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Archive for the ‘Call types’ Category

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may remember that on several occasions I’ve tweeted GoFundMe appeals for homeless sex workers, organized by a close friend of mine who does street outreach.  Recently, I asked her to write something for me so that in future, I can point back to it to explain who it is I’m asking charity for.  This lady is a Seattle sex worker who is well-known in our community, but prefers to remain anonymous for her activism.  If you’d like to help her out (because she does 95% of this out of her own pocket), please let me know and I’ll arrange a way for you to donate to her important work.

Like so many things in this industry, it started with Kristen D’Angelo, who contacted me because her friend from Sacremento had a daughter living in Seattle.  Kristen’s friend was concerned his daughter was working on the streets and was hoping to get someone to check on her; she (let’s call her Jess) was homeless, using drugs, and working on Aurora Avenue.  Maggie and I ended up taking her out for dinner.  More than anything, she was surprised that instead of being met with judgement and Jesus, she was met by peers with compassion and kindness (along with some screening tips for seeing clients).  Shortly thereafter, I found out an acquaintance of mine had lost her housing, and she and her boyfriend were living out of their car.  I would go see her once, occasionally twice, a week, bringing lunch or dinner, and we would eat together and talk.  After a couple visits I starting meeting some of the people that they had befriended in their time on the streets.  I was struck by the situations of the women there.  To see women so vulnerable was terrifying…but I wasn’t sure what I could do.  I asked them: what do you need?  How can I help?  While I don’t have a tremendous surfeit of disposable income, I could certainly spend $100 a week buying food for people that badly needed it.  So I did.

Simultaneously, I was keeping in (more sporadic) contact with Jess.  It wasn’t long before I was heading up to Aurora once a week (give or take) as well.  Eventually I was out two or three nights a week talking to young women from Aurora to Belltown to SoDo, both in the jungle and working the streets.  I found myself out at 7pm, 10pm, or midnight walking through the city, talking to people.  Instead of being in Greenlake or Madrona, I found myself in places with appellations like the Batcave and Clowntown; I was under the viaduct and in tent cities along the highway.  Within this world, it takes time to earn trust; there are always, to this day, some women that refuse to talk to me or that I have met five times but act as if they don’t know me…and that’s fine.  For the ones that do talk, I hand out condoms and Narcan.  I bring jackets, food, toiletries, clean socks, and camping propane tanks.  I take girls to Planned Parenthood for panel tests; to emergency shelters; to drop them off at detox.  Many of them, if you asked, would not identify as a sex workers, and if you called them a sex worker, you might get punched in the face.  But, if you said, “if you give me a blowjob, you can sleep in my tent tonight.”  Well, that’s an easy yes!!  Whether they identify as sex workers or not, they know when they see me that religion isn’t coming into the conversation and I am not going to tell them what they should do or have to do.  Giving these women autonomy in their decision-making is very important; even when, in my opinion, they may make a terrible choice, it’s theirs to make and I won’t try to take that away from them.  Similarly, none of the things I hand out have strings attached; the only rules are I will not give out cash or buy drugs.

When I meet women that are open to talking, I may make some harm reduction suggestions or ask them what they need.  Much of the time, I listen.  Many of these women have suffered extensive trauma, have drug abuse issues (the desire to anesthetize a terrible situation is strong), or have mental health problems – or all three.  In addition, there is the pervasive sense of hopelessness that comes with being utterly marginalized and, in effect, thrown away by society; just having someone listen and acknowledge you can be significant.  It definitely isn’t the easiest volunteer path I could have taken.  There have been multiple calls from girls that have been raped, assaulted, or robbed.  I helped a girl that had been thrown out of a moving car by a client, and another girl that was pistol-whipped by her boyfriend.  I’ve Narcan’d people through countless overdoses (if anyone ever needs to be resuscitated – I am a fucking pro).  I’ve been hung up on by police when calling 9-1-1 for help and been told by the paramedics that they “can’t” go where they are needed.  I’ve stepped over dead bodies and had rats the size of Boston Terriers leisurely swagger over my toes.

