Grow a PairCategory: General   Nov 6th 2015  11:56AM   0

Years ago, I read on a popular sex worker forum (in their private section for ladies/providers only), a string of escort complaints about clients' gross toenails, scaly heels, and unsightly and even dangerous feet. (With long jagged toenails, one wrong move and you can scratch or break your partner's skin, which is not only unspeakably disgusting, but according to this thread, happens more than you’d think.) The ladies compared notes, commiserated, validated their frustrations, and somewhat timidly brainstormed solutions.

I decided, right then, to take up the fight by including a section on pedicures in my website FAQ. At the time, my two (very experienced) escort friends thought my statements and below-the-ankle grooming policies to be over the top, and that potential clients would find me off-putting and harsh. They were wrong. 

In the 5 years since, I've lost count of the many potential clients who've proudly announced the occasion of their first pedicure ever, as a prelude to requesting a date with me. I'm probably more tickled and self-impressed by this little feat than I should be, but also grateful to the proactive, thoughtful gents who took note of my boundary, and respected me and themselves enough to abide it. Men who made the effort to do something new and different to meet me halfway for a win-win. I say 'halfway' because for many women, myself included, stating one's needs takes courage and effort. All sex workers know this (as do some clients, who then use it to their advantage). Many men, however, have no idea how hard it can be for women to state seemingly obvious and basic needs (e.g. trim your toenails, OMFG). Partly because not only is it hard for women to state their needs, it is also hard to tell men how hard it is.

What's more, it can be next to impossible for some women to admit to themselves how hard it is, how badly they do it, and how scary they find it. And THIS needs to change. The denial women are in about their unwillingness to summon courage, take risks, state their needs, and otherwise maintain firm boundaries, needs to be discarded like yesterday's toenail clippings. 

It's not rocket science. At this point in the world's OLDEST PROFESSION, complaining to each other is pointless. It's weak, feckless, and, quite frankly, embarrassing. Enforcing boundaries as individuals, within our personal spheres at home and work, in our daily lives, is where it MUST start. Confronting individual offenders as each situation arises, with courage and diplomacy, is the only way to move forward. It is our only hope, and that goes for women everywhere. Feminists, sex workers, hookers and courtesans. Grow a pair. 

Back on that sex worker "gross feet" thread, solution was elusive. Magical phrasing that was somehow tactful, delicate, and in no way awkward or uncomfortable for either party, never materialized. What the ladies wanted was a backdoor, a way to circumnavigate the issue without addressing it directly. To clean up the gross feet without getting their delicate hands dirty, so to speak. (They were creative at least: "Tell him wearing socks in bed is sexy.") In the end, little ground was made ... most of the ladies long resigned to accepting the unacceptable. More concerned with appearing agreeable, likeable, non-confrontational, and conflict free, than some men are concerned with their own disgusting feet.

I use this story not to illustrate how clueless and exasperating men can be, but women. Specifically, privileged women. More specifically, privileged sex workers. 

Most sex workers (and other marginalized, underprivileged people) are financially dependent on the very perpetrators who most need confronting. The same cannot be said for privileged, educated, white, upscale, 6-figure-a-year companions, many of whom are screaming "victim" louder and longer than anyone with a right to. Feminist blogs, escort forums, and every fly-by-night piddling new opinion-on-a-stick site are replete with articles and essays by these women. Diatribes and testimonials, grand opuses and manifestoes of "HOW MEN SHOULD AUTOMATICALLY CHANGE." The grievances, big and small, from minor misogyny to intimidation and outright abuse. We've heard it all before, ad nauseam.

What's missing is any talk of solution. What's missing from these high and mighty platforms is proven workable advice. Examples from the microcosm, empowered and inspiring stories from their own lives, about how they interact within their own sphere to command respect and fair treatment. Stories of how these privileged authors are stating their needs and enforcing boundaries at home and work. How those boundaries succeed, fail, morph-as-needed, otherwise evolve, and improve every relationship before being passed on as valuable advice to less privileged women. The reason it's missing is because they don't have it. I've had enough conversations with enough of these upscale author/escorts to see they're not empowered in the least. In private, to me, they freely admit to hating their work and hating their clients. They fake their way through the demimonde with expensive websites, polished professional photos, and scared little girls inside growing angrier and more resentful every year.

And then they write. And write and write and write.

