#NayFOSTA and some grassroots movement.

#nayfosta

#Nayfosta, a grassroots movement.

Fuck fosta with #Nayfosta

FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, may have originally began with it’s heart in the right place. I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that we, as non-trafficked individuals, find it appalling and abhorrent that anyone would coerce anyone else into selling services they don’t want to sell. #nayfosta

We can all agree that people who are working in this industry against their own wills should be helped. They should be aided. And perhaps in conversations prior to the actual legislation finalization, this is what those lawmakers intended. #nayfosta

However, due to the vague language of FOSTA, there are very real and very dangerous impacts that those of us working of our own volition are dealing with. Those of us who rely and depend on this work to feed ourselves, house our families, pay our bills, and live life as best we can under capitalism. For those of us who make a willing living via sex work, FOSTA has been devastating. It’s made access to advertising platforms a nightmare, sent people who were safely working indoors back to the streets, and forced sex workers to make decisions that shouldn’t have to be made.

Sex work is real work. Sex work is a profession. Sex work can even, for some, be a calling.

What I’m asking here is no small feat. It will require work and effort on a part of the entire sex work community, both clients and providers alike. It will take work, but if we do this correctly, we have the potential to change the way we engage with one another online forever. This is not a catch-all solution; no solution is. But what this solution provides is the democratization of tech knowledge and search engine optimization theories that are accessible to other businesses and folks with know-how, and even accessible to us via social media.

You hashtag Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. Now it’s time to hashtag your website.

#NayFOSTA is a unique hashtag that no one has used yet. It’s not cataloged by any search engine, but it could be. Search engines catalog hashtags and return results on them for search queries.

We need to implement this system as a way to be seen. We can show that we support sex work as real work, as a real choice. FOSTA states that there’s no difference between someone working in the sex trade of their own volition, and one who’s trafficked. We know better.  People need to work, and this work would be made easier if we could facilitate easy connections between clients and providers.

I’m asking you all to start hashtagging your websites with #NayFOSTA, preferably within a blog post. There will be other methodologies to do this too, mainly through website code and metadata, the systems of which I’ll explain as time goes on. By hashtagging your websites with #NayFOSTA, what you’re doing is including your website to be cataloged, by Google, for that hashtag.

If every escort in the world with a free or paid website did this, Google would become the biggest escort directory in the world. It would bypass advertising platforms. It would bypass any kind of advertising middle-man, and any website, be it free or paid, could utilize this hashtag.

Incorporating #NayFOSTA with other descriptor hashtags like #Chicago, #BBW, #Blonde, etcetera, would allow clients to further refine their searches and more easily find what they’re looking for.

This little bit of backend work, which I’m going to lead you through, will solve the main issue of what could have been a solid piece of legislation. #NayFOSTA will simultaneously support the anti-trafficking sentiments of the legislation, identify us as non-trafficked workers engaging in the market of our own volition, and make it so our clients can do the same.

I hope that you’ll join me in creating the movement for undertaking.

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FOSTA for Clients and Providers: Buckle Up and Wait.

FOSTA

Fosta, and what you can do about it.

Online Safety in the age of FOSTA

A lot of folks have been reaching out, looking for guidance for what they can do to prepare themselves for the implications of FOSTA. I’ve decided to write out a plan of action that can help mitigate risk, keep your website online, and keep your social media profiles active. Please note that none of this is a guarantee, as most platforms haven’t announced what they’re going to do in light of FOSTA

This plan of action is broken up into sections, starting with your own personal electronic equipment and broadening to other areas of online safety.

How to protect your home computer, phone, and internet browsing:

  1. First and foremost, start using a VPN if you aren’t already. VPNs mask the static, unique IP address that’s assigned to all things that connect to the internet. VPNs mask your location, making it harder (but not entirely impossible) to find out where your internet connection originates. I personally use TunnelBear. The Interface is easy to use, and you can use it on up to 3 devices on their largest plan. It’s also affordable, and they run sales quite frequently. Use this on your computer and your phone. Separate your work phone from your regular phone. If you can only use the VPN on one of your phones, use it on your work phone.

