I’m a part-time massage therapist who sees largely gay/bi/queer men. For a lot of my clients, happy endings are the norm but it doesn’t go beyond that. Because of this, I consider myself on the shallow end of the sex work pool. I’m constantly asked by clients via text if I work naked and/or if I give happy endings. My policy has been to remind them that texts aren’t private, that I don’t commit to doing anything illegal in writing, and that I only use text/phone for scheduling. Recently one of my clients called me “paranoid” for having this policy. I’m curious how other sex workers deal with this? They must get these sorts of text requests as well. Is it all done in person? How does one be clear but also toe the legal line?
You’re right to be cautious, especially in this dangerous anti-sex worker climate we are living in (which will worsen if Kamala Harris wins the DNC nomination in 2020).
You’re smarter than I am. I foolishly use WhatsApp and my real number with most clients. Most of them are regulars who I trust, perhaps naively.
Your question is one I’ve asked myself many times. Since I don’t recommend doing what I do, I asked my friend Tyler to help us.
Tyler Dårlig Ulv is an Ontario-based blogger and professional companion. He has worked for Rentboy.com and Manhunt, and he has contributed to publications like Queerty and Thought Catalog. (You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram, and read more about his work at his website and blog.)
Here’s what he told me in response to your question:
I will always, always advocate for privacy and security above all else, and so my response will come from that corner.
Firstly, this dude is right to want to avoid SMS/text-based exchanges. He should avoid them entirely. All providers (and anyone who wants to be in charge of the information they leave scattered about the world) should avoid SMS/texting. The issue here is that texts live in three separate places, and so you have very little control over their existence; they are on your device, they are on at least one intermediary server controlled by your cell provider (so Verizon, T-Mobile, etc), and they are on the receiver’s device. Even if both of you “delete” messages from your devices, that intermediary storage is something you do not have rights or access to, and that can be preserved essentially forever by the controlling companies and subpoenaed by law enforcement. It is also not encrypted or encoded by any default. They’re probably storing it in straight cleartext.
iMessages (on iPhones and computers with iMessage capabilities), are technically encrypted end to end (which is great!) but are stored on Apple-controlled servers in between your devices. That’s how they sync up across any device you are signed into. You (again) have no access to or control over that data; using Apple’s services means Apple owns it and can share it with law enforcement at their discretion.
Beyond his being right, though, this guy (all of us!) has a right to control the way he engages. I insist on either encrypted email (ProtonMail is brilliant and free and Swiss), or Telegram, which offers device-to-device encrypted chat in a function they call Secret Chat, and – because there is no intermediary server storing messages – the ability for either party to fully delete chats from either or both devices. That’s a big deal, and impossible to do with SMS. Telegram is free and works just like texting.
At the end of the day, we have a right to decide how we protect ourselves. It may mean some rudeasses will say shitty things and never contact you again. But are those couple of dudes ever going to be worth your safety?
Lastly, this guy should be paranoid. Wear that with a badge of honor. Being paranoid about your communications means you’re paying attention.
I feel schooled. I’m lucky that I have never had anyone stalk me, bully me, or use my work as leverage. No one has ever threatened to involve law enforcement. Let’s state facts plainly: I’m at least partially cushioned in this racist country by the color of my skin and my gender. If I was transgender or a woman or a person of color, I likely wouldn’t feel so untouchable. Folks, that’s white privilege.
If I escorted more seriously or more regularly (I’m giving serious thought to quitting day jobs and doing just that), I would likely take issues like this more seriously. That’s why I asked Tyler for help, because this is what Tyler does, and he does it with intelligence and empathy.
I’m going to follow his suggestions and you should, too.