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.
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.
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.