I recently posted this on Tumblr, but I decided I like enough that I want to post it here too. I promise my next post will be less political :)OK y’all, don’t laugh at me- I recently got an idea that I knew was stupid, and I pitched a piece to buzzfeed about being a sex worker. Actually, I pitched several pieces, but the 2 ideas they accepted were along the lines of “what it’s like to be a non-monogamous sex worker with a partner” and “why I started doing sex work at the ripe old age of 31.” I also tried a tactic of telling them it was important it be told by me, in my voice and in no-uncertain-terms pro sex worker rights and decriminalization. Because, for me, the point in telling this story was to tell a story about how normal my life actually is. Not very good click-bait, sure. And I don’t think the piece was particularly well done, as you can see from the editor’s fair criticisms early on in this email that I received earlier in response to an email I sent inquiring where we were at with the piece I had submitted, and whether or not it needed improvement:
*note, I censored the editor’s name because I don’t think this is all their fault nor that you should harass them about it.
And here’s a transcript of it, since it’s a little hard to read. I have bolded the part that is of particular concern to me:
Hi! Sorry, I’ve been slammed. So I think this is a good start but we need a little bit more on your life — it’s not clear until more than halfway through the piece that you’re in a non-monogamous relationship, and that you were already with your husband when you were with the boyfriend who suggested you get into sex work. I think we also need more explicitly on what you actually do in terms of sex work. Do you have regular clients? What do you do with them? How do you determine price? How do you get clients? Have you ever felt in danger? Has a client ever wanted more from you? etc.
Does this make sense? Also, even though it won’t be published I will need to have your real name for our records.
Has this idiot learned nothing about talking to the media from Audacia Ray or Melissa Gira Grant? I can hear you all collectively asking. I’m asking myself that too! Why did I think buzzfeed, of all places, was going to want to help me tell my story about my normal, happy little sex worker life?
To honor this occasion, I have decided to abandon the piece and ignore the email from them while publishing my own click-bait here on Tumblr. It’s called
7 Things Journalists Shouldn’t Ask Sex Workers
- Do you have regular clients? are you asking this question to try and help me legitimize my work? If I have regular clients does that make me the sort of sex worker that it’s “more ok” to like? If it’s more like I’m actually just dating my clients, having a real connection with them, not just turning ‘em out for quickie sessions, that makes my work much more palatable, doesn’t it?
- What do you do with them? Oh sure, I’ve been avoiding directly incriminating myself, but since you asked let me just tell you about all the dirty, depraved, sexy things I do for “work.”
- How do you determine price? Or, in other words, how can I further incriminate myself? Also, how can I give you information about other ways you can further judge and stigmatize me based on how much I pay myself? Or how little?
- How do you get clients? I would absolutely love to share this trade secret with you, not only incriminating myself this time but throwing everyone else who advertises on the sites where I advertise under the bus by sharing details like that on such a high profile “news” website.
- Have you ever felt in danger? That would play very nicely into your assumptions about sex work, wouldn’t it? While I would love to further perpetuate the stigma against us by participating in your rescue porn, I am instead going to ask you a question: have you ever felt unsafe walking or driving to your buzzfeed office in LA? Because I hear the people there drive like assholes. Also, did you read the part in my piece about where I said I sometimes fear arrest? Did you miss the connection there, that I feel fear- or, you know, I feel endangered- because my work is criminalized?
- Has a client ever wanted more from you? Similar to above, but this time let’s try to really address the gray areas of consent, shall we? Let me again ask you a question, only this time it’s exact same one: has your boss at buzzfeed ever wanted more from you? Have they ever asked you to work late several nights in a row, even though you’re paid a fairly low salary to work what should be 40 hours a week? Were you able to stand your ground and say no to extra work you did not consent to do? Or did you think about how badly you need that salary? How rent is coming up and you’re in debt and you can’t afford to see a doctor because surely buzzfeed doesn’t offer health insurance benefits. Just remember: if you didn’t say no, I’m going to judge you as being a victim and I’m going to shake my head and say “what a shame that they allow themselves to be exploited like that.”
- I will need to have your real name for my records. Alright- so now I’ve told you what I do with my clients, how much I charge them for it and where I advertise. Guess I’ll just give you my real name because this is totes anonymous, yes? I’m sure you keep no databases with my real name linked to that article whatsoever? I’ll just trust you on that, no problem.