Sex strike operators are among the most effective, said David Frawley, a professor at the Australian National University who specializes in the subject.
Frawly, who has worked with prostitutes for nearly a decade, said the tactics employed by the operators can be used to influence the behaviour of both parties.
“It is very easy to pick up on, in the context of a prostitution ring, that if you are in a position of power and authority, you can use that power and position to try and persuade the other party to behave in a way that is not really desirable,” he said.
“That’s the reason why it’s so hard to pick out an operator who is really trying to influence and manipulate the behaviour, or at least not to a degree where the other person feels like it’s the only way to go.”
A sex strike can be a successful tactic, Frawleys study shows.
It’s a tactic that has worked for a number of women who have worked in prostitution for more than a decade.
A woman who worked as a prostitute for 15 years said she could have been paid to engage in sex work in her early twenties.
She was working in a brothel in Brisbane, and after she was asked to do a survey for a sex toy, she said she had to choose between going to work or being a prostitute.
“I could have done that, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
I wanted more and better sex, and I was not going to give that up just to be a prostitute,” she said.
The survey was completed when the woman was 25, and the sex toy was made in 2008.
It took her two years to earn enough to pay for the sex, which she described as “good sex”.
“I’ve been a sex worker for the last two years, I’ve had a few partners, but I’ve never had a good relationship.
I’ve been doing a lot of bad things in my life, I know I can’t change it, but there is a chance that maybe I can change the person I am, so I’m going to keep going,” she told ABC Radio Brisbane.
“But you can see how hard it is for the other side to understand that they can’t take that back.”
In his study, Frewley examined a number other examples of operators trying to manipulate their clients.
For example, he said, a man who worked in a sex shop and was a regular customer of a brothels, and was willing to pay money to engage and perform sex work.
He would offer a free ride home when his brothel’s owners came into town.
“They’re very aware of how much money they can make,” Fraws said.
A sex worker who had worked in one brothel said she was not a sex strike operator.
“My clients are very aware that I am a sex-worker, I’m a prostitute, I can do whatever I want with them,” she wrote in an email to ABC Radio.
“We’ve done a lot to build relationships with our customers and our customers have told us that they’ve been happy with me for a long time.”
But a sex trade worker who worked for more years said the operator she was in charge of in her brothel had a different strategy.
“One day, she’d take me on a tour and she would tell me about all the people she had worked with over the years and how much she’d loved them, how much they’d supported her, how she loved her family and she wanted to be happy and healthy,” she described.
“And then, of course, when she was done, she would come back and tell me to go home, and she was very proud of her family for doing that.
I would see that, and it made me feel very unsafe.”
The sex worker, who did not want to be named, said she believed operators are also trying to trick women into thinking they are making the right choice when it comes to sex work, and to use sex work as a cover for their abuse.
“In some cases, it’s because the operators don’t want to give up their sex-work business, but because they have no other option,” she explained.
“The way the operators work, it is very subtle and it is a tactic.
If you’re a sex work owner, you’re not going do it in a manner that is so blatantly obvious that it’s going to be recognised by the general public.”
The study also found that in some instances, the operators were using the sex work to manipulate customers.
For instance, when the operators wanted to get customers to stop paying for sex, they would tell them they would be leaving the business, and would then pretend to go out and buy them another one, when they had not done so in the past.
They also used the sex workers “to give the appearance of being very upset about the sex-related issues that they had experienced”, the study found.
“While these are legitimate reasons for sex workers to choose