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Popular attitudes towards escorting

Despite the variety of skills a full time escort may have to call upon, most individual customers do not appreciate the perception, intuition and skill set required to successfully navigate the job. Even in routine operation, you will need to show the ability to perform physically under pressure while maintaining a level of sanity.

In the course of a career in escorting, you will also have to encounter (directly or indirectly) popular and intellectual-elite judgements of yourself as a person and service provider. You will be judged on the basis of your appearance, reducing your ability to a mere act – probably the particular act that causes most guilt for the person doing the judging. If you find yourself unable to cope with these attitudes, or using unhealthy coping mechanisms – perhaps this is not the right career choice for you. In the short term, no “public awareness raising” campaign or social-justice initiative is going to provide comfort to a person who is too dependent upon externally-derived self worth, or for example, compelled by a hyper-religious family setting.

Of course – even after positive or indifferent publicity drives in favour of sex work, people still casually degrade escorts and masseurs. This happens regardless of whether or not they are secretly clients (of bad escorts), but they are kidding themselves. Low-level popular mockery of sex workers is almost invariably carried out by those who have no academic experience or capabilities – or if so, count themselves among the “gratefully gifted” first in their family to attain a degree, etc. The reason for this, is that a “humble” background gives you no sense of just how degrading and enslaving an “approved career path” can be for an independently minded person. After one year of study, and in the wake of the financial crisis, I decided (without compulsion) to take control of my own finances, and have since had no reason to train formally in anything. What is now common knowledge about the jobs market, was not so at the time.

However, there is a contrast between popular and intellectual-elite/middle-class attitudes towards sex work – even if they may share the same underpinnings. The disconnect is demonstrated by an interview I did for the BBC’s Derbyshire programme, and the online comments in response to it. It also perfectly illustrates why I decided to do the interview.

Victimology and Elitism – Bigotry of low expectations

I decided to do the interview, based on what I knew about the BBC and in particular the Victoria Derbyshire programme. It was quite evident to me that the piece was at risk of being presented from a sympathy slant – indeed, the Derbyshire programme has a long track record of victimologically biased reporting and levels of handwringing that sometimes push credibility.

For those who are unfamiliar with what I mean by victimology – the term refers to a “mental attitude which tends to indulge and perpetuate the feeling of being a victim” – and within the context of social science and psychology “the study of the victims of crime and the psychological effects of their experience”. For me, while sex workers often face religious bigotry towards the degeneracy of their lifestyle choices (see comments on YouTube), victimology represents a far more commonplace form of “liberal” anti-choice bigotry of low expectations, adopted widely throughout the educated classes and expressed through junk science; social sciences/psychology and anti-choice feminism. Since these attitudes clearly predominate among the intellectual elites of the BBC, I was encouraged by the fact that the reporter clearly wanted to present “all sides” to the male sex worker story, even if the result would still be a false balance.

The VD staff reporter who contacted me and presented the piece, would have struggled to find a subject in my relatively favourable position. Without my co-operation, I may well have been replaced by a talking silhouette or victim of sexual assault, further diluting the illusion of balance that prevailed in the finished segment. As a “form”, topical news programmes have a history of thinly veiled victimological gaze and set-piece, audience imputed pearl-clutching moments.

In reality, a vast majority of male sex work does not involve coercion. Prostitution, when combined with drug abuse, is nearly always a secondary co factor – i.e. drug-addicted prostitutes work to pay for a pre-existing habit. It’s the victimological mindset which would have us believe that somehow, by choosing sex work – one risks exposing themselves to the coercive forces of drug dependency and debt bondage. Those risks exist, but there is no reason why, with proper application, sex work can’t be just another learned trade – even profession – offering good reward for minimal time investment after some development of skill set. The risk is not inherent to the lifestyle choice – it only exists in the sense that sex work is already a socially marginalised career path, burdened by social stigma and low expectations. In around ten years as a male sex worker, I have not been involved in one situation where my physical safety was under threat. You control your own work, and control your working conditions.

Unfortunately the result of these conflicting attitudes towards sex workers is often “noise” in the media and social media spaces. Elite victimological attitudes set up angry popular responses, and the “lying media/professional classes” are wrongly presented as the “defenders of degeneracy”, when in fact they are far from it. Look below the surface of the discursive back-and-forth, and you will see that this “noise” is created by a conflict between two supposedly different sets of assumptions that share exactly the same underpinnings. Throughout society, a subset of desires and expressions are artificially ringfenced into a “sex category”, despite having no relation to any fixed, biological process (hence, we discuss “sex work”). Then, after performing these mental gymnastics and imbuing the result with some kind of “natural” legitimacy, we attach the weight and significance of power, shame and compulsion to said desires and behaviours.

The distinction, then – is not really a proper distinction, because all that changes hands is the agency. Popular belief would hold that sex work is something the sex worker chooses to do because they are a degenerate slut, or lazy. Liberal orthodoxy would hold that sex work is something that sex workers are dragged into because the reality is so degenerate that only a power-crazed – even violent customer would wish to inflict it upon them. All that changes, then, are the hands that wield the “weapon”; the argument between rent-currying victimology and morally distracted popular reasoning, is unnecessary discursive noise.

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Updated Feb/2019 (07867 672229)

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