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Reality and Faux Ho Bloggers

In October of 2008, someone calling herself Lux started a blog about her work as a stripper. She detailed episodes of using drugs, encountering her ex-boyfriend at her club, and accepting a bad check after having sex with a client in his home. By February 2008 she stopped posting, citing her detractors as the cause. Some readers had suggested she was essentially a spoof on the public's perception of a stripper, a stereotype taken to the extreme, while others were certain she was a man publicly airing his debased fantasies. Several fellow stripper bloggers like River City Kitty left comments accusing Lux of being a fraud.

In Lux's final post she wrote an angry defense of the sometimes-ugly reality of her life:

I was going to write about the VIP booth over the weekend, and how I got really drunk, and ended up having sex for a few seconds with a man I don't care for, but jesus, I could only imagine all the people barking at me for that, right? I was going to write about how I went to this nice hotel with him after, did some coke, and had the most awful painful sex ever, but what, is that a male fantasy? […] Creating this blog was a mistake.

Prostitutes, dominatrices, webcam performers, and exotic dancers are in abundance online, and as sex workers increasingly use the web as their primary—usually only—marketing device, so have they begun to utilize it as a platform to reveal experiences they're generally shamed out of sharing. The public debate about sex work, which wasn't very intelligent to begin with, has done a terrible job of acknowledging and responding to this gentrification, although it's a phenomenon that's almost assuredly going to persist. Girls who may never have thought to look in their local paper's adult help wanted ads or weren't part of the circles necessary to be invited to work for a madam can now post ads instantly or surf for national agencies in need of new talent. While those opposed to the sex industry maintain that women privileged enough to have access to a computer are a dismissible minority, this is clearly no longer the case. Sex workers—many of them from middle class families with college educations—have invaded the Internet.

Sex worker web journals generally fall into two camps: marketing tools used in conjunction with a work name and website, or anonymous confessionals in which the writer discloses details about her personal life and clients. (For the purpose of this article, only female bloggers are examined.) These blogs are uniquely positioned to complicate the discourse around sex work in both negative and positive ways. They're capable of revealing rifts and commonalities in sex worker communities while also influencing the public's perceptions of and reaction to those who sell sex.

Fears of Faux Hos

It's impossible to discuss sex worker blogs without first giving a nod to the UK'S Belle De Jour, a prostitute whose wildly popular blog spawned two books and a popular TV series. No other blogging escort has come close to achieving the notoriety and financial success of Belle, though many others seem inclined to take up the mantle. Sex workers are consummate opportunists, so it's no surprise that some would seize upon the opportunity to be paid for their stories.

Of course the instinct to seek success through blogging isn't limited to sex workers; many online diarists may be taking to their keyboard with the hope of finding stardom and/or payment. But with its tendencies towards glamour, sleaze, and drama, a sex working past is one fast track to attention, and a relatively easy one to fake. As Kimberlee Cline, a San Francisco escort, frankly states, "People who are not sex workers themselves really don't have a proper gauge of bullshit."

This circumstance has led some individuals to fake a prostitute identity. For example, Alleged porn actress Shirley Shave was eventually revealed to be the brainchild of a male aspiring novelist, but not before excerpts of "her" sensationalistic blog, which involved stories of domestic abuse and rape by a boss, were included in Best Sex Writing 2005. The Internet facilitates this type of deception since online pen names are assumed by millions even when those people aren't working in a criminal and/or stigmatized industry; anonymity is the norm from YouTube commenters to advertisers on the Eros Guide.

The prime target of suspicion at the moment is Alexa DiCarlo, an escort who writes extensively about her work experiences and personal life under what she claims is her work identity. Alexa is not well regarded in the sex worker community in spite of her claims of activist work and solidarity; she declines to meet other escorts, including those most prominent in activist circles. Serpent Libertine, industry veteran and activist, articulates the thoughts of many when she says, "I do take issue with those who call themselves 'sex worker activists' and refuse to meet or work with other activists or workers in this industry. How can we build community and fight this stigma and discrimination when you're so paranoid that you can't even show your face to your own peers?" Kimberlee Cline adds:

It's really unfortunate that while so many of us are out there taking risks by being real, showing our faces, telling our stories, not just through the lens of what kind of salacious details will get us the most followers, but actually talking about our lives and creating a richer tapestry of who sex workers are, others are being fake. When people front or are artificial, they're really demeaning the work that other people are doing.

