Safety at the Workplace- or- Why I love My Clients

Okay, okay.

I know this is controversial, but somebody has to begin this discussion….

Right now, I’m speaking to my sisters- those who understand the intricacies and complexities of the work; those who approach their work with a sense of pride, those who honor the institution of prostitution as a much-needed service for much-needed cash.

Like any other job, there are good days or bad days, long days or short days, easy clients and difficult clients. For those who are in the biz right now, we know that holding the threat of exposure or retaliation over our clients’ heads is not going to pay the bills.

Everybody’s got their opinion about whether exposing the names was ethical, whether Palfrey actually had any other options, whether this is an ingenious tactic for her defense or just a desperate grasping of straws.

These important debates will continue among sex workers and their networks, probably long after Palfrey is hung out to dry.

I have to take a moment, though, to express my deep appreciation for my clients. In its simplest form, my job involves checking my email, setting up an appointment and meeting with the understanding that I will get X amount of money and I will spend X amount of time with a client.

The majority of my clients are not high-powered CEO’s and politicians, although I’ve had my share of those, many of them are average middle-Americans in white collar occupations such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, defense contractors, retirees and hundreds of other jobs.

I have to take a moment here, to acknowledge the extreme privilege that women of my generation have both as sex workers and as individual women with sexual agency. For more than 30 years there have been small communities of activists advocating for the rights of sex workers, sensitizing NGO’s to our needs and establishing alliances with other human rights movements. The feminists, for nearly 200 years and for 3 ‘waves’ have been improving the lives of women both personally and politically.

So, as a 20-something woman working as an escort in the new millennium, I work with more agency, safety and freedom than many workers have in the past. This is s sign of hope for me that although the policies that discriminate against us seem to be getting worse, our culture around sex and especially sexual agency have shifted. Thus, the experience from which I base my observations has been positive, empowering and enabled me to be financially independent.

With all of this in mind, I have to say that I really love most of my clients. We enter into a mutually beneficial encounter where the boundaries are clear and emotional investment is temporary or absent. I get what I need, they get what they need and we go in our own separate directions when it’s over.

One of my first clients ever said something that really has stuck with me throughout the years that I’ve been working as an escort, “Some people fall in love for a lifetime, others fall in love for an hour.” Part of the privilege that I experience in this business is that I can enter, with an open heart and mind, into these brief but personal transactions.

Although I can express my devotion to and appreciation of my clients as individuals, I’m equally outraged that women are more often than not the target of law enforcement abuses. I do NOT want to see my clients get arrested as well; violating the human rights of more people is not going to improve the rights of women and sex workers.

America needs a new perspective on sex, sexuality, and relationships. All too often, people view sex workers through their lens of ignorance and shame about sex. This scandal highlights so many issues that society needs to address- and sex workers need to be included in those discussions.

Exposing our clients- albeit news-worthy- is not a simple solution to the greater problems of sex- and gender-based discrimination, lack of occupational health and safety rights and general exclusion from civil society.

Yes, let’s expose the hypocrites and liars; let’s expose those who perpetuate lies and misinformation about us. But let’s not screw all of our clients. Instead, let’s think of ways that the clients who care for us, pay us, proof-read our manuscripts, help us with dental bills, give us money to buy school clothes for our children, pay our tuition and book fees- let’s find a way for them to work for reform while also being stigmatized as clients of escorts.

There is one group, to my knowledge, that works to advocate for the rights of those who use escort services. More clients need to be thinking about how to protect themselves legally so that they are not vulnerable to being forced to provide information about their private life and avoid being forced into exposing us just as much as we have to be working to protect ourselves.

As much as I love my clients and they love me, I know that the government can only enforce such heinous privacy-violating laws if they pit your friends and colleagues against you.

Posted by Karly Kirchner

6 Responses

  1. Dear Karly,

    Let me say this gently but directly. Every generation believes they have discovered sex! Sex IS great, there is no doubt about it. And sex with strangers can be fun.

