delve a little deeper....
Anyone who knows this blog well enough will know of my loathing of the press and it has been at the front of my mind again because I was thinking about content for the wonderful Everyday Whorephobia website. I offered my blog post about tabloids and the outing of sex workers which was kindly accepted and posted (here if you're interested).
I'm reluctant to go into details about my own personal outing (Oh God, that sounds like I went to the seaside for the day; I mean in the press) because obviously I would prefer to protect my anonymity/.
What I haven't ever really written about is what happened when I was outed at work. I think it's time I got it down, firstly for my own cathartic reasons and secondly it is a perfect demonstration of whorephobia and the stigma sex workers face. I also feel a bit uncomfortable telling this story to other sex workers who also have other jobs because it scares the hell out of them. However, if this blog works as a reminder of why you should be really fucking careful then it's done some good. Some details are sketchy or have been altered to protect myself.
When I started escorting it was on a very part time basis. I had a full time job which was fairly demanding and meant working weekends, but this worked well because it meant I was able to work on week days when I was off work which tend to be the busier times. I didn't live with anyone I had to hide it from and my lover and best friend at the time were very supportive.
In a way escorting saved me. It sorted me out financially and I as I was started to feel disillusioned with one night stands and meaningless flings it gave me sex without the crap that went with it and despite what some people might think I found I didn't feel ‘used’ in the way I was starting to with men I would meet on civvie street. In fact I still say to people that most of my clients are nicer, kinder, more honest and more reliable than many of the non paying men I have had in my life!
Everything ticked along nicely, me being happier than I had been in a long time. Juggling work and clients was easy. I didn't have to see many clients because on top of a decent salary the extra £200 or so a week made a massive difference to me and I was getting debts paid off and able to enjoy life again. I was hardly out buying Louboutins and jetting off on luxury holidays, but able to do , you know, normal things like pay my bills on time, be able to afford to meet friends for dinner after spending so long having to turn down most social arrangements.
I'm going to skim over the story of who outed me and the background to that huge almighty fuck up of a relationship but I will say it was someone I had only known about six weeks, it was a bit intense and I felt I needed to tell him about my escorting work because at the time I thought it was a relationship going somewhere. Once I realised he was controlling, manipulative and a liar I got out. I ended it nicely (it's not you it's me type thing!) It was a fling, it was brief, it didn't work out, no harm done... you'd think.
Oh how right I was in my suspicions this man was a nutjob. He didn't take being ditched very well. After much pestering, begging, threats, anger, tears, accusations of STI's via text, voicemails and emails for two months he did finally go away.
However, four months after the end of the six week fling he reappeared. Well, actually he didn't reappear, what did appear was an email sent to several departments of the organisation I worked for. The email was written as if from a third party who knew that I was working for them and as an escort and how could they allow such a disgusting person be part of their organisation. There was a helpful link to my adultwork profile and a couple of personal bits of info thrown in such as my job title and where I lived.
The person who first picked up the email; someone I worked with a lot and got on well with came to see me with it. She assumed that it was all a made up lie and wanted to warn me that I obviously had an enemy. Incidentally, she got bollocked and taken down a disciplinary route for telling me first and not flagging it up to her manager first. She suggested I went to tell my manager and I felt I had to because she did have a responsibility to deal with it and I didn't want to have to make her feel disloyal by doing it. I'm glad I did because it would have come out anyway once other people had seen it (It went to the PR dept and the directorate too I discovered later).
So, I showed my manager and admitted that parts of it were true. He freaked the hell out and I ended up reassuring him that I was fine and I was happy doing it. Off he went to HR in a tizz. Seriously, for a senior manager he handled it appallingly and made it obvious he had no idea how to deal with me or seem to be able to cope with me as a sexual being. I was so the opposite end of his scale of the kind of woman he finds attractive! I also suspect he thought sex workers should look like Julia Roberts in Pretty woman or be heroin addled drug or some other stereotype.
Later that day I had to go to an informal meeting with him and HR where I was asked all manner of embarrassing questions. As much as I was proud of myself for getting my life together by escorting I couldn't help feeling excruciatingly embarrassed and shameful for having done it. I suppose in a way it was like discussing sex with your elderly granny which probably is a good analogy of the organisation I worked for. It wasn't a street wise teenager of a company, it was a prim, conventional, old fashioned stuck in the dark ages kind of place.
