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Posts Tagged ‘escort review sites’

The criminalization of sex work is based in nothing more than petty moral outrage.  – Chris Sosa

RentboyWhile sex workers were  celebrating the growing recognition among decent people that sex work prohibition is nothing less than the violent suppression of consensual sexual behavior, the most rabidly-prohibitionist government on the planet was scheming to prove the pro-decriminalization forces correct by unleashing yet another act of violence against peaceful businesspeople.  Like Escorts.com and MyRedbook before it, the venerable gay escort site Rentboy was raided by federal officials anxious to put on a good show:

Federal agents raided the Manhattan headquarters of Rentboy.com as part of a money laundering and state prostitution investigation Tuesday…Seven people, including CEO Jeffrey Hurant, were arrested…Department of Homeland Security agents and members of the NYPD, which assisted in the raid, were seen removing boxes from the offices…More than $1.4 million from six bank accounts was seized in connection with the probe…the government said it was taking steps to shut down the website…”Rentboy.com attempted to present a veneer of legality, when in fact this Internet brothel made millions of dollars from the promotion of illegal prostitution,” Acting U.S. Attorney…Kelly Currie [bloviated]…

As it later turned out, the raid was not justified under the typical excuse of “money laundering”, but rather under a different infinitely-elastic federal “crime” statute, the Travel Act of 1961:

…the Travel Act makes it a federal crime to use the mail or interstate or international travel or communications for the purposes of engaging in certain illegal acts or for distributing the proceeds of certain illegal acts.  The list of illegal acts covered by the law includes crimes like gambling, prostitution, drug trafficking, extortion, bribery, and arson.  This is not a complete list…these…acts don’t have to be federal crimes to be covered by the Travel Act.  They can be violations of the laws of the state where the crime took place…Rentboy.com allegedly violated New York’s laws against prostitution, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office…is arguing that Rentboy.com facilitated and promoted prostitution crimes across state and international borders…

Though by the timing it may seem that this was intended in retaliation for Amnesty International’s call for decriminalization (which essentially reveals the US as among the world’s most oppressive regimes as far as sexual freedom is concerned), or in reaction to the Ashley Madison debacle, in actuality the feds can’t do anything that quickly; this has been planned for months.  The usual “sex trafficking” rhetoric used to cram these pogroms down the credulous public gullet was notably (and tellingly) absent here; it was all talk of sin crime and chastisement prosecution rather than “rescue” and “exploitation”.  Because while women are delicate, chaste little fluffy-bunnies who could never ever ever conceive of a pragmatic motivation for sex, men are perverted abusers who are never more than an errant thought away from criminality (unless they’re government actors, of course, in which case they’re totally incapable of evil).  But all snark aside, the government actually had very compelling reasons for the raid…1.4 million reasons, to be exact.

In the long run, though, it may prove very expensive for the prohibitionists.  As I’ve complained on a number of occasions, mainstream gay rights organizations seem unconcerned at best and hostile at worst to sex worker rights, despite the fact that members of the GLBT community are disproportionately represented among both sex workers and clients (many closeted gay men rely almost entirely on escorts for male contact).  Gay, Inc has obsessively pushed its white-picket-fence married-couple big-table fantasies to the exclusion of the majority of queers who will never want lifelong committed monogamy, despite the fact that the entire gay rights movement owes its origin to sex workers.  But special-interest groups don’t simply disband once they’ve achieved their original goals; indeed, they actively seek out new goals so as to justify their continued existence.  Now that picket-fence queers have every conceivable right their straight vanilla counterparts enjoy, Big Gay will need a new campaign to pursue…and the feds may have just provided it.  The personal information of thousands of closeted gay men is now in the hands of evil monsters who view human beings only as points to be racked up, and if that’s not a gay rights issue I’m not sure what is; even the hopelessly-square Advocate reported on Lamba Legal’s pro-decriminalization stance (though its headline idiotically asked, “Decriminalize sex work?” as if they didn’t quite get it).  When the victims are women, most Americans seem content to swallow the patronizing & agency-negating “rescuing trafficked girls” narrative, but since the victims are men this time journalists seem to have suddenly awakened en masse.  The Huffington Post‘s reporting on the issue is typical of what I’ve seen since Tuesday:

The site has operated within public view for many years. This is not a secretive, dark web enterprise hidden from the public eye.  It’s a popular online destination that allows escorts to set their own rules and rates.  RentBoy’s platform gives its escorts a degree of agency that sex workers forced to walk the street or be managed by a pimp simply do not have…The Department of Homeland Security…took millions of dollars and ripped six employees from their homes.  While these employees face huge financial and reputational damage, thousands of sex workers who rely on RentBoy as a safe place to conduct business could find themselves in genuine danger…The United States has a responsibility to reform its outdated and violent laws around sex work.  RentBoy’s high-profile raid should make us think about all the quiet acts of violence committed by our government against sex workers…We supposed-progressives chant about bodily autonomy and criticize the American Right for denigrating women, but we participate in the same denigration when we shame sex workers who conscientiously exercise authority over their bodies…

There’s nothing in that excerpt that doesn’t also apply to female sex workers and our advertising venues, but without the “sex trafficking” smoke and mirrors many of these writers appear to be recognizing it for the first time.  Though I have the deepest sympathy for everyone who will be hurt by this monstrous injustice, it may be that the Rentboy raid was the biggest blunder the prohibitionists ever made; if it attracts the big Gay guns and makes sex worker rights “safe” for ordinary people to talk about again, decriminalization is already on the way.

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I want to start escorting as an independent… but as you know, it can be hard to get the ball rolling if you’re new in the industry.  Should I advertise myself on TER boards as a new escort?  I’m worried that advertising myself as “new” will attract who will want to take advantage of my lack of experience.  Also, I saw another post on your blog where a certain escort preferred not to have any reviews.  If an escort chooses to go down that route, what other types of verification are available to show clients you are reliable and trustworthy?

Frankly, I wouldn’t advise you to advertise on TER at all; I never have, don’t now and never plan to.  The site is just vile; it’s the apotheosis of the “bros before hos” mentality, and its rating system is insultingly reductive.  There are plenty of other sites you can advertise on without supporting that model of review board.  I don’t think it will hurt you to advertise as new, but I don’t really think it’s necessary either; it will be obvious that you’re new because of your lack of reviews and the fact that none of the “hobbyists” have seen you before.  That in itself can be a draw, especially if you’re young and your prices are competitive; yes, you may attract some exploitative types, but since you know that may happen you’ll just have to keep your wits about you and firmly maintain your boundaries until you’re experienced enough to judge each client on a case-by-case basis.  Re lack of reviews, there is no substitute for reputation; you will not yet have one to start, and that will hurt.  Even without reviews you’ll slowly build up a client base and a reputation, but it may take longer in their absence.  It may be better for you to research the boards with a more positive culture than to eschew reviews entirely, but in the end you’ll have to make that decision for yourself.

(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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How do I know what is a reputable agency in my area?  I’m interested in being a high-end courtesan.

blackIt’s always been difficult to know which agencies are reputable & which aren’t unless one talks to other pros who have worked for them, and that’s just as true now as it ever was.  However, agencies are no longer king as they were for decades; I advise ladies who are starting out now to go independent.  But whether you work for an agency or for yourself, you probably can’t start out at the “high end” nowadays; most men simply won’t pay that much for someone with no reputation.  What you need to do is to create an escort site for yourself (or pay for it to be done for you) with the best professional pictures you can afford, then look at the other escort ads in your area and try to objectively consider what you should charge in relation to them (HINT: it shouldn’t be more, and a hair less might help you to break into the market).  Lest that offend your pride, consider that since I’ve recently entered a new market, I can’t charge any more than most of the other ladies here despite my reputation (and I actually charge less than some).  As you develop a good name, you can slowly raise your rates and judge how it affects your business; most ladies (myself included) keep regulars at the same rate even when we raise it for new guys.  Eventually you’ll find the price point that works best for you.  But before you even start, I’d suggest you read my other mentoring columns; there are a number of things you don’t seem to be considering (such as screening), and those may help you decide if this is really the profession for you.

(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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Though sex workers usually have stage names which are different from those our mothers gave us (or burdened us with, as the case may be), those of us who are activists often have another name.  Ayna is a Seattle sex worker, but that’s not the name on her advertising; you’ll see why when you read this essay.  It struck me as timely given that when I reminded readers of my bisexuality by announcing my lesbian relationship with Jae, at least one reader felt repelled enough to voice his disapproval; I’m sure there are clients who would react in much the same way.

