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How not to start in sex work….

by on December 6, 2011

The last 72 hours has been an interesting. I’ve been following closely a fragment of the 60-hour or so long career of a young English escort.

Her name wasn’t Carrie (but very nearly was), but I’ll use that to cover her ID.

I was playing around, as is my wont occasionally, on the UK’s AdultWork site. This currently boasts some 1,600 plus profiles ostensibly of women marketing their escorting services around this sceptered isle, many of whom actually exist, and many of whom don’t, but that’s another story for another post.

Now as regular readers know I’m neither a sex buyer nor seller, but I do like excellent presentation and perhaps that’s why I have a thing about the absolutely appalling general quality of AdultWork’s photographs. I’m sure I’m not alone. Or perhaps it’s because I spent a period of my life cropping and treating photos for publication (not, I hasten to add, of the AdultWork variety).

Now AdultWork – alongside, perhaps, the Women’s Institute – is one of the last sites on the planet you’d go to for porn, innumerable examples of which of far better quality are – as we all know – freely available on tap elsewhere. You go there to see who’s on the game in your neck of the woods using its search facility, and you don’t even have to join the site to use its search.

Because I’m not a client, I very rarely contact any of the lasses whose labour is on offer, as the site is notorious for time wasters, and on the exceptional occasions when I do write I think it only fair to make it very clear up front it’s not a booking. One such exception was Carrie.

Carrie was – is, if we accept her profile – an attractive dark-haired Sagittarian lass of about 21-22 in Suffolk. She created her profile on the site last Friday. As soon as I read it, alarm bells rang, albeit faintly. In a short profile she announced what she said was her real first name and what club she attended in her community on a Saturday night. Furthermore, her photos clearly showed her face, which is a big decision to take. This wouldn’t be how I’d have played it, but then, who am I? She’s well over 18, and I would never like to open myself to accusations of displaying patriarchal tendencies by radical feminists.

By the time I first saw her profile on Saturday morning, the page informed me it had already had 300 viewings.

One of the things that had first attracted me to the profile (I live nowhere near Suffolk) was that Carrie had clearly prepared her arrival. Her profile already boasted a gallery of photos; an additional ‘private’ gallery (which requires payment of a small admission fee of a quid or so in AW points to view for a short period); a completed AW interview; a verification photo of her holding a paper stating ‘Adultwork’ and the date of 3 December 2011; and several videos, including a free one, just of her, fully dressed, talking (but, alas, my audio isn’t functioning).

So I looked at the free shots. Basically, it was a potpourri of vanilla shots and soft porn. Some were too dark, others badly cropped, some had red eye, others were just plain seedy and needed binning…now I am a perfectionist and the full list would stretch on. But some were very good, many were redeemable if worked on, and there are a lot of galleries on AW that are a great deal worse than this was. At least these clearly had some potential, even if its photos were merely rearranged.

One photo, captioned ‘wall’, for example, was about as tasteful and attractive a full nude shot as you could reasonably imagine, showing off Carrie’s best physical attributes to the full. It would have sat very happily on Page 3, both making punters amorous and any reasonably broad-minded granny proud, which is quite a skill. Yet this was hidden away in a gallery while the principle shot on the front of her profile featured at one point (during the profile’s short life the main pic changed several times) an unflattering facial of her sticking her tongue out – not in the least bit seductively.

Now the main pic on the front in AW is crucial, because it’s the one clients see when they select profiles to visit. There’s no arguing with success, though, and within a day of putting her profile up, Carrie had already got two AW escort ratings apparently from very satisfied clients, and, no doubt bolstered by the talk at her nightclub, viewing figures on her profile page had topped 3,000. A newly created blog on her profile informed us she’d got a booking for a modelling session from a Dave next Thursday.

Oh sod it, I thought, I’ve got some time to kill, I’ll write. So I sent her an AW email on Sunday morning. Now you can’t add attachments to AW emails but I gave her a normal email address and said that if she cared to give me hers, I’d send her some ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots of my previous work on what we might call ‘relevant’ photos and she could consider whether to send me hers to work on.

This is the sort of thing….

An original AW shot and two variations of what a little work can do

…So I sent it off into the ether, and expected to hear nothing. Her AW inbox was no doubt inundated. Thus I was surprised to shortly receive notification that a 140 plus MB file had been sent via MediaFire. I duly downloaded it and wrote off to the accompanying hotmail address to acknowledge receipt with my samples attached, only to receive an instant failure notice.

I discovered she’d confirmed that she’d sent this by AW email, so I replied explaining the situation and again asking for a valid email address, as there was no point in working on her photos if I couldn’t get the results to her.

I returned to extract the files from her ZIP, and noticed the folder file’s title. One word in it was ‘portfolio’ but the other two were what I believe to be her full actual name.

Googling her name, together with the area she was working from in her AW profile, led me to a PDF file which contained some of her more hardcore photos together with a number of ‘vanilla’ shots of Carrie. In them, she’s pictured with people whose ages are consistent with them being her parents and siblings – family photos – together with the identity of what I take to be their then (or possibly current) village location in a neighbouring county.

Patriarchal or not, I already felt I knew far, far too much about Carrie and was seriously worried about what others might do with this information, and whether they’d find it as easily as moi.

I got more worried when I opened her zip file and discovered amongst its contents a series of photos, some clearly self-taken using a mirror, of herself heavily pregnant. So she has a baby.

