The Security of Self Policing
trigger warning: violence, stalking, kidnapping, sexual assault
Today is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, and although the stripper community is divided on whether or not we (and full service sex workers) think we should don the term "sex worker," I personally consider stripping to be sex work, so I'm celebrating our only holiday with action. For years, this day has passed and I've felt helpless, knowing that because of my job, I am considered less valuable to society and less likely to be looked for if I mysteriously went missing, because society believes that it's less likely that anyone gives a fuck about me enough to bother. If I start to internalize it, the anxiety can grow to deafening heights. Sometimes weeks pass without family calling me, it's true. I do live in a state all alone without my partner or a single relative. Sometimes my friends disappear into boyfriendland, self care isolation tanks, hobbies, or insane work schedules, and come to think of it, I do spend a lot of time alone. Fuck. What if I went missing? And so it goes, the cyclical nature of isolation, fear, and shame that comes with the territory of making your living on the margins of cultural normality.
When I look back at the past sixteen years I've spent in this industry, there have been a few things that have quelled this knowledge that my case would go cold, that my pets could be feasting on my corpse before anyone found me dead in my apartment, and that the biggest threat to my survival on this planet is men, even if I were a non-marginalized, civilian woman! None of the things that have made me feel better have involved a change of policy that would protect my rights (although I urge you to continue to fight for amnesty for all sex workers and never stop fighting, but it hasn't happened in my career so....), none of them have hinged on the fantasy of the boys in blue suddenly discovering that I am an actual human being with rights, none of them have been with hope that men will wake up to the fact that their bloodlust is secretly rooted in fear and embarking on a journey of peace and self-discovery. The things that have made me feel better existed here, in my physical realm, and there was something I could do about them. I have felt helpless in times, we all have, but action has been the only thing that has made me feel safer,and sharing my own hacks I've figured out over the years makes me feel less helpless. Here are some of my things.
Turning on Hey Siri
Someone following you home from work? Boyfriend getting too aggressive? Got drugged by a customer and starting to lose consciousness? Locked in a fucking trunk? "HEY SIRI, CALL 911." "HEY SIRI SEND MY LOCATION TO MAN WITH GUN." "HEY SIRI, I LOVE YOU." So far, I haven't had to use her, but the fact that she's there when I need her really makes me feel better.
Carrying a fully charged external charger
I am working on keeping my phone charged but in the meantime, I have a backup.
Avoiding Confrontation in the first place
I carry a large, visible taser when walking down the street alone. Knives are not ideal protection against attackers (they require training to use properly and are better as a back up weapon than a primary). I'm not into knives as self defense tools because the idea to me is to avoid having to have to engage in any hand to hand combat in the first place. A bat or a baton gives you reach and visibility so that it never can be wrestled from you. Furthermore, men are more likely to avoid a woman openly carrying a large weapon that could fuck them up beyond recognition. Cat callers look away from me late at night when I have my stick. I am not the one.
Always using the same cab driver AND i check license plates of ubers
A woman I know was dragged down the street by a driver posing as an uber driver, and years ago in New Orleans multiple dancers went missing from a person posing as a cab driver. Being diligent and using someone I trust helps, but if my driver ever starts to get invasive, I also won't hesitate to switch drivers.
Turning location sharing on and sharing location with a couple trusted people
They don't need to be best friends, they need to be people who would notice if you didn't come home for a couple days. My two neighbors, my bestie, two out of state friends, two full service babes, a couple girls from the club and I all share locations. I don't ever worry about my privacy, these people all respect me, but I do feel safer when I go out on a date or out to work and my stripper friends can easily check up on me and I can check up on them that they made it home.