The other side is that there are happier stories.  I paid out my own pocket for a girl to go to rehab because I believed in her when no one else did; she completed 90 days of treatment and moved back to her parent’s house in Minnesota.  That was over a year ago and she is still clean and sober.  Two girls had been living in and out of motels on Aurora and we worked together to get them into a low-income apartment; two other girls saw what they did and decided they could do it too.  I’ve acted as an advocate for a girl that was brutally raped by a prominent Seattleite; I connected her with a lawyer and could not have been happier for her when she got a ridiculously large settlement.  Money didn’t make the PTSD disappear, but it certainly put her in a situation where she could take time and heal.  Unfortunately, the stories with (ahem) happy endings are exceptionally few and far between; the emotional labor can be intense, overwhelming, and exhausting.  I’ve asked myself more than once why I’m not walking dogs at the Humane Society, and I have spent more hours than I can count crying on Maggie’s couch.  But I very strongly believe that everyone needs some help now and then; if I can help someone make a more informed decision or turn a corner, then it’s worth it.

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I don’t often do sequels to previous guest columns, but I thought y’all might want to see this update from “John Seattle”; if you haven’t read his column on Seattle’s “john school” yet, you probably should before reading this one.

Last year, Maggie was very kind to publish my response to Peter Qualliotine’s STOP Exploitation classes.  It was written before I had completed the series of classes; the final session ended with Qualliotine giving a pep rally-esque speech in which he asked, “Are you with me?  Will you stop buying sex?”  This question was met with a long, drawn out silence broken only by my giggling when I realized what had happened.  At the time I felt as if I had thoroughly rejected the toxic messaging of his class, but that was not as simple as it seemed.  It was Wendy Zukerman’s Science VS podcast episode entitled “Sex Addiction: Are They Faking It?” that gave me insight to the need to understand better the damaging impacts of shame.  According to the podcast, the truth about sexual addiction (one of the many toxic messages Qualliotine dispenses) is that no scientific evidence supports its existence; what some believe to be sex addiction is the feeling of shame, which is why belief in “sex addiction” is strongly correlated with religious beliefs that sexuality is sinful.

The “sex addiction” myth is thus very useful for someone who is trying to shame others out of their sexuality.  In a local article, Qualliotine was described as someone who “sees patronizing prostitutes as part of a continuum of…behaviors that includes sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape.”  Through psychological manipulation Qualliotine’s message is that “the core of who and what you are as a person is that of a harasser, abuser, and rapist.”  What he calls “education” is actually based on sex-shaming in order to change behavior, a social conformity strategy very much like the thoroughly-discredited “conversion therapy” is supposed to “cure” gay people.  And even though it doesn’t accomplish what its purveyors claim, subconsciously this toxic messaging lingers, causing emotional damage and isolation in its victims that manifest in harmful ways, such as social anxiety, and despair.

There are a lot of reasons for people to have sex, and none are wrong as long as all partners give consent and treat each other ethically.  Undoing the damage caused by the lie that this is not so, that outsiders have the right to impose rules on other adults, is harder than one might think, but there are resources available; Dr. David Ley, Lola Davina, and Maggie are just a few of the writers who helped me to start the process.  But the first step is to recognize the damage done by sexual shaming even in people who intellectually know better.

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As most of y’all can probably guess, I have not been watching the Kavanaugh hearings on TV, because even if I did watch other TV news (which I don’t, and haven’t since I first started reading the newspaper around age 12, recognizing even then that it was entertainment and not news) I would certainly not watch this ridiculous circus designed to further the popular “red-blue” myth in the minds of the hoi-polloi.  I also have the word “Kavanaugh” muted on Twitter, but of course that doesn’t block tweets which don’t directly reference him.  So I was able to see and comment on this very interesting observation by Phoenix Calida:

So you know Rachel Mitchell, the woman who is going to question Dr. Christine Ford?  She’s a prosecutor with the special victims unit.  From Maricopa county.  You know, the place where sheriff Joe Arpaio worked?…The one who bragged about running concentration camps where guards tortured inmates?  And then he was held in Contempt of court for racial profiling and pardoned by Trump?…And remember when Sheriff Joe refused to investigate rape cases?  And cases where children were being sexually abused by adults?  All Bc the victims were Latinas?  That’s where this woman earned her credentials as a sex crimes prosecutor.  Rachel Mitchell is about to question Dr. Ford, an alleged rape victim.  And Mitchell earned her “credentials” working with cops who wouldn’t even investigate rape cases in their county.  How do y’all see this really turning out?