    But you are not part of a new wave of anything. You are the next in a long string of women who get used and who convince themselves they are in charge of the using.

    What you describe above is Dissociation. From Wikipedia: Dissociation is a state of acute mental decompensation in which certain thoughts, emotions, sensations, and/or memories are compartmentalized because they are too overwhelming for the conscious mind to integrate. This subconscious strategy for managing powerful negative emotions is sometimes referred to as “splitting”, as these thoughts, emotions, sensations, and/or memories are “split off” from the integrated ego.” I urge you to read up on dissociation and other traumatic stress research on prostitutes.

    There’s nothing new about what you are experiencing, many hundreds of thousands of women have experienced it. The type of abuse you are subjecting yourself to is very complex, hormones are triggered, great feelings can be experienced, even affection.

    But in the end, you are a prostitute. You have sex for money. There are many reasons this is illegal. You may not choose to believe it, but one of the reasons it is illegal is to protect YOU.

    You need to get out of prostitution as soon as you can. It may seem like you cannot do it, because once you are into it, especially having taken a position as an advocate, it may seem you are stuck and can never leave. You CAN leave, you CAN change your mind, you CAN have a happy and healthy future.

    But you will not have a happy and healthy future as a prostitute. Many many thousands of older prostitutes will tell you so. They know the flush of youth, of thinking that you are riding the dragon, you are in control.

    But you are being used. You may kid yourself into thinking you are performing a service for the lonely men who visit you. But you are not doing them any favors. You are feeding their own psychological disorders that they are also going to have to get honest about some day.

    It is not good to use people. It is not good to be used.

    I wish I could be sitting with you telling you these things because typing on web page just doesn’t convey the hope and best wishes I have for you. I wish you a bright future. Please get out as soon as you can.

    With love,
    An older wiser sister who understands more than you know

  2. Thank you, Karly, for a wonderfully articulate post, and double-thank-you for acknowledging and appreciating your place in the new whore millenium. I began working in the 1970’s and back then, we girls were only rivals or friends. There was no sense of community, other than perhaps that which was felt when we all ended up in jail together after a sting. We were fed shame, and we gulped it down because we knew no better. For some of us it took years to resolve/evolve, and sadly, some of us still carry it in the pit of our stomachs. To hear someone like yourself acknowledge an awareness of the unique privileges and freedom afforded young sex workers, activists or not, which were partially borne on the backs of old whores like myself, is the ultimate form of respect and honor.

    I, too, love my clients (most of them at least), yet I have to disagree with your comment that clients need to be thinking about how to protect themselves legally. They rely on us to protect their privacy and in fact, that’s part of what they are paying for. It’s patently unethical to expose our client’s private information, and regardless of personal Palfrey’s motivations (which I completely understand), by doing so, not only has she perpetrated the myth that hookers are shady and untrustworthy, but she may have inadvertently created a situation where clients are less willing to trust all of us.

  3. compassion,
    What you are describing is a business relationship and a system called capitalism. Where do you work and whom do you work for? Why don’t you break down the walls of the capitalist system instead of preying on prostitutes.

  4. Hey OWS,
    I appreciate many of your sentiments, and the love and support with which you say them, but let me say this gently but directly as well.

    Every generation thinks that the sexual terrain has been thoroughly explored. It hasn’t. Sexuality, and sensuality is a dynamic thing. It changes as does our relationship to it.

    You cannot generalize the experiences of others. That is incredibly presumptuous.

  5. Compassion – You say that what Karly is describing is dissociation. This is probably true, but what makes it such a negative thing? Isn’t it simply a coping strategy that some might use more wisely than others? It may have been negative for you, but why does that mean that it will be negative for Karly?

    Wouldnt this be similar to what people working in many other professions experience? Surgeons, mental health professionals, cops, soldiers, EMS personnel, firefighters, insurance inspectors, and many others experience dissociation, dont they?

  6. Karly,

    Thank you for saying about your work what I’ve said about mine.

    XX

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