Sunday, January 06, 2008

Screening Escort Clients

A friend of mine, who has just recently begun working for an escort service, is toying with the idea of going solo and booking her own calls, and she’s asked me for advice on how to do so safely. In my time as an escort, I worked for two cool women who ran good services. But I also worked as an independent escort. And my safety-screening process now is not substantially different, since I still spend time alone with my clients.

I think working for yourself is the best way. Granted, you need to be a reasonably intelligent and well-organized person to book and keep track of appointments. (Or else you need to be really hot in bed, so that clients forgive you for being flaky and keep calling you anyway. This second category accounts for a large number of indy escorts.)

But more important than time-management is learning to observe and analyze people's behavior quickly, in order to determine who you should see and who you should not. This is what I am most frequently asked for advice about, and it's the hardest thing for me to teach.

It is common, now, for an escort to require a referral from another working girl before seeing a new client, and I sometimes use that system myself. At least here in Seattle, that method works rather well. Most established working girls are good about answering such requests from another woman, and I have not heard of any cases here where a reliable escort gave a thumbs-up to a guy who then turned violent on another woman.

However, I have booked plenty of perfectly nice guys – many of whom are still clients of mine - on nothing but gut instinct. It’s an eclectic skill: there are so many tiny clues and tricks and tells, all of which I have learned over time, and whenever I pick up the published phone line all that information is running through my head, below my level of conscious thought. It’s like the book “Blink” -I get a snippet of information and make a quick judgment about the situation. And while I have probably excluded some nice guys, I have never had a client harm me or threaten to harm me, and that’s what we’re going for here.

So, how to screen: some off-the-cuff thoughts…

Read this: Yes, No, Maybe.

Next, search for “ring ring” and “beep” on this blog and read all the phone call and message posts. They’ll give you an idea of what a bad caller sounds like.

A good caller:

  • Talks to you in a way you’re comfortable with. That’s a really subjective thing, so you have to figure out for yourself what type of client makes you comfortable. It’s likely to be someone from a similar culture and background to you. It's just harder to quickly assess the meaning of someone's behavior if they're from a vastly different world than yours. That’s why men from other countries – like, say, New York – often throw me a bit on the phone. A man with an unfamiliar manner is going to have to work a bit harder to demonstrate to me that he shares my sex-work values: safety, discretion, mutual respect.
  • Acts as if he has a life. Be careful of anyone who says something like, “I can come over anytime, anytime at all.” A guy you want has other stuff going on in his world. He also should act as if he's interested in safeguarding himself, like he has something to lose. A guy who tells you his full name, address, phone number, ect, in the first three minutes of conversation? That’s odd behavior and highly suspect.
  • Realizes that yes, you’re another human being in the world, and that he’s negotiating an intimate rendezvous with you, not reserving a table at a restaurant. If he’s expecting to call a stranger and get an appointment in a hundred words or less, this is not a guy you want, because he’s not considering how you might feel about anything.
  • Is willing to accept that he may not get exactly what he wants, exactly when he wants it. Children throw tantrums when they hear, “No, not right now”, or even simply, “No.” A grown-up who does this is not a client you want.
  • Evinces a sense of humor. This is the most flexible requirement – callers are often a bit nervous, which can squelch humor. But it does make the sessions nicer.

Read, if you haven’t already, The Gift Of Fear. That’s a requirement. I have also read dozens and dozens of books about behavioral analysis and found them helpful. Go search through Amazon for “how to spot a liar” – there’s a lot there. Some are better than others, but information is never a waste.

Other advice on booking your own calls: Don’t go out too late. It’s not like ladies don’t ever get hassled or assaulted in the afternoon. But there’s something in the phrase “nothing good happens after midnight” when it comes to one-on-one sex work. The later at night an appointment with a stranger begins, the higher the chances of it going sideways. I might make an exception for a really upscale hotel. It’s unlikely – although definitely not impossible – that you’d get seriously physically assaulted in The Four Seasons. But I have known ladies who have had (non-consensual) wrestling matches in five-star hotel suites, and you still run the risk of the drunk/stoned client who is a huge pain in the ass and/or who stiffs you. Be careful here.

If the caller says something like, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you,” that’s bad. That’s very bad. Do not see anyone who says something like that. Dangerous guys will very often telegraph their intentions in this way, so if you pay attention, it’s not so hard to weed out the problem people.

The majority of the bad client stories I have heard began with the line, “So there was this guy, and I knew there was something kinda wrong with him, but I really needed the money, so I went…” No. No. Do not do that. First, as an independent sex worker, it is essential that you plan ahead and don't get into a situation where you feel desperate for cash, because desperate people make very bad judgments. And second, you must listen, listen, listen to that voice in your gut that says, “No.” It must be the highest authority, and if it says don’t go, you don’t go, and that’s it.

There’s a line I use in talking about this with the other women I’ve mentored. One time I wrote it out in block letters on a piece of masking tape, and stuck it on a pal’s (land-line) phone. The line is “The Phone Will Always Ring Again.” That means, this is not the last client in the world. Don’t get panicky and take the gig because you think you won’t get another. There are a lot of horny men in the world, god bless them, and if you’re putting it out there that you’re available for them, they’ll find you, trust me. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “Dance like nobody’s watching.” Well, screen like you don’t need the money.

So I'm talking about safety because there are bad people in the world. But most of the guys who call you are not serial killers - far from it. On the contrary, I think most of the time if you respect your client, then your client will respect you. I have known some women who hated doing sex work and hated the clients, and they all thought they acted their part so well that the clients never knew. Ha. Meryl Streep those girls were not. They fairly radiated rage, and the clients sensed it and were brusque and resentful in return. This is not to say that it’s a girl’s own fault if a client treats her badly. But the last rule of screening is: if you think you’re going to hate the guy, don’t go, even if he looks great on paper. You can’t possibly have even a neutral experience in that mindset. Listen to the guy, listen to your gut, and then do what’s right.

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