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Savage Love: Make the call

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I’ve got a question I doubt you’ve ever gotten before. It has a bit of everything: sex-work etiquette, long-distance phone interaction and a het cis chick anxious not to lose her tolerance badge. Here it goes: A few months ago, I started getting hang-up calls from numbers I didn’t recognize in Boston. Then weird texts started showing up, trying to set up “dates.” I responded to the first few because I figured someone was giving out a fake number that just happened to be mine. (I kept my cell phone when I moved from Boston to Seattle.) But after the fourth or fifth call/text from a different unknown number, I turned to the internet. Google informed me that my phone number is identical, except for area code, to a trans escort working in Boston. I’m getting one or two calls or texts per week meant for this other woman. They’ve started to get more explicit. Because of the time difference, they come at weird hours. I don’t know what I should do. I can ask my phone company to block each number individually, but that’s a pain in the ass. I can text the correct area code to the men who are writing to me looking for the trans escort, but I don’t really want to help people too stupid to read a phone number correctly. I suppose I could report the whole thing to the Boston police, but I doubt they’d care, and I don’t have any moral objections to sex work, I just don’t want people to call/text me asking for it. Aside from changing my phone number, which has been my sole number for almost eight years, anything else you can suggest?
—Stupid Phone And Messages

You claim to have no moral objections to sex work, and you say you’re a tolerant person. But you’re thinking of siccing the police on a trans sex worker—and for what? One or two calls or texts per week. As pains in the ass go, SPAM, that sounds like a pretty piddling one.

You know what constitutes a major pain in the ass for a sex worker? Being harassed by the police and swept up in the criminal-justice system. You’re right, the police are unlikely to drop everything to solve your problem. But you shouldn’t call the cops on this woman regardless, SPAM. If your call was answered by a lazy cop who would rather hassle trans sex workers than go after criminals who are actually hurting people, this woman—a woman who hasn’t really harmed you in any way—could wind up getting badly hurt. The criminal-justice system is rough on sex workers generally, SPAM, and it’s absolutely brutal to trans women who do sex work.

Here’s another idea, SPAM, and a better one: Call the trans escort and have a conversation with her. You’ve got her phone number. Talk to her.

As distressed as you are to receive these calls and texts—and, again, one or two a week doesn’t seem like that big of a deal—that sex worker will probably be more distressed to learn that she’s losing so many potential (and numerically illiterate) clients. I have known and loved a few sex workers—loved in a strictly platonic sense—and most would change their professional phone numbers regularly to rid themselves of time-wasters and clients they didn’t want to see again. The sex worker whose calls you’re getting may be willing to change her number, SPAM, or at the very least emphasize the correct area code in her ads.

The best way to demonstrate that you don’t have a moral objection to sex work is to assume sex workers are reasonable human beings and treat them accordingly. Because sex workers are human beings, SPAM, and most human beings are perfectly reasonable. If we were talking about a Fox News personality, my advice might be different—but we’re not talking about a Fox News personality, are we?

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