Escort Evolution: 5 Classic Hooker Attitudes

by Charlotte Shane on May 20, 2013 · 28 comments

in Prostitution, Tools of the Trade

Image from NabbCafe

Image from NabbCafe

Sex workers are a profoundly diverse group of individuals, with wildly different backgrounds, circumstances, and work tactics. But I’ve been around the block enough times to know that within this corner of our lives, our experiences often coincide. On a near-daily basis, I recognize another escort displaying the signs of an attitude I too once held. So without further ado, here are five common hooker states of mind that I suspect most of you will recognize, in others if not in yourself.

Everyone Must Know — The most embarrassing, cringe-inducing mindset is also one of the earliest to appear among a subset of privileged, politicized, very young sex workers. Think about the worst qualities of most middle class college kids: their naiveté, which they’re (naively) convinced is actually a very sophisticated and hard-earned understanding of the world; their youthful earnestness; their awkward, hyper-self aware social skills or lack thereof. Throw in a job at the local strip club/jack shack/full service incall and it’s a recipe for humiliating disaster. I was convinced that I could single handedly eliminate at least, like, 50% of the stigma around sex work by making it clear that I — a white, educated, intelligent young woman! — was selling sexual services and was TOTALLY EMOTIONALLY FINE and THRIVING and indeed, STILL WHITE AND EDUCATED in spite of it.

I told my hairstylist. I told potential new friends when they were still only acquaintances. I told former teachers while I asked them to write me recommendations for my grad school applications. I even announced it once to a roomful of classmates, apropos of practically nothing, and was so proud of myself for doing so. (“Look at me, I just blew their closed little, non-handjob-selling minds.”) I loved dropping the “sex worker” bomb for its inherently provocative qualities, even though the wind was regularly knocked out my sails by ignorance. (“So what exactly is a webcam?” a doctor asked when I told her I worked on one. She definitely thought I was making my living through a rarified form of tech support.) It is so excruciating to think about now, I can barely handle it. 

Maybe someday I’ll have more sympathy for the young me, whose heart was so entirely, if so cluelessly, in the right place, who recognized and defied the injustice of prostitution’s criminality and stigma, albeit in a clumsy way. I wanted validation as someone with something important to tell the world, and as someone who sincerely wanted to make a positive social impact. Sadly, this made me the type of idiot “ra ra sex work!” brand new worker who irritates the wits out of everyone else in the field. What can I say? My memory of this time is fittingly painful punishment, I assure you.

I’m Hot Shit — While my “everyone must know” phase died out well within a year, the “I’m So Hot” attitude seems to be a more persistent and reoccurring one and, sisters, don’t even pretend I’m alone in this. This one is easy to recognize from afar because it’s present in pretty much any escort who self identifies as “high end” and “exclusive” and “very expensive” outside of her own ad copy, in emails to strangers or on her personal blog. (And really, those terms are pretty played out for marketing, too.) She might be charging the regular market rate, but she feels very special about it, which is kind of cute, so she keeps dropping those phrases into any and every discussion about her work. This “I’m Hot Shit” mentality is linked to youthfulness, and I think it’s often sparked in a sex worker who’s realized her sexual power for the first time. Adolescence, for every woman and man I’ve ever met, is a time of crippling insecurity around one’s ability to appeal to another person romantically/sexually. So giving an 18 or 19 year old money in exchange for the honor of looking at her naked body — the naked body she has regularly doubted anyone would even want to look at for free — is like a speedball of power and affirmation. When it’s in the bloodstream, everyone better watch out.

I’ve seen these lil’ hookers at work, and they cannot take no for an answer because they’re too high on their own hotness to recognize no could ever be an answer. They are perpetually flexing their sexual charisma, even in situations where they’re not going to earn any money. This is often accompanied by a lot of authoritative, unprompted advice-giving on business, most of which is not very good but hey, I’m hot shit so everyone else should listen up. The times when I felt hottest and, not coincidentally, richest, were the times I was still seriously fucking up at work, muddling along with poor boundaries and ignoring my instincts in favor of a few hundred bucks, making far less than I would five years later with a less ego-tripping head on my shoulders.

