Ashley Madison profits from no hos clause


For about two years I’ve been screencapping ads on Craigslist that follow this pattern: a self-identified straight guy posts a request for a certain type of sexual encounter and, in case you’re a nitwit and don’t know what, say, excruciating anal sex or a faceful of come look like, he includes a series of impersonal pornographic photos as helpful examples. 

He details his desire to procure these entertainments and blithely signs off, “No hos” or “No pros.” Or, if he’s trying to seem like he’s mindful of identity and labour politics, “No escorts.” 

My research shows that if there’s one thing that terrifies cisgender men looking for casual sex online, it’s a woman who knows the value of the labour involved in reconstructing their fantasy. They invariably provide a picture of their dick. 

We do not need to go into how repulsive most women find this. We have only to reproduce a photo of an impaled sea lamprey to show how unappetizing a dick looks when it is presented alongside a predictably curated selection of porn.

When you post a picture of your dick, you are telling a woman exactly who you are and what the sex will be like: desperate, pokey and needful of lavish praise. And god forbid you should have to suffer the inconvenience of chaperoning that dick somewhere and then have to pay to put it in something. (“I’m hosting”? Please. You’re sitting on your sofa in a pair of shit-stained underwear.) I mean, really. 

I screencap these ads because I am, in fact, a ho who advertises my services online, and since this is no longer an option on Craigslist, I like to see if there are guys taking up the slack, so to speak, fishing for service providers. I won’t be coy: I have always understood that when men say “no hos” they mean “I want you to act like a ho but I don’t want to pay you for this performance.” Many of them have expressed a princely willingness to fuck me for free even after I’ve identified myself as a sex worker. 

Of course, I’m baiting them by asking if they would still have sex with me without recompense despite my objectionable status. I can only imagine what the exchange would be like after this disclosure: a full latex body suit and then weeks of worried emails inquiring after my health status. I’m a ho, after all, utterly unlike all those civilian women apparently lining up on the adultery site Ashley Madison to provide free unprotected oral sex to a man who clearly doesn’t understand transmission risks. 

Many of these men express a readiness to compensate non-hos, but they don’t want to pay a woman who is already a ho. (I call this particular request My Own Private I Do Ho). 

The “definition of an escort is someone who gets paid for sex and does it day and night for a living. Get it?” one man emailed me after I asked for elucidation. 

Fear of the ho is mighty. It implies an intrinsically spoiled quality in a woman, a fixed and undesirable identity. The sociologist Erving Goffman introduced the term “courtesy stigma” to refer to the social condemnation heaped on people associated with such a person. 

As a sex worker, when I first heard this term I thought of something completely different. I thought of how people are permitted the courtesy of making money off stigmatized bodies without bearing the stigma themselves. Like Noel Biderman, founder and CEO of adultery website Ashley Madison did, for example, when he had this posted on his website: “If you are really stuck in a sexless marriage and want to have some discreet sex, looking for a sex worker might not be the best idea. One of the biggest concerns when it comes to escorts is the possibility of contracting an STD.”

When the Ashley Madison dump hit the toilet bowl two weeks ago, its site hacked and users’ account information exposed, I wasn’t surprised by any of it: the millions of subscribers worldwide, the high number from Ottawa (Oh those government towns! Am I right, girls?), the fake female profiles, the contrite pastors, the babies looking to be sugared – or the company’s connection to escort websites despite its warnings about the many liabilities of sex workers. 

Most of all, I wasn’t surprised by the amount of labour involved in making the website look as though it was teeming with hot, available women – or that people were employed to pretend to be hot and available women – in order to extract more money from men who will seemingly do anything to have casual sex except pay for it directly. 

Dozens of measures were taken to assure men that they wouldn’t be paying for the unremitting sex they would all soon be having with vaginas so clean you could eat off them. Robot women were created to contact men and entice them to bump up their memberships. Robot women. This was unbeatable, worse than in the early 90s when strip clubs were overrun by leggy stunners from eastern Europe and us dumpy North American girls were left with no game whatsoever.

Some men, of course, have hooked up with real women through Ashley Madison, but so many more were and continue to be fleeced over and over by their hubristic entitlement (to paraphrase prostitute and writer Charlotte Shane) to a willing and wanting partner. I know so many men who equate paying for sex with failing virility. As the AM site asks in an effort to dissuade its clients from sleeping with escorts, “Do you really want to have sex with somebody who does not care about you whatsoever and is doing it just for the money?”

It’s a question we can ask Biderman now, since he was apparently using the services of prostitutes while claiming he was faithful to his wife, in the meantime profiting from the idea that prostitutes are soulless, money-grubbing vectors of disease. 

That’s right, gents: while you were paying Biderman to not get laid, he was spending your money getting laid using the very method he was warning you away from. 

As someone who lives with the physically constraining stigma of whoredom (for example, I cannot attend a conference vital to my industry in the United States this year because of my known status), I was rather piqued that Biderman rolled in the dough by building false hope. He made it seem like discreet and uncomplicated sex was a few clicks away – while profiting off the complex concept of consent because there was, on the surface, no money exchanged for the sex, but rather for the introduction. 

Even now that Biderman’s been let go, the website continues to trot out the thousands of female profiles as evidence that women are looking for the same things, tailoring those false profiles to desires expressed in men’s profiles. 

And then, of course, there’s the small matter of Avid Life Media (the company that owns Ashley Madison) reportedly running its own escort site. 

Recently, I learned the company was web-scraping escort advertising platforms to encourage sex workers to join an Avid Life Media-owned website. I advertise my services on a variety of websites, one of which was scraped by such a program. 

A couple of years ago I received an email from a “business executive” telling me he was “coming to town” and “couldn’t wait to meet up,” and that he usually met “classy women” such as myself on such-and-such a website and thought it would be a great place for me to meet other clients. I should “check it out!”

Of course, I knew right away that this was a bot. I mean, seriously, I am many captivating things, but classy? Sheesh.

Fleur de Lit is a pseudonym. | @nowtoronto



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