Maricopa County is, of course, a cesspool of political corruption, especially where sex work is concerned.  And Arpaio was a big Trump supporter, so one of his gang turning up in Washington to help Trump is not really a surprise.  But Phoenix’s tweets got me thinking, so I wrote this after quoting hers:

You remember Arpaio, right?  The guy who arrested newspapermen Lacey & Larkin for exposing his corruption?  The same Lacey & Larkin who were persecuted as owners of Backpage, partly thanks to the efforts of Cindy McCain, whom they exposed as a drug addict who robbed her own charity?  The same Cindy McCain, widow of John McCain, warmonger politician from AZ (where Maricopa County is) who has relentlessly demonized Backpage (owned by the men who exposed her crimes) for years?  Arizona is also the site of ASU, home of Dominique Roe-Sepowitz (who says sex work is bad because “body fluids” cause brain damage), who is paid big bucks by the McCain Institute and government cronies to do bogus “studies” designed to “prove” that “sex trafficking” was rampant on Backpage?  Funny how all of this shit begins to fit together when you follow the money and the trail of vendettas, alliances & favors, isn’t it?

And in case you hadn’t noticed, while this big show of “us vs them” was going on, Congress almost-unanimously passed the biggest war-advancing military spending bill in history, and the House passed a bill which expands the PATRIOT Act using “sex trafficking” as an excuse with solid support from both of these supposedly-deadly-enemy parties.  But please keep watching the fireworks and pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

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Every so often, a sex worker or client who has been caught by the trickery of predatory cops asks me for a recommendation to a sex-worker-friendly criminal defense attorney, and usually I’ve been able to help them.  But recently, I decided that rather than doing this piecemeal, it would make more sense to compile a list.  I realize that this process will probably take some time, but it will never be finished if I don’t at least start, so for the past week on Twitter I’ve been asking for attorneys willing to take such cases to send me their contact info.  If you are such an attorney, you can submit the info in the comments below or by replying to my tweets, but the best way would be to send me an email by clicking this linkHere’s the page so far; even if you see there’s already a name in your state please don’t hesitate to submit your name as well; the more we have, the better.  And if you’re not a lawyer yourself but know one who belongs on the list, please ask that person to send their contact details to me!

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Ghost

On July 6th, Dan Savage asked sex worker Twitter for help with this question:

A lot of people answered, but most of the responses were quite short.  Below I’ve reprinted mine and three others I found notable, but if you’re interested there are more in Dan’s own column on the question.

Me: Sending flowers or similar forms of approach would be a VERY bad idea.  What he should do is search her stage name for a new ad; if there is one, he can attempt contact that way & see what happens.  If he can’t locate an ad, he should just assume she’s retired and move on.

Savannah Sly:  As a criminalized population, sex workers frequently change phone numbers, emails, etc.  I would advise seeing if she’s advertising online anywhere, and reaching out by the means she outlines in her ad.  I would not advise reaching out in person, or sending anything to her house.  Also, sometimes sex workers ghost.  Our jobs are stressful due to stigma and criminalization, our lives are complex.  Sometimes we ghost without notice, because anxiety runs high in our community.  Be patient, look online, be professional during outreach regardless of past intimacy.  Lastly, sometimes we actually disappear.  As in, violent crimes are committed against us.  If you suspect this, I’d advise reaching out to sex worker groups in your area (or as close as you can find) to tell them you’re concerned.  Then step back, and let the community ask around.