A tsunami of brilliantly worded, utterly ineffectual commentary. Erudite, educated sex workers and feminists detailing well-known and well-founded issues without a word of solution or proactive instruction that might benefit the true victims. Nothing about better negotiating techniques, interpersonal and communication skills, basic business etiquette, or real life diplomacy for sex worker-specific encounters. Instead, we're bombarded with dressed-up redundant lists of the same tired grievances I used to read on MySpace. The same complaints passed around my strip club dressing room in 1986.

Aside from my own, rather lengthy blog (not to mention my previous blog from the late-aughts with its 200+ personal stories about setting & enforcing boundaries in relationships & at work), nary a word from these women in a position (with a duty, really) to pass on their experience and the secrets to their empowerment. Nothing in their prodigious articles, essays, and threads about how to handle specific situations or enforce effective consequences when it really counts. How to be a sex worker and NOT a victim. Not even the admission it's possible. Most (not all) of the upscale escorts I know, don't believe it is. Or, rather, they don't want to. They are helpless victims (according to them, despite their real life accomplishments as authors, filmmakers, grad students, and Mensa members) hiding behind third identities to share their pain and "trauma" while boldfaced lying from their upscale hooker websites about how much they enjoy their work.

I share it all here, under one name. I market myself and advertise for business on the same site I tell clients, sex workers, and society at large exactly how I feel about them. I'm no victim and I'm not fake, not even with my clients. Especially not with them, and it's not because I respect them (I do). It's because I respect myself.

I'm hardly the only woman alive who knows how to enforce healthy boundaries. I know exceptional, like-minded companions in Dallas, Chicago, and San Antonio (so few as to count on one hand, sadly), but anyone who's ever raised a kid knows discipline includes consequences (punishments, ultimatums, or whatever you want to call them). Mommy bloggers don't post their stories as solutions to their kids' misbehavior. They post complaints and struggles after the fact as a means of bonding, validation, and emotional support within the parenting community. I can barely believe I'm saying this, but maybe sex workers could take a cue from mommy bloggers. Discipline first, witty/whiny Twitter rants second.

Let's use our big girl words to state our needs with clients first, the Internet second. Let's preach to the sinner first, then the choir. Like so:

I once read the riot act to my very best client (for context, 30% of my income came from this gent) on the corner of an Upper East Side sidewalk. I'd disapproved of the condescending way he spoke to my hotel clerk, so I took him aside (in the middle of his rant) and proceeded to explain in no uncertain terms why his behavior was unacceptable. I then explained the consequences, which were that if he didn't want me to fly home immediately (remember, I get paid in advance), he would have to rectify the situation ASAP. I accompanied him back inside the hotel to witness him make an immediate and heartfelt apology to the hotel clerk. We proceeded to have a fabulous 4 days in NYC.

Confrontation and diplomacy didn't always come easily to me. I was raised in a strict Catholic family by a domineering mother and head-in-the-sand father (whom I adore, but still ...). It took a long time to even realize how bad I was at stating my simplest needs, but when I did I threw myself into it, starting around age 30. Eighteen years later, I work at it every day. I fail regularly. I learn from every failing and apply those lessons to the next guy the next day.

Learning is hard. Life is hard. Shut up and do it anyway.

For more examples of what I mean, pick a feminist blog, any feminist blog. Take Jezebel.com and its sputtering backlash over Lena Dunham's HBO show "Girls." One episode in particular last year, depicting a dominant sex scene in which the woman wasn't enjoying her submissive role. Though there was no bondage or gag keeping her from stating her needs, declining to participate, or simply getting up and leaving the room, the character (a normal, average young woman) couldn't bring herself to do any of those things. Instead, she went through with the unpleasant sexual encounter. I understood perfectly. Most women probably did, though many men surely didn't, including the male character on the show (a not-so-normal, but essentially good guy). At times like that, women can have what amounts to a brain freeze, often the result of a lifetime of conditioning by parents and society to censure her needs and keep her docile and agreeable. A good girl to show off to God and the neighbors, who will make her parents' exhausting lives that much easier. I know how hard it is to speak up. I also know the difference between feeling stuck and being raped.

On Jezebel, the consensus was that (a) it was rape and (b) men are supposed to read women's minds and magically do what women want without any input or signal from the women. "Jezzies" don't take kindly to the suggestion that women have a responsibility to speak up in bed (and everywhere else), but guess what? 

It's every woman's personal responsibility to find the courage and the words with which to state her needs and enforce her boundaries in every interaction and relationship in her life. 

