Hester Prined.


It was the address thing that really crossed the line. Had it happened in isolation, I might not have taken it so hard. It was the escalation of events. When the address thing happened, I nearly broke down entirely, not knowing what would happen next. I had quit working by that point. I had gotten a respectable, full time job. I was trying to distance myself as much from my sex work persona as possible. And then the address thing.

I didn’t have a community of whores like I do now. I didn’t have anyone to ask for support. I had friends who knew, who only watched helplessly or made it worse, and a therapist who told me that I opened myself up for this kind of abuse.

It all started with the phone calls. Blocked numbers, on my personal phone, or the occassional unblocked number. They were mostly from people I knew or who knew people I knew. All hours. Usually middle of the night. Sometimes there were messages left. “Everyone knows you’re a whore!” I began to have panic attacks when a number I didn’t know showed up on my caller ID.

I should have changed my number. But I didn’t want Them to win.

It escalated to emails at my personal email address. Slut-shaming, inappropriate questions, whorephobia. How They got my personal email address, I don’t know. I changed it. I suspect that old friends, people I no longer associated with for whatever reason, gave it out. I do know that these people circulated the knowledge that I was a sex worker.

Then it got more personal. People I didn’t know would come up to me at parties or bars, asking questions, making whorephobic comments. I became afraid to go out. I lived in a constant state of fear.

Finally, the address thing. Someone I once knew who, I suppose out of the realization of how fucked up it was, called me. There was a fraternity in another city, several hours away, circulating my information, my phone number and address, at parties. People I had no idea who they were. People who made it a fun game to routinely out sex workers in this manner.

What could I do? Not knowing if shit would escalate to people now showing up where I lived, I moved.

It’s been a long time. I’ve (mostly) moved on. I’ve gotten smarter about protecting my privacy, but I know I’m not perfect. I no longer have panic attacks when unfamiliar numbers show up on my phone.

This level of slut-shaming shouldn’t shock me, but it does. The people who circulated my information didn’t know if someone they passed it on to was a rapist or a serial killer, or just someone who assumed that my health and safety weren’t important because I was a sex worker.

I dealt better with people assuming that because I was a sex worker, because I exchanged some erotic services for money with some people, that I would exchange all erotic services with everyone. I could not deal with the assault on my privacy, on this public shaming. There is a reason I had a working name.

I know I’m not unique. I know that sex workers everywhere live in fear of being outed. I know that sex workers everywhere face serious consequences when outed, from emotional stress, physical harm, to loss of jobs, houses, family, and friends. But to those who do it, it doesn’t matter because we are asking for it.

I heard the same line when I worked at an abortion clinic and dealt with the fear of my information being circulated by anti-abortion extremists. If I couldn’t handle it, I shouldn’t be doing the work. If I was ashamed, I shouldn’t be doing the work.

There is a difference between being ashamed and being afraid. Not wanting to be publicly outed in such a manner was not because I was necessarily ashamed of my choices (though I might regret some), it was about not wanting to live in constant terror. The unrelenting psychological abuse. The fear that I might be assaulted or killed in my own home.

I don’t know what can be done about this, other than constantly being aware of the threat. Sex workers do the best than they can to avoid being outed. But the people who out us, either out of malice or because it seems amusing to us, they will keep doing it. They don’t care. Even now, there are people reading this, wishing me ill, thinking it would be hilarious to out me. Or that I should be outed because I need to be treated like Hester Prine and be truly repentant for my sins.

The fear of being outed isn’t out of shame. It is out of fear. Just because I am a sex worker doesn’t mean that I am not also a person, complete with thoughts and emotions. I may trade certain erotic experiences for money, but I am not selling or trading all of myself, my body, and my personality. Or, for that matter, my privacy. Like working for the clinic, I enjoyed and took pride in my work. But I did not want to be a target for someone else’s issues.

Sex workers are not public libraries. All of our information is not open and available to all. We are just trying to make a living.


One Response to “Hester Prined.”

  1. 1 Being Amber Rhea » Blog Archive » Jobs I’ve had: the all-in-one lightening version

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