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A Hobbyist’s Perspective: We Just Don’t Give A Shit

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Dear Tits and Sass Readers,

It has recently come to my attention that some of you *cough cough—male hobbyists—cough* think we are talking to you, and while on some days it’s kinda cute to watch you think you matter—to anyone, at all, ever— I just thought I’d take a minute here to set the record straight. If nothing else, the Tits and Sass editorial staff will now have a nice little post to link to the next time one of you forgets his place: silent, pondering, not commenting, and on my blocked list if you happen to forget.

Earlier today, one of our editors posted a call for submissions about how we feel about hobbyists. Adorably, a hobbyist thought that “we” included actual hobbyists. Because, you know. Men have no voice/power/platform/place or places to talk among themselves, so where else could they POSSIBLY talk about their entitlement if not on Tits and Sass?

Answer: Anywhere else you like, but never, ever here.

Presented for your consideration is the full, unabridged “submission” by said hobbyist, annotated with commentary.

From an Industry to A Hobby: How Review Boards Have Changed Our Work

The good old days: 2007 Village Voice print escort ads, shortly before the dominion of the review boards (courtesy of the Design Observatory Group)
The good old days: 2007 Village Voice print escort ads, shortly before the monopoly of the review boards (courtesy of the Design Observatory Group)

When I first started working as an escort in this industry, review boards did not exist. The internet was not as widely used as it is now and I worked for agencies that advertised in the phone book or in local papers. We didn’t even have to post photos of ourselves in a public forum; some operator just described our looks and personality over the phone and clients took their chance at booking us. Business was hit or miss, but I liked the anonymity. Though I heard more and more escorts were using online advertising to promote themselves, I was late to the game. My old way of working didn’t yield me as much revenue as other workers, but it protected my privacy. And then finally the gig was up. I had to change with the times and start advertising online or I would have virtually no business. But I didn’t want a website. And I definitely didn’t want reviews.

I first became aware of escort review sites when I read an article about the Big Doggie debacle of 2002 and even then, I still didn’t quite understand what the website was. Upon visiting TBD for the first time, it looked like a confusing mess of ads and message boards, none of which I could access. Sometime later I found out about The Erotic Review, mostly from the controversy stemming from its founder Dave Elms and the various charges that were brought against him. Either way, I wanted nothing to do with either site. As someone who had already experienced arrest once before while working, I couldn’t believe any escort would want a detailed description of a session with a client posted online for anyone to read, providing law enforcement with another tool to prove their guilt in prostitution cases. Oh sure, the  disclaimer stated that the reviews were for “entertainment purposes only”, but when escorts got “fake” reviews, they were sure to raise holy hell about it and complain to the site administrators to have it removed, which is a daunting process in itself.

Then I got one. A fake review, that is. Yes, my first review was a fake review. It described me as having blond hair (not at that time),fake boobs (I wish) and doing a session I don’t recall booking, but I couldn’t read the rest because I wasn’t a “VIP” member. It was just a fluke that I found it as I never looked at TER, but I was bored one night and there it was, linked to my phone number and email address.

On Hobbyists and Reviews: Providers Sound Off

sexcriticReview boards aren’t for us. They’re for sad, sad clients to commiserate with each other and get back some of the power they feel they’ve lost by having to pay for sex in the first place. But I didn’t always know that. Once upon a time, I was a review board junkie. That only lasted until I forgot the reason I was there in the first place (to make money,) forgot that everything you post is essentially an advertisement, and started being a little too vocal about my opinions.

I complained about a thread entitled “Best Asses On [That Particular Board],” writing that it was problematic for these clients to post photos of escorts without their permission—taken from their websites or from their photo albums on the board—and that reducing us to bits and pieces was dehumanizing. I was met with many defensive responses from clients claiming that this thread (and others like it) were simply celebrating the female body. I replied, “I’ll believe you when you start posting some fat asses.” (Because believe me, you are never going to see a BBW escort in any of these stupid threads.) A few of us started trolling the thread by posting male asses and monkey butts. That’s when some of the so-called “elite” members—they have more than 1000 posts—started to complain that the site “wasn’t what it used to be” and boo-hoo, the women are talking when they should be sucking cock. (Ok, they didn’t literally say that, but that was the message they conveyed.) One day, I logged on to discover I had been suspended without warning for six months.

Handling The Review Boards

ABC
This isn’t the best way to handle issues with review boards.

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.

—Oscar Wilde

There is no human experience so intimate and personal that people won’t publicly dissect it. Childbirth. Funerals. Cancer treatments. And sex. I agree with much of what has already been said here on T&S about the problems inherent to some sex work review boards. The whole concept of reviewing an erotic encounter that one was a participant in is an odd idea; it’s like having like a theater critic be in the cast of the play. How can one ignore the fact that the critic played some part in how the show turned out? But, especially with experiences that touch on primal emotions, people search for ways to bring some intellectual analysis to what they are feeling—with mixed degrees of success. Some sex worker reviews are truthful, insightful, and useful: others are more like naked bathroom selfies of the reviewer, with all the perils inherent to that art.

I’ve been reviewed, as an escort and as a pro domme, on both escort boards and sites specifically about professional dominance. Some reviews were positive, some not so much. Of course I prefer the paeans to my beauty and skill—who doesn’t? But I’ve learned to not take any of them too seriously, because I got toughened up in an equally merciless school: reviews and comments on my writing.

The Big Ripoff: TER, The Texas Murder Aquittal, and the Myth of the Vulnerable Client

elms
Dave Elms, founder of The Erotic Review, possessor of a rap sheet documenting violent crimes and harassment against women.

In early 2010, Dave Elms, founder of the infamous website The Erotic Review (best known as the review site where clients rate prostitutes on a scale of 1-10), was arrested after talking to an undercover officer in an attempt to hire a hit man. Elms wanted to pay for the murder of an escort and the severe injury of a website founder who used his own forum to air the well-known but rarely publicized fact that Elms and other TER moderators extorted sex and/or money from escorts in exchange for maintaining their positive reviews. Elms was convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault. This charge, to which he pled guilty, was one of many legal issues he faced at the time. He was already on probation for drugs and gun violations from 2006. Furthermore, Elms’ decision to pay for the killing of Jane Doe came on the heels of his outing her to her family, as well as publicizing her legal name and home address online in connection with her escort name. Murder: it’s for when relentlessly harassing a sex worker just isn’t enough.

Though it was only three years ago that David William Elms entered official records as a man willing to invest in murdering prostitutes, this information is rarely discussed anymore among online-advertising escorts, let alone among the clients who position TER as a defining force in their sex and social lives. TER chugs along like the profitable, amoral machine it is, unharmed by its somehow secret status as the most enduring and powerful product of a scummy, thuggish psychopath. The company itself “parted ways” with Elms after his 2009 arrest (that’s the one where he tried to engineer an escort’s death, if you’re having trouble keeping track). This is no more accurate than saying the United States “parted ways” with Thomas Jefferson after his slave-raping became public. A project cannot be cleanly extricated from the ideology of the person(s) who created it, no matter how convenient or fervent the dream of tie-cutting may be. If his legal conviction wasn’t evidence enough, Elms is also on record as conceiving TER in the crucible of his intense sense of entitlement and permanent grudge against sex workers.