Twitter diaries of a call girl

Social media is changing the way businesses interact with clients in every industry, including sex work.

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Nu Tran chats to luxury escort and student Gloria Van Vaulker about her Twitter feed and doing “slutty things”.

“It’s just sex. It’s not a big deal unless you choose to make it one.”

Gloria Van Vaulker has been working as a luxury private escort on-and-off since her first year of university. That was five years ago. Now 26, she doesn’t see herself quitting in the near future due to an expanding client base.

With over 3000 followers and more than 11 000 tweets, Gloria has become a well-known face for a sex industry that is changing public perceptions one hashtag at a time.

Many businesses are taking advantage of the accessibility that Twitter provides and its rising popularity among young people. The ease of interacting with anyone from Zac Efron to Leigh Sales is a game-changer in a world full of PR and media releases. These days, we’re being exposed to the intimacies of everyone’s lives without the fear of being labelled a stalker. Ironically, the people who have benefitted from this form of social media are those who are perceived to be the most elusive: sex workers.

“I was actually kind of late to get on Twitter for work,” says Gloria. “I was on Facebook a lot initially and got a lot of time-wasters and fuckers, and a friend suggested I get Twitter because it’s really good for clients and networking.”

[Twitter] exposes people to the sex industry and it shows that these girls are funny, they’re normal…

Turns out, her friend was right. Gloria’s clientele continues to expand thanks to the power of the Tweet and retweet. As her humour, wit and sass is shared across the social media sphere, her followers garner her more business as the face of sex work evolves through each catalogued thought.

“People who’ve never considered sex with a sex worker start thinking about it and learn more about it. I’ve gotten a lot of first time clients that way.” Gloria says having people see who you really are “humanises” you.

“People follow you on Twitter and they start to like your personality. It exposes people to the sex industry and it shows that these girls are funny, they’re normal, and they can be engaging. People come to Twitter to find out more about you and to make you more real.”

Gloria believes social media definitely helps break down the negative perceptions about people in the sex industry. The public generally associates sex work with desperation, perversion, and debauchery. However this image is slowly lifting. Stigma and whorephobia dilute as we see a cultural shift through the positive representations of escorts in TV shows like Secret Diary of a Call Girl and read and hear more from the mouths of sex workers themselves.

“The media like hookers in Australia. The past couple of years there’s been a huge influx of articles pop up that are pro-sex work. I just think the global public perception has changed. Obviously the stigma will always be there but as the generations go by, Gen X and Gen Y, they’re becoming more liberal.”

When I asked Gloria how she thought we could combat the stigma toward sex workers she said, “It’s kind of strange for me to comment because I really don’t give a fuck. If a person has a problem with my job it’s their problem not mine.”

The only time she fears judgement and discrimination is when speaking to authorities or medical professionals.

“I suffer from depression. When I got referred to a psychologist they tried to blame my job and my job actually makes it better because it keeps me busy and gives me a sense of stability.”

Gloria believes that people who don’t understand sex work attempt to use it as a scapegoat for other issues. She’s aware of the discrimination that’s ingrained in society as public perception of the sex industry has only changed on the surface. Sex work may be more tolerated, but the widely held belief that sex work is inherently wrong is still rife.

Many believe that sex workers have the highest rates of STIs and diseases among the population because they are more likely to encounter a lot more genitalia due to the nature of their work. However contrary to this belief, it’s been proven that sex workers only make up about 17% of the population of those who have sexually transmitted infections.

“STIs among sex workers are one-sixth of the general population”, says Gloria. “Even when I get a sexual health test I never tell them I’m a sex worker because I don’t need my GP to lecture me about my choices. There’s a lot of misinformation even among medical staff who dispute that sex workers are cleaner than everyone else.”

Christopher Fairley, Professor of Sexual Health at Melbourne University, says you’re at a lower risk of catching an STI if you have sex with a sex worker than if you have sex with a member of the public. However, the medical proof hasn’t reached the ears of many of the population because people don’t want to hear it. People don’t want to think that sex work can be part of the norm.

“Everyone thinks they’re an expert on sex work. Everyone likes to say we’re fucked up or were raped by our daddy or molested but they get their statistics from crisis centres where everyone’s been abused. People don’t want what you say to be true and they don’t want you to change their opinion.”

I shouldn’t have to lie to a mental health professional, but it’s not their place to spout personal judgment…

As much as Gloria wants to believe she’s impenetrable toward the attitudes of others, being discriminated against makes her feel vulnerable.

“Sometimes I feel I should say or do things but I don’t because I don’t want to be judged for them. I shouldn’t have to lie to a mental health professional, but it’s not their place to spout personal judgment about your job and it’s irrelevant to the personal problems you’re coming to them with. It’s not their place to say it’s damaging to you unless you’re saying that yourself.”

Gloria says New South Wales has the lowest STI rates among sex workers despite the fact there are no laws about what they can and can’t do.

“You can suck cock without a condom, you can go down on them and let them cum in your mouth and it’s been proven that there’s no correlation between sexual acts and sexual health risks in the community.”

In NSW sex work is far more tolerated and there’s a lot more support because decriminalisation means sex workers aren’t living in fear. However, sex work definitely isn’t part of the mainstream yet. Sex in general tends to be a very taboo topic; that’s why there’s a whole vocabulary of euphemisms to accommodate it.

Because we associate sex with sin, it’s hard to extract sex work from the negative connotations that terms like ‘prostitute’ produce. Sex workers tend to steer clear of the term because it classifies them as a job and not a person. By referring to a sex worker as such, and not a ‘hooker’, ‘harlot’ or a ‘prostitute’, we’re getting one step closer to integrating it into mainstream society: as normal people with a normal job.

Social media has given these marginalised voices a megaphone. And it’s saying they’re #NotYourRescueProject.

You can follow Gloria on Twitter @GloriaVanVaulke

By Nu Tran


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