I have a good twin.  Although we are not related we are similar enough in style, looks and interest that people often get us confused.  We are both writers who are short, curvy, bespectacled, curly-haired, queer gamer girls who laugh out loud and spill beer everywhere.  I want her hair; not in some weird hirsute Freudian way, but in a lusty “Rebel Girl” way.
I envy and covet her side shave immensely; side shaves in Seattle are code for queerness.  I become sexually aware in a repressed state adjacent to Washington, so my nascent entrances into queer culture were formed with hidden meanings and slow looks.  My brain goes into Sherlock mode when checking women out – key ring check, side shave check, reusable tote from co-op check – Code Level Purple – flirt is a go.  I still tend to to seek out queer symbols and codes in order to safety flirt with other women, and I envy her side shave because I have long, healthy, flowing, dark, curly hair.  I want her side shave so when I go into the queer spaces which have been my home for so long, I feel like I belong.

I envy my friend’s side shave because she has a job were it is okay to be openly queer, and even though I love doing sex work, it is one of the last places a female-identified person cannot be openly queer.  I still have to pass as a non-queer person to the majority of my white, male, mid-40s customer base; I can’t freak out the normal majority.  Plus, men love my hair; they caress it, run their fingers through it, seek me out because of it.  I give good hair.  We are socially groomed to believe that long hair is the same thing as feminine, and in the type of sex work I do (mid tier escort), the equation is feminine = attractive = money.  A non-sex worker has more freedom in doing what she wants with her body in the world place whereas sex workers do not.  A sex worker’s image, in order to gain the most money from the most clients, must be built, maintained and curated for the gratification of the normative male gaze; if I were to change my hair to a “queer” style (such as a side shave) I would lose money, since I would lose the male gaze.  I would be seen as a “feminist” (heaven forbid), not the (semi) complacent sex bunny that the majority of my clients open their wallets for.

Girl Sex 101I often ask for two hours notice before seeing visitors to my place; I let people believe this is so I can get ready.  But since I wear very little makeup and routinely clean my house, the “getting ready” part takes thirty minutes; what takes the rest of the time is what I call the “Queer Roundup”.  Allison Moon’s Girl Sex 101 quickly hid under the couch, flyers from Insert Coin (a fabulous queer dance party), tossed in the kitchen drawer, “Fuck Your Patriarchal Bullshit” pillow thrown in the closet.  I have to literally “straighten” my place up.  If my queerness is seen, my femininity/straightness is called into question; the idea that a femme presenting person can be queer is a bit beyond the scope of most people.  If there is any question that I am enjoying myself or am off the center mark for bisexual providers (bi enough to do duos for male pleasure, but not enough to actually seek women out), then not only is my sexuality under scrutiny, my business ethics are as well.  This scrutiny comes into play via social mores built by hobby boards/escort review boards.

Escort review boards prize the idea of the “authentic” GFE (Girl Friend Experience); there is a constant conversation/argument about who and what is or isn’t.  Rumors abound of lesbian sex workers and how awful they are by lying to men for money; they are bogeyman stories to scare sex workers into behaving in an acceptable manner.  Men like to believe that sex workers are all natural nymphs and would fuck them regardless of money; this frees them from class guilt, the stigma of paying for sex and other emotions that might accompany seeing a sex worker.  And this happy lie is fed to them in sex worker ad content, promotion and branding.  They believe in this lie so intensely that it becomes cultural truth.  While we accept that sex workers exist outside of cultural norms, they can not exist outside of client-created normative ideals; if I have a client over to my house and it is is covered in rainbow stickers and Queer Liberation posters, and Feeldoes are drying in the dish drain, this happy lie becomes an ugly truth.  And if there’s one thing that the majority of “hobbyists” don’t like, it’s the truth.

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Ridin’ the range once more
Totin’ my old .44
Where you sleep out every night
And the only law is right
Back in the saddle again.
 –  Gene Autry

Though I hinted at it in the comment thread of “An Ending and a Beginning“, stated it explicitly in “Diary #245” and have referenced it in a number of diary posts and tweets, it seems as though many readers haven’t quite realized that I have returned to active sex work.  You won’t find my escort website by Googling my name, and I’m not going to post rates or anything like that here; frankly, they’re in the “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” category anyhow, though I’m wholly willing to negotiate for regular readers and references from my many sex worker friends.  And though I do have a new work name (that I’m not going to share here), I’m not really concerned if anyone figures out that she is me; in fact, at a recent multi-escort, multi-client party I told the ladies not to fret if they slipped up and called me “Maggie” in front of the gents.  The important thing is that there not be a direct link between one and the other, and if you can’t understand why you haven’t been paying attention.  Simply put, I’m sure there are a number of vice cops who would just love to have my pretty head as a trophy on the wall, and I’m not going to facilitate that any more than I inevitably must (my appearance is, after all, pretty distinctive).  Just last week a reader recognized my picture on a sugar baby site, and messaged me to say hello; my reply was quite friendly because I have absolutely nothing to hide or be ashamed about.  I am a whore; I have always been, and I always will be.  I make my living by entertaining men (and, to a lesser extent, women) and the only thing that has changed about that for 18 years is the exact nature of the entertainment and the details of the contract.

