When I was a prostitute, I never posted my phone number on my advertisements. While it may have cut down on my business, I also (correctly) figured that it would cut down on a great deal of prank calls and general cruelty. As a telephone madam, I was immediately available to anyone who wanted to verbally harass a sex worker. At least once every two or three days, women would call me–often in groups huddled around a speakerphone–to call me a slut, a whore, a dirty bitch, and a slew of other names.
The first time it happened, I was shocked and confused. My introductory “Hey, baby” was met with a chorus of feminine giggles. It struck me as strange, since women rarely patronize sex workers, and stranger still because a group of ladies giggling like sixth graders at a slumber party seemed especially unlikely to rent the services of a prostitute. I persisted, softly cooing my next question, “What are you ladies up to tonight?” but was thunderstruck at the response.
“Are you really a whore?” giggled one of the callers.
For a second, I didn’t know what to say. There was no way this could be a sting and, besides, I was familiar enough with the law to know the police couldn’t just arrest someone for simply claiming to be a prostitute… but who calls an escort to ask if she’s a whore? When my words returned to me, all hope of maintaining an even tone–let alone my sexy baby doll–voice were lost.
“You’re not allowed to use that word,” I snapped.
The giggling stopped. “What?”
“That word, ‘whore.’ You’re not allowed to use it. You’re not a sex worker.”
“Bitch!” screeched the woman on the other end, there was some scattered giggling in the background, but it was more nervous than gleeful now.
“Seriously,” I said, “It isn’t okay to go around calling sex workers whores. Besides, I just answer the phone. Even if I didn’t though, even if I was a prostitute there’s nothing wrong with it. The girls I represent probably make more money than you do. And besides—“
But as I was launching into my “sex work is real work / fucking as a job is just a fucking job” lecture, the girls hung up.
For the first two weeks, I tried to use these calls as a teachable moment but every single time they just hung up, sometimes even before I could say anything but “Hey, baby.” Eventually I started hanging up as soon as I heard a giggle