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The Scream by Edvard Munch

One thing sex workers seem to fear most is being outed, or an aspect of their lives being outed, and interestingly it is probably the most well-used threat some sex workers make against others. However, quite often sex workers let things slip, for example by their lifestyles or in conversations with their friends, which inadvertently reveals that they are or have been on the game.

Below is a piece written by a friend, who happens to occasionally enjoy the company of working girls. I am publishing this here with his permission.

So you’re a sex worker and you’d rather people outside of the industry don’t know or won’t know about your sex work. Well here’s a few things to think about. These are things that while not being much on their own, with a bit of inductive reasoning, someone who knows you well may get a bit suspicious on how you’ve been supporting yourself.

Be good with your money and don’t be extravagant. Have a reasonable explanation of where it comes from, not that its really anyone else’s business, but some people will wonder how a student or shop assistant can afford all this stuff you’re buying. It could be you won lotto or had an inheritance if you want to spend up large or just let people assume it comes from a regular job. But remember a retail assistant usually can’t afford to spend $10,000 on a new car after three months work.

You may have heard the term talking like a sailor, well something I’ve noticed is sex workers talking like hookers. I’ve noticed that they tend to use different language when talking about sex, things like “oral”, “greek” and “girlfriend experience” rather than the informal slang commonly used outside of the sex industry. Also included in this is excessive use of nick-names like “babe” or “hun” instead of real names or personalised nick-names or contrarily, voicing your disdain for these generic nick-names and totally avoiding using them in your personal life.

Everyone likes to have a laugh, and sometimes people joke about sexwork. If you’re going to joke about sexwork don’t use accurate pricing, go way too high or way too low or use weird numbers like $88.80 that no one would actually charge. Joking with your friend about charging say $180 for sex is just a little bit too knowledgeable. Accurate pricing, to someone who knows what you’re talking about, makes it sound like you know what you’re talking about.

If there happens to be other sexworkers working from the same location that you work from, odds are you’ll get to know them and maybe you’ll run into them in your personal life or you may end up socialising together outside of work. The point is you know who they are and what they’ve done. So identifying your current or former colleagues to other people outside of the industry may not be the wisest idea. Slagging that girl off for being a whore or maybe outing her to her boyfriend can raise some questions such as, “How do you know she’s a whore?” especially if you do it more than once (and the person you’re telling knows you’re right). Outing another sex worker can be a step towards outing yourself. Although this can also happen accidentally if you’re talking about work with another sex worker and someone happens to overhear your conversation.

Check your facebook privacy settings, and display picture. It could happen that a client happens to be a friend of a friend and recognises you in your picture if it shows your face. If you happen to be friends with a lot of sex workers on facebook, having your friends list public means may not be the best idea because then anyone can see who you’re friends with if they happen to look. The best idea is to not share any information publicly that you don’t want the general public to know.

When you leave the sex industry you don’t want it following you. Unfortunately you’re going to run into someone from your past at some point. Maybe it’s someone who you worked with or maybe its a former client. Assuming you happen to be with people you don’t want to know about your former life things can get a bit awkward. The girl you used to work with might call you by your working name instead of your real name in front of your mum, or a former client might not be a gentleman and think that you’ll be giving it up for free now and approach you in public. Haing a pre-thought out plan for if this happens can help you not to end up standing there with a stupid look on your face or having to run and hide.

Postscript: We are aware that the question is often asked – would you date or marry a sexworker? The answers are usually many and varied revealing a cross-section of societies opinions and attitudes to sex workers which is one reason why many sex workers want to keep their occupation to themselves.

Conversely though a similar question arises in the conversations of sex workers and this is a hard one: Could you date a guy who has paid for sex? Would you date a guy that hates sex workers? These aren’t questions that come up very often, but in the case of sex workers, they could matter, if only for the freedom of enjoying and being open with your partner about all aspects of and some of the experiences in your life which contributed to who you who you are up to this point.

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