It's an exciting moment when you recognise someone famous in public, isn't it? I remember that while I lived in Melbourne, I dropped in to check on Pinot at Alice's place and then had brunch around the corner. Who should walk past, but Wil Anderson, comedian extraordinaire and generally awesome guy? It was a bit of a thrill! I didn't stop him or say anything to him; it was a weekend and he was clearly on his way somewhere. I didn't tweet at him either; I just kind of giggled about it, immediately messaged Alice to let her know that I saw him, and we fangirled for a little bit. What's your response if you see escorts in public? Let's talk about discretion and expectations of privacy - they're different for us and celebrities, but there are similarities.
Last week, my friend Hannah had quite an odd experience. An ex-client of hers had gone up to her (male) friend, in public, to chat about her - he stated he had had a "special" and "really different" experience with her, and as Hannah is currently on sabbatical and not advertising, he had the gall to ask the friend for her number. How had he known this man was her friend? He had seen them together at one stage in public. He remembered this, but interestingly he did not remember her name. What if Hannah hadn't told her friend about her being a sex worker? What if the friend had in fact been her boss? Her father? Her thesis supervisor? That's laying aside how creepy it must have been for this guy to have a strange man come up to him and talk about his friend in a sexual way, and then ask for her contact details.
Another escort, who I'll call "Jane", was out with a group of her friends for a few drinks. A man across the bar yelled her working name at her a number of times, and then came up to excitedly chat with her. Jane had never met this man in her life, but he recognised her as a face out worker with a large following on Twitter. Fortunately, all of those friends are aware of Jane's work.
"Dana" had a guy she'd never taken as a client text her that he saw her in the supermarket, and she looked pretty. It apparently did not occur to him that the entire population finds it creepy when someone they don't know texts them about their location. This scenario is weirdly common.
Just this week, "Octavia" (fabulous fake name at her request) had a guy comment on her picture of a plate of food that had nothing in the background, with the name of the café she was at. He complained, after being corrected, that there were multiple locations of that café (there are three, and only one serves food), and that if she didn't want people to identify the place then she shouldn't post such "recognisable" images - again, this was literally a plate of food. Thankfully, like most of us, Octavia has the good sense not to post images until after she has left a location; this guy is exactly the reason why.
The etiquette if you see an escort in public, or you recognise an unnamed place they have posted to social media, is to be discreet. It shouldn't need to be said. Especially if you don't know them! Can you imagine if I had DM'd Wil Anderson out of the blue and told him I'd seen him walking down the street? "You didn't see me, but I saw you! I like your new leather jacket! You must live around here right?" - call the damn police. This is a highly stigmatised profession, so here are some consequences we might face as a result of your over excitement:
- A stalker now knows the exact places we frequent.
- The authorities in a criminalised place know the area we are in.
- We are fired from our other job due to being outed directly to co-workers or bosses.
- We are unable to continue in our career field at all due to unfair rules regarding sex work (see: medicine, law, education, etc).
- We are dropped from a university course, at any level.
- There are family or friendship group issues caused by being outed.
- A child cannot go to their religious school any longer, as the heads disapprove of their parent's sex work.
- A custody agreement is altered because many judges do not believe sex workers to be fit parents.
- We feel increasingly unsafe and watched in public places, which has a negative impact on our mental health.
- Others in that public space discriminate unfairly against us due to a disgust at our jobs.
- We are evicted from our home because a landlord was informed of our work, or a nosy neighbour overheard an indiscreet client.
- We are banned from entering an entire country.
- We are arrested and charged in places that are criminalised.
The awful truth about scenarios like this is that for these men, discretion expectations don't go both ways. These are the same clients who are cagey about their real names, who won't come for an incall if you're located in a suburb they might have their car seen in, who won't even tell you what industry they work in to make conversation. They expect workers to be face out, yet have anonymous profile images themselves; they want your incall to be "private", but they walk around knocking on random doors when they get lost after not following instructions; they have the nerve to ask you more than once if you're "clean" because they're married, but they want uncovered services. Yes, these are all very real situations that have happened to me and my friends - I have had more than one client insist on bareback oral and then ask to check inside my mouth as if I'm the one who has never been tested. If the shoe was on the other foot, they'd be in uproar. If Hannah had had a quick chat with that client's boss, saying how she had such a great time in bed with him and to please give her his contact number, can you imagine how that would go down? Jane might like to walk up to that man's family dinner out, yelling his name and saying she recognised him from sex work Twitter. Dana could tell some random Twitter follower that she saw him at his place of work, even though they'd never had any prior interaction.