Fun questions included Why didn't you tell your manager you had a second job as per company policy? WHY DO YOU FUCKING THINK?!
Have you ever conducted business on company property? Now, if you knew where I worked you'd find this as hilarious as I did.
They asked me about the legality of what I did, who else knew, was I paying tax, where did I advertise, did I think it affected my ability to do my job properly. I mean seriously- I had been there ten years with a perfect record, little sick time and had been promoted in the last year, I hit targets, I ran a department and it's million quid budget, I was respected and frankly shit hot.
I reassured them that I would give up (ha!) and that my job wasn't effected, as surely my boss would have noticed. I only worked occasionally- maybe an hour or two a week and I was very discreet. There was nothing out there regarding my real identity or place of work and that it was only because of some insane, spurned dickhead it had been revealed.
Everyone who I told about this reassured me. It would be fine. Say you're sorry and you'll give up straight away. They can't fire you, you've done nothing wrong, it doesn't effect your work, it's not illegal, what you do in your own time isn't their business blah blah blah.
I was told they weren't going to suspend me whilst they 'investigated' further pending a formal disciplinary, but there were some limitations put on me and I know full bloody well they didn't suspend me because they needed me to cover over the Christmas period.... So I plodded on, more miserable than I ever had been, I was told not to tell anyone at all, so my team were confused at my behaviour and why I wasn't doing certain things and hiding in my office. My boss couldn't look me in the eye and actively avoided me. I was scared and upset about my job and bewildered as to what they were doing to 'investigate' and he was fucking useless. He was furious with me for 'being so stupid' and 'bringing shame on the organisation'.
So Christmas passed and then on New Years Eve I was hauled back to HR (who had come in specially) and told they had investigated and discovered 'incriminating evidence' on my computer. What they had actually found was a word document I had drafted, a Gumtree ad for a threesome, nothing to do with sex work at all but a private thing with a lover. They also had a couple of photos I had inadvertently downloaded (or uploaded, I don't know) wearing tarty clothes and one topless one. Again these were for the lover I had emailed (via hotmail, not the work email, I wasn't that stupid) but had somehow ended up on my hard drive.
Despite being comfortable with my body and taking my clothes off for strange men I was HUGELY embarrassed by this. It was mortifying. Despite quite liking men getting off on photos of me I was cringing like mad over the fact people in IT, HR and my boss had seen these photos. At this point I was suspended. I had the humiliation of being escorted to my office to collect my things, had my staff pass and keys taken away and escorted off the premises like some common thief.
As I walked to the train station I knew I would never go back.
A good friend had put me in touch with a lawyer who despite everyone else telling me that they couldn't sack me told me that yes, indeed they could sack me. Despite not using company property, assets or time to escort, the fact it isn't illegal I was still potentially bringing the company name into disrepute.
I had already decided that I couldn't face going back and never wanted to see my boss again and having discussed it with the HR woman (who was fantastic and kind in many ways) I realised by resigning prior to a disciplinary hearing I could go with an unblemished record and a good reference.
I think they would have sacked me if I had gone through the disciplinary process. I had worked for them long enough and with HR enough times on disciplinary hearings for both my own staff and as an independent manger for other departments to know how they operated and the things they kept raising such as policies regarding second jobs and using company equipment they were gunning to get me on something.
Ten days after I resigned the tabloid rag printed their story on me so even if I had got away with a slap on the wrist I'm pretty sure I would have been forced into leaving one way or another. Yeah, the psycho man was responsible for telling the paper too...
It's a shitty story I know, but it happened and I'm fine. Please don't feel sorry for me, these things make me a stronger person and quite likely I am much happier than where I was a few years ago.
The points I want to make are:
Be very careful if you escort and you work elsewhere.
The stigma of escorting sucks.
Can you imagine if I was bringing a company into disrepute for being a birdwatcher or into knitting or if I babysat the kids next door twice a week. What about firing someone for making a bit of cash on eBay or for staying up all night playing Candy Crush. Why is sex work a reason for forcing someone out of a job? Why does society think that this industry is akin with stabbing kittens or kicking old ladies in the street?
I have some theories but I'd love to know what others think.