 

A:  I am pretty biased about this question. I feel like the romanisation of sex work is mostly harmful to the community as it creates false expectations about the profession. The glamourization of sex work in movies and social media can make less privileged providers feel inapt or inferior. The reason why I say I am biased though is that the representation of sex workers in the media is almost exclusively negative (human trafficking, providers getting abused and pimped, shootings in massage parlors, etc). While these realities exist and need to be talked about, movies like pretty woman (even if highly misleading) offer ‘’civvies’’ a different perspective to the job. Ideally, the media would offer sex workers a platform to speak for themselves about their experiences rather than controlling the narrative and making money off our stories/lives. 

Q: Let’s talk about the “whorearchy”. First of all, can you explain what that means?

A:  The ‘’whorearchy’’ is a hierarchal system used to classify sex workers. This system is highly arbitrary, contributes to the stigma surrounding sex work and is extremely detrimental to the community. From my understanding, sex workers are ranked according to the type of services they offer, the sexual practices they choose to engage in and what is considered most socially acceptable. So if we were to use a pyramid chart, at the base layer we would find the more marginalized full service sex workers such as street-based and brothel sex workers. In the middle layers we would have independent escorts, MPAs, strippers, dominatrix, porn stars, strippers and sugar babies. At the top of the whore pyramid we would find content creators (such as onlyfans models) as well as cam girls. Then again, it is highly arbitrary. Some full service providers will consider themselves as ‘’Elite’’ and will therefore decide that they belong at the top of the whore pyramid based on their revenue. My personal  opinion is that whorearchy is rooted in classism, ableism, racism and reproduces the same social model of oppression within an already stigmatized community. 

Q: Can you think of some examples of things people say that supports the hierarchy? For example Only Fans models quickly clarifying they’re not *that* kind of sex worker.

A: I feel like this hierarchy is highly based on the level of intimacy you choose to engage in with your clients. While procreation isn’t the main reason why people engage in intercourse nowadays, penetrative vaginal sex followed by male ejaculation is still widely seen as ‘’real sex’’ while other sexual acts like caressing a men’s genitals are seen as more acceptable even when they lead to the same finality ; ejaculation. Because some practices are more socially tolerated and less controversial, some sex workers wish to distance themselves from others in order to look more decent or respectable. 

There is a lot of things people say within or outside the community that support the hierarchy. A few examples would be Only Fans models define their content as art while degrading mainstream pornstars, high-end escorts looking down street-based sex workers for charging less or strippers making fun of full service providers for getting intimate with their clients.

Q: Do you think that solidarity with other sex workers will help lessen shame around hiring/being an escort?

 A: I am not sure if it will lessen the stigma around hiring escorts but I do think it has a positive impact within the sex work community. I’m very adamant about the importance of supporting each other and lifting each other up. I have seen the industry change quite a bit in the last few years in terms of solidarity between sex workers. I feel like there is still a lot of work be done. The most vulnerable and marginalized sex worker are often the ones that are left out while the more privileged ones get easier access and recognition from the community.

Q: Have you got any suggestions for people in the “vanilla world” on how they can be better allies to sex workers? 

A: Educate yourself. One of the things about ‘’civvies’’ is that they are often expecting us to convince them that our job is valid. Before you start interrogating a sex worker about their experience, make sure they are willing to share it with you. Some of us will be happy to engage in conversations about our job but some might not feel like it and their feelings are more valid than your curiosity. Once a sex worker chooses to open up to you, please don’t start telling them what you believe they should or should not do and PLEASE respect their privacy. Support their decisions even though these might not be decisions you would make for yourself. Lastly, speak up for us whenever you can. Because of the stigma surrounding sex work we often have to refrain from speaking up by fear of ‘’outting’’ ourselves. 

Q: What advice would you give to a Client feeling shame for paying for Companionship?

 A: I would ask them if they feel shame for compensating a lawyer or a physiotherapist for their time ? If they don’t then they should not feel ashamed to pay an escort for sex. Just like any other professionals, companions offer a service in exchange for a remuneration. Many people condemn prostitution because they believe it contributes to the oppression of women  but denying a women the autonomy of choice on her body is also oppression.

There is a lot of services out there being offered to meet people's mental and physical needs and i believe companionship should be seen as one of them. There is nothing wrong with wanting affection, tenderness or physical intimacy as long as both parties are consenting.

Q: What advice would you give to a Companion feeling shame for selling Companionship? 

A:  The concept of selling your body in exchange for a remuneration is one of the basic principal in capitalist societies.  Under capitalism everyone sells their bodies and whether they decide to sell them to the local grocery store as a cashier or in an office as an accountant is a decision that belongs to them only. 

Q: Thanks for your time, Clara. Anything else you would like to add? 

A: I would just like to add that while i do find empowerment in companionship, sex work do not need to be empowering to be valid. It’s a job and in no other field would people even ask you that question.

 

Image

Clara Fonesca

Montreal

Twitter - https://twitter.com/theclarafonseca 

Website - https://theclarafonseca.wixsite.com/site/ 

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What an awesome interview @lydiahardwood, I'm so glad you invited Clara for this week interview.  I glanced at her website and I won't lie her pictures are amazing.  I will also say that she writes very well, this lady is well educated.

 

 

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Such  smart women,  both of you!  Love the questions and the answers from the younger generations.  Hello!  Look how articulate and smart they are.  Will comment more.  I'm still busy feeding my animals this morning lol

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