Just like in any field of business, the escort industry benefits from the efforts of dedicated, loyal activists who advocate for the interests of adult industry workers. Many of these activists work with established organizations with boards and long lists of members. However, some supporters put their efforts out independently, choosing to work alone, instead of being directly associated with others. These activists have significant impacts on the escort industry, providing progress for and awareness of issues of special concern to escorts and others involved in the industry.
Consider these top 13 things activists do for the escort industry:
- Advocates promote positive images for escorts. It’s no secret that society has a negative view of escorts. The typical stigmas against escorts include many elements (drugs, abuse, psychological issues, STD infection, unintelligent, etc.), but the activists working for the escort industry do their bests to persuade the media and others engaged in informing the public to present more positive images of escorts. They promote the use of more positive terminology, strong role models and acknowledgment of humanity among industry workers. Advocates continually put themselves and their reputations on the line by “coming out” as former workers, themselves (as many came from the industry with firsthand experience). They use their previous lifestyles as evidence that escorts are intelligent, professional and extremely capable individuals who have simply chosen an alternative career. They work hard to create pro-escort media exposure and sponsor art shows and film screenings that exemplify strong, positive women and men who work in the industry. Projecting that escorts have morals, believe in religion and live productive lives is one of the ultimate goals of advocates. Removing the stigma that escorts must live under is an overall goal that is ever-present as a challenge and obstacle to success. As activists work on the promotion of positive imaging, they also extend their efforts to making sure that escorts know they are deserving, quality individuals, too.
- Education for escorts is possible through activist efforts. Many escorts are already well educated and have post-secondary school degrees. They don’t need assistance to help them “go back” to school or obtain education that will get them jobs. However, many of them may lack any formal schooling that will assist them in running their escort businesses. The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) and Desiree Alliance both provide workshops and access to resources that will train escorts in the best practices for management, financial issues, public relations, customer service and general business practices. They provide insight that industry professionals may use to learn how to better market themselves and enhance their judgment abilities about their websites and profiles targeting clients. Tax information and ways to avoid scrutiny for running a cash-based business are helpful bits of information that escorts may obtain from activist groups’ efforts to educate their constituents. All in all, organized activists activities often strive to provide useful information and experiences for escorts, focusing on their needs and wants. Some groups focus on technology issues while others might emphasize ways to keep the IRS man away.
- Networking opportunities are created through activist efforts and events. Unlike being able to commiserate around the water cooler in a corporate environment, escorts don’t have ample opportunities to meet up with one another and talk about issues. It’s simply part of the nature of the business that escorts don’t get the chance to network with each other as professionals in other industries do. However, this model is being rejected by modern-day activists who believe that a strong, professional support system is just what escorts in the industry need. Being able to compare notes and experiences about clients and the challenges they face in their careers is such a stress reliever for escorts. They utilize opportunities to network for emotional support, advice and mentorship and professional partnerships. Many activist groups host online forums, in-person events and other ways for escorts to gather together and bond. Conventions and multiple-day events are becoming more popular for the escort industry, and providers are supporting them by attending them regularly.
- The promotion of healthy practices is another important element of advocacy groups or supporters. Not only are escorts urged to practice consistent safe sex with clients, but they are encouraged to take care of themselves in other ways, too. Support groups for the industry realize that escorts lead grueling lives and keep up with hectic schedules. In addition to the intense demands on their time, escorts also contend with high levels of stress. In order to stay healthy, a regular regime of exercise, proper diet and rest are necessary components of an escort’s schedule. Proponents for escorts emphasize how important it is for escorts to take care of themselves in order to take care of their business and personal concerns. Additionally, STD information is available for escorts and their clients. And, studies about the use of alternative medicinal practices are distributed to providers, hoping they will take advantage of holistic and natural remedies to avail them of any ailments or issues. For instance, yoga and acupuncture may help alleviate soreness or issues related to tiredness. Other therapies may help escorts get through tough times. Many advocacy groups promote the use of mental health assistance for escorts who are dealing with extremely stressful life situations.
- Reducing violence and increasing safe working environments for the escort industry is another goal of advocates. Sex work supporters work to increase awareness about the risks that escorts face each time they book an encounter. Efforts to improve screening procedures, the establishment of a national blacklist (and regional ones, too), and encouraging law enforcement officials to take abuse against sex workers seriously are major accomplishments of activists. Working on legislation and attitudes that do not prevent sex workers from reporting their abusers and attackers is another goal that is currently in progress. In today’s society, escorts are accustomed to being made to feel that they are in the wrong when they are the victim of a crime. However, with strides made recently by activists, escorts are starting to comprehend their own self-worth and rights to safety. In countries like Canada and Germany, safer working environments and increased law enforcement assistance have been created due to activist efforts. In addition to creating awareness about safety and violence, advocacy groups have worked to establish tips for escorts to use to stay safer on the job. Screening, not seeing clients under the influence of drugs and alcohol and maintaining contact with a security partner are some recommendations from advocates.
