Trigger Warning: Sexual Assualt
I try to keep things, if not always light, positive. I enjoy 90% of what being Ava Raleigh entails.
But sometimes the other 10% is enough to make me want to leave Ava behind and never look back.
As a sex worker, I'm harassed on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. Most of this harassment is in the form of poorly written emails from men who lack the intelligence, empathy, and respect to engage with me on my terms. So they try to engage with me on theirs, stealing a moment of my time because they are unwilling or unable to pay for it and think this is my problem. Most of them, the "RU avail???," "I'm staying at The Ritz, can you come now?" and "I want you to come fuck my wife while I watch, how much?" emails are so commonplace they are merely mental wallpaper I ruminate on the ugliness of from time to time. I imagine many sex workers have similarly papered mental walls. But occasionally I get an email that does cut me, because I am human and have feelings and insecurities. I remember a particularly painful one in which I was lambasted for my rates being too high for having a "crippled hand." I posted it to Twitter and got a lot of wonderfully supportive tweets, DMs, and emails in response, but I still had tears in my eyes when I closed them that night.
The quandary of being an independent escort in a time and place where your job is legally grey at best is that everyone who cares about you and knows about your job is so worried about your safety that you have to constantly reassure them how safe you are. You screen. You text your roommate the name, phone number, and address of every first time client and tell them what time you'll be home. You bring condoms. You check IDs. You don't tell them about the client who falsified screening information after you declined to see him and bragged about it at the end of the appointment (you start checking IDs after that). You don't tell them about the guy who aggressively and repeatedly asked for condomless sex. You don't tell them that he threatened to write you a revenge review when you told him his request was not okay. You don't tell them both those clients had good references. You don't tell them that the owner of the screening site BBFS guy contacted you through, one that profits off the notion that it helps keep providers safe, told you "Just because something crosses the line with you, doesn't mean that the next provider has to have the same line drawn in the sand (and I assure you that many don't)" when you detailed the incident in an attempt to get his account suspended. You don't tell them what to do if you don't come home one night (you know they've already spent too much time imagining it).
The sexual assault allegations that have been pouring out of Hollywood and other areas of society run by powerful men over the past six weeks have been both exhausting and elating. Like many (far too many) women on my friends' list, I made a #MeToo post on FaceBook. I have experienced my fair share of sexual harassment and assault as a civilian woman, and it was empowering to be able to talk about a problem that has been allowed to fester because we don't talk about it enough. But sexual assault as a sex worker is even harder to talk about, because it's seen as an occupational reality by people who love you and people who hate you alike. I should have noticed the guy who I explicitly refused to give access to my body to used the same phone number as the guy who had references from women I knew to be reputable 3 months later. It wasn't rape because I agreed to see the second guy (it sure felt like rape once I found they were one and the same). I should have left immediately when he first asked for sex without a condom, it doesn't matter he was on top of me, 100 pounds heavier, and I was undressed. I go meet strange men and give them intimate access to my body, I should expect them to violate it. That's what they're paying for right?
I want to reiterate that the overwhelming majority of my clients do more than merely refrain from assaulting me: they are incredibly respectful of my body and my humanity. I count a few of them among the finest men I know. But I know sex workers experience sexual violence far too often, and have even fewer avenues of recourse than civilians do. It's time to open more up. Let's start by being willing to listen when we say "Me too."