5 Oct 2019

Straight male escort John Oh: 'I love my job'

From Saturday Morning, 10:05 am on 5 October 2019

Monogamy isn't necessarily the most important aspect of a marriage, according to John Oh, a sex worker based in Sydney.

Among his clients are women who want to have sex outside marriage without having an 'affair', John tells Kim Hill.

John Oh

John Oh Photo: supplied

"What a lot of [clients] say to me is 'I love my husband, he's my best friend, I'm very happy with him but he's not interested in sex, or not interested in sex as much as I want or he's not interested in sex in the way that I want.

"They don't want to burn that relationship to the ground and destroy it just because they're not having the sex that they want.

"Sex in a marriage is just one part of it. If we say 'you can't have sex outside marriage because that's terrible' ... is it more terrible to destroy a relationship by walking away from it just 'cause you want sex?"

John got into the sex industry after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009, when his IT business crashed.

The GFC also hit that industry hard, he says, but in the following years business grew as mobile phones enabled women to privately search for straight male escorts like him.

"In my experience of life and people, it's basically a 'don't ask don't tell' attitude to men using sex work services… women are not given that same freedom that men are. Men are given a pass, basically, while women are always being held to a different standard of behaviour. I think that's the biggest thing that stops women using the services of male escorts… the next being not even knowing that our services exist."

Straight men like John are a "tiny minority" in the sex industry, he says.

And while it would be easy for him not to be vocal about his work – because, he says, for him it carries no physical risk – John has been a sex worker advocate for several years.

"I'm exercising a little bit of that [white male] privilege in favour of my less privileged peers."

John doesn't currently have a partner and says only a very small circle of friends know what he does for a living.

He doesn't usually tell people he meets outside of work as he doesn't want to be defined by his job.

"The general reaction of people on hearing what I do is 'oh wow, tell me more' … I'm not really interested in talking to people I meet about what I do unless it's pertinent.

"At the end of the day, what I do is a job. It's one I love and I care about the industry deeply [but] when I'm done with work, like most people, I like to walk away from my work.

"This is something that I enjoy doing, it's a legal trade and it provides a valuable service for a lot of people."

Many of his clients are simply craving physical touch, John says.

"They want sex, but they also want a glass of wine and conversation and they want cuddles and they want intimacy. My female peers say that their clients want the same kind of things, too.

"For a lot of my clients, simply having someone who will make them a priority is enormously valuable."

John's business website (which isn't 'safe for work') includes a personal blog, and he trusts that the people attracted to how he presents himself online will be suited to his particular service.

"I don't want every client. I just want the ones I can connect and relate to and therefore provide a good service to."

Quite often John's clients are women who have never had sex before, he says, sometimes because they've been focusing on their careers.

"Often it will be someone who's 29 just about to turn 30 or just about to turn 35 or 40 or even 45. They're in a position where their life is dominated by the fact that they've never had sex with another person. It ruins their relationship with men, it ruins their relationship with women as well because they get left behind."

These women are sometimes terrified but desperate to experience sex and it can be very freeing, he says.

"[They sometimes say] 'That's it? That was all it was? … they realise that this thing they've built up in their mind to be enormous … even if they're just talking to a guy the fact they've never had sex is blocking them from even having a normal conversation."

John's clients also include people with disabilities, who he connects with via the organisation Touching Base.

New Zealand and the Australian state of New South Wales are the only places in the world where sex work is fully decriminalised.