Mistress Matisse: OK just to be different: I’m going to go a different way from all the other advice has been given here. Now, all of the other advice IS very good advice and you will not go wrong by taking it.  However, if you would like to make one attempt – and only one – to contact this lady, here is what you might do.  Go to the store and buy a very generic “thinking of you” card.  Or a blank one.  Nothing romantic!  Write in the card something like this: “Dear X, I see that we’ve fallen out of contact, and I just want to say goodbye and wish you well.  I’ve always thought highly of you and enjoyed our time together.  If you ever want to contact me again for any reason, please don’t hesitate, my number is…”  NOTHING ELSE.  Don’t say anything about sex, don’t say anything about money, don’t say anything about love, basically don’t say anything that would sound bad if read out loud in court.  Do that and do nothing else.  If she wants to get in touch with you, she will.  One time and one time only.  Or, take the safer route and follow the advice of my colleagues.  Plenty of other ladies to meet and enjoy in the world.  I’m sure that’s what she would want you to do, meet someone else.

Anjel:  If she has an email or some other form of contact info, trying to send a feeler email out that way would be ok. But she has every right to end the business relationship without explanation.  No one can know how damaging and intrusive getting flowers might feel to her.  She honestly could have lost that phone number and lost all old contact info though.  But if she wants her old clients to find her she would have given them another way to contact her.  If there isn’t another way, accept that it’s over and be grateful for the experience.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Just in case you missed the news, I’ve got an article on how to hire a sex professional in the new print edition of Reason, and I think y’all should show your support by picking one up!  But if you have neither subscription nor newsstand handy, here it is online.  A sample to get you started: 

Despite being a common activity, buying sexual services can be intimidating.  As with all black market transactions, there is an element of risk and uncertainty caused by prohibition.  Maybe you’re considering buying sex but are unsure how to proceed.  Or maybe you’ve done it in the past but are nervous in the current climate of aggressive “end demand” stings and “john shaming”—complete with names and pictures in the news.  Either way, you’ve come to the right place: Hiring an escort is neither difficult nor dangerous as long as one exercises patience, diligence, and good manners.

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I’d like to see you frequently, but that would add up pretty fast.  Do you give discounts for regular clients?

Every independent sex professional in the world has heard the line, “if you give me a discount I’ll be a regular”, and every pro in the world who’s heard it more than once (which is to say, everyone who’s been doing it for more than a month or so) rolls her eyes when she hears it.  Would you walk into any other business and make such an offer?  Of course you wouldn’t, because everybody including you knows it’s bullshit.  That’s not how volume discounts work, as anyone who’s ever been to a place like Sam’s or Costco understands; the way to get a lower price per unit is to buy a larger package deal up front.  Want a “regular client” discount from your favorite provider?  Offer to pay her up front for x number of sessions, and ask how much of a discount she’d give you for that.  Yes, it requires you to trust she’ll make good once you fork over the cash…just like you want her to trust that you’ll make good on your promise of regularity.  I can’t promise that any given sex worker will actually make such a deal, and I’m not telling you that some might not grant your request for a lower price after you’ve been seeing them for a while.  What I am telling you is that nobody is going to give a total stranger a discount merely on his say-so that he’ll be back, because we aren’t stupid.

As for me personally, I offer two kinds of package deals.  Since my hourly rate decreases the more hours you buy, I’m willing to sell a block of time for the multi-hour rate and then let you divide it up as you like (incall only; we’d need to work out a slightly higher price if you expect me to drive somewhere every time).  So, you could pay me up-front for a 16-hour gig and then take it as 8 two-hour sessions or 4 dinner dates; I’d even let you break it into 16 one-hour sessions, but I’d expect an extra tip for that much prep time  (remember, I only have to get pretty once per date, so 16 one-hour sessions is a LOT more prep time in all than one 16-hour session).  The other way to do it is a sugar-type arrangement wherein you pay me every month and I give you a agreed-upon amount of time every week.  The reason I’m willing to make these deals is simple:  regular clients are far less work and stress (no screening, no uncertainty or time-wasting back-and-forth initial-contact dance), and I like the comfort and certainty of prepaid appointments (so I naturally want to encourage them).  Again, I can’t promise that other ladies will be as generous, or that they’ll even make such a deal in the first place.  But the number willing to make such a deal is bound to be dramatically higher than the number who will respond well to a no-skin-in-the-game “if you give me a discount I’ll be a regular”, because the latter number is approximately zero.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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