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).