An open letter to Natalie Joy Lee
(Pictures of the original article in CLEO is all the way down. Please scroll to read.)
Dear Natalie Joy Lee,
When I first saw the little blurb on the cover of CLEO Singapore magazine Oct 2016, I was very excited to read what you had to write about social escorts in Singapore. While CLEO isn't the most credible source of news out there, representation is important to marginalised groups like escorts/sex workers in Singapore and more so in mainstream media, simply because of the influence mainstream media outlets like CLEO Singapore have over the general public. After reading what you had to write about people like me, I was disappointed. While there are few shallow half-truths where you paint a picture of glamour and extravagance, this was a poorly written article because journalists like yourself have once again shown that you are incapable of reporting objectively on what being an escort truly entails. It is clear that you've already begun to write this article with your IGNORANT opinions of us in your mind and you are perpetuating the negative stereotypes that are attached to escorts, but I guess it's always been the easier option to continue to feed society what it wants to hear rather than seek to educate.
Let's talk about the problematic parts!
1. "Today's online social chatter paints a picture of social escorts as hard-nosed gold-diggers keen to make fast cash."
Isn't it funny how the people who don't know shit about being an escort talk most about it? Empty vessels truly make the most noise.
But yes, continue to perpetuate that social escorts are gold-diggers: We are actually conniving, bland, and avaricious. This so-called gold-digger has no feelings, no beliefs and ambitions, and is only focused on acquiring on everything expensive and shiny. I've lost all ability to show emotion. I can only calculate how much more I need to get the latest Chanel handbag and Cartier bracelets.
2. "However, when we did a quick search of the phrase "escort services" on Craigslist Singapore, we got hundreds of ads, and many of them were startlingly direct, listing hourly rates, the women's vital statistics, and even personal contact details. Some included racy pictures and language."
Escorting strictly involves time and companionship.
Yes, you see those results appearing when you search for "escort services" on online classifieds websites, BUT, take into consideration the marketing aspect of running such a business. There are always going to be people who deliberately use sexually explicit terms to advertise their services to get attention, which potentially translates into paying clients. They are using the word "escort" as a blanket term because it sounds a lot better than using the word "prostitute"(though both words are not good substitutes for each other), which is very often considered an offensive slur because it upholds derogatory stereotypes that are damaging to marginalised groups. With the word "prostitute" comes harmful assumptions about the provider's self-worth, drug status, childhood, integrity, personal hygiene and sexual health. Examples of the derogatory assumptions include but are not limited to being dirty, diseased, sinful, deviant and victims.
Do you think anyone selling their professional services would like to use slurs and negative words in their advertising and self promotion? No!
These people are simply trying to work around the stigma that surrounds this industry. We are all individuals coming from different socio-economic backgrounds. Not everyone can afford to have the education that allows them to express themselves eloquently and rely on innuendos and wordplay to promote themselves - so what do you think they resort to for advertising?
3. "But let's be real, it's not all fun and it's definitely not about love..."
How radical: This is actually WORK, like any other professional job. It is not a very difficult concept to grasp. Just because you don't charge for your time and companionship like we do doesn't make it less of a job.
Also, we all have bad days and good days at work. There's nothing to "be real" about. I really enjoy what I do, but just because it isn't "fun" or "enjoyable" all the time doesn't diminish this as a profession. For example, a good day for you might be to use escorts as an inspiration for your new article while simultaneously reinforcing decades and centuries of negative assumptions! "Sugar, Spice and everything Vice?" How sensational! Doesn't matter if you are insinuating that what we do is illegal, as long as it makes your article sound edgy and avant-garde!
4. "She recalls a fellow social escort who agreed to be tied up by her client - only to be violated by him while she was unable to move. Traumatised, but too afraid to go to the police, she opted to just try and forget it all. With such humiliating and scary experiences, it's clear emotional damage is also a risk."
Do you know what is humiliating and scary? Being RAPED on the job and then not having the guts to go to the police because victim blaming is part of rape culture - which means justice won't be served. Call a spade a spade. Emotional damage is a risk, sure, but it's not restricted to people in this profession. It happens to anyone and under any circumstance. Including when they are in the middle of their job. The big difference is that a non sex worker can report to the police without fear of being charged, but for sex workers/escorts, it's a different story.
What is troublesome about the way you have phrased it such that it seems to be a fault of ours when such tragedies happen simply because we have chosen such a vocation. Read the point about victim blaming above, and maybe do a quick Google search for scholarly journals and news articles before you make a slippery slope argument? I don't know if this is something that CLEO writers usually do for research on articles. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
5. "She even admits many escorts end up with trust issues after meeting clients who cheat on their partners. It can be hard to get into a stable relationship." and "...but even so, it's clear that being a social escort has the potential to cast a long shadow over the rest of your life. Uma explained that all three of her personal relationships failed after she told the guys what she did."
Think about this: If a client wanted to cheat on their partner, why on earth would they have to pay someone to "cheat" with? You could find someone else you didn't have to compensate with cash. By engaging an escort, the client has already acknowledged that seeing us is a TRANSACTION. This transaction does not diminish the relationship between the client and partner simply because they are mutually exclusive. It's not cheating if you are engaging the services of a professional. The client is not going to replace his partner. Having one's "deviant-ness" and related preferences demonised by society at large is something that is actually quite unhealthy, for the individual and the relationship that they are in. Escorts help to fill whatever they feel is lacking. I would even go as far as to say that seeking out escorts might even be beneficial for the client and indirectly their relationship.
What I find most insulting about your article was the portrayal of a victim, who will never be able to find love. Please stop insinuating this stereotype, as if we somehow become "damaged" and less human upon doing this. Have you ever wondered that it is perhaps the stigma that surrounds this industry that makes people unable to accept us workers as we are? We are very much capable of being able to love and BE loved(a NOVEL concept, how WILD!), but the obstacles that stand in our way is that the masculinity pervading our patriarchal society is too cowardly to accept this love and return the love. Why are they being cowardly about it? It's because society has been constantly been degrading and dehumanising the people in my profession. Let this be known: We are individuals, with real emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
I am upset and appalled by this sentiment and the overall message put out in your pseudo investigation, and I refuse to let this slide.
I know this is CLEO, and not The Economist or TIME Magazine, but try to write with a modicum of effort and depth next time? Thanks!
Rebecca (...or GolddiggerSG2016 for easier comprehension)
Screen caps of the article are arranged in order.