Paying for Sex: What’s Legal?

This page has been fact checked by a community legal service. Please note Sex Work Law Reform Victoria does not provide legal advice. For more information about sex work laws, please see our legislation page. For legal advice contact your local community legal service

Sex Work Law Reform Victoria expressly disclaims any liability to any person of any action taken or not taken in reliance on the contents of this document.

You’re a client of a sex worker if you pay them for sexual services, ranging from happy ending massages to full sex. 

The following table outlines what is legal and what is not legal for clients.

The following table refers to STIs. An STI is a sexually transmissible infection.

In the ‘Law’ column below, SWA refers to the Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic).

In the ‘Penalty’ column below, there are a range of penalties that can be imposed depending on whether you have committed the offence before.

This table is a summary of the wording of the legislation and should be treated as a guide only. Please refer to the legislation for details. 

Paying for Sex – What’s Legal?

WHAT YOU CAN DO   

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

You can see a sex worker aged 18 years or older

  ss5(1) and 5(3) of SWA
 

You can’t engage anyone under 18 for sexual services. You may be liable even if you didn’t know they were a child. 

10 – 15 years’ jail

ss 5(1) and 7(1) of SWA

 

You can’t pay anyone under 18 for sexual services by offering them drugs. You may be liable even if you didn’t know they were a child. 

15 years’ jail

s7 of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t talk in public to a sex worker about prices or services.

1- 6 months’ jail or

$1,652 – $9,913 fine

(10 – 60 penalty units)

s12(2) of SWA

 

You can’t enter, be in or leave an unlicensed (illegal) brothel*

1- 6 months’ jail or

$1,652 – $9,913 fine

(10 – 60 penalty units)

s15 of SWA

 

You can’t talk to a sex worker about prices and services in a church (or other place of worship), hospital, school (or other children’s service), or a public place where children are present

3- 9 months’ jail or

$4,956 – $14,869 fine

(30-90 penalty units)

s12(1) of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

You can’t be indecent, offensive or insulting towards a street-based sex worker in public

3 months’ jail or up to a $4,956 fine

( up to 30 penalty units)

s16 of SWA

 

An area can be a declared area if street sex work offences by clients or workers often occur there.

A police officer can ban you from the area for 72 hours if they believe you have been soliciting sex work services in public.

 

s18(4) of SOA and s21C of SWA

 

You must not enter an area you have been banned from under a banning notice

Up to a fine of $3,304

(up to 20 penalty units)

s21G(1) of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

When a police officer is giving you a banning notice, you must give your true name and address.

Up to a  $826 fine

(up to 5 penalty units)

s21E(3) of SWA

 

Unless you have a reasonable excuse, if asked to you must produce evidence of your name and address to a police officer issuing you with a banning notice. 

s21E(7) of SWA

Ask for the name, rank and place of duty of a police officer who is issuing you with a banning notice

The officer must comply with your request.

  

s21E(4) of SWA

s21E(5) of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

If you’re in a declared area with a banning notice in place, you must comply with the police direction to leave the area.

Up to a $3,304 fine

(up to 20 penalty units)

s21G of SWA

 

If you are in a car in a declared area, you cannot do or say anything that would offend a reasonable person. This could include suggesting or requesting sexual acts.

up to a $826 fine

(up to 5 penalty units)

s18(1) of SOA

 

You must use a condom for full sex, blow jobs or any other activity with a similar risk of acquiring or transmitting STI’s. You must take all other reasonable steps to minimise the risk of acquring or transmitting an STI. 

up to a $3,304 fine

(up to 20 penalty units)

s18A of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

See more than one sex worker in the same booking

   

See a sex worker with a friend or your partner

   

Request a longer booking or an overnight stay

   

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

Pay a sex worker for things other than sex, such as dinner. But you can’t talk about sex work services or prices in public. 

  ss12-13 of SWA

Invite a sex worker to see you at your house or hotel/motel

   

See a sex worker if you have an STI (which includes HIV) as long as you use condoms. However, the sex worker can decide whether or not to provide services. 

   

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

Wherever you are, you cannot intimidate, insult, harass, threaten or abuse a sex worker – whether by actions or by words. 

Up to 3 months’ jail or

$4,956 fine

(up to 30 penalty units)

s16 of SWA

 

Even if you have paid, you can’t force or intimidate a person to do sex work.

Up to 10 years’ jail

s8 of SWA

 

Even if you have paid, you can’t intimidate, insult, harass, threaten or abuse a sex worker – whether by actions or words

Up to3 months’ jail or

up to $4,956 fine

(up to 30 penalty units)

s16 of SWA

WHAT YOU CAN DO

    

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO

PENALTY 

LAW 

 

Even if you have paid, you can’t use threats to make a sex worker provide a service they don’t want to give

Up to 10 years’ jail or

s44 of CA

 

Even if you have paid, you can’t sexually touch a sex worker without their consent

Up to 10 years’ jail or

s40 of CA

 

Even if you have paid, you can’t penetrate a sex worker orally, vaginally or anally without their consent

Up to 25 years’ jail or

s38 of CA

* for an up to date list of the licensed LEGAL brothels in Victoria, please see the RhED website brothel listing.

STI = sexually transmissible infection

SWA = Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic)

SWR = Sex Work Regulations 2016 (Vic)

SOA = Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)

CA = Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)

Fines updated annually on 1 July

Between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020 one penalty unit = $165.22

The information on this page has been fact checked by a Victorian community legal centre that is a member of the Federation of Community Legal Centres (FCLC). To find your local community legal centre in Victoria, visit the the FCLC website.

Last updated: 29 October 2019

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