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Suzy Favor Hamilton and David Vitter: not quite in it together

But What About The Men — We all contain multitudes, and the fact that my “what about the clients?” brain came out so closely adjacent to the “I’m hot shit, watch me give this businessman a boner with a single look while the poor guy tries to buy some coffee” is a testament to that. I know you can’t tell anymore, but once upon a time I had a tender heart that was genuinely touched by how sexually rejected and lonely many of my clients felt. I was surprised and moved by how sweetly they could treat me, how sincerely they sometimes seemed to care about my comfort and happiness, and it hurt me to know they were slandered by the world at large because of their choice to pay me. I was so bothered by the unfair reputation they’d earned as violent and misogynistic monsters that I wrote a passionate essay about it.

I stand by everything I said in that essay. Now more than ever, my clients are incredibly generous, good men who have enriched my life in countless ways. But to insist that clients are truly in it with us is to ignore the Grand Canyon-sized chasm between how clients suffer and how sex workers suffer. There simply is no comparison when it comes to who is targeted for police harassment, arrest, assault, rape, and murder; no comparison between how being outed as a client impacts one’s career (see: David Vitter) and how being outed as a prostitute does (see: Suzy Favor Hamilton.) The more I think about it, the more I suspect a consuming concern about client stigma is a tactic to avoid dwelling on one’s own disadvantages as a sex worker. It’s hard to think how reviled and targeted you are because of your work, and easier to focus on how crappy it is that the sweet widower who always brings you a hot lunch at your incall is demonized by some feminists.

I AM A SOPHISTICATED PROFESSIONAL — This one is the worst because of how profoundly humorless its holder becomes. SOPHISTICATED PROFESSIONALS are those escorts who have decided that 95% of their fellow hookers are classless and confused and just generally not doing it right, though the qualifications for “doing it right” are entirely subjective and unique to each SP. This is where “courtesan” gets thrown around a lot, and snooty comments about “finding another job” are par for the course when any other sex worker complains about a booking or makes fun of a client. SPs are very offended when another escort will take long appointments but not adore every moment of it, or see more than one client in a day after claiming they don’t. Because of their weird, hooker-policing attitude, SPs resemble the most sour, sexist, review-writing clients. You know the ones: the guys who like to drone on about how “real” providers love every man and every cock with every fiber of their beings while greedy, frigid, bad providers are just in it for the money. SPs might be right about how creatively and intelligently they treat their business, but their egos are still about 100x more inflated than is warranted. I think this attitude is inherently unsustainable, more than any of the others, because it’s so goddamn lonely not to vent and laugh with other sex workers. SP’s might interact with other escorts in order to give holier-than-thou, unsolicited advice, but they’re incapable of fully connecting to their peers. (They don’t have any peers, remember?)

Righteous misandry in action. Image via 8tracks.

Righteous misandry in action, Aileen Wuornos-style. Image via 8tracks.

Righteously Angry  — Somewhere relatively late in a hooker’s career (ten years seems to be about right, though some of you anger savants get there sooner) comes the powerful intersection of years of servicing entitled men and mulling over the shitty power dynamics that taught them to be so goddamn entitled. These twin experiences unite like the peak of an arrowhead inside the soul of the righteously angry sex worker, who has realized she will no longer take shit from anyone, no matter how much they’re paying her. Not everyone who reaches this point will identify as a misandrist, but there’s usually a healthy dose of fed-up-ed-ness with men accompanying the rage at an entrenched and unjust social system. Radfems, rescuers, and irresponsible journalist also receive their fair share of ire. Don’t worry about exhausting your anger supply; there will be plenty to go around.