That last is a very important point that I can’t possibly stress enough: the exact details of the contract are of no importance whatsoever from a moral or logical standpoint, and the pretense that some forms of transactional sex are “better” or “higher” or “purer” or “less skanky” than others is pure bullshit rooted in the deeply-dumb attitudes about sex held by the human race in general, and Western society in particular.  Just because I had a state-issued license to take money in exchange for sex and companionship to one particular man (that I happen to have great affection for) did not make my life from 2007 to 2014 any better or nobler or safer for the eyes of children than my life before ’07 or since my return to a more directly commercial form of sex work.  Nor was that return as recent as you might think; soon after starting this blog in 2010 I went back part-time (with Matt’s blessing) under my old stage name, partly for pocket money and partly to put myself in the right frame of mind to write the blog.  Rather than attempt to work for an agency I took out an ad on Craigslist for a week or so, then on Backpage for a couple of weeks, then on a national escort board.  “But Maggie, Craigslist?  Backpage?”  I hear some of you cry.  Yep, and if you don’t understand why please reread the first sentence of this paragraph.  I wanted to see what that form of whoring was like so that I could write about it with understanding and compassion, and I’m planning to eventually do a stint in a legal brothel for the same reason (if any Nevada owner or manager reads this and wants to negotiate a deal for this, please email me at your earliest convenience).  Mistress Matisse has been schooling me in domination, and my sugar baby profile?  That too.  Maybe I’ll even do a few weeks in a massage parlor.

cowgirlNow, I’m not saying that I’m going to stop being a courtesan; it’s the style of sex work that suits me best given my education, eloquence, presence and economic needs.  I eventually hope to get a solid group of dependable, generous, long-term clients who recognize the importance of my work and are willing to either travel to see me or give me space to be sick in the day I travel to see them.  I also plan to continue writing, speaking and advocating just as I have for the past five years.  That doesn’t mean I plan to stand up and orate in restaurants or lecture my gentlemen in bed about the harms of criminalization; what it does mean is that I consider my sex work and my sex work advocacy to be two parts of one unified whole.  Though it may look to y’all as though I’m back in the saddle again after an eight-year absence, in truth I never actually left it.

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In the Red Light District by day, one can barely earn dry bread. – Mariska Majoor

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

One inevitable consequence of consensual crime laws: police corruption:

For years Ukraine’s police force has profited handsomely from the country’s multi-million dollar sex industry, demanding both payment in cash and payment in kind…the political elite has always known about the problem but never really wanted to talk about it…After a three-month investigation, ministry officials…caught Kiev’s vice squad raking in an average of €325,000 per month from the capital’s sex trade…

Broken Record 

Once again: Nevada is NOT whore-friendly:

Las Vegas police will be increasing patrols this week as they expect a rise in prostitution because of fans descending on the city for the weekend’s big…Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight.  Former Las Vegas escort Annie Lobert [lied]…that prostitution will likely increase 10 times over the norm this week…

The Widening Gyre sex trafficking scam

WINK News has a new warning for parents about a possible scam aimed at recruiting teens into the world of human sex trafficking.  We discovered a new flyer popping up in at least one Florida county advertising…up to $300 a week after school and on weekends, with transportation provided.  It does not specify what type of work it is advertising…The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating, but experts say it has all the signs of a human trafficking scam… “I think parents should be concerned a great deal about this,” said Alex Olivares…[of] the Florida Gulf Coast University Human Trafficking Resource Center.  Olivares says sex trafficking is more common in SWFL than people realize, with traffickers preying on kids at schools, shopping malls, and on the internet…warning signs [include]…tattoos of names on their neck or on the inside of their bottom lip, or if they have sexually explicit social media profiles…

Original Sin (#321)

When sex is involved, people believe even the stupidest claims:

…Unfortunately, there are many in our society that are blind to the link between porn and sex trafficking…Countless women have been kidnapped, abused, drugged, threatened, and coerced into doing porn…there is no way for [the porn viewer] to tell if what they are watching was made illegally or if all parties are there willingly…porn directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money by selling video of their sex slaves to porn sites…

Traffic Jam (All Traffick, All the Time)

Schools are rewarded for “finding” what the government wants found:

…the U.S. Department of Homeland Security…has identified Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) as a pilot school in its Blue Campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking…Homeland Security describes its Blue Campaign as a unified collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-government and private organizations to combat human trafficking…and bring those who exploit human lives to justice…

If the concept of a university collaborating with cops and a surveillance agency isn’t enough to chill you to the bone, you haven’t been paying attention.