Furthermore, Alexa's pictures have been called into question by rumors that they were lifted from a soft-core porn performer's subscription site. In response to this, Alexa made her pictures private—a fairly incriminating reaction. (She calls the accusation a "distraction" and says she locked her portfolio because the claim was "generating useless traffic.") The pictures on her website are not images of her; the one used on her "About" page, of a long-haired brunette's lithe back, shares little in common with the pictures once featured on her work site, which depicted a petite, dyed blonde girl with a belly button piercing. And she admits on her "About" page that: "Many of the photos used within this blog are not me. I use random photos of myself and others to illustrate articles and posts." If the blog is her advertising space, it makes little sense that she'd not identify a picture of her form (which need not include her face).

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Faux Ho

There seems to be quite a bit of this going around. The examples you note are probably the most visible, hence the most egregious, but they're certainly not singular.
There are many real, honest-to-goodness, working escorts who are blogging and writing. They have real, funny, sexy, interesting stories to tell. Thanks for highlighting some of them here.
Good article, well researched. Valuable information.

http://hookeraddict.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/the-pretenders/

Oh, look, "Alexa Dicarlo"

Oh, look, "Alexa Dicarlo" (whatever his real name is) just posted a FIVE THOUSAND word "rebuttal" on his blog. Interestingly, it consists mostly of hand-waving, blustering, and excuses.

Actually, you don't have to rely on circumstantial evidence to show that "Alexa" is a fake. In an April 2008 post, he claimed to be a graduate student in Human Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University, starting in Fall 2008. This is a bona fide that can be verified.

This is a real university, and it has a Department of Sexuality Studies. On their website, they list all the entering graduate students for each year, with a brief background. There are only 10 women entering in 2008. None of them match up to the information on the blog. Geographic location, undergraduate university, area of research, etc.

If "Alexa" were smart, he would've claimed to be going to business school. It's easier to remain anonymous in a class of 200. But you can't hide when you claim to be one of ten people.

Alexa DiCarlo

I've read Alexa's blog regularly since she started it, and follow her tweets as well. Perhaps I'm easily fooled, but I don't think so. I've never had a wisp of suspicion that she isn't exactly what she claims: a phenomenally highly sexed individual who is bold and assertive about her desires. Her tweets match up with her blog; she hasn't attempted to gain massive notoriety or do anything that would accrue income (UNLESS, of course, she's truly an escort!). These quibbles smack of conspiracy theorism. People should maybe think that the simplest possible explanation is the truth: she's an escort. If she were a guy and could write about sex from the woman's point of view the way she does, it'd be a frigging miracle, frankly.

Yep, I count this all as jealousy.

Simplest explanation?

I don't see how the simplest explanation is that everything she says is true, unless by "simplest" you mean "easiest to insist on in spite of evidence to the contrary." Everything she says clearly isn't true, as has been proven by the Cass situation. (You can see here that Alexa tried to claim she worked for the site and the webmaster was using old pictures of her, but this isn't the case; the girl in the pictures is a still-working model with a twitter feed whose commentary I've included links to in my other comment.) In fact, if we're going to make everything "simple" and reliant on emotion instead of, say, accurate and derived from critical observation, than one of the primary reasons for some of this vehement support is less that Alexa is a convincing persona—although clearly she has been convincing to many people who have no familiarity with actual sex workers or the sex industry—but rather that those who have supported her are invested in her being real, both so they can continue to enjoy her site but more importantly so they don't feel foolish or taken advantage of. 

As I tried to explain in this article, and subsequent posts by Maggie and Trixie have detailed, there are many legitimate reasons for sex workers to be suspicious of those who claim to be part of their community without having any interaction with other sex workers. If Alexa's had the successful PR campaign that she tries to claim (in terms of making laypeople respect sex workers and rally for their rights), I'm seeing little evidence of it in her supporters, who are so quick to say dozens of established, verifiable sex workers are just lacking self-esteem (ie "jealous"). What is there to be jealous of? So far, I've not encountered any actual sex worker who believes she sees clients, and she's not making any money from her endless internet endeavors.

