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Amanda Brooks has been a stripper, a bikini-bar waitress, and a professional escort. But her most recent title she earned with all her clothes on. Brooks (her "professional name") is the self-published author of The Internet Escorts Handbook Book 1: The Foundation, the debut chapter of a four-part series that the author is hoping will become a canon for online escorts.
Aimed at already-established escorts and women considering the job, The Internet Escorts Handbook tackles questions that are existential (Is This Something You Really Want To Do?), medical ("What If Your Client Has an STI?"), and practical (Whats the Best Way to Clean Up Condoms?). The book also includes entire sections addressing an escorts personal appearance ("Misconception #9: I have to be blonde and have big boobs, or be model-thin, to make money. Honestly: No.") and conveys Brooks's attitude about the differences among escorting, prostitution, and, well, dating. If you are selling your time and the unspoken offer of sexual entertainment, youre an escort, she writes. If you wont have sex with the man youre dating unless he buys you an expensive dinner, youre a relatively cheap prostitute.
Unlike traditional escorting, online escorts use the web to advertise their real-life services, independently advertising on sites like Eros-Guide.com, as well as using public-information databases to screen customers. Heres how the screening process works: after seeing an escorts ad on a site, the would-be client emails or calls her with his name, address, even license number. Then the escort can read up on him via sites like Google and PublicData.com to make sure nothing looks suspicious. If someones information doesnt match up, thats a definite red flag, says Brooks over the phone from the West Coast, where she now lives. Once she got a call from a customer who, as a little research revealed, shared a house with a police officer. I definitely didnt meet that guy.
Brooks's escorting days weren't some sex-tourist gonzo experiment. ("Amanda Brooks is not a journalist who became an escort in the hopes of a 'big story,'" reads her press bio.) Originally based in the South, the self-billed "provocateur" worked in the sex industry for nearly a decade, two and a half years of which she spent in the Dallas area as an independent escort. On her blog, she describes how she tried to break into the industry again and again while attending a "well-known Texas university," struggling against the odds of seedy bars and unsupportive boyfriends. I knew next to nothing about the possible dangers I was facing back then, she recalls.
Brooks persisted because, as someone who was "determined-to-be-deviant," she thought of sex work as a glamorous and free way of making a good living It was something I thought only the strongest and most amazing women could do. Even after doing it for years, she still feels sex work can make you into a strong woman. Done the right way, and with the right person it can be a very, very good thing in your life.
Then why did Brooks stop? Its the oldest story in the book, she explains in a slow, sweet Texan drawl. I met a man. I was increasingly distracted by my feelings for him while I was with clients, so I needed to make a decision. Nowadays, its her boyfriend who helps support her while she works on her books, and the one-woman company (Golden Girl Press, LLC) she founded to publish them. Brooks also keeps busy as a safe-sex activist with the organization SWOP East, running a condom donation program for sex workers in Chile.
Back in 2002, Brooks had the idea for The Internet Escorts Handbook. When I was a stripper, I always wanted to write a stripper book. But frankly I wasnt a very good stripper. Then, as an escort, I kept trying to read about other peoples experiences. So she decided to write the books she always wanted to read.
My best estimate is [that] there are 100,000 escorts working in America today, says Brooks. Obviously, clients outnumber them, so she guesses that the population of people involved in the escorting industry could be over a million. Thats a lot of potential readersand Brooks says volume one of The Internet Escorts Handbook, already available online, has been selling steadily since its release earlier this year. Girls appreciate my level-headedness, she says. And men are really curious to see what escorting is like from the other side.
But first and foremost, her books are about safety. No matter how much they pay for your time, Brooks warns in her introduction, A certain type of guy will always want to take off the condom. Just because hes safe from you, doesnt mean youre safe from him.
Safety isnt the only advantage of internet escorting, says Brooks. "Men really like the ease of checking out women online, reading their blog, their reviews. The internet also lets sex workers communicate better among themselves. I can talk with girls who make thousands of dollars a day, or with girls who essentially work the streets. Then there are the new ways sex workers can make the money. You can set up ads on your site