Once upon time about back when local hookers were just beginning to utilise the internet for business, i met a Annie. She was a tech savvy sex worker with an established online identity who introduced me to a whole new world. She showed me around sex industry forums, review sites and advertising options. It was all new to me and i spent hours reading the various posts and reviews engrossed in this ‘client community’. It felt like i was gaining some kind of inside knowledge about the industry, the workers and our clients. As i read the candid comments by the anonymous ‘punters’ as they refer to themselves, I felt like i was getting a true sense of what clients think, a real insight, a glimpse of our industry from their perspective. I was excited to see if anyone had reviewed me, so i searched my name, but i didnt find any mention. I began to check back regularly looking for my name but i was also curious to read what clients were thinking and saying.
Being the talkative and opinionated whore i am, i didnt last as a voyeur for long. I started joining in with some of the forum conversations, using my work name, keeping my comments sweet and fluffy and trying my best to stay endearing and in character. It wasnt always easy and plenty of times i had to bite my tongue (or sit on my hands as the case maybe) to stop myself getting into heated debate and risk turning potential clients off. I didnt always succeed.
It was only after i began to advertise occasionally online that i got my first review. When I saw my name I felt almost famous. I read the post and breathed a sigh of relief that it was a positive review. Other clients had commented on the in response, all expressing their interest in seeing me as a result of this recommendation. I felt full of confidence and in demand. I had always had return business and good feedback from my clients in the past but for some reason this felt different, I read it over and over. I had no idea who it was that reviewed me, it could have been anyone and i started me wondering which of my bookings would result in the next review. I kept checking back at the forum to find out the latest gossip and see what they were saying about me. Out of curiosity I read the other workers reviews feeling envious of their outstanding reputations or sympathetic when it wasnt so good.
It wasnt long before i got my second review. It was another good one, followed by more comments from clients who were keen to see me. But reading this review didnt give the same thrill, actually it made me feel uncomfortable. It went into specific gory detail, giving a blow by blow account of his time with me and the service he received. It was almost like reading a tacky story from a picture mag and I couldnt help but cringe. This time i knew which client had written the review because he described the passionate kisses and the extra 10 minutes that I gave him, which was not part of my standard service. That worried me too, I had clicked with this particular client but I didnt want everyone making appointments expecting the same type of service. I realised though, that i was lucky. It could have gone the other way. If he happened to rub me the wrong way, his service might have felt forced and rushed and I could have just as easily gotten a bad review. I thought about the workers who had received bad reviews and felt bad for them. It could happen to any of us, and if a good review has the power to triple my confidence i didnt want to know how it felt to be criticised and insulted in this space.
Sometimes I would read a review that frustrated me. I couldnt believe how indiscreet some clients could be. I would be blinking my eyes with disbelief while i read in detail, how a particular worker at a massage only establishment had offered sex, even though it was against the rules of the business. Or how another worker had offered oral without a condom for extra money even though that was not allowed at the brothel she worked at. These careless clients were so busy gloating about the extra services they got, they didnt seem to understand the potential ramifications for the workers. Apart from having to deal with every man and his dog showing up expecting the same type of extra service described, one of these “good” reviews could result in the worker loosing her job or being ostracised by the other workers.
After that second review, i started getting enquiries from people who made mention of the forum and my reviews. I felt popular and was thankful for the extra business. But every time a forum punter made a booking i felt anxious. Will this be my next reviewer? I began feeling like they were all writing their reviews in their head during the service. Im trying to be sexy as I strip my clothes off and they are judging my body and face, Im rubbing my naked body against them and they are busy scoring my massage, Im trying to be sensual while i go down on them and they are rating my blow job. I was imagining them all scoring each aspect of my looks and service out of 10. It made me self conscious and put me off. Ironically, if i thought they were a potential review writer, their service would suffer.
I still managed to get a couple more good reviews and for a while it seemed like i was the flavour of the month. I was the one to see. But it didnt last. Before long all the forum punter started looking for the next hot tip. The 5 or 6 regular reviewers had seen and written about me already and now all their posts were asking about new recommendations or talking about who new is good and where. And i was old news. Which is fine. I mean at first I was frustrated because I had been reviewed so well, I had done nothing wrong but they still seemed intent on moving on. But I didnt let it get to me, my business wasnt suffering, sure there had been a slight spike during the height of my forum sweetheart days, but it was still steady, no quieter than it had been before the positive reviews. I realised these forum punters were a bonus to my business and not our bread and butter.
A while later I came into contact with a worker who was fairly new to the industry and was incredibly concerned with what they were saying about her online. She, like me, had been the flavour of the month but her stint ended abruptly when she got a nasty scathing review. It really knocked her confidence. I begged her to stop reading, but she couldnt stop worrying about it, trying to figure out how to get back on the good side of the online forum punters. She was beating herself up trying to guess where she went wrong, what she didnt do right, or who was behind the bad review. It really got to her. In her desperation to please them all, she gave them all her power. She began thinking of herself as a failure which affected her business and the whole thing spiraled out of control.
I stopped visiting the forums and searching for my name among the reviews and I became less invested in the punters community. After reading about the situation for sex workers in Hong Kong and just how toxic these review sites can get, I decided they are not healthy for sex workers, and I made a point to avoid them.
I know for some sex workers, avoiding ‘client community’ and review websites is not always possible. Im sure that for some workers, like those in Hong Kong mentioned in the article above, engaging in these forums is an essential part of their business plan. But for many more of us, its just not necessary. Most of the time, we dont need to hear it. Its not fair or balanced. we have no right of reply, and we dont even know who is behind those screen names! Sometimes its not even a genuine client. It could be our competition, a vengeful ex, or anyone with a grudge. It could be the online equivalent of those douchebags that get their kicks by visiting brothels for intros, just so they can reject all the workers there. We need to remind ourselves that most of our clients arent reading those forums. If we have repeat business, and we are happy with the service we provide its probably best to stay away.
And with that in mind, I invite our clients to consider how they use such forums. I completely understand why you would want to read reviews about a worker before you spent a large amount of money. I do the same with accommodation, with movies, with holidays and restaurants. And i guess i understand why you might want to write a review about your experience good or bad. I have wanted to share my inside knowledge about particular hotels with other travelers, however, lets be clear, giving my breasts a score out of 10 is not providing inside knowledge. Its also not helpful because its subjective and your taste in breasts is not relevant. I understand that some people might write a review in order to warn others about their dissatisfaction with a service they received. But in the same way as you would if you were sent the wrong meal or over charged in a restaurant, you should give the worker the chance to resolve their mistake before you rush home to tell your murky mates. If you havent given them this option, perhaps dont vilify them online. Tastes and expectations of sex workers vary so much they may not even realise you were not happy.
Given there is probably limited opportunity for clients to share stories about their experiences with sex workers, I guess some people write reviews as an opportunity to debrief or vent. If thats the case why do you have to name the worker, list their contact details, link to their website etc. And why is there such a tight community of outspoken regular posters on these forums? I cant imagine being as emotionally invested in tripadvisor.com as some of these posters are. Be careful that your online punter gang isnt being used to bully workers or to share information in order to prey on vulnerable workers … “I know she has been desperate to make money lately, if you threaten to walk i bet you could knock $50 off her price” (actual quote i saw not that long ago on a popular punter forum)
Just keep in mind when you are reading or writing reviews in these forums, they have the potential to not just effect our business but they can also seriously effect our self esteem.
And for those of us on the other end of the reviews, remember there is nothing to gain from hearing the boys club compare notes trying to outdo each other. It has been my (limited) experience that we are much better off focusing on the people who are paying us RIGHT NOW.