Another mind-boggling thread on Jezebel was about men with poor cunnilingus skills. In the comment section, a poor young wounded victim detailed her experience on a date getting bad oral sex. Hundreds of Jezzies deeply and immediately sympathized even after she admitted she'd never told him he was doing it wrong, much less how to do it right. Everyone agreed: "Why should she teach him? He should figure it out for himself." I just ... can't even. 

Another commenter chimed in with a similar experience, yet THIS woman had never had an orgasm at all. She'd never masturbated and didn't know how to climax or how to touch herself in a pleasurable way. Still, Jezzies agreed it was her lover's responsibility to know. To not just READ her mind, but to KNOW HER MIND for her.

Another story on the same site was more concerning. A young, undergrad college student detailed an incident in which her partner, a classmate, was going too far too fast. She didn't say "stop" but made various "I'm not comfortable with this" noises and movements. He wasn't forcing her physically, she said, but his aggressive demeanor was intimidating. Tired of her squirming, he finally says sort of gruffly, "C'mon, are you doing this or not?" She froze up and let him do what he wanted. She numbed out and let herself go limp, which he decided to take as permission. Weeks later, she termed it rape and dropped out of college due to ongoing emotional distress. What bothers me as much as the young man's willful ignorance and coercive behavior, is the young woman's willful ignorance of her role in the situation. She never once admitted she had a problem stating her needs or standing up for herself. No one on Jezebel.com said it either. Doesn't make coercion right. Neither does it make it rape, but whatever ... semantics.

The only thing that matters here is making it stop. The only control a woman has in those situations is within her, in HER reaction to it. So until women admit they suck at enforcing boundaries, then learn to do better, nothing will ever change.

Anyone unable to say "No" when they're asked straight up, "Are you doing this or not?" shouldn't be dating. Stay home. Read a book. Seek therapy (therapy rocks, I'm not being cute here) or take an assertiveness course. Then email the asshole and explain how women sometimes freeze up. How he needs to be more aware and empathetic, and less coercive. Then talk to friends and brainstorm for better solutions when it, or something similar, happens again. It won't turn back the clock, but it will be a step forward. Something to build on. Something to be proud of.

DO something proactive. Don't whine on Twitter and feel like you accomplished something (you didn't). Don't write an essay on misandry and call it a day.

Years ago, there was a popular stripper forum on which I was considered something of an elder statesman. Younger strippers, sugar babes, and newbie escorts routinely asked my advice on how to increase their income and avoid the standard pitfalls in our work. Each time I mentioned empowered behaviors like enforcing boundaries, assessing the value of your time or service, and engaging in ways that were emotionally healthy as well as a win-win for provider and client, they zoned out or straight-up balked. Their responses were all variations on a theme: "What I really want to know is how to get as much cash as possible without giving up anything whatsoever in exchange." I left the forum and quit giving advice. 

There's currently a rather popular sex worker blog on which this attitude is rampant: "I hate my client for the thoughtless, selfish things he does but I'd never tell him because I'll lose his business, so basically my life sucks because MEN." The commenters are a bunch of sex worker cheerleaders agreeing by rote with every disempowered victim. These stories are all alike, some by strippers, some by escorts. Some are true, some are boldfaced lies that were never vetted because why? Sex worker = victim, right? Clients = evil. This website reposted a story that ruined a good man's life. Had this completely absurd and patently unbelievable slander about this innocent man been vetted in the slightest, my name would've come up as tangential to the story. Yet no one from that site, including the highly educated and extremely vocal upscale sex workers who launched it, bothered to VET AN OUTRAGEOUS AND COMPLETELY MADE UP STORY about an innocent man. Why? Because sex workers are ALWAYS THE VICTIM.

Sigh.

The site's contributors don't want to hear about "personal accountability" any more than most strippers or college students do. It's not as if they don't believe in my tactics; it's that most women and sex workers think my way is too hard. Complaining is much easier. I read a recent post by a stripper enraged at being deeply misunderstood by society, while in the same breath freely admitting to regularly misrepresenting herself. She routinely makes a joke out of her traumas and tragedies and workplace difficulties, then attempts to make the case that it's fine for her to present her pain as funny, but not for you to take it that way. Similarly, escorts at every level fake their way through every interaction, every email, every conversation they have with clients. Then they bitch and moan and wail online about how awful men are for not understand them and their needs. The ones they NEVER STATE.

