‘Set boundaries and be headstrong’: Megan Barton-Hanson on how to get in to sex work
‘There will be a lot of judgement but you’ve got to be thick skinned’
Megan Barton-Hanson was 20 when she got in to sex work. She’d been working long hours as a PA for “hardly any money”, and didn’t enjoy her job. Megan went travelling and one day went into a strip club. “I was like, these woman are living their best lives, they’re having fun and making money.” When she came home, she went straight from the airport to a strip club and got a job. “I’m so shy in groups but I love being the centre of attention on a night out, so it seemed like the perfect job”, she says.
After this, Megan went on Love Island and became the household name we all know and love. She’s now doing sex work again, with a large following on OnlyFans. Megan spoke to The Tab about her sex work, the industry as a whole, and what young people should do if they want to get into it:
‘There will be a lot of judgement but you’ve got to be thick skinned’
There are so many variations of sex work, Megan says – stripping, webcamming, OnlyFans, glamour modelling – and she says it’s important to do your research before getting into any of them. “Do your research and tell people, because there is sadly still such a stigma around sex work. I think people do feel a lot of shame, or even slut shamed by close friends”.
Megan says she was hesitant to go on Love Island because of this. She says she was “naive” and thought that when she started working it would only be older men who came into the club – but soon it was posted on social media, and she says people she knew from school were coming in to “laugh” at her. “I had horrendous slut shaming”, she says. “So I think that’s a thing to take on board as well.
“There will be a lot of judgement but you’ve just got to be thick skinned, and if you wanna do it be you. At the end of the day you can’t please everyone so you’ve just got to do what makes you happy.”
Megan says she’s “inundated” with messages from women of all ages saying they’d love to do sex work but they’re scared of judgement or what their friends might say.
“Just be honest and your authentic self”, Megan says. “And the friends that do support you, you shouldn’t feel like it’s a secret, because I think that’s when you’re gonna be safest doing this.”
‘Know your boundaries and stick to them’
“Always set your boundaries before you get into it”, Megan says. Know what you want to do, and what you’re not comfortable with, and stick to them.
“I’ve seen with a lot of girls, it can be a slippery slope. They’re like, ‘oh I’m gonna do glamour modelling and never do topless’, and then six months down the line you’ve got a photographer saying ‘you’re only going to make it if you get your tits out’. So you have to be very headstrong, know your boundaries and stick to them.”
She says people might try to convince you or offer you more money – but “no amount of money is worth regretting something”.
Build your own community
Whilst she says it’s important to have a tight circle of people who fully support you (and to “cut out” friends who don’t), Megan says having a sense of community with other sex workers is really helpful. “When I started I didn’t know any other girl that had done sex work, stripping, webcam, anything, and I was just like ‘what am I getting into?’ It can be a bit daunting.”
She says she’s found great communities on social media like Instagram, for sex workers, queer communities and more – pointing to people such as illustrator and sex educator Venus Libido. “Find a little community so you don’t feel alone”, Megan says.
On OnlyFans too, she says girls help champion one another. “There’s a real sense of community”, she says. You can give out free subscriptions to other sex workers which can give you inspiration from their content, and you can promote each other, Megan says. “It’s such a nice, warm, friendly environment.”
Megan’s built a community through OnlyFans, as well as friends she used to strip with or do glamour modelling with. “I think because you’ve all experienced it, like it is a great line of work and you’re so free, you don’t have to do a 9-5 and you are your own boss.
“But obviously there are a lot of negatives that come with it, like people’s judgement and if you don’t know and don’t have strong boundaries, you can find yourself in situations that you don’t want to do. So it’s really helpful to have good friendships.”
‘Make sure you’re working in a safe job’
Megan says the worst kinds of clients are the ones who “don’t treat you as human” – those who don’t respect your boundaries, or those who try and haggle for a dance. “That’s really insulting”.
“Obviously you’ve got to appreciate you’re in an environment where everyone’s drinking. Someone could come in and be the nicest person and then after a few drinks they completely changes. So you have to be really headstrong and make sure you’re working in a safe job where there’s loads of security and cameras.”
On the flip side, Megan says some of her best clients have become her good friends. “It’s just when they have that respect for you”, she says. “Same with on OnlyFans, I go on there, I tell them about my week. It’s just a really nice place to connect with my fans.”
Megan says another way of staying safe is to not give out personal details – including your real name (if you’re using a fake one), bank details, and your address. “People will send you gifts to kind of prove how much they like you and it can be really tempting to give out your personal details”, she says. “But whatever you do, never ever give them out.” She says many sex workers use online wish lists to receive gifting from fans, as a way of not revealing your address.
The way we see sex workers needs to change
Only three of the country’s major unis have policies in place to support student sex workers – but there are estimated to be over 214,200 student sex workers in the UK right now. “What’s been introduced is great”, Megan says, “but I just feel like that’s the tip of the iceberg. Three unis out of the whole of the country? That’s a tiny drop in the ocean. When you’re a sex worker there needs to be more support.”
But it’s not down to just unis to introduce support – it’s large companies as well as the whole culture around how we see the industry. “It’s not hurting anyone else. People love to sexualise women when it’s a film or a music video or an advert, when it’s people at the top making the money. But when the woman takes the power back and she wants to make the money herself, everyone’s uncomfortable with it and says ‘oh she’s a slut’.”
“But there’s so much that can be done. It’s just the way we see sex workers still”, Megan says.
“A lot of sex workers won’t even report if they’ve been sexually assaulted because of the stigma attached to it. People have the attitude of, ‘well you chose to pick that career’. I think that’s shameful and so sad that in this day and age we still think like that.”
Season two of Megan’s chart-topping podcast, You Come First, is out now on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.