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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.

Is The Customer Always Right? On Professionalism and Boundaries, Part 1

summer-august-lazy-work-seasonal-ecards-someecardsBelow, four in-person sex working professionals discuss how to maintain boundaries while keeping clients happy, the most common problems that cause conflicts with customers, and what they think professionalism means in the context of a career plagued by stigma and illegality. Part two will be posted tomorrow. The women weighing in are Lori Adorable, Amanda Brooks1, Charlotte Shane, and Tizzy Wall.2

Charlotte: Sex work is very much my primary career, so I tend to think of it as I would any other personal service job, meaning I want a client to “get his money’s worth.” I want him to have the experience he wants to have. But I’ve also developed a pretty strong sense of boundaries over the years, and there are a lot of things I don’t allow and wouldn’t be willing to do no matter how much a client complains or cajoles. Do you think about your work in terms of satisfying the client? How do you negotiate that “the client is always right” mentality (yours or theirs!) with your own boundaries and preferred way of doing things?

Amanda: I’ve never felt I had to do anything the client or strip club customer wanted just because they were paying me. Quite the opposite. (I guess this means I have an “attitude”). However, I do feel they’re paying me to have a good time or have a need met. I consider it my job to give them my full attention and find a way to make them happy. I like making clients happy because it pleases me and offers personal satisfaction in my work. By “happy,” I don’t mean I do everything they’ve ever dreamed of. There’s always a middle ground.

Of course there have been times when I’ve shut off that inner voice and allowed a boundary to be pushed because of the money — but it always snaps back into place naturally, damn the consequences. I’m not someone who responds well to being told what to do or having my sense of privacy invaded. Add my stubborn refusal to fake it and it becomes a real mess, especially when I end up doing something I really don’t want (like have sex) just because I know it’s expected. Not to derail this into issues of consent; this is about personal satisfaction and playing a particular role that doesn’t fit me as well as it used to. As most service-industry workers probably feel, the less happy I am, the more I should be paid.

Assault, Consent, and Silence

It is nearly impossible to find a non-eroticized spanking picture.

Here’s the story: A well-to-do Virginian businessman takes needy women under his financial wing on the condition that they follow the rules of his “scholarship plan.” If they break these rules, which consist of limits on alcohol and drug intake, and requirements to stay in contact with their benefactor, they receive a spanking. (He’s inspired by “The Spencer Plan,” a system of domestic “discipline” intended to be used by a husband and wife.) All of the women involved are of legal age. Many of them work together at the restaurant he owns.

One day, the man accuses one of these women of stealing from him and fires her (as an employee and, presumably, as a “scholarship” recipient.) A week later, six of these women file charges of sexual assault. A scandal is born.

Just A Regular Day in the Park…

I have a policy that fetish play is just that, play, and as such I am loathe to take it into the public eye. This policy exists for a few reasons, the most important being that I hate when people push their shit on me, so I’m not going to push mine on them. I get grossed out by overly lovey couples, religious zealots, and the lot. Walking a slave on a leash in the middle of Downtown Dallas would be right along those lines as far as I’m concerned.

Having said all that, it is pretty hilarious. I imagine that there are submissives wanking to this as I type, so many people have that “In Public” fetish. Most of them are too chickenshit to go through with it though, so I admire this guy’s bravery. He isn’t even wearing a costume!

John Franc Wants Us Hooked (2011)

“We were all monsters” the nameless narrator tells us four sentences into Hooked by John Franc. The “we” refers to nine men who live in a city where prostitution is conveniently legal and when the men learn this fact, they begin a downward, hooker-hopping spiral of frightening velocity that ends in the most melodramatic plot development in the history of ever. (Does any American man have nine friends he’d trust to join him as he frequents brothels? I digress.) As you might imagine, for me, a prostitute, that opening line was about as appealing an introduction as a fart in the face. But it was accurate warning for what lay ahead. I can’t think of many books I’ve hated as much as I did Hooked, and it’s easy to explain why. The book, a novel imitating a memoir, is essentially a polemic. The husbands are unsympathetic villans, the wives are unsympathetic victims, and prostitutes are the objects with which men hurt non-prostitute women—and ultimately, destroy themselves. Shorter version: prostitution is bad, mmkay? When men hire prostitutes, other people end up hurt. It’s a literal [spoiler alert, as if anything could spoil the already terrible experience of suffering through this] killer!

The plot, which doesn’t show up until halfway through, centers around one of the men deciding he has to tell his wife the truth about his philandering. The other men are all like, “nooo, don’t do it, because we’ll get in trouble too!” and then someone disappears and children start crying and there’s suggestions of committing murder and finally the police show up—you know, the usual fall out from paying for sex even when it’s legal. If you’re conservative-minded enough, Hooked‘s course of events is completely plausible, and the book will be unhesitatingly received as a sober warning against a pressing contemporary danger. (Did you know that nowadays men can cheat on their wives without much trouble? Cue the pearl clutching.) But if you’ve got any objections to our time’s most commonly held sexual mores—monogamy is essential in a romantic relationship; cheating, unavoidably, ruins lives; women are always the vulnerable/wronged parties when it comes to sex—Hooked is going to seem about as hysterical and offensive as those anti-marijuana ads where the guys at the drive-through window killed a little girl on a bike. It’s not profound; it’s just stupid.