sw rights

Life After Reviews

It's been 7 months since I delisted myself from The Erotic Review and instituted a no reviews policy. I wanted to take a minute and talk about how that change has affected me, the nature of my business, and the impact delisting is having on the SW community as a whole. 

I delisted first and foremost because it is what felt right to me personally. Reviews have never sat well with me as a concept, the idea of breaking a holistic intimate experience down to a series of actions and acronyms is the anthisis of what I strive to do as Ava. It's not simply the objectifying manner in which (even if a reviewer doesn't wish to) TER stipulates reviews must be written in that's the problem. One of the things about being an independent sex worker I find most empowering is the fact that I am in full control of every aspect of my business. By allowing reviews, I was allowing others to control an aspect of my narrative as Ava, and therefore a part of my business was outside my control. This is the core reason for TER's existence: to be a check on escorts' ability to run their business the way they want. I have had many clients who use (and in more cases, used to use) TER simply as a resource for verifying providers and bypassing awkward questions about what she offers. However, there have always been and always will be a small but harmful minority of clients who use TER to lash out at and control the business of sex workers. 

My chief concern with delisting was financial. TER is one of the most widely viewed advertising platforms in my city, and it's "free." I started on TER because I did not have the necessary funds to buy an ad on Eros at the time. Many providers have similar stories and concerns. I am pleased to say that delisting has had no negative impact on my business, quite the contrary. I feel that by not accepting reviews and relying on my own marketing and narrative, the clientele I attract is the kind of clientele I have strong rapport with. Above all, I desire clients who want to see me, not just someone. I'm sure not having reviews has caused me to lose out on a few good clients, but I have to say the clients who have taken the plunge are some of the most interesting and compassionate people I have ever met. 

I have noticed a happy trend in delisting: more ladies are doing it! While still outside the norm, as more do it it becomes easier for others to do. I have been blown away by the kind messages I've received from other SWs who ask me about delisting or have been inspired to delist themselves. I was far from the first to delist, but it feels good to know in my own small way my choices are having a positive impact on the SW community. And that's how change should be enacted: by sex workers for sex workers. The gentlemen who are attracted to ladies who write their own stories are out there. Thanks again to everyone who has offered their support of my choices, I hope you get the same support in yours.

Warmly,

Ava

 

 

 

 

If the CEO of Backpage Can Be Arrested for Pimping, Will the CEO of Craigslist Be Arrested for Murder?

I was appalled to hear of THE ARREST OF BACKPAGE'S CEO this week for pimping. My question is: will the CEO of Craigslist be arrested for murder? The CEO of Angie's List arrested for explotation of labor? MacDonald's for childhood obesity? If these claims sound ridiculous, the Backpage situation should trouble you. 

Backpage is a neutral advertising venue used all over the world, both in places where sex work is decriminalized and not. Because of its reach and reasonable cost compared to other sites it is a popular choice for independent providers of all stripes (I've used BP and have friends who swear by it), but most importantly those who are most marginalized and at highest risk of experiencing violence on the job.  BP can be the difference between allowing a sex worker to work indoors and screen and having to work outdoors with much greater risk of experiencing violence as well as police harassment and arrest. Here is what was found in A STUDY OF 30 NYC STREET BASED SEX WORKERS:

  •  All were 19 or older and engaging in work consensually
  • 26 reported unstable housing situations
  • 17 would prefer to work indoors entirely
  • 9 reported threats of violence by police
  • 5 reported sexual harassment/assault by police
  • All 30 had been arrested at some point for both prostitution and non prostitution offenses

Sounds like criminalizing sex work has had a real positive impact on these people's lives huh? And  clearly these people were lying about engaging in work consensually so as not to anger their pimps/traffickers. Let's get the facts straight: shutting down Backpage is not going to stop sex trafficking any more than shutting down Craigslist will stop murder and rape. But it will do these two things that concern me deeply:

1. It will make it harder for marginalized sex workers to work safely and independently, and potentially force them into unsafe situations or ironically into the arms of shady pimps and agencies. Isn't that what we are trying to prevent here?

2. Rather than making trafficking go away, it will make it harder to track. We don't blame credit card companies and banks for tax evasion and embezzlement, but they make those crimes much easier to track and persecute.

So what would I like to see come from this? Ideally I'd like all charges against Carl Ferrer dropped and BP allowed to remain up and running. From there we need to start having a national conversation about sex work and sex trafficking, the difference between the two, and how to help both populations. This conversation should have SWs at the forefront, as we are the ones directly affected and who actually know how Backpage operates. However in a world where the head of a site that provides many women, minorities and transfolks their livelihood gets arrested for crimes he did not commit, I am not optimistic these reasonable goals will be achieved anytime soon. Which is exactly why we must continue to have these conversations anyway. 

