Escorts and clients need to master secrecy.
I believe that secrets, or more accurately personal information, is the biggest conundrum in the escort-client world. Humans give information to each other to build connection, or share secrets to build intimacy if you prefer. Both privacy and intimacy are escort industry requirements, so how do you strike the right balance?
To make this harder, every escort and every client, is on their own different and personal position on the continuum between totally private and fully public. How much can be disclosed, and how much needs to be protected, is a different equation for everyone.
Why are there secrets?
Escorts need information for screening, security and for some reasonable background research on someone they are about to be intimate with. This information in the wrong hands can be damaging. In addition many clients, myself included, are looking for companionship and intimacy in addition to sex, and that leads to sharing information about our needs, our story, our lives and our experiences. Some of this information can be the most personal and the most secret of information, and it is shared intimately and quickly.
Presented with this ‘client unloading’ of information, it would be hard for an escort not to reciprocate in information sharing in some way. In addition, one major way of showing intimacy and connection is exchanging trusted information, another thing that can be hard to resist doing. Escorts are also just as likely as clients to have issues in their life that they want to discuss and limited pathways that let them do this. Escorts also need to share information for the benefit of the industry and for personal learning and security – the temptation can also be to overshare for peer-to-peer connection building and even sometimes for amusement and entertainment.
The whole industry is under siege from society, so talking within it, about it, and between the participants in it, is not surprisingly about the only way to release, explore and consider important topics, experiences, information and secrets. Information is currency and it can be used for good or evil, it can be used to become intimate and trusted, it can be used to destroy and harm.
What are the rules?
When I first published this article, I thought that this piece might generate some debate. It didn’t, most people seemed to agree the principles if not the practice and it seems we all know it is a big issue. How do we benefit from personal knowledge without abusing it? There are some legal rules, there are some generally accepted moral rules, there are some industry ‘norms’ and peer pressure (naming and shaming), and then there is individual personal position – personal position is really the rule set that applies. In one-to-one intimate meetings, it is going to be personal position that decides what is shared and what isn’t.
Some clients and escorts believe that nothing should be shared. Similarly some believe that lots should be shared. Escorts that publicly post relatively harmless (but nasty, derogatory or inappropriate) private messages from the identifiable accounts of ‘punters’ into public channels, and then complain about their own bad reviews or shared personal information, are showing hypocrisy in their values around disclosure. Similarly clients who complain about providing screening information and then post denigrating reviews of an escort on public forums, complete with intimate details, are also worse than hypocrites. Everyone has a different view of where the boundaries of fairness, trust and respect lie but some actions are downright despicable in every situation.
Defining the secrecy territory.
Most industry participants have some privacy barriers. Clients are often in a secret-life that most of their friends, family and colleagues are unaware of, they generally want them to stay unaware – in fact they need them to stay unaware. This fact is one of the biggest reasons for the industry existing in its current form and is also one of the best security mechanisms for escorts – the client’s fear of being ‘outed’ in their public life is a force for maintaining good behaviour.
Escorts have every variety of privacy, from total secrecy to celebrity status. Some escorts are part-timers with real-life professions that they would no longer be able to work within if they were ‘outed’. Others have not disclosed their escorting to family and friends. Some just want privacy and a separate life. Of course there are others that are industry beacons, spokespeople and look for marketing and exposure to become a part of their total public brand construction, they are out-and-proud with everyone. Every one of these approaches is reasonable and understandable, none should be shamed by others, and they all should be understood and respected in terms of information, privacy (or publicity) and secrecy. No one should force, by their actions, anyone to move beyond their position on this privacy spectrum by sharing inappropriate information.
I am unusually both public and private. My personal information is totally private and yet I want to explore my experiences and thoughts in this public blog and a social media presence – anonymously – choosing the name of a ‘semi-famous’ fictional character known for his anonymity. You can choose to respect that decision and privacy boundaries or you can try and force me into a different place – one choice is respectful and generous, the other is self-serving and vindictive.
Escorts that I see know more about me (of course) and they generally keep it to themselves, except for information they know I wouldn’t mind being shared – that is in my view the best model. Escorts for the most part are brilliant ‘Secret Keepers’. Since everyone is different, if you need or want to share information, make sure you know that it is acceptable, you know what the other person is comfortable with being shared and the manner in which you are sharing it. If you mean harm or even just a negligent lack-of-care in its sharing, then you are not doing the right thing. If you are sharing it based around your values alone and not their values, then again, you are out of line on this most important aspect of the escort industry.
A story of two people and secrecy.
I have seen a wonderful escort called Jessie Lee Pierce, although I prefer to call her Doctor Pierce (I guess I could take the M.A.S.H. connection further and use Hawkeye as a nickname – a reference for us older types). I can tell you this for four reasons. Firstly Jessie is a relatively open book, very authentic, open and honest in her public presentation on a range of social media and online channels. Secondly, it is public knowledge through these channels that she is studying bio-medicine – much smarter person than me. Thirdly, it is pretty clear through my social media and through hers that we have a small (but highly valued by me) client-escort connection. Finally, I asked her if I could say this, and kindly (and hopefully safe from any resulting negative impact), she said yes.
Every part of this is a trust and permission story. Not every escort wants (some, any or all of) the clients they see to be known. That choice should be respected, so my social media occasionally mentions some of the escorts that I see and not others (also not always on the same day or with correct or identifiable detail – be careful believing what you see and read on Twitter) – it is a result of their choice, permission and preference. The information itself is important, every piece of information has a different sensitivity. I have shared something Jessie is relatively comfortable with, not the things that we discuss in private. It is never OK in my opinion to share ‘outing’ information – real names or similarly sensitive information. If it is because of a crime or malicious act, share it with the right people not in public forums. Again in my opinion alone, there are some reasonable exceptions to this for escorts, however protected forums, industry groups, and back-channels, are probably better than public posts in the majority of cases. Although even in those ‘back-channels’, there are unscrupulous people who will take advantage of private information. I have been trolled with information that was from a channel that I am not even meant to know exists – so be very careful with what secrets you share.
How to be a secret keeper.
Everyone makes mistakes, especially since this is a complicated and huge area. It is hard for many of us to talk to people outside of the ‘isolated’ bubble of the sex-work industry, so we talk to each other, and we are all interested disciples of the industry, dependent on the knowledge we have for our safety, enjoyment, industry friendships and building intimacy.
Since personal information is one of the ‘tools-of-the-trade’, managing it is a big deal. We are all secret keepers. If you have been in contact with anyone for long enough, the sharing and trust circle gets bigger and bigger. There are some escorts that know more about the deep, real me, than almost anyone else in my life, this often leads to them trusting me with similarly deep, personal, emotional and sensitive insights. No matter what happens, no matter how upset in the moment we are, remember hurting someone else will not heal you. Let’s protect each other’s sensitive information, then we can be more intimate, safe and helpful to each other in a world that is loosing some of this respect and personal connection.
As I’m sure you agree, this is a big, big, topic. It has so many aspects and will no doubt be an area that I return to in future articles. I hope it made you think about your own perspective on this topic and I would be most pleased with any comments (here or on Twitter) that you have. Sharing and re-posting also very much appreciated.
Stay safe, stay nice and build connections. Thank you for reading.
Xx SP 25 April 2017 (Lest We Forget) (article updated 30 May 2017).