By Kendra Holliday | July 1, 2013
The New York Times published an op-ed piece by Robert Kolker called “The New Prostitutes.”
I read it with keen interest and was going to just post a link to it on fb and twitter with a one-liner, but I have too much to say about it, so I’m going to do my best to break it down here.
First of all, I am what the author refers to as a “New Prostitute.” I have sex for money. I do it by choice. I love what I do. I am independent, a mother, middle class, close with my family, and am out and proud about who I am.
I am also very much healthy and alive, unlike the women he features in his article. They are all dead and rotting away in burlap bags. The image at the very top of the article is a dreary, ominous photo of law enforcement combing a desolate area, searching for dead hookers.
Nice way to set the tone.
Everyone knows that trafficked women and streetwalkers are at great risk, but this article points out that online escorts are as well.
I maintain that if you leave your house and interact with other people, you are at risk of being hurt or killed. And sometimes you don’t even need to leave your house to get violated. Just ask this 12-yr-old girl.
I suppose working as a prostitute is a higher risk job than, say, working at a phone help desk. Why? As a prostitute, you come in intimate close contact with strangers, and since what you are doing is technically illegal, you don’t have the support of your community.
So what can sex workers do to protect themselves?
Here is my advice:
Don’t mess around with drugs and alcohol.
Screen your clients in a public setting before you commit to meeting them in private and putting their genitals in your mouth. When you are your own boss, you get to choose who you spend time with. You can do things on your own terms.
Come up with a system so that someone you trust knows where you are going and who you are with. My partner is always in the loop. In fact, he knows a lot of my clients.
Most importantly, read The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence. I recommend this book to every woman, as well as every man who wonders what it’s like to be a woman. After all, according to the book, a man’s biggest fear is being laughed at. A woman’s biggest fear is being killed.
The article states that “In 2011, Jennifer Hafer, a researcher at the University of Arkansas, said people embraced online prostitution ‘for many of the same reasons that people enter the conventional job market — money, stability, autonomy and even job satisfaction.'”
This is very true.
The article also states that “Nearly half of the New York City online escorts surveyed by the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Workers Project in 2005 said they had been forced by a client to do something they did not want to do, and almost as many said they had been threatened or beaten.”
This may well be true, but I’d like to state for the record that as a woman who has posted escort ads on Craigslist and other spaces online, I have never been forced to do something I did not want to do. I have never been threatened or beaten. I’ve been intimate with countless men who had no problem exchanging money for sexual services and they have been overwhelmingly respectful and kind.
On the other side of the coin, one of my dear friends was recently robbed when he responded to a Backpage ad. He ignored several red flags, and paid the price.
TRUST YOUR GUT.
The article closes with, “Escorts face danger not because of the Internet but because they’re still forced to work underground.”
Our society needs to acknowledge that prostitution will never, ever go away. It’s our responsibility to extend compassion and understanding to both the people who choose to have sex for money, and the people who desire sex and are willing to pay for that service.
It’s critical that more people speak openly and honestly about this topic. There’s no need to feel ashamed.
By putting this post out there, I’m doing my part.