It Happened To Me: I’m An Escort Who Thought She Had Gonorrhea

by Nell Gwyn on November 6, 2013 · 9 comments

in Health, Prostitution, This Time, It's Personal

World War II military propaganda poster, circa 1940 (Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine)

1940 World War II military propaganda poster (Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine)

I was in the midst of a pretty good day when I received a phone call from one of my non-client lovers. The poor boy had come down with a case of throat gonorrhea, which I didn’t even know was a thing.  He was just calling to let me know I had been exposed the last time we had sex, since we had made out with great vigor and he had also gone downtown, like the sweetheart he is. I thanked him for letting me know, told him to feel better, hung up and began to evaluate the situation in the calm and rational fashion that any sex-positive, non-monogamous person might try to evaluate a situation such as this.

Gonorrhea. No big deal, right? I have always expected to contract an STI at some point in my life, and as far as STIs go that’s not such a bad one. I was feeling a little funny in the junk, which I figured was probably due to a yeast infection. It seemed likely to me that I might, in fact, have gonorrhea, and I should probably get tested ASAP either way.

Then I remembered what I do for a living. I remembered that there weren’t just lovers whom I may have exposed, albeit unwittingly, but possibly about three clients as well. Even worse, I remembered that I desperately needed to make the money I was planning on making over the coming weekend— or else I wasn’t going to be able to pay my rent.

Mother. Fucker.

In my work as a full-service escort, STIs had always been a sort of intellectual, if abstract, concern. It is something I knew could be a really detrimental thing to have happen to my business, but it hadn’t happened yet, so I wasn’t too worried about it. Now here I was, in the exact situation I had only considered in the abstract. The one where I need to make money but can’t really figure out an ethical way to do so without exposing myself as every client’s worst nightmare: the poxy whore.

I immediately dropped what I was doing, cancelled all my afternoon plans, and got myself to Planned Parenthood for some tests. Of course, they were booked for the whole day and most of the next day, and I had a big money client the next evening, so I felt it was best to try another avenue. I ended up going to an urgent care clinic and dropping $500 I was lucky enough to have (but was planning on using for other things, like that pesky rent) on tests and treatment and typical you-don’t-have-health-insurance-so-fuck-you fees. And the worst part? I now had to wait a week for my results, which blew all of my possibilities for making money over the weekend out of the water. Plus, the doctor had no idea how long the treatment was supposed to take before they could definitely say it had taken effect. Three days? Four? Seven? The incompetent little shit did not know, and the Internet was just as helpful and sure of itself as he was.

Concerns about my personal sexual conduct and how it was now affecting my business began to take their toll on my psyche. I began to wonder if I should be using barriers for oral sex as well as vaginal and anal sex in my personal life, even though I don’t use barriers for oral with clients because it tends to kill my repeat business. I wondered if I should be doing pro-domme work or erotic massage, so as not to expose clients to all this potential disease, even though I specifically chose to be full-service because of the earning potential I had in that market. I began to allow sexual shame and the stigma surrounding STIs to creep back in on my mind, after so many years of working against it within myself and others.

1940 World War II military propaganda poster (Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine)

World War II military propaganda poster, circa 1940 (Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine)

It was this type of thinking, however, that led me to the idea that I might just try being honest with the clients that I had made appointments with over the weekend. It was, after all, not only the most ethical option; it was the option that someone who would not allow herself to be shamed for her sexual conduct would take. Why not just present it to them the way I actually wanted to feel about it? Gonorrhea; no big deal, right? There’s condoms and dental dams that can be used to deal with this.

I took a big leap of faith and exposed myself as the diseased whore that I am to the big spending client that I was going to have the next evening. To my great shock and amazement, it worked. He still wanted to see me. He wanted to use the barriers I had suggested for the activities I proposed. He bought me a very nice dinner and we had a terrific time and I made a bunch of money. My other clients over that weekend were not as enthusiastic about the situation as he was and chose to cancel, one of them even going so far as to try and clumsily commiserate by calling my unfortunate circumstances an “occupational hazard.” While I suppose he was trying to tell me that he understood my problem and forgave me for his need to cancel, the fact that he assumed I must have contracted gonorrhea through my work was frustratingly presumptive. However, in the end, it didn’t matter; I had enough money to get by and to deal with the stupid doctor’s bill and that pesky rent.

Poxy whore: 1. Sexual shame and STI stigma: 0!

The great irony of this whole story is that I found out a week later that I did not, in fact, have gonorrhea. What a relief! I didn’t have to call all those other clients who may have been exposed and give them the bad news. My lovers and extended sexual network had nothing to worry about, either. And I had finally recovered from whatever was going on with my junk. However, the whole experience—from the start where my lover told me as soon as he knew, to the end where everything worked out just fine—really went a long way towards restoring my faith in humanity, and frankly, in my work.

There’s no denying that I carry a lot of high-class hooker privilege, and that fact, I’m sure, more than contributed to things working out so well for me. So this incident made me not only thankful to be in the position I am in as a high earning escort, but also increased my awareness of just how important access to low-cost or free healthcare is for sex workers. It should be a basic human right for everyone, not just sex workers, and it continues to frustrate me that we live in a society that not only criminalizes sex workers but also denies access to good health to the poor. I could easily understand a situation in which a sex worker who didn’t have the money/ resources nor the class privilege I do would choose not to disclose their STI status to clients. When you’re a sex worker and your body is your livelihood, what other choice would you have? This piece is not meant to pass judgment on anyone who has ever had to make the difficult decision to make money over being honest with their clients. Rather, it is meant to celebrate a time when honesty worked out for me, and to remind us all that not every client expects us to be paragons of sexual virtue.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

billy November 7, 2013 at 11:22 am

Great to see a article written by a sex worker about STI’s. I would like to see more such articles and for us as a sex worker community to work towards ending the stigma of having an sti. Obviously as a sex worker it is possible to contract an STI and it would be great to start speaking more about this instead of only ever saying how we have less sti’s then the general population. skill sharing on how to deal with it when having an STI would be a start.


LoriAdorable November 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I’m so glad someone finally wrote an article on this! It’s like the last frontier in sex worker discussions. Thanks for being brave enough to do this.


tara firma November 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm

“The poor boy had come down with a case of throat gonorrhea, which I didn’t even know was a thing.”

This seems like the sort of thing one should know about if one decides to be a full service escort and doesn’t consistently use barriers with clients and lovers. JS.


Eva Angelica November 8, 2013 at 1:35 am

A lot of people aren’t aware that STIs can be transmitted orally. Even though I have only ever given covered BJs, when I first started in the industry I only thought herpes was the only thing transmissible orally. I had to go out and do my own research on sexual health and methods of reducing my exposure to diseases. A lot of young girls start in the game without even knowing there’s a risk from unprotected oral sex, because they simply haven’t had access to educational resources.
Also to be fair you can pass on most of them by mouth to mouth kissing, so unless you’re prepared to live life without making out it’s a risk you’re going to be facing regardless of what you do downstairs.


jenny heineman November 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Thank you for this brave essay. And these propaganda posters are amazing… “You can’t beat the Axis with VD.” Wow. Talk about the intersection of nationalism and whore shaming!


story November 9, 2013 at 2:20 pm

great essay.

having worked for a free and low cost clinic, i just wanted to throw some sti names out there than can be transmitted orally: gonorrhea, chlymadia and herpes. the first two are pretty easily treatable with antibiotics. herpes is generally a lifer though there are ways to help prevent outbreaks. and i’m still surprised that some people think that there is mouth herpes and genital herpes and they are exclusive. not true. mouth herpes can be spread to the genitals and vice versa.
all blood and body fluid transmitted sti’s (including HIV) can be passed through the mouth but it’s very rare and usually happens when both partners have highly inflamed gums and open sores in their mouths. therefore, the best way to prevent mouth-to-mouth or genital-to-mouth transmission is not brushing (which is abrasive) but mouthwashes as soon after contact as possible.


Jamie March 5, 2014 at 5:13 pm

So if I swish mouthwash after every client I’ll be safe?


Gabrielle November 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Thank you for writing this piece. I loved it! You were very frank, and it was a very courageous thing to do. As a sex worker myself, I appreciate anybody that can be as brave as you are here. I was recently outed by an ex boyfriend. As devastating as that was, and still is, I hope to be able to peek out of the shadows and become more public with my own experiences. If only one person is helped by any advice, or sharing I may offer, it will be well worth it. Thank you again for sharing your story, and also for reminding me I need to start sharing some of my own. Bravo!


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