Back in January, I was contacted by a producer from the Dr. Phil show. I was hand-picked, he said, because he liked my other interviews and what I had to say. I would be the only one in my position (â€œpro-prostitutionâ€) on the show. The topic was the whole CraigsList ad verification/sexual trafficking thing. That I currently advertise on CL (under another name), is a plus. Jim Buckmaster was supposed to be there, along with several state Attorney Generals and some women arrested from CL stings. I was told that there was going to be some massive new stings off CL and these women would be given the option of jail or the show. [I won’t discuss that, you’re welcome to draw your own conclusions.]
Well, Operation Innocence Lost did indeed make some arrests. I was ready for the show. Or at least prepping hard for it. I was finally told the show would be recorded March 18 in LA. They would pay for my expenses. Nice!
This was exciting news for me and a big coup. Dr. Phil may not be the most respected of men but it’s a BFD for a small-time businessperson like myself. Then came the show’s pre-interview. Not a single question was asked about my political views or anything about CL. Instead, I was asked a number of intrusive questions about my mental health, personal history and childhood! My childhood is irrelevant in topics of national policy. It really is.
And they asked for my real name and SSN. No, they weren’t paying me, they just wanted my SSN. The girl on the phone assured me no one would see it except everyone at the office and Dr. Phil himself. I would have to sign a boatload of legal papers which their lawyers had drawn up. Though I requested a copy of these forms via email, none were sent. Though I needed to submit my name for the travel department, I declined. They wouldn’t reimburse my expenses through my company. Fine, I’d just pay for it myself â€“ business deduction.
My instincts were going off. If Dr. Phil had been a client, I would not have seen him. But I asked around and consulted several people whom I felt I could trust to point out any holes in the show’s or my logic or who might have had similar experiences. No one trusted the forms, the â€œreal nameâ€/SSN requirement, or probing questions. A few of these people went so far as to suggest a staged event, like an arrest or â€œblast from the pastâ€ type of personal meeting. That they could think of these possibilities meant the show could too. That I was advised to have a lawyer with me while I was on the show was a big warning sign.
I didn’t do the show.
Missed a massive publicity opportunity that I was really looking forward to. I was prepping like a trial lawyer and getting grilled by friends. I was going in there ready to rumble. But…I was not willing to trade certain things for that opportunity. It was a gamble; nothing guaranteed except that I would be giving up enough info for an untrustworthy person to track my entire life from birth.
I’m not someone with a lot of skeletons in my closet. (That you’re reading this blog is proof of that.) Like most normal people, I don’t need a staged arrest, my tax records pulled up or people I’d rather not see again suddenly shoved into my life once more. My mother and sister don’t need harassed or outed. They have not chosen my life path and don’t deserve the troubles. I want the opportunity to sell more books. I’d like to make safe new clients (though I don’t think TV shows are quite the answer for that). I want to change assumptions about sex workers and hopefully change policy around sex work — which was the big opportunity this show presented.
My â€œreal nameâ€ is not a state secret, not really. But if I wanted to work under that name, I would. I’ve chosen a professional name for a reason and I want that respected. When I choose to share that trust with people, it’s simply because I want to. I don’t expect strings either way, though I do expect my trust not to be misplaced.
There is a lot that I freely give to many people for many reasons. And there are a few things I sell because, like anyone, I need to pay my bills. I sell my books. I sell my time as an adult companion to men.
In the end, despite what many might think, everything is not for sale.
UPDATE: A little more discussion here.