The righteously anger hooker has, one hopes, come full circle, back to the “tell everyone” phase, but this time equipped with a more solid sense of self, infinitely sharper political awareness, and years of experience to inform her that many aspects of sex work are problematic and need examining, with sex workers themselves at the head of the table. It’s not about self-disclosure (and self-exposure) anymore; it’s about educating people who need to know better. Though plenty of people, even fellow hookers, are going to pull tone argument bullshit on you — e.g. “you just said ‘bullshit,’ which is a bad word, therefore you’re too foulmouthed and déclassé to have anything valuable to say” — they can go fuck themselves with a silicon life-sized fist. The whore revolution will not be polite and palatable. Can you tell which headspace I’m in right now?

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Johanna May 20, 2013 at 12:18 pm

This is so on-point. I definitely had a cringe/slightly pained chuckle of self-recognition in nearly every section. Proud to be a fellow anger savant (only 3 years in, already full of apoplectic rage). I’m now imagining us (the angry hos) as a terrifying hoard of Incredible Hooker Hulks.

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Robin D May 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm

This is so unfamiliar to me except for the anger thing (didn’t take me ten years), but I sure recognized a bunch of people/types I detest.

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LoriAdorable May 20, 2013 at 5:26 pm

This makes me glad I was ruined by the world at a young age, so I could just bring my righteous anger with me into the biz.

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Robin D May 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Yeah come to think of it, I had that going for me pre-sex work/sex trade/etc. too. Continued to get radicalized though.

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Charlotte Shane May 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

Lori, you were direct inspiration for the phrase “anger savant.” And yes, that is intended to be a huge compliment!

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LoriAdorable May 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Awww shucks! Thanks!

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DarkLlama May 20, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Good piece. And lol about incredible hooker hulks.

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Berlin May 20, 2013 at 11:47 pm

I feel as though I’m straddling “but what about the men” and “righteously angry.” Though I suppose that’s not strange given my desire to save the world while simultaneously hating just about everyone in it.

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Johanna May 21, 2013 at 12:32 am

I’ve never experienced the “what about the men” phase, not once. I don’t know what that says about me. That I’m a bitch? I’ve dabbled in all the others (although I think/hope mostly avoided Sophisticated Professional, except for a few unfortunate moments in my earliest days). But never the client one. I think I skipped right past that to Righteously Angry, which is definitely where I’ve been for most of my time in the industry (especially in the past year).

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Elle May 21, 2013 at 1:15 am

As a stripper, I’m experiencing stage 5. It’s been four years since I first stepped on to a stage, and I definitely could rant like the best of em.

However, still guilty of stage 1… sigh.

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Jan May 21, 2013 at 6:27 am

Nice one.

From the perspective of a reader, I can say that your blog was best (informative, funny, touching) when I think you were in the “I’m so hot” phase. Sounds like vanity leads to better writing. Interesting…

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Charlotte Shane May 21, 2013 at 9:13 am

I disagree completely on multiple levels, but when it comes to a reader vs. the author arguing about a certain piece of writing, it’s best not to even go there.

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Jan May 21, 2013 at 10:08 am

🙂

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Eva Angelica May 21, 2013 at 8:20 am

Oh man, I’ve been ALL of these…..excepting the “What About the Men” phase.
I would hasten to add that my my particular incarnation of the “I’m Hot Shit” phase also included the “With my two years of university education and my bookshelf full of classic literature I’m *so* much smarter & classier than all these other girls, clients like me because they can actually have an intelligent conversation with me” phase. (though I guess that attitude could also be filed under “Sophisticated Professional”)

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AP May 21, 2013 at 10:11 am

Excellent. For CS, beware http://stendec9.blogspot.com/2013/01/mask-of-morgumm-horror-tale.html ; for everyone else, what about stages 6+? Or is that it?

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Amanda May 21, 2013 at 10:59 am

I’ve rarely encountered anyone who has gone through all those phases and a lot who have skipped most of them entirely. I guess I hang around different sex workers or something. Is this yet another difference between East/West Coast and Midwest? My theory is that regional differences account for a lot.

The one thing I HAVE noticed is that the “tell everyone” phase as described by Charlotte rarely includes family; while often those out to their families are blue-collar escorts. I’ve observed a lot of this.

There are TONS of the SPs around. For sure.

