Harlotry: On The Time A Client Outed Me As A Prostitute… To My Mom

Shortly before I became a full-fledged prostitute, my mother found out I was a sex worker. While not quite an abolitionist, my mother–who grew up during the 1960s and came of age in the 1970s–has always taken a dim view of the sex industry.

During my teen years, even during my first month as a sex worker, I didn’t own a cell phone. I arranged all appointments either exclusively through email or by calling prospective clients from my mother’s house phone after blocking the number. Not owning a cell phone was so natural that it honestly didn’t occur to me to buy a prepaid phone. Besides that, I had gotten along fine up until I started seeing a man named Grant.

Grant was the ultimate submissive cliché. He had a high-powered job that trod the fine line between exploitation and economic necessity, had a beautiful office downtown, and enjoyed being degraded by young women. After two appointments, I decided Grant was sufficiently trustworthy and could be given my phone number, so long as I told him that I shared the line with a fictional roommate and told him to call only at specific times of day.

Unfortunately my estimation of Grant was absolutely incorrect, and he would prove himself to be not only untrustworthy, but also legitimately creepy. And, of course, entirely disrespectful of the discretion he valued so much from me, his sex worker.

Although we already had an appointment set for later in the week, Grant began to call me as soon as he had my phone number. Rather than calling in the afternoon–as I’d instructed him–he would call repeatedly in the morning, starting at eleven, and then trying earlier and earlier with each day as I ignored the calls. I began to be concerned about his stability and my safety, but more than that, I became terrified he would call me at an early enough hour that my mother would answer the phone and learn exactly where my money was coming from. I started keeping the phone beside my bed every night, just in case I had to get to it before she did.

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    • Amanda Chatel

      I heart this series so hard!

      • Cate

        That means a lot coming from you. I love your stories.

    • Janna

      I love these articles! Just like the new “Blue” webseries with Julia Stiles (<3) I like it for the lack of preaching and the honest-sounding and very relatable stories and thoughts.

      • Cate

        Julia Stiles has a web series where she is a sex worker?! I am so there.

    • MM

      This series is great.

    • Julia

      Please, please write a book. Your writing style, your story, the personality that shines through are all so endearing and enthralling. It’s so interesting to read this from a first person view that isn’t entirely drowned in guilt or framed as a “cautionary tale.”

      Also, let’s be friends? :D

      • Cate

        I have friends who also say I should write a book, but geez, this is the first place I’ve ever even been published. I am in no way ready to commit to anything as big and scary as a book, I don’t even know how I would publish it!

        But thank you? Compliments make me nervous, but I appreciate them all the same.

    • alexandra

      No judgment on any involved party but… what the fuck your mom didn’t stop you when she found out? I don’t think mine would have ever let me leave the house again. From earlier articles it sounds like you may have lived outside of the US– were you living somewhere where sex work was legal? If so, your mother’s reaction would make more sense to me.

      • Cate

        There was less than a month left before my eighteenth birthday, at which point she wouldn’t really have any say over what I did or did not do. Even aside from that, my mother has always been unusually permissive, raising both my sister and me with a kind of, ‘I’ll tell you the risks, but if you want to go ahead and take the chance it’s your funeral’ mentality. My dad was the taskmaster, my mother just says ‘I told you so’ a lot. She would help me pick up the pieces of any disasters I met with, but she never, ever made decisions for me.
        I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life, so prostitution was totally illegal, although I was still treading the line between legal and illegal sex work. My mother, though, definitely sees a great distinction between illegal and immoral behaviour. As I said in the column, she isn’t pro sex work, but she doesn’t think it’s immoral, just stupid.

      • Psych Student

        I like that your mom seemed more concerned with your safety than the legality. My wife worked as a Pro Domme for a while and I supported her entirely (I thought, and still think it’s super hot, plus, I got to help sometimes!) I told her that she was free to drift into illegal activites as long as she’s safe, doesn’t get caught, and tells me about it (freakin’ hot!) :)

    • Karen

      I love reading these! Keep them coming :)

    • Dani

      Oh Grant, Grant, Grant. I would have blown poor Grants spot completely up. I currently work in a “field” where I have to deal with gentlemen like this all of the time. You definitely have to let them know who’s boss, otherwise they will try you in more ways than one. I think its great the way that you and your mom were able to handle it. My mom was similar, growing up in the 60′s and 70′s she approaches it with a feminist flair. She is the total opposite of judgemental about what I do, which makes life a tad bit easier when you don’t have to lie to everyone in your family.

      • Dj

        If you aren’t ashamed than why lie ? How are things supposed to ever change ?

    • Brendan

      Not a regular Gloss reader (but I might start now!); your sister is actually a friend of mine and pointed me to your article. Love it! Here’s what I told your sister (after which she suggested I post this in a comment):

      “I would love to meet your sister, she just sounds fabulous. (P.S. Give her a big thank you from me for helping to spread the perspectives of sex workers. I’m so tired of paternalistic social workers speaking for all prostitutes, hookers, whores, trollops, etc.)”

      To elaborate: clearly there are many cases of sex slavery, and this needs to be fought. But equating sex slavery with ALL sex work is not only inaccurate but demeaning and ignorant, both to clients AND to workers. Hearing someone preach on the immorality of sex work because of “how degrading it is to women” (because, of course, only women do sex work!) is so Puritanical as to be almost plagiarized from every line of dialogue spoken by Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter.

      So, in short: write on, sister, violate them Victorian sensibilities!


      A Sex Work Sympathizer

      • Cate

        Pleased to meet you, Brendan. I’ve heard a lot about you from Rach.
        There is so much I could say to this, but I’m just going to go with WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE IN THE WORLD THINK LIKE THIS?! Especially the part where you point out that not all sex workers are women, something that doesn’t get said nearly enough. Ignoring such a large part of the sex worker population does no favors to anyone.

      • Psych Student

        Very well said!

    • A Jaret

      First time I’m reading these blogs, whatever they are.. and i love it!
      Its different, nothing in my norm, but I respect it. Its what you pick to do, and btw, you write so well! You go girl, more power to you for being you and not explaining why to the world.