If Alexa and her readers actually cared about sex workers' rights and voices, they'd pay attention to what actual sex workers were saying. 

The women in this piece

Posted the same thing twice when my comment was held up in moderation—Apologies. See below.

Alexa is a Fake

http://twitter.com/BlueyedCass85 - "Alexas other twitter page

http://www.blueyedcass.com/ - She is also a cam girl...funny how she had sessions while on vacation in Yellowstone

http://www.princessblueyez.com/ - and here she is again

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogc7I-z5J0w ...and here she is on Youtube

Plus she's a grad student, a courtesan, a writer of several blogs, a sex expert at Caitlin's corner, constantly twitters etc She is such a fraud!

Connections?

I've seen these pages referenced before -- but I've seen nothing that convinces me that they're actually the same person as Alexa, other than people stating and restating it. At most, perhaps Cailtin's Corner, but even that, what shows the connection? I never saw the photos Alexa posted on her professional site, so I can't attest to the connection there (i.e., that they're the same person shown in the BlueeyedCass photos).

What, pray tell, is so tremendously implausible about a grad student working 10 hours a week as an escort and doing blogs/twittering during the course of her day? She's clearly a very fluid writer -- someone of that skill level could easily pound out several thousand words a week, especially if she's just describing her life and not trying to pull together an analytical paper. It's NOT that tough, folks.

Occam's Razor, anyone?

Faux Hi

This woman is on twitter all day long... She has time to tweet and have convos wither others all day long, see clients, write her blog, complete grad student work, study, apply to a doctoral program, general grooming, screening clients, hosting/screening gang bangs, (at the time) maintain Caitlins Corner, participate on adult forums, maintain 4-5 Tumblr accounts, search for erotic images to tweet, Facebook, Myspace, (even) LinkedIn and scour Craigslist for ads...I could go on. This woman did all of the above and more and yet people really believe that she was a full time grad student. Sorry any student with that much going on doesn't spend all day on the internet unless you some shut in (which she probably is).

Here is a link that shows her myspace acct (prior to her deleting it): http://alexadicarloisafake.blogspot.com/
This is clearly the same woman from Blue Eyed Cass/Princess Blue Eyes

"Alexa" even admitted to Charlie Glickman that those pics were indeed her (she said they were old). How does a woman with ALL of that going on still perform on Cam (which actually coincides with some of her blog post about doing other things) on a regular basis? I have the answer she doesn't...she's a faux ho.

No obvious technical connection

FYI Alaxa's site and the two you mention are hosted by different companies in different states. - See Also http://bit.ly/8aQtjB

Lux

I initially suspected Lux to be fake due to her constant stereotyping and pedestrian observations about stripping (I've been a stripper for 13 of the past 24 years). I confronted her with my suspicions which she adamantly denied but as she continued to blog my suspicions continued that she might be a man, Eventually she revealed to me that her blog posts were based on long past experiences (years earlier), and that she has since quit stripping.

While I did (and continue to) believe her on that point, I also feel it's deceitful to pretend to be blogging about deeply personal issues in real time when in fact you're dredging up faded, distorted memories purely as a means of collecting fans to further a writing career. I also take issue with anyone representing (even in some small way) the marginalized group of people such as we (strippers) are, by perpetuating damaging, two-dimensional stereotypes.  I feel her blog lacks authenticity and honesty on that point. I do not, however, believe she is a man anymore. I also don't believe she meant any harm and has probably been hurt worse than she really deserved. And for my part in that I'm very sorry.

Clarifications

Given the absolute wildfire effect that's taking place on other blogs and twitter feeds, I thought I would add a few points about the original article.

None of the women I interviewed were asked about Lux or Alexa or any other blogger—I spoke to them about their own experiences working and blogging. Nor did I give them any of the other names that would appear in this article (be they interviewees or points of discussion) because the article isn't about any one person—it's about blogging. 

I told Alexa I was going to discuss rumors that she was fake before she answered a single question; she chose to grant me an interview anyway. When I suggested that we speak over the phone so I could at least vouch for her being a woman, she declined. 