I suspect I’m hovering around the “righteously angry” phase but I was born there, so it’s not really news to anyone who knows me.

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Ariane May 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Thank you Charlotte for this article. I recognise these steps, not so much in a constructive manner – one after the other phase, more all together at once. Righteously angry throughout my life and still I am. What I always wanted was to get recognised as a human being – and the same for my fellows. I never had any sympathies with “But What About The Men” devotees. Its so divisive and nurish classism. To defend bad behaviour and wrong consideration means to feed ongoing harm. This makes no sense for me. Instead to protect the wrongs and not the rights I discussed all these issues that made me feel angry or sad from the early beginning in some discussion circles and it helped me a lot. Pretty hard for me was and still is to reflect on so many power related issues in the hooker universe. Dating was more relaxation.

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Neon May 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm

lol this cracks me up heaps! I did the ‘I’m so hot’ in high school long before sex work, and don’t remember the last time I was overly sympathetic to the plight of men, due to my fairly consistant righteous anger 😉 but ‘Everyone must know’ and ‘I’m a sophisticated Professional’ ring soo true for me! Hilarious(ly embarrassing). I am really happy that I went through both though, because now I’m not afraid to consciously out myself when I want to.. and I can choose to keep it to myself. Also I think the SP in me taught me about the lines between how we market ourselves Vs how we actually are and how we talk with our peers. Oh and that workers need to have each others’ backs.

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Laila Lucent May 24, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I really loved this line for the Hot as Shit Girls: They are perpetually flexing their sexual charisma, even in situations where they’re not going to earn any money.

This was probably the strangest thing about working as a Vegas stripper – commodifying my sexuality.

I have a friend who is a famous comedian, and he once explained that when he first starting getting paid to be funny, he didn’t want to be funny for free around his friends anymore. He also talked about how strippers are always thinking about the power exchange with sex. He said a female scientist can decide to suck a dick for fun, but a stripper is too busy thinking about the potential loss of power.

For most of my time stripping, I would purposefully be unattractive and standoffish for much of my day-to-day life. I didn’t want to put up with ANY male attention unless someone was going to pay me for my sincere-looking smile.

As for the “Everyone Must Know” phase, that’s hilarious! All of my friends in Vegas knew I worked as a stripper, because I didn’t want anyone in my life that didn’t accept me for who I am. BUT If I didn’t want to be friends, I wouldn’t say anything, not because I didn’t want to worry about being looked down on, but because I DIDN’T CARE WHAT THEY THOUGHT. There’s also no way to tell a man that you work as a dancer without them hearing that you’re down to bang. I definitely stopped telling everyone… Until I told everyone and wrote a book about my 2+ years stripping in Las Vegas: The Yoga Stripper

My parents know, my old boyfriends know, every potential mate knows, and every single person on my Facebook knows I used to work as a stripper. It’s made some people stop being my friends, but it’s also made a lot of people like me more than ever before. The truth truly did set me free.

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Irony Butterfly May 26, 2013 at 10:28 am

Pshaw. I could do every single one of these simultaneously.

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Gretchen May 29, 2013 at 12:05 am

I did all those this morning before my nailpolish dried.

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Chrissy Kisses July 2, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Pretty sure this list would have worked in the 90’s.

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Betty July 2, 2014 at 10:41 pm

I relate to a lot of this piece, but the line
“These twin experiences unite like the peak of an arrowhead inside the soul of the righteously angry sex worker”
tore through my soul.
Thank you

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stilettomaven July 25, 2014 at 2:46 am

Wow. On fucking point. I just change hooker to stripper.

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DianaHemingway March 2, 2015 at 12:23 am

Oh my crumbling hooker idealism! I suppose if I had an ounce of wisdom I would bypass the rest and go straight to righteous anger, or retirement. Rah Rah RAH!!!

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Brazen Lee August 15, 2016 at 10:35 pm

HAHA. With the exception of SOPHISTICATED PROFESSIONAL… every single one…. ! Spot on. You’re hot shit.

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