- Escorts are starting to realize they have equal rights with the rest of society, thanks to the support of advocacy groups. Activists have fought long and hard to reduce the stigma associated with being involved in the adult entertainment industry. And, even though there remains a lot of progress yet to cover, escorts are gaining ground in acceptance and consideration. A recent Supreme Court decision ruled that consideration for funding for an organization should not be based on societal-based and legislative-mandated morality, but instead on equality and fairness. Escorts and others involved in the sex work industry are finally being seen as “people”, instead of subjects or topics. They are human beings and should not be criminalized for their opinions. As a result, society is beginning to view escorts as someone they might know, instead of a parasite of the community.
- Activists serve as a sounding board for escorts. Because escorts have few others they can open up to and voice their opinions toward, advocacy groups serve in that function. They provide uncensored opportunities for expression, complaints and praise. They allow escorts to address sensitive topics that would otherwise be unwelcome in mainstream media. In addition to serving as sounding boards, they produce industry newsletters, magazines and informational websites with industry-specific news and commentary. Much like the banking or medical industries have professional publications, the adult entertainment industry does, too, and they are operated by activists for sex workers. Often written in tongue-in-cheek prose, columns and articles deal with issues that are important and interesting to escorts and their counterparts. From taboo sexual practices to new legislation addressing prostitution or pornography, publications address issues without censored or conservative viewpoints.
- Activists rally financial support for important industry-related organizations, such as women’s clinics or shelters. Without fundraisers, these organizations would be left high and dry. Most of these associations are non-profit entities and are dependent on financial contributions from constituents or supporters. And, without activists to solicit donations, they are usually forced to operate on not only limited funding, but also on decreased budgets that rarely cover necessary expenditures. Supporters vocalize their appreciation for such organizations and encourage others to donate, too, through formal and casual campaigns. They hit the streets looking for donations and work to create organized fundraising plans that are repeated annually to meet the needs of important advocacy groups.
- Emergency services and housing organizations, among others, are the result of activist efforts. Some escorts have had to seek assistance from organizations that were founded due to advocacy actions. Escorts who have been abused, taken advantage of, assaulted or stalked may have sought refuge and recovery from shelters or counselors employed by advocacy groups for the sex work industry. Others may have utilized health care provided by clinics operated by activist organizations. Some escorts may have received mental health care from social workers hired to assist escorts through day-to-day challenges in the industry. Many organizations to help providers have been founded due to activism efforts. Escorts are much more likely to patronize these facilities, knowing they will be treated with dignity and respect. Open doors and open conversations are created with the help of this type of advocacy.
- Escorts seek out career tips from activists. Most sex work industry activists are not only vocal about how sex workers should be treated, but they are also verbal about how escorts should run their own businesses, too. From how to provide intimacy to clients to methods to incorporate in order to create the best industry photographs, escort activists engage in helping escorts overcome uncertainties and refine their skills with clients. They encourage escorts to provide solid customer service and to market themselves honestly. Additionally, escorts likely seek out advice about how to manage timewasters, lazy clients and others who are out of their comfort zones. Many activists have left the industry after a good number of years and have a lot of good input to offer novice or inexperienced escorts. And, it’s not all nuts-and-bolts advice about how to run their businesses; some former escorts offer life advice about managing relationships with family, friends and romantic partners; how to maintain a work/life balance; and ways to keep your sanity while working with clients you dislike. They may also offer insight about pitfalls and traps escorts should use caution to avoid.
- Legal advocacy is a huge aspect of activist efforts in the sex work industry. It’s a very likely possibility that an escort may be arrested at some point in her career, due to a misunderstanding with law enforcement. However, many misunderstandings aren’t easy to clear up without strong legal counsel. Advocacy groups work to provide experienced lawyers who can help escorts get out of sticky binds. From knowing the letter of the law to working closely with the judicial department, attorneys who readily take on escort clients are supported strongly by advocacy groups. Escort agencies, escorts and clients all find themselves at risk; legal representation is a necessary evil that comes in handy in certain situations.
- Political advocacy is a significant outcome from activists in the sex work industry. Efforts to decriminalize prostitution, lessen the penalties, equalize punishments and point out victimless crime are strong impacts of political advocacy. Regulation of escort agencies, brothels in Nevada and clear legislation that provides opportunities for escorts to work as companions are clear end goals of activist efforts put forth in recent years. However, activists know their jobs are not done, politically. Escorts are consistently discriminated against in various levels of the law; advocates are working toward promoting equality.
- Human sex trafficking is a concern for sex work industry activists. Because society is quick to blame the escort industry for all human sex trafficking, activists are quick to differentiate trafficking cases from simple escort situations. They are striving to create an educated society that realizes not all human trafficking victims are former escorts. And, while they attempt to inform society about how unlikely it is that most human sex trafficking victims are high-end escorts, they also strive to reduce cases of trafficking by reporting suspicious behavior or establishing efforts to reduce its impact.
Overall, escort industry activism is strong and far reaching. In fact, many escorts may not even realize the extent to which their careers have been positively affected by the actions of advocates.