If by accident you find an escort's name or details, should you tell them or keep it to yourself?
Privacy and confidentiality in the sex industry are a huge deal, for both workers and clients.
If you find yourself in the awkward situation of seeing or knowing something you shouldn't, handling the matter sensitively is essential to avoid losing your worker's trust.
Why is privacy so important?
Due to the fact that sex work is so stigmatised, sex workers are often very concerned with privacy. The wider world is only too happy to judge us, and being 'outed' as a sex worker can have disastrous effects for some, such as losing close relationships, losing a job, or harassment by law enforcement. There's also the danger of being stalked or harassed.
To avoid these kinds of disasters, most sex professionals use a 'stage name' or 'work name' and keep our personal details, such legal name, where we live, and what other kinds of work we do, to ourselves.
Some clients ask, 'Why is it okay for a worker to ask for my name, address, or phone number, when I don't know theirs?' The answer is simple: physical safety. Our safety at work is our number-one priority, and knowing who you are is essential so we can protect ourselves.
This deal isn't one-sided. Although there are some details we need to know for security reasons, you deserve discretion too. That means your worker generally won't turn up on your doorstep, call you outside the hours you've agreed on, or disclose your name and details to others unless there's a very good reason (such as if you've treated them badly).
Privacy is a two-way street: just as your sex worker respects your personal space, it's also essential you respect their need for safety.
Handling privacy slip-ups
So what happens when there's a slip-up? What do you say if you happen to see your companion in public, or they accidentally reveal their non-work name?
It can be exciting to get a glimpse into a worker's private life - a separate world that customers never normally see. But if you make a big deal out of this moment, you're going to make your provider extremely uncomfortable.
I remember going shopping at my local grocery store with a friend once. Later that afternoon, I got a private message on Twitter from a follower I'd never met before, saying, 'I saw you at the shops today!'
Knowing that someone had been watching me, but that I didn't know who they were or what they looked like, was so disturbing. I felt unsafe, and worried about whether they might have followed me, eavesdropped on my private conversation, or taken pictures of me without my permission. All this, and more, can happen to sex workers - and it leaves us feeling violated.
Imagine if your provider approached you while you were at the park with your family, or having an after-work drink with colleagues. You might be afraid that they were going to do or say something that would leave you feeling exposed or awkward. Sex workers feel the same way, with the added fear that comes from our personal safety being so much at risk.
Calling attention to the fact that you know details of your provider's personal life is a bad idea, for so many reasons:
- Your worker might become unecessarily stressed or upset, even though it's too late to do anything about the breach.
- It will make things very awkward between the two of you, and could ruin the mood if you spend time together in the future...or they might refuse to see you again.
- Revealing what you know could be interpreted as a threatening - they may worry you're going to use this knowledge to pressure them for favours, no matter how nicely you approach the conversation.
What happens if you don't handle this situation well? Often the worker will cut off contact, because they feel creeped out or unsafe. Safety is our number-one concern, and anything that unsettles us will cause us to move away from you, for our own peace of mind.
So revealing to your favourite escort that you've seen them at the shops, discovered their real name, or happen to know their parents, is a sure way to have them never speak to you again.
Sometimes, a client who's discovered something personal about me will try to be helpful by pointing it out. But there's usually nothing to be done. Unless the security breach is obvious to others and needs to be urgently fixed (such as a legal name printed on a touring ad, for example) it's best not to bring it up.
No matter your curiousity, be discreet and mature. If you find yourselves in close quarters with a professional at a social event, it's best to pretend you've never met before. And if a worker happens to mention a detail about themselves that's a bit revealing, my advice is: put it out of your mind, and move on to other topics.