This insistence that men should simply magically change because it's the right thing to do ... I mean, come on already. You can't be serious! All people, men included, are capable of change, but it's a basic tenet of human nature that most people won't until faced with real life consequences. All my clients know they stand to lose my companionship by defying my policies. Some had to learn the hard way. Yes it should happen magically. No, it will not ever. You don't live in that world. It sucks, get over it. 

You effect change through effort. Demand it by exacting ramifications for every infraction; there is no other way. Without even hinting at this solution sex workers and feminists do nothing to enact change. We've had enough conversation. Self-righteous anger is meant to FUEL ACTION. Awareness isn't an end in itself. Awareness is a flimsy pink ribbon. Misandry isn't a breast cancer campaign. Everyone knows a problem exists! Writing about it ad nauseam isn't helpful. Boundary enforcing IS. 

Confrontation can be terrifying, and women aren't taught to do it. Yet confrontation, when done correctly and with diplomacy WORKS and we need to learn it and teach it to our children and sisters and fellow sex workers. As an upscale companion, I share many of the same clients as these whiny, hateful essay-writing escorts. I'm 10-20 years older, make just as much money, love my work, and adore my clients. I am treated beyond well. I am treated incredibly and it's not accidental. I've learned to state my needs and be my authentic self. Clients are human and they sense authenticity. They respond to it just as they sense and respond to weakness, deceit, and hatefulness. I turn down a lot of business. I'm not addiction to the cash and I make more because of it. This issue, the difference between my experience and some of these other "upscale" ladies, comes up in our conversations and email exchanges, and it always makes them uncomfortable. I no longer exchange emails and I've quit giving advice. 

Why is this vital piece of the puzzle, the solution to all their complaints, missing from their trendy witty misandry narrative? Two reasons, as far as I can see: fear & greed. Upscale privileged escorts would really rather not risk a cut in 6 figure pay (nor the right to bask in martyrdom and Twitter-follower accolades). Low-end disadvantaged sex workers have justifiable fears, obviously, and yet sex workers at all levels claim their hands are tied. That they lack any opportunity whatsoever to fight the daily male micro aggressions.

Bullshit. 

I've worked well over 20 years in this business, at every level of the industry, in every decade since the '80s, and in every phase of my admittedly long-ass life (twice as long as most these women). I've overcome obstacles far beyond sexism and abusive clients. I've been mugged, abducted, and beaten by 3 people at once. I've been robbed more than a few times (twice of every last thing I owned). I've been penniless, $40k in debt, and on the verge of homelessness twice. I once couch-surfed for a month then slept in my 20 year old car in the parking lot of Circus Circus for 2 nights until I dug myself out of that hole with no help from anyone. I've been addled with such severe addictions I nearly died, and was hospitalized twice. I've started and restarted my life 3 times from scratch with nothing else going for me but my brains and balls. I have worked for everything I have and I had it a lot worse than just about any essay writing escort out there. 

Do not tell me I don't know of what I speak. Everything I have, literally everything I've attained, is due to a learned ability to set and enforce boundaries with courage and diplomacy. 

I read a quote recently in yet another escort essay about misandry (the evolution of misandry or the meta of misandry ... Christ, who knows anymore; It never freaking ends with this one) in which she states that the "failures of men individually, and as a group, to correct or resist their instincts towards aggression, abuse, cruelty, social irresponsibility, and sexism aren't a joke." That was her big finale. Her whole point being half the population of the earth should magically change (in other words, she doesn't really understand thing one about human nature). She's right about one thing: it's not funny. What she left out (she left almost everything out, but whatever, onward): The failures of women who've been hurt by their aggression, abuse, cruelty, irresponsibility and sexism are no joke either. That's not victim blaming. Abuse is wrong. SO IS ALLOWING IT. Yet nowhere did the author even hint at personal accountability or offer one solution herself, an educated woman of great privilege who regularly (and then some) complains about having to tolerate the touch of her (perfectly normal) clients while simultaneously bragging about her $300k/year income. She included just one worthwhile quote from another sex worker, buried in the middle of the post (which she couldn't be bothered to expand on). It was the only inspired line in the piece: 

“It’s not man-hating as much as it is man-shrewdness: limiting relationships and interactions to things that nourish you. The twin pillars of misandry are not laughing at unfunny jokes, and walking out of bad sex. It’s made women’s standards higher, and created a new baseline of what deserves women’s attention.” 

This one quote is literally the only reference to solution I've read from any of these women. 

Yay, progress. 

--

[TL;DR: If the sex industry were the US government, clients are the Freedom Caucus, escorts are house Dems, and I'm Lawrence Lessig]

 


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