Thursday, January 21, 2010

I amused myself by going into the blog archives to see what I was writing about on January 20th in 2005. It turned out to be one of the Silly Phone Calls posts. You can read that here, if you like: link opens in a new window.

The Silly Phone Calls posts were always a big hit - with certain people. I flatter myself that some of them are very funny stories. But still, I officially stopped doing Silly Phone Calls some time back for two reasons.

Firstly, I had mined a lot of my best material. Monk and I have often observed that many of our best early blog posts were the stories we’d told before. Even a writer can hone a story out loud, get the best turns of phrase, gauge the audience's reaction, and tune up the tale based on that. Many of the most popular early Silly Phone Calls posts were written versions of anecdotes I’d regaled my friends with already.

Granted, I had many years of talking to weird strangers on the phone to draw from, so I had plenty of well-polished stories. But eventually, every well runs dry. Since I no longer have a public phone number – and oh, how I do not miss that – I have no fresh material.

But the deeper reason was: I found that sometimes those posts hurt people’s feelings – not the random callers, but people that I know and like in real life. That surprised me. See, I know I’m a dominatrix and all, but inside my own head, I don’t think of myself as a scary badass. I think I’m a pussy-cat. And not even a particularly sharp-tongued one, at that. I just thought I was being cute with those posts. But mere text on a page robs one’s words of certain nuances, so people interpret it differently than intended.

When sex workers talk about our dealings with clients, we tend to position ourselves as the potentially vulnerable ones, and our clients as the ones who must prove themselves to be not dangerous, not disrespectful, not unkind. And certainly there’s plenty of evidence to back up the wisdom of that. I’m not suggesting otherwise.

But – I decided that I wanted to be more sensitive to their vulnerability, too. It’s easy – and often satisfying - to crack jokes at a population we often see as having more power than we do. But when I heard about some of my guys being hurt by things I said, I realized - they actually don’t feel as powerful as an outside observer might assume.

It was one of those moments when something you already know crystallizes into a new form. I’m a dominatrix - I put people into vulnerable positions when they are in my dungeon. That part is obvious. But it sharpened my understanding of how, even in a professional situation, my emotional power over my clients doesn’t end when they leave my house.

I have power, and it’s not necessarily the type of power I set out to get - but I have it. So I have to use it carefully, and not leave bloody weals on boys I like. Unless of course I mean to.


EDIT: True, I occasionally sharpen my claws on people who write me letters and ask for advice. But that's different - they generally say, "You can write about this." That's consent, in my book.

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