Vanessa D’Alessio wrote a great piece over at TitsandSass around the issue of showing your face in conjunction with your online escort work. My response got eaten by the Intertubes, I think. Instead of reposting, I decided to expand on it a little here.
This article has been at the back of my mind since I read it last week. My arc has been slightly different than hers. When I started stripping, I was fairly out and allowed myself to be photographed, topless, for one of my club’s websites (back when the Internet was indeed tubes that connected computers using gerbils and string). They never removed the picture despite repeated requests, even after I left stripping and began escorting. (It was later removed only because they redid their site.)
When I first began escorting 16yrs ago, I was full face, no tattoo-photoshop. No one ever popped up in public to identify me. I was extremely open about it to friends, family, and nowhere near as discreet as I usually am now. I knew it wasn’t harmless, I recognized that review culture was toxic, that I had to screen to avoid cops and bad clients. But I never felt unsafe with my face online at that time.
Was that naivete? Possibly. Or the world was just a little bit less connected then than it is now. The Patriot Act was only a few months old when I started, though I hated it then too.
But the more I’ve experienced and seen and heard, the more I keep my head down and do what I can to be a mystery to potential clients (and how to keep it vague in person with almost everyone). I can’t say I experience much backlash for hiding my face and other details escorts often share on their sites or social media. I reveal other things instead that are of no matter to me but act as fodder for those who want “more.” (A similar concept to my fake real name when I was a stripper.) I also screen like hell because the risk has just gotten worse. I get way more backlash for my screening requirements than my photo or social media gaps. I practice personal privacy assiduously in my real life too, though laws are making it tougher in that realm as well.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I’ve touted privacy, endlessly, even those who complain about how “complicated” it is. My life is my own and I’d like to keep it that way as much as possible, thanks. There is nothing too complicated when it comes to that.
I’ve long practiced personal online hygiene and have nearly zero trace of my personal self online. If it weren’t for this business, I would have almost nothing online at all. I saw the value of privacy long ago. I am often a contrarian. Back when everyone was touting “transparency” and joining every social media platform they could and splashing their lives everywhere, I asked myself what the obvious backlash from this would be. If the general populace was online, then where would the privilege and value reside? The answer to those questions was simple: privacy and zero online footprint. Good thing for us it’s not reserved solely for the rich, any poor person can have this luxury too by simply keeping themselves off the Internet.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that a microscope has slowly started being turned on us, both as sex workers and citizens living in the US. You have to be able and willing to cultivate double and triple lives/facades in order to be safe, IMO. You have to keep all this precisely compartmentalized.
But since you almost have to be online to be an escort, then keeping it strictly controlled under the boundaries of your persona is the only answer, keeping everything as compartmentalized as possible. This requires planning, research, and not posting when sleepy/drunk/high. It’s going to be worth it to your life in the long run.
For those who are afraid of Amazon revealing their home address via their Wishlists…why the fuck is anyone having anything delivered to their home??? This is Privacy 101. Learn it, live it, live it, live it. This is the only arena of my personal life where I’m comfortable with lying like a champ–to anyone who wants my actual, real info.
No, clients often have little clue of the value of what they’re asking for when they ask for more and more to be revealed online. Though I daresay the smarter clients are starting to want companions who keep a little online mystery as well. It makes them feel safer as they’re slowly becoming away of how many people can become connected if one person fails to log off their Facebook account (for example).
And yes, young sex workers often have little clue in the value of what they’re giving away. I wish more sex workers would shout from all their social media that they’re not going to reveal (whatever privacy lines they decide) and why. For more pieces like D’Alessio’s to encourage sex workers to cultivate the age-old sense of mystery the profession usually has. It’s seductive, sure, but it’s also such an important part of harm reduction these days.
PS: Despite what D’Alessio thinks, BBBJ was extremely common in Texas, and most cities I toured, well before 2008. Ironically, the majority of the ladies who offered it charged less than I did, who did not. I always thought that the greater the risk, the more you charge. That’s a Sex Work 101 lesson.
I see sex workers monetizing their social media, probably with that lesson in their head. I never think they charge enough.