Monday, December 21, 2009

Fact or Fiction

I was interested to see the whole Alexa Di Carlo debate come to a public boiling point a few days ago. I’ve been hearing about it for months, in private conversations, and there have been some not-very-veiled blog posts on the subject. I did wonder, though, if the question would ever come out in the open.

What’s the controversy, you ask? Is the sex blogger/escort who calls herself "Alexa Di Carlo" really what she says she is? Monica Shores of Carnal Nation doubts it. Read what she has to say if you haven’t already, otherwise this post won’t make a great deal of sense to you.

However, the deeper question is: why would anyone create an elaborate and fictitious online persona as a sex worker? The answer to that one is obvious to me - it's the same reason why anyone blogs: for the attention. It worked, too.

And is there anyone reading this who has never pretended to be someone other than who they are while online? Come on - not even once? On an email list, in a chatroom, or a profile, or a message board, while IMing, sometime, someplace? There’s nothing inherently evil about playing make-believe online. It can be a fascinating pastime. How do you think Second Life got so popular?

But the real payoff of creating a fictitious online persona isn't changing your own behavior, it's about changing how other people perceive you, treat you, talk to you. As a female sex worker, you can talk to people about sex, and have them talk back to you, in ways that would not happen if you represented yourself otherwise. You can express desires that you'd be uncomfortable with in other contexts, and you can elicit details of other people's sexual feelings in return.

That's an appealing idea to a lot of people. Being a sex worker is a mysterious and yet iconic sexual identity. Everyone knows who we are - except, no one really knows who we are. If you want to create a fictional character, it doesn't get any better than that.

True, if Alexa is a created persona, then she’s a very carefully-wrought one. What kind of person would do all that? Well, I would imagine he’d be a well-educated and intelligent man.

Yes, I said a man. It’s possible that a woman would create a fantasy persona of someone like Alexa, but I strongly doubt it. A woman would do it differently. I do not think that Alexa Di Carlo is a half-truth, a woman telling a story that’s factual in some ways, but not others. No, if Alexa is fiction, then she is complete fiction, from start to finish. And if Alexa is someone’s Galatea, then her Pygmalion is a man.

This hypothetical creator is probably someone who researches his interests exhaustively, and who is detail-oriented. It’s probably someone who deals with computers in a professional context, and who doesn’t have a lot of people looking over his shoulder to see what he does with every moment of his working day.

More important, he is someone who is not getting a certain need met in his real life. And for someone to invest so much time and energy indicates that it’s a deep, ongoing need. It may be that he has gender issues he feels he can’t explore openly, and so creating the persona of Alexa would be his way of expressing that part of himself. Or it might be that he doesn’t feel satisfied by his sexual partner(s), and so the character of Alexa is the lover he’d like to have, his fantasy woman. Either way, creating Alexa would indeed be a labor of love for someone.

But you don’t care about my speculative profiling, do you? You’re thinking, “But Matisse, Matisse - do you think Alexa Di Carlo is real?”

I admit that at one point, I myself was curious about that. Then I thought, “Why, exactly, would this really matter to me?” And I couldn’t think of an answer that satisfied me.

I don’t think the existence of that blog is going to substantially add or subtract from any sex worker’s day-to-day existence. I have heard concerns that explicit stories by (supposed) sex workers lead to boundary-pushing by clients. As in:
“But Alexa Di Carlo says she loves to (do whatever sexual thing the guy is trying to persuade you to do).” The clearly indicated answer to that is “Well then, you should go book a session with Alexa Di Carlo.” And we know how that’s going to go, don’t we, ladies? They'll call you back.

Yes, if one dwells on it, one could get annoyed about someone publishing a lot of stories and opinions one feels misrepresent sex workers. The things the person calling herself Alexa Di Carlo says certainly do not match up with my views and experiences of sex work - which is pretty extensive. Neither do they seem consistent with the views and experiences of any sex worker I have ever known - which is quite a few.

However, if you let yourself get lathered up about people saying things you don’t agree with, you’re going to spend a lot of your life pissed off. It isn’t like the persona of Alexa Di Carlo is running for Senate or something. It’s just a web site. The web is full of all kinds of people saying all kinds of crazy things, many of which are not true, and I can read or not read them, as I see fit. I must exercise my judgment about what to believe and what to regard skeptically. So should you.

I support Monica Shores writing that article, it raises good questions and concerns. It’s fine to discuss these things openly. But - whoever writes Alexa Di Carlo’s blog is going to keep on saying whatever she pleases, whether sex worker activists like it or not. I’m choosing to not lose any sleep over that. If you’re a sex worker, I don’t think you should either. I doubt we’ll ever know the truth for sure, and there’s not a great deal any of us could do about it, even if we did absolutely know. If you don’t like what she says, then please, start talking yourself, and offer us your perspective.

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