Since this has been published, PrincessBluEyez/BluEyedCass (whose pictures Alexa allegedly stole) has confirmed that Alexa was indeed using her (Cass's) pictures without permission, and that after Cass contacted her about it, she password protected her portfolio. You can read these responses here and here

Thank You

Thank you for posting this article and commenting on my own blog post in response. I wish that I had possessed your courage a long time ago and your tailored comments to my post were just what I needed to hear. You are a fine writer and this is a great article.

Blog Anonymity

I no longer take any of these sorts of confessions seriously. I do recall adding a confrontational comment to 'Shirley Shave's' blog years ago voicing my annoyance ('Shirley Shave'/Henry Baum, strung a high number of readers along), for the blog author to try to make it my fault and turn me into a 'lunatic'. Like I had imagined his blog or his deception, when he decided to come clean on his blog. The encounter put me off the idea of blogging in general, but at the time, few people/bloggers were willing to discuss this issue or the problems it hast he potential to cause, especially when fake identities purport to be involved in particular professions. But these sorts of people don't care about the perception they create to potentially impressionable readers, they only care about their ego, potential fame and so on.
There will always be a problem with anonymity on the web. Unfortunately, there will be personalities who have no moral backbone whatsoever. Personally, I no longer read diaries. They're yesterday's news.

BTW I've noticed that the RPD are currently offline.

cites?

oh monica, you really hit this one out of the park.

i'd really like to quote you in my master's thesis, and also pick your brain about your research. to be clear, your article and the background info it cites are filling a huge gaping hole in my argument, something i've been fighting about with my advisor for months. i'd not only love to, but i straight up NEED to discuss this with you, specifically: mainstream/public sex work debate's tendency to focus on "black and white" and ignore the liminal, i.e. bloggers. you also touch on some issues relating to the hierarchy of knowledge production that have pertinence to bloggers--namely, that we cannot be verified and are therefore stripped (pun intended) of legitimacy.

that goes for all you other fabulous sex work bloggers i see commenting here, as well: if you know of articles (online or in print) that discuss sex work bloggers in these ways... throw me a bone, ladies, PLEASE, i'm trying to go academic with this shite. for now, at least :-)

Hm

Thanks, Monica, for addressing the issue of community self-censorship in your article. I read and liked Lux's blog when it was alive. I've been a dancer, and nothing about her writing made me think she was fake. Certainly, she was not the self-possessed, level-headed business woman most of us want to believe ourselves to be and project to the world that we are. But I appreciated what I felt to be her honesty about her bad times and stupid decisions. When I was a dancer, I sometimes had bad times and made stupid decisions, too.

After my public blog was Boing-Boinged and started attracting attention, I was occasionally accused of being an "obvious fake" and told that my "strip club scenes lacked authenticity" -- usually by people who admitted they had never been to a strip club. (Other dancers and former dancers, by contrast, were universally very nice.) There were also people who would pull individual sentences and quotes out of my writing to "prove" that I hated my job (like all strippers), was psychologically damaged and unable to form meaningful relationships (like all sex workers) and so on. Being accused of fraud was annoying, but having my words used as fodder for an already constructed opinion about the sex industry was down-right distracting. Although I was anonymous and had never posted pictures or any identifying information, it all still felt very personal. Eventually, I made my blog member-only and although I miss the exhibitionism of writing posts for any random person to see and react to, blogging privately has been more peaceful.

Of course, being an avid opportunist, I've tried to think of ways to attract clients and money through the blog, but so far have never been able to reconcile what I want to write with a public, non-anonymous face that I would want to own. Because the truth is, in addition to good days and interesting experiences, I do have days when I'm down on my job, and on myself. Even in private, I employ many filters to protect myself and anyone else that I may write about. In return, when I write about my experiences I want the freedom to be completely honest about myself and my impressions of other people -- good, bad, and mixed. This is what the readers who followed me to my private blog respond to. It is good material. But it is not, unfortunately, good marketing.

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Monica Shores
December 18th, 2009
MonicaS's picture
Monica Shores is an editor of and regular contributor to $pread magazine. She has also written for Alternet, The Rumpus, Boinkology, and the Feminist Review. Her work is forthcoming in The Best Sex...