Now it could be my worries are misplaced. It could be that Carrie, whatsoever she does, has the full and unreserved backing of her folks, that she’s been brought up to be wonderfully uninhibited about her body. For all I know, she might come from a long and proud line of sex workers, the skills lovingly passed on from mother to daughter since the 12th century and beyond. Do I have evidence to the contrary? I do not.

Email addy or otherwise, natural curiosity, of course, led me to explore Carrie’s portfolio. It includes all the AW photos I’d seen, all the videos and much, much more. I found myself working on into the wee hours on photo after photo, altering brightness and contrast, straightening, eliminating red-eye, brushing out the pimples, yet this was but the first phase of a multiple stage process I go through with various bits of software. I don’t have anything sophisticated like Photoshop or proper air-brushing programs, and all I can say is I end up with something far superior to that I started out with. Anything I can’t improve, I don’t try to; anything apparently not worth improving I try to at least explore first, then bin. I don’t try to make her more beautiful than she is, which would be unfair to her clients and potentially create problems for her, but I do try to make her stand out with appropriate work on the photo and the clearance of clutter.

There’s a certain triumphant satisfaction to be gained from rendering AW photos somehow viewable, even if they never get further than your hard drive.

As I worked through these photos, I got to really like Carrie, and certainly know her, albeit in a somewhat un-cerebral sense. She’s very versatile, whether cavorting as a naked wood nymph, modelling lingerie or posing on a bed in the most explicit of what she entitles ‘UK Mag’ shots. Whether she’s quite up to hardcore is another matter. “No, Carrie,” you want to say, “you’re supposed to look like you’re driving yourself to ultimate ecstasy when you stuff that WKD bottle up yourself, not fall about in uncontrollable laughter.”

But there you are, you see, that’s what makes her so likeable. A playful spirit perfectly capable of revealing her nether regions in a rail carriage – if Virgin Trains disappear shortly, we’ll all know why – and speaking for myself, train journeys will never be the same again, but may become more frequent.

But there’s kind of, well, mistakes. For example, she’s got several train photos, mostly vanilla, and while the train carriage appears identical, with the same upholstery etc in every shot, she’s wearing totally different apparel in the vanilla shots to (what remains of) the outfit in the one you definitely wouldn’t show your granny. Shame, and a disciplinary problem here for continuity…

And then there’s lots of nice vanilla photos of her out and about in club land in Suffolk, lying on grass and on a beach in her bikini, getting topless in a car park, flashing her boobs (of which she hasn’t very much, more of a flicker than a flash you might say) at various points in broad daylight in town centres. All good fun, daring do, naughtiness. So yes, I do like her, enough to use a very tasteful shot of her nude on a bed on all fours with a Jackson Pollock print on the wall as my desktop background.

As for the videos, the world really is better off without them, as is Carrie whether or not she returns to sex work, ’nuff said.

At midday yesterday I logged into my email to discover from AW that there had been a reply from Carrie. But when I logged in to read it, there was a simple message to say that the member concerned is no longer active on the site. Her message wasn‘t there. And true enough, her profile – photos and videos and all – has disappeared. Poomf, vanishéd!

Now I dread to think what kind of hot water she’s in and I just hope she’ll come through it OK. It could be anything from her folks finding out about her capers to something worse, or from simply getting some nasty emails from the community to finding her inbox so cluttered the whole thing looked just too formidable. Maybe she’s just suspended her profile and she’ll resurface with or without a new username, who knows?

Exiting sex work brings a whole host of agencies to the fore, but as the dangers are said to exist in it, the help’s at the wrong end. There are better ways than others to enter sex work, and I suspect that Carrie, despite all the preparation with the photos, videos, etc, has just come across one of the less good ways, bless her.

You don’t declare any part of your real name, on the web or not, to anyone you haven’t good reason to trust, and often not even to those you have, you try to control access to your explicit photos to a close circle and you don’t make a public announcement about where you go on Saturday (or any other) nights. You also seriously consider commuting to sex work rather than working in your own community, you have a different wardrobe for sex work, you consider a hairstyle that can be worn up for sex work and down for community or vice versa, etc etc.

She is, of course, not alone. Innumerable would-be AW escorts push the ‘poomf, vanishéd’ button either permanently or temporarily, and the number of profiles of those in suspended animation awaiting, perhaps, to reappear one day is known only to the site management. Whatever the outcome, I hope Carrie’s social network is supportive, as her family may not be, and that she gets through what may be a tough time.

Meanwhile, I’ll sit on a lot of photos of what she’s sitting on, and if they get out on the web, as I suspect they certainly will unless I’m the only one with the file – which I doubt – they won’t have come from moi.

But then, I do worry too much. Maybe I’m taking it all far, far too seriously and, like me, she just thought it would be a good laugh for a chilly weekend in November.

Still, I’ve got a lovely desktop background….

  1. I enjoyed your prose and your story. Thank you for that!

  2. I’m even more pessimistic than you are. I hope I’m wrong, but I think she got nailed for the pregnant photo. I shudder to think what the radfems, social workers and just about everybody inside and outside the business might be doing to the poor girl’s family with the trail of personal info you say she left for those vultures.

    I hope the little one’s ok.

    (Yes, I’m the same xena with a new gravatar.)

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