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This Sex Worker Is Battling Stigma One Client at a Time

Benjamin Di'Costa

My name is Benjamin, I’m a 26 year old queer advocate for universal Sexual and Reproductive Health rights across the globe. I have the privilege of speaking at international and domestic conferences, events, and schools but there has been something that I kept dark until this year, I am an active sex worker. You might be wondering if it is a conflict of interest to advocate for safer sex and also be offering companionship for money.

If you were to see me walking down the street or at a professional event chances are you probably wouldn’t even know that I am a sex worker (unless you’ve visited my ad already). I started sex work in my late teens particularly Go-go dancing and selling shots in the bars and clubs of Orlando. I made great money and was able to live a comfortable life for many years. Over time I stopped working in bars and clubs and began working in social services helping young people like me access HIV/STI testing and encourage safer sex practices. During this time I had a very closed and judgmental mind towards those who participated in escorting.  It wasn’t until I had my first “generous” experience that this mindset changed.

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To be honest I never have had issues finding sex and could easily find someone to fuck by just picking up my phone and opening an app. However, even though I was working a 9-5 I barely had food in my refrigerator, and my cell phone was constantly being turned off, the salary I was receiving just wasn’t cutting it.  That’s when I decided “Well hey, I know what I have down there and know that men would probably want to pay for sex so might as well make ends meet and be able to get off at the same time”. It was a win-win situation.

Let’s start with the basics, I am a sex worker and have been for almost 7 years. Sex work isn’t just prostitution but is an umbrella that can be many other jobs like Go-go Dancing, Porn Acting, Webcam performing, and yes Escorting. There is a particular stigma when it comes to Sex work, the first stereotypical words that come to mind for many people when they hear sex worker are, Hooker, Prostitute, Gigolo, and Whore. I do not identify with either of the previous label, I identify as an escort.

My very first client was in 2013, he was an older gentleman I met off a “Gay Sugar” arrangement site. He flew me out to Los Angeles and I had an amazing time. Yet, I felt such shame and negativity around someone else paying to be with me. It wasn’t until 2015 that I posted my first real paid ad. I used some photos I had previously posted on Instagram and waited for my phone to ring.

“Hello, is this Thiago?” the client asked and I responded “Yes sexy, how can I help you today?” We then begin to talk about what the arrangement would entail and agreed on a time, location and my outcall fee. I get to his hotel and he greets me at the door. To my surprise it was someone my exact age who just wanted the ease of fulfilling his desires without the back and forth communication. It was at this moment that being an escort became normal. Nothing about what I do is different from those who engage for sex on apps like Grindr, Jack’d, and Scruff. The only difference between me and you is the law that forbids me from getting paid to provide sex.

This is a best case scenario. I have the privilege to pick and choose when I want to work, who I want to work with, and where I want to work. But for marginalized communities who participate in sex work for survival particularly transgender and transgender women of color, due to lack of safe spaces to work, criminalization and stigma of sex work they are less likely to report violent incidents to proper authorities and are more likely to be killed by clients. This isn’t just a fundraising pitch, this is a reality.

So you might be asking what can I do? First, let’s talk about sex positivity. Before we can even get to the meat and potatoes of decriminalizing sex work we must first reduce the stigma of having sex in the first place. I fuck, you fuck, we all fuck. It’s natural. It’s normal. Recently, a friend of mine in the activist world had his sex tape released without his permission and to my surprise he faced incredible shame from his peers both professionally and socially just for doing what we all do.

Second, having a ki-ki and throwing shade is common in the LGBTQ community but using someone’s escort ad or choice of engaging in sex work as a punch line of a joke is not the way to do it. It only adds fuel to the fire and can create dangerous situations for the particular person.

And last, just because I am an escort does not mean I want unsolicited naked pictures or sexual advances. What I do is work and my mindset is and always has been work. Consent is sexy and respecting our boundaries as sex workers is key in ensuring out trust and safety.

 

Benjamin Di'Costa (@BenjaminDiCosta) is a nationally recognized HIV activist based out of Chicago. He recently was awarded the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship by the National AIDS Memorial Grove to continue his work with youth.

 

 

 

 

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