A Mound of Filth Dominique Roe-Sepowitz

the Where Hope Lives program at the Phoenix Dream Center…offers safe refuge and specialized counseling so that victims of sexual exploitation in all of its forms, including prostitution, sex trafficking, abuse and stripping, can be restored as functioning members of society…Dominique Roe-Sepowitz…says…”It looks like sex trafficking is only a problem in certain cities in the U.S., but that is because they are the only ones looking“…Roe-Sepowitz also helped to create a program called Project Rose…which…is currently on hold because of the Phoenix police’s lack of extra manpower

Bread and Circuses 

In some places, cops don’t even pretend it’s about “rescuing” sex workers:

The Lafayette Metro Narcotics Task Force arrested eight people in a prostitution sting…[five men]…and [three women]…two more women were detained and released pending further investigation related to suspected prostitution.  The task force’s sting targeted upscale escorts and their clients who utilize social media…

Dutch Threat (#528)

Amsterdam Prostitutes are anything but amused that the municipality…has temporarily closed eighteen window brothels in the red light district.  The sex workers therefore filed a lawsuit against the city.  To support their claim, the prostitutes occupied the premises concerned…[The government claims that the windows were closed due to] forced prostitution…How long the occupation will last is unknown…

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I’ve seen a fairly common complaint in hobbyist forums — apparently some providers will be deliberately vague about their services (as they must be), and sometimes it’s not until the actual appointment that a client realizes the provider does not offer “full service”.  Do you think providers do this purposefully or is it just an unfortunate effect of the industry being underground?  Do you think these providers have a responsibility to communicate their strict limits before an encounter, or should clients not assume anything about what they’ll receive?

smoke and mirrorsI do think that the vagueness about services is a direct (and wholly predictable) result of criminalization.  Since our society wants to pretend that it’s moral and legal to criminalize thoughts (because that’s what motives are) in the case of sex, we arrive at the bizarre and absurd situation of two totally benign and legal activities (offering sex and asking others for money) becoming illegal when performed together.  It’s therefore necessary to break the link between the two in situations where one suspects armed busybodies might be skulking about with intent to ruin peaceful people’s lives, either by being straightforward about the sex but coy about the money, or straightforward about the money but coy about the sex.  The well-known Backpage nonsense about “roses” and common euphemisms such as “donation” are attempts at the former, while the standard “time and companionship only” disclaimer is an attempt at the latter.  I say “attempt” because this evasive language fools absolutely nobody from escort to client to cop to judge; it’s part of an elaborate pantomime our society has concocted to pretend that persecution of private sexual behavior can ever be legitimate, and sex workers participate in it as a means of whistling in the dark and skating just below the strict evidentiary standard a judge who recognizes prostitution laws as evil (but dares not say so aloud) might impose upon cops and prosecutors.

Prostitution laws, and the arse-backward morality which supports and nourishes them, create an environment which rewards duplicity and punishes honesty; many sex workers who might prefer to be honest in their advertising are afraid to be, and some dishonest practitioners are thus easily able to hide amongst them.  Ethically speaking, an escort should not take money for a service she doesn’t actually provide, nor lie about her services, nor allow clients to believe she offers things that she doesn’t; practically speaking, a client shouldn’t assume that absolutely everything he might want will absolutely be on the menu.  Absolutely nobody but fraudsters and prohibitionists benefit from this kind of poor communication; a sex worker who doesn’t offer a given service doesn’t really want clients trying to push her into providing it, and a client who wants a particular service doesn’t really want to end up with someone who can’t or won’t provide it.  The review system is an attempt to bring some sort of transparency to the process by establishing how individual escorts have behaved over time, but there will never be a wholly open and honest marketplace in our trade until we can do away with the smoke and mirrors created by criminalization and the demimonde’s attempts to protect itself from persecution.

(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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