  2. It should be noted that some streaming services like Netflix and Hulu won’t allow you to stream while using a VPN. If you’re streaming from the same device that you work from, make sure to close out all your browser windows, turn off your VPN, then restart your browser before connecting. If you’re SUPER concerned, clear your browsing history as well. When you’re finished with Netflix binging, just close out the browser, turn on your VPN, and resume other activities.

  3. TOR browser will not save you, for lots of reasons. The first one being that TOR browser is reliant on you connecting to a vast, private network through ways and means that are beyond the capability and means of lots of us. TOR browser is used with the TOR network. If you’re not using the two hand-in-hand, it’s like relying on the airbag in your car to protect you in a car accident and not wearing your seatbelt. I can’t possibly get into TOR here, and it’s also not my area of specialty, but connecting to the TOR network is intense, complicated, and not just downloading a browser and going from there. If you want to use the TOR browser to say “fuck you” to Google and other companies, then by all means, please do. You can learn more about TOR here and here.

Websites, overseas hosting, domain names, and website migration

Website Content

(THIS IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING AND I’M DOING MY BEST TO KEEP UP, FYI)

Unless your website is currently hosted overseas on a server overseas that’s owned by a non-American company, you’ll need to change your website content in order to claim plausible deniability. You can do this in one of 3 ways, from how I understand FOSTA:

  1. Congratulations, you are now a model. You’ll need to change your website copy in order to reflect your new job as a model.

  2. Congratulations, you’re now a porn star. Hindsight being 50/50, this may be why all the workers on Rent Men are listed as ‘porn stars.’ I’d slap a 2257 disclosure on your website as well, just to be safe. Also keep in mind your current web host’s TOS. They may not allow explicit adult material to be hosted on their platform as it is, so check out your TOS before making a ton of changes that will result in your site getting deleted anyway. (This might not be accurate either.)

  3. Consider re-writing your website in the language you’d use for an online dating profile. Innocuous, kind of fluffy. Don’t specify acts. You may want to take your rates offline momentarily and only specify them privately on inquiry.

  4. Other work like camming, phone sex operation, and fetish modeling aren’t regulated in the same way either (this is changing, so please be aware that this is not definitive). I do have to note, however, that social media platforms have been silencing our work for a long time, and have the right to delete profiles whenever they see fit. They may delete your profile for being connected to an explicit website.

The above are purely suggestions, and not guarantees.

(It should also be noted that if your website is hosted overseas, you have much more leeway with your ad copy.) This may no longer be the case; please see information regarding The CLOUD Act. I suggest reading things by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to attempt to see just how the CLOUD Act works. I am not a legal expert.

Website hosting

The most common website hosting platforms that most folks use (Squarespace and Wix), are US-owned and operated companies (Wix is Israeli-owned) that house their servers in the US and EU. They are compelled to follow FOSTA once it’s enacted, and may begin cleaning house long before the law goes into effect.

I do not suggest deleting your websites. Alter your copy. Get that in line first. I do recommend exporting and downloading a backup of your site. Note that these exports will be HTML files, and they won’t translate from platform to platform. You cannot simply just import a Wix or Squarespace website to a WordPress-based web hosting service located overseas. Squarespace and WordPress speak two different languages, and the website has to be rebuilt in WordPress from scratch. If you need a visual copy of your site so you can redesign it elsewhere, simply navigate to your website, and in the browser’s file menu, select “print.” You’ll be able to save the page as a PDF file for reference later.

So to those who are wondering if I can just take your current website and plop it into WordPress on my server or another overseas venue? Nope. That’s not something that can happen. What I can do is redesign your site in WordPress due to the translation issues noted in the above paragraph.