Getting to know the women at work
Again, you don't need to be close but you need to know the basics! Knowing the girls you work with, where they live, who their friends are, and adding them on social media can be crucial to keeping them safe and knowing when they might need a little extra support. When we are hurting emotionally is when we tend to over-drink and take risks we wouldn't normally take. Knowing when a coworker is going through a tough time and using your powers of empathy to communicate and support them can keep them from making scary decisions. You should offer this support and also allow space to receive it from others. For some of us it's hard to open up at all, but you deserve to be loved when you are feeling down and out, you don't need to spiral. Let us have your back. We will. There are fucking amazing people in this industry.** We are extreely privileged to have a community, not all SW's have that. Let's take advantage of it and offer our support to our community, violence starts at home so it can end here, too. We have more power than we give ourselves credit for.
Taking shots not drinks
I don't leave an opportunity for someone to drug my cocktail. Straight from the bartender to me, never let them "go grab you a drink." Go with him! Weee, adventure!
Keeping customers off private social media
I never put customers on my real social media, and even that I use a fake last name. No matter how squishy it makes them feel or how much it seems like it helps my hustle, letting customers follow me on social media not only kills my mystique, it gives them access to my family, close friends, location, and friends list. The best strip club customers are still strip club customers. I love them for what they do for me, but I don't give them that kind of access to my private life, not just for my safety but for the safety and privacy of my loved ones and coworkers.
He is googling you, so keep your identity tight and don't send pictures that you use on social media with your legal name. Reverse image search will reveal all. I take separate photos to send to custies. You should google him, too, if you plan to ever see him outside the club or he becomes a regular. Catch a glimpse of his ID and do your research before you ever see a customer outside the club. (By the same token, don't leave with guys you just met that night, and if you're going to party, always bring your own supplies even if you "know him.")
Maintaining a fake phone number service
I use this phone number for alias social media accounts, alias emails, customers, pretty much everything that is business related.
Registering a PO box
Voila, permanent mailing address. You need to put a legal name on a PO box, but you can also put a company name. If you register an LLC or a DBA, you can also file your taxes as a business and not as a 1099 employee. Talk to your lawyer or accountant about registering an LLC or DBA under any name you'd want to use for wishlists, modeling jobs, features, or side businesses you may be building and use that business name for your PO Box to get around the legal name loophole.
Making Boundaries and respecting them.
Yep. Respect your own boundaries. Decide how much of your life is safe to divulge and stop there with everyone. The men who hurt sex workers are rarely the ones who pop out from behind the bushes and attack, they are men that we trust. Hustlers are smart and we don't put ourselves in random weird situations with strangers. We don't let our guard down ever, really, and true predators know this and half the fun for them is getting around those boundaries. Recognize that the men who work hard to gain the trust of all of the girls and employees. I am not saying they're all bad but shit, I've worked at clubs where the DJ was date raping dancer after dancer for yers and no one did anything about it because he was cool, cute, and girls kept going out with him. The people who try and get around your personal boundaries the most should be the people you watch the closest. I know of women who have brought their kids on dates with customers because talking about their child and their needs helps them hustle money. Please don't do this. I am not judging a person for doing what they need to to get money, but please always make sure that your dependents are somewhere safe whenever you are hustling. I know girls have married men they met at work, and sure there's always the exception, but almost all of the serial killers we know of so far have been people who are unsuspected, loved, and cherished by their community. Real good guys.
No painting red flags pink
In my trauma recovery, I learned to take full account of abusive behaviour and how to instill a no abuse policy moving forward, but it has not come without difficulty. Leaving a life of abusive relationships can be tricky and dangerous, so I've had to take steps to keep myself safe from people that I am vulnerable to. Is your partner abusive? Is your friends partner abusive? Emotional abuse is abuse. Unfortunately, leaving an abusive relationship is complex and sometimes dangerous. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, take steps to safely reclaim your life or support them while they reclaim theirs.
**If you are spiraling and you feel out of control and you have no one to talk to please consider booking an appointment with me. I do sliding scale consultations for women who are truly in need and cannot afford my rates. Do not be afraid to reach out to me, I love you, I care about you, and I am here for you. If you have no budget at all, you can still email me and I will help you find a support group near you that may be of service to you. You are deserving of love, healing, and security, and I want that for you.