I know firsthand about hasty decisions. As a novice sex worker, I picked up my customers in the hotel bars of central London. A terrifying session, during which I thought I might be killed, made me appreciate that I needed to work for a madam—not just to upgrade my image, but to have a professional network to protect me.
Melissa Gira Grant , a reporter and former escort who covers the Internet sex industry, put her finger on an ambivalence that seems widespread. Even professional escorts who might not use Craigslist routinely will sometimes resort to it. But that is a luxury not all can afford. Sex workers who do work solo try to at least maintain an informal communication network for safety purposes.
In any case, Craigslist is no more to blame for a homicidal attack on a working woman than is the Marriott hotel where Julissa Brisman was killed, or the BlackBerry her accused killer probably would have used to establish contact with her. In other words, anything done through a computer can help track down a suspect afterward. Jack the Ripper is still incognito after more than a century, while Markoff was arrested in less than a month.
Diane, now a public-school teacher, told me about some of the types she encountered in her five-month stint as a Craigslist escort: I marched him down to his bank and got paid. Melissa points out that there are ways to make any encounter safer: I was becoming increasingly frustrated at his failure to manifest.
Love was desired, but seemed elusive. In the meantime, I dated. Oh boy, did I date. I was a professional dater and a longtime veteran of internet dating. I was on JDate when people found it eccentric. And I was having a lot of crappy experiences with men of dubious integrity. It had occurred to me more than once that I might as well be getting paid. Thrown into this mix of loneliness and financial need was aggravation, aggravation that when I did begin advertising my massage business in the therapeutic services section of Craigslist, all anyone seemed to want was sex.
I considered myself a healer. I had gone to massage school. I had studied a variety of healing modalities and been praised by my clients as being extraordinarily gifted. I could cure sciatica and alleviate anxiety. I could soothe PMS and increase cervical mobility. I just wanted a few good regular clients. I had never blended my massage work with anything remotely sexual.
Nor had I ever so much as glanced at the erotic services section of Craigslist. But one day it came to my attention that many "providers" who should have been posting in the erotic services section were posting in the therapeutic section. I wrote to Craig Newmark. He assured me that Craigslist would be more vigilant in removing misplaced ads. But for some reason, after that, I kept looking at the erotic services section. I never would have expected it, but reading the ads had begun to turn me on.
I just want to pause here in part because I can already hear the voices of my detractors and also because I don't want to appear insensitive to any human suffering. I recognize that I'm a privileged, educated woman who could have done many things for a living, but opted to do sex work largely because it was exciting to me. I recognize that there are women who do it reluctantly and out of necessity. I recognize that there are also women who are forced into doing it.
I recognize that violence against sex workers and indeed against all women is a real threat and a dark shame. However, this piece is not about that; this is about me. And what happened to me during the fall of was that boundaries I had heretofore firmly established and carefully guarded were becoming blurred. The combination of financial need, dissatisfaction with my love life, sexual frustration and some age-old fantasy that was stirred up in me from God-only-knows-where was taking over.
The first time I had sex with a client it was entirely unpremeditated. A runner training for the New York Marathon, he'd come for what I thought would be a therapeutic massage.
I was encouraged when he'd contacted me. I already had a number of regular clients who were distance runners and I found them to be very reliable -- the best of my clients. He was trim, nice looking, clean-cut, but seemed a little nervous as I led him into my apartment. I tried to crack a couple jokes to set him at ease, then instructed him to disrobe and get onto the massage table -- underneath the towel, face down.
The usual massage therapist schpeil. I left the room. When I returned he was in position, so I began to massage him. I moved the towel out of the way and tucked it in slightly to cover his buttocks. Then I honed in on his legs since, from my experience with runners, legs are usually the trouble spot.
His were long, lean, well-muscled. But instead of relaxing, he continued to seem uncomfortable, squirming a little on the table, shifting his head in the face cradle. Perhaps I had been spending too much time on his legs. I began to massage his back and then his arms. But when I started to work on his hands, he suddenly grabbed mine and clasped them in his. Now, it's not like anything like this had never happened to me before, but ordinarily I would have quickly diffused the situation. What made it different this time was that a little jolt of sexual arousal had seized and overwhelmed me.
Maybe I had been thinking about it too much, maybe I had actually already unconsciously resolved that I would do it, but the next thing I knew, I was on the table, naked and he was massaging me. When it was time for him to leave, he asked me how much he owed me. Now it was my turn to feel uncomfortable. I knew that I had given him extra, a lot extra although we didn't have intercourse and I wanted extra.
But I was too ashamed to ask for it. It had been easy, pleasurable even. I would move on from there to greater and greener pastures. I read the erotic services section almost everyday, until I found an ad I wanted to answer, an ad for an ongoing arrangement. He was offering a very tidy sum: I figured I had nothing to lose so I answered it, almost expecting to not hear back.
When I did, I was floored. We had an email exchange over the course of the next few days. He wrote that although he was for the most part happily married, his relationship lacked "passion" and "eroticism.
I became even more intrigued. I sent him a series of incrementally more revealing photos with the head cropped off -- a virtual strip tease. When he asked to see my face, I told him that I'd have to talk to him on the phone first. He called from a real number, his work phone. The conversation reminded me of conversations I'd had during my internet dating days:
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