Pulling Off the Tape: Why I No Longer Accept Reviews

On June 1st I wrote the following on my Twitter:

 

"If you think reviews are a better way to get to know me than my site, blog, and Twitter, you aren't really interested in getting to know me."

 

As of this posting, the tweet has been liked by 80 people and retweeted 21 times. Clients and providers responded with comments such as "Reviews are the opinions of others. A site, blog, and Twitter are where a lady's personality shine through and reel me in." and "My reviews are same old same old. At least my website, blog, twitter feed offer a personalized way to get to know me." Clearly the sentiment I expressed is felt deeper in the community than 140 characters would suggest. 

 

I have just delisted myself from The Erotic Review, and am no longer accepting reviews of any kind. This decision was a long time coming and deeply personal. First of all, the concept of reviews makes me uncomfortable. I'm a pretty private person, especially when it comes to details of my intimate life. I imagine many of you are as well. My work is about connection and fostering relationships, and the manner and extent to which those connections are broadcast in the review system distorts meaningful private interaction into erotica for public consumption. If you wrote a Yelp review for your therapist, would you want to disclose the intimate details of your sessions with the Internet? Many of my wonderful clients share this view (it's their experience being publizced too) and I have no doubt anyone who feels a desire to meet me will be deterred by my position, even if they normally write reviews themselves. 

 

Another reason I have made this policy is so I can speak more freely. Frankly I was feeling increasingly stifled by the dynamics of review culture and found myself participating less often on the discussion boards. I am an opinionated person and have always enjoyed sharing my opinions unequivocally with others to help facilitate disscussion and debate. Yet, I felt that TER was not a place where my opinion was welcome if one of dissent, and so got in the habit of only saying things I deemed would not be considered "controversial." Though onsensibly a place for discussion and ergo conflicting viewpoints, I find TER more of an echo chamber. There is a whole other side to the conversion and I look forward to contributing to it in ways I hope will be helpful and productive for the escort community. 

 

Love to all,

Ava

I've Grown Accustomed to My Face: Privilege, Stigma, and Sex Work

I did something in December casually that is anything but casual: I dyed my hair red and posted pictures of the change with something no one who hasn't met me has seen before. Showing my face was a gradual, thought out choice but the way that I did it might indicate otherwise. I would like to expand on the topic, as my reasons are not just related to me and my business.

When I decided to start escorting last February, I was intrigued but apprehensive. This apprehension had little to do with the job itself and everything to to with the social stigma and taboo surrounding it. I was faced with many doubts and questions. Should I tell anyone? If so who? Would this affect my ability to find a job in another field in the future? How would future potential long term partners view my choice? How would I keep myself safe? Notice the questions I wasn't asking. I wasn't wondering if I could be intimate with near strangers, or if the work would be degrading. I was unconcerned about the types of men who would come to see me, aside from concerns of practical safety I was soon to learn were relatively easy to assuage with proper screening. In other words I didn't have a problem with escorting, I was making society's assumptions about escorting my problem. As I began to pick up experiences in this world I was pleased to find that by and large, my positive assumptions were proved correct. I began to tell select loved ones and with a couple exceptions received overwhelming love and support.

Shame is a powerful currency, and the rise of the Intenet and social media as only increased its power. You don't have to run for high office to have your past as a sex worker hurt you professionally. Employers of teachers, doctors, lawyers, and most of corporate America can and will show you the door if they find out. This puts most sex workers, even in totally legal industries like porn, stripping, and camming, in the position of having to conceal what they do, regardless of their personal wishes and attitude towards their profession. Privilege is an oft tossed around term but its invisible walls soon became apparent: my race, socioeconomic background, age, body type, and education are all factors that influence the image I portray and the clients I attract. My future career aspirations fall outside the corporate 9 to 5 norm, which is one of the many reasons professional companionship is the ideal choice for me. Because I am unlikely to experience professional censure or consequences for showing my face I feel a responsibility to those who would be likely to experience negative repercussions for doing so. 

 

Sex workers in the United States are not just controlled by hostile laws, but by hostile social attitudes. One of the first things I realized when becoming a sex worker is how society at large dehumanizes sex workers ("You sell sex? You must not value yourself!") as well as clients ("You pay for sex? You monster!"), and this stigma creates a culture of secrecy and shame even among sex workers who are fulfilled by and proud of their work. There is so much I want to say, but as this is a blog post not a book for now let me leave you all with this: I try to live my life as if I live in the world I want, because otherwise how can I expect the world that is to change? In the world that I want sex workers are not shamed for showing their faces, barred from future employment, or dehumanized for doing one of the most enduring professions in human civilization. By showing my face I like to imagine I'm doing my small part to make that world a reality.   

-Ava

 

 

 

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