 Your options are not limited to me, however. You can either set up a WordPress (or other web builder environment like joomla or weebly) on an overseas server through an overseas hosting service, procure your own VPS (virtual private server) that’s owned and operated by an overseas company, or you can purchase space on a physical server that’s owned and operated by an overseas company and housed overseas. (I can only safely recommend overseas companies that are NOT a part of the EU. Iceland and Switzerland come to mind. Panama also comes to mind as well, but again, I am not an expert in this area.) The two latter, procuring either a VPS or space on a physical server, take specific knowledge and a certain level of expertise in running and setting up a server. I do not recommend either of these unless you have ample time and energy, and the self-control to not throw your computer out the window when things go wrong or won’t work properly. You could also hire someone to do this for you.

I fully recommend Swiss-based or Panamanian-based companies when looking for overseas hosting. The laws in these two particular countries are loose, to say the least. (“loose” was the wrong choice of words; both of these countries are very privacy-minded.) You’ll want your server housed in Switzerland for sure, as Switzerland is not part of the EU and is a neutral party in matters of banking and business.

I personally work with a company called Private Layer. They offer both VPS and physical server space, but do not offer hosting services. Anonymously.io offers hosting, one-click installation for WordPress, and VPS options, and only accepts payment through Bitcoin. They are located in The Netherlands. I don’t have personal experience with this particular company. Ungleich.ch is a hosting service that is Swiss-based, and you’ll definitely need to have some back-end tech knowledge to make a site on that platform. I also offer WordPress-based hosting, and you can read about the options I offer here.

Domain names

FOSTA is so broad in its language that it could even effect domain names and ICANN, the body that regulates them within the US. Top-level domain names that are regulated by ICANN include .com, .net, and .org. Lots of the domain registrar services that we use in the US are US-based (godaddy, dreamhost, namecheap, etc), and may be compelled by FOSTA to disconnect your domain from your website.

(You can purchase other top-level domains from overseas domain registrars. You can have your current domain name redirect to the new one, and your SEO should only be minimally affected.)

BE AWARE OF DOMAIN REDIRECTING.

It is a complicated process that involves backend server access. To be frank, due to the rolling over of lots of ad sites, I’m not recommending folks change their domains right now UNLESS they are sure that they can handle 301 redirects to a new domain name. Transferring the same domain to a new server/website management system is far less complicated and may only affect your SEO minimally. Quite frankly, I’m just learning about successfully redirecting sites while maintaining Google rankings, and have not redirected any of my own sites.

Overseas domain registrars do exist, but it must be noted that Whois protection is not available for all domains. You can, however, use altered information when registering the domain name. Alpnames.com is located overseas and allows you to pay with Bitcoin. There are other overseas domain registrars; a google search will reveal them. If your desired domain name isn’t available overseas, you can purchase it from a US-based company and transfer it to an overseas one.

Secure overseas email servers and encrypted calendar services

Y’all have heard of Protonmail. It’s a great service for security, and they also offer you the ability to use your own domain name for your email address. Make sure to register .ch with them- you can always change to your own domain name later.

There are other all-in-one encrypted replacements for GSuite, mainly being FastMail. Theyre an Australian company, and aren’t compelled to answer US court orders. However, their servers are based in the US, and that gives me a lot of pause as to using their service. As an encrypted all-in-one replacement for GSuite, it is enticing though.

Encrypted calendar and data services located overseas are tough to come by. Fruux is a calendar, contact, and task-encryption service that’s German-owned. Germany has pretty legit digital privacy laws, but they’re definitely no Switzerland. I can’t vouch for Fruux, as I haven’t used it myself, but being that it has mobile capability and is compatible with all sorts of operating systems, it’s worth a look/try.  SecureSwissData.com is not up and running yet, but when they finally are, I’ll probably give them all my money.

Really though. Remember to stay calm. FOSTA won’t be fully enacted until January 2019, and it’s already having an incredibly chilling effect. We are strong and we will make it through this.

 
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At least 3 reasons why I decided to delist from TER

Why I Delisted from The Erotic Review

BBW GFE Escort in Chicago Erin Black TER Delisting

**To see current testimonials that folks have been kind enough to write, head here.**

Welcome back, those of you who make it this far to begin with.

Some of you may have noticed that I decided to delist from The Erotic Review (TER) during the last part of January 2018. This was definitely not a spur of the moment, fly-by-night decision. I’d been ruminating about my “participation” within the review community that exists on TER for quite some time.  I’ve always had two main issues concerning TER, those being:

1. The experiences that I have with folks who see me are by nature super intimate, super private, and based on mutual chemistry. These experiences are by their very nature completely subjective, and asking people to “rate” these experiences within a clearly bias system is unfair. I’ll extrapolate on this later, but this view was one I even held when I first began as a pro-domme, and I made mention of it on my very first website.

2. The original owner of TER is a misogynist, and went to prison for hiring a hitman (that was actually an FBI agent) to murder an escort who would not be listed on TER. I could forgive divulging intimate details of my personal life under the guise of “erotica,” but this? How could I rectify this kind of atrocity towards a fellow worker? If the then-owner of TER would go to such lengths, what kind of membership is it attracting?

Despite those two very strong reasons to delist, I kept on. Why, you ask?

TER was beneficial to me for a very long time. TER made me very good money for a very long time, and helped me to establish myself as a well-known and respected provider both with clients and with my peers. I exchanged control of my work narrative in return for money, clients, and reputation. And you know what? It worked. It worked really well for me, honestly.

Until it didn’t.

Here’s the long-form list of reasons why I ultimately delisted from TER, in chronological order.

1. The Erotic Review is a misogynistic entity who’s sole purpose is to create revenue for itself. It has no actual interest in making sure providers are treated fairly and safely, and it has no interest in making sure  clients get “the most bang for their buck.” They do not care about how providers wish to market themselves or control their own narratives; it’s not their job to do so.

In April of 2016, I was met with my first completely false and erroneous review from a client in New York that I had flatly denied to see. Apparently, he felt it necessary to write a review detailing activities that I didn’t participate in, along with shaming my body. I was furious, and I took it to TER. The review stood until the day I had my profile pulled down, and future clients continued to ask me for services that I clearly state I don’t offer. It was maddening.

You see, with TER, the onus of proof is always on the provider. The provider is taxed with turning over identifying emails and exchanges that prove that we didn’t see someone who wrote a false review. The problem with this? Many who have false reviews have never, ever hand contact with the person who wrote the review. TER requires that you initiate contact with the reviewer via their private messaging system to get them to provide information, and TER will take any response from the reviewer as proof that you had seen the person.

Last I checked, that’s not how deductive reasoning works.

That review was the first time my narrative was seriously fucked with, and it put a really bad taste in my mouth. I’d known women who had dealt with a plethora of fake reviews— some were removed, but most were left standing, and those reviews effected their business. The idea that anyone with an axe to grind, or free VIP days to gain (TER provides free “VIP” days for writing reviews, which grants those people access to reading full reviews instead of just previews) could effect my business in such a way was honestly beyond me. I was mad. I felt violated. But still, TER brought me web hits and clients, so I kept on.

Then, one fateful website and scoring system revamp happened; not only were providers disgusted with the new guidelines, but so were those clients who used the system to vet providers for potential dates.

To be frank and honest, those that griped about the change in the scoring system just finally caught on to how unfair the scoring system was to begin with. Firstly, TER prioritizes certain “acts.” Those that don’t provide certain acts can never achieve a 10 score for performance. This could have been the single most amazing experience in your life, but if the provider you saw didn’t allow certain acts (it matters not if you wanted them in the first place), you as a reviewer could not score her performance as a 10. TER has also been known to dock appearance scores for women who are BBW, WOC, disabled women, and women who generally fall outside of the White Euro-centric Standard of Beauty ™. I’ve seen it myself—clients would score me a 9 or 10 in looks, only to have the review be posted as a 7 or 8. For the most part, this scoring system didn’t play too greatly into my overall standing there; the content of my reviews was always stellar.

Which leads me to the next reason I decided to delist from TER:

2. TER forces reviewers to admit that an illegal transaction has happened between the provider and the client. With our current legal atmosphere in the US where most forms of in-person sex work are illegal, TER is an indictment of the provider and this is a risk I’m no longer willing to take.

Here’s the caveat for having stellar review content though- TER requires quite explicit language in their reviews, and sends back reviews that aren’t explicit enough for their readership. Here’s my theory on it. Most of TER’s membership comes from countries where porn and other explicit material is banned or blocked via their country’s nationalized Internet. Because TER doesn’t contain anything that would constitute pornography, folks in those countries can work around and obtain TER memberships in order to access “erotica.” In order to keep those memberships high and keep money rolling in, TER had to make reviews super-explicit. They’d lose membership money otherwise. This is also why TER is hard-pressed to delete fake reviews; any and all reviews ultimately make TER money. Now, I don’t have any proof of this, but through conversations with other folks in this business, this seems to be the most reasonable explanation outside of TER being a misogynistic entity.

Honestly though, I’m just not willing to take the risk any longer for many reasons—not least of all, the protection of those I work with and those I see, along with family and friends.

There are a few more pragmatic reasons that I’ve also delisted from TER, too.

3. With the advent of social media (Twitter), TER is becoming less and less pertinent, and has been sending me less and less web traffic over time.

You can see this simply by heading over to TER and seeing what kind of action is taking place. On my local board, it’s a bunch of ISOs that simply don’t apply to me, questions that squick me out, and very little other activity. On the general boards, its a hot mess of misogyny and misinformation. I’d much rather be on Twitter and interact with my cohort in that way.

Because TER is sending me less and less ad traffic, that tells me that folks are finding me other places. Even when I would post ads, I wouldn’t see the return in hits that I used to. Granted, interpreting analytics is kind-of a dark art; people find you any number of places and get to your website in any number of ways. In my case and observation however, TER crept lower and lower down that referral list until most weeks, it wasn’t even listed. Yet another sign that delisting might not be a bad idea.

4. TER is real hard to find via a Google search.

I’m not sure who’s heading up TER’s SEO department, but right now it’s slim to none. Sure, you can find TER pages when you search actual escorts by name, but you’re not going to find a list of *enter city here* escorts via TER entry for Google searching.  I’m personally trying to eliminate the middleman as much as possible, and delisting from TER helps with that.

5. The plain ol’ fear that whenever I’d meet a new playmate, I’d be scrutinized to death and constantly wonder if I’d have a new review to contend with later.

This is such a bummer, honestly. There’s nothing worse than the pressure of meeting someone new and having to wonder if this person is going to tear you limb from limb or divulge your private proclivities from behind a computer screen three months later. TER reviews don’t take the reviewer into consideration; chemistry is after all a two-way street, and it simply isn’t possible to have the same chemistry with every guest. The worry of a new (bad) review that could impact my business until the next (good) review went up became kind-of overwhelming. I decided I didn’t want to play anymore.

Really though, it was just time to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve been at this for 6 years (which qualifies me as a “veteran” in an industry where most folks last an average of 2 years), have built myself a solid business and reputation, and I’m going to hold with that. I’m unafraid. I’ve watched numerous women delist over the last few years, including women whom I call my nearest and dearest friends.

Now, if you happen to be a provider and are considering delisting from TER, I would ask you to consider it fully and not to take delisting lightly. Delisting is not for everyone, and I don’t believe that everyone should do it. Some would call me bold and foolish to delist while living in Chicago, and most of them wouldn’t be wrong. Some cities absolutely thrive on review board culture, and everyone I’ve talked to concerning delisting did lose income at the start. If you can’t afford to lose income, even if just for a small period of time, don’t delist. It’s not your time to do so. I would also tell folks who tour heavily or are just starting to tour heavily not to delist either. Different folks have different business models, and I am not the one to tell people to do something that could potentially mess with their money.

Delisting is a deeply personal choice.

My hope is that if review culture remains, it will shift dramatically and become as objective as possible. Does the online photo match the real-life person? Was she a charming and wonderful person that you would spend time with again? There really isn’t too much more information that should sway your decision-making, really. You should be able to create your own story with the provider of your choosing, not set up false expectations based on an explicit review.

I’ll be following up this entry with one about my recent hiatus—another reason why my delisting came at this particular time.

xoxo

Erin

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