When I was touring a few months ago, and Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage, was arrested, I had about $800 of credit in my account. I started spending and not replenishing because I knew BP wouldn’t last much longer. As of today, I have less than $200 in my account. I have no way of getting that money back, that I know of, but at least it’s still there and it’s not very much, really.
This is the far more spectacular story I once promised to tell.
I began this history in mid-May, when Jill received her terminal diagnosis. Jill has read this fully and contributed. To the disappointment of many, she hasn’t yet dropped dead. But we have both decided it is time to make public the true story of why and how she is dying. This story started as something else. Not a eulogy, not a memorial, a written memento mori of incidents and echoes.
If there is purpose in all of this, I leave it to someone else to find.
This is what Jill wants to be said, what I want to say, for now, so that it is said.
There’s an escort-photo trend that’s taken off to the point where it’s become…strange. That would be the escort-at-the-window picture. Most of the time, they’re staring wistfully off into the distance. Worse is when their hands are on the glass, actively trying to escape. Or at least that’s how it looks.
I view tons of ads and websites and the trend continues to grow and all I see are women trapped in hotel rooms, wearing lingerie and heels, trying like hell to get out. Usually there’s a cityscape in the background, far back, blurred and indistinct. These poor women are trapped in the here and now, forever stuck trying to reach vibrant life rather than the undersaturated room around them, yearning to breathe non-canned air, take off their shoes and really stretch their legs.
Window shots look great — the lighting is natural and superb and it doesn’t take much photographic talent to take a good photo. With strong talent the photo turns into magazine-quality work. A little figure-flattering posing and you have a beautiful, artistic shot that doesn’t require much editing.
Except…when you have seen hundreds of these shots, as I have, the claustrophobia descends and it actually starts to get disturbing. I start to wonder if anti-trafficking crusaders have also OD’ed on these “woman at the window” shots and base their entire perspective of escort work on them.
There are some shots where a window is in the background, giving light to the scene, but the woman isn’t interacting with the window or smashing herself against it. These shots are just your basic “room” shots and don’t have that “I’m dying to escape this boutique hotel” feeling. I’d like to see some escorts breaking the glass and getting free of the hotel, though I guess they probably wouldn’t be allowed to ever stay in that hotel again. And escaping the window might lead to a trend of “woman on the ledge” photos, which would be even worse.
I enjoyed this SEO article because, buried in the middle, was a nugget of gold for escorts. The section on cohorts, segments and personas is an easy breakdown of how to figure out who you are. It’s not that you have to fit yourself into the Smurfland example, only that you figure out what land you do belong to, then see where you fit.
The true beauty of this section is reversing this process gives you your ideal client. Yes, we’re talking broad strokes here but most people live their lives very broadly and very routinely, most especially clients. It’s nothing I haven’t mentioned in Book 2, but this guy does a better job of explaining the process, as well as using pictures.
Basically, the two pieces below concern hysteria: the first around women who say they didn’t consent and it’s believed they did; the second around women who say they consented and are told they didn’t. It’s so much fun being a woman.
Women writing about rape culture are considered to be creating “hysteria” because apparently rape culture isn’t real. On the other hand, you have ongoing sex trafficking hysteria completely out of proportion to actual sex trafficking cases. It’s the non-trafficked sex workers who are believed to not be real. Either way you look at the two issues, women aren’t being listened to or believed, and the end result is more harm to women. (I’ve little doubt that some real sex trafficking victims can’t find help and are stuck in their situation.)
As a light-hearted bonus, here’s a quick common-sense test of what constitutes sex trafficking vs sex work.
I’ve never read her book, but I remember the title catching my eye a bookstore. It sums up sex trafficking hysteria perfectly. Amy says the title is derived from the practice of Myanmar fishermen who “scoop up the fish and bring them to shore. They say they are saving the fish from drowning. Unfortunately… the fish do not recover. This kind of magical thinking or hypocrisy or mystical attitude or sheer stupidity is a fair metaphor for the entire book.”
Or it could be a metaphor for a highly-funded rescue industry hellbent on saving someone, damnit!
saving molli from tweeting
The independent London escort Molli Devadasi has been around for a while. She hit Twitter gold by co-starting a hashtag campaign questioning the rescue industry by questioning their assumptions about sex work and sex workers, you may have seen it appear in my Twitter stream: #NotYourRescueProject.
While sex workers with blogs and Twitter are considered “privileged” and not worth listening to, apparently Molli was too successful. She was dragged from her London home, held, and questioned for two days by police before finally being released. They thought she was being trafficked because she was questioning trafficking hysteria, promoting sex worker rights, and discussing her personal choices. That makes sense. They were going to save a fish from drowning and they had a nice, shiny fish with Molli. (Let’s nevermind the time and money spent tracking her down and interrogating her when real victims of actual crimes might have needed police help.)
Molli has been terrorized for no reason other than expressing her opinions and experiences as a sex worker in a country where she was legally working. They took her money, laptop and phone so they can search for her “pimp.”
Need I point out that taking a sex worker’s money means she is going to have to earn more, very quickly? If you’re in an abolitionist frame of mind, this is the opposite of the correct move to make.
twitter safety for working activists
If you’re a sex worker and you know you’re going to Tweet as an activist, consider making a separate activist account and link it to something other than your sex work site (or blog). I have no idea what Molli’s security was like but they tracked her down either via her Twitter account or via her escort domain registration info (or maybe her escort phone number if it was public and registered in her name). Those are some determined rescuers.
Molli’s unfortunate case shows it’s vital to keep the activism and sex work apart. She got a modified version of what sex workers in the US could expect. Since we’re considered criminals before we’re considered victims, Molli in the US would have had her house stormed in the middle of the night, she would have been arrested, searched, interrogated even more harshly/detained even longer, and likely have lost any money in bank accounts and many of her possessions (like a car or house). She might still be in jail. If she had a pet, it might have been shot. If you think this scenario is far-fetched, this has happened many times to innocent people incorrectly suspected of being involved with drugs. A suspected prostitute involved in sex trafficking wouldn’t fare much better.
Congress has made it clear it’s about to go after Twitter and the sex workers on Twitter. Keep your business Twitter account tied to your business, your activist persona on its own. Speaking of which, if you’re truly concerned, use proxies to sign into Twitter. Or buy a “burner” phone and just use that to access your Twitter accounts. Even better if you can Tweet via a Google Voice number that’s tied to a burner phone (I have no idea if you can — feel free to enlighten me). Just like dressing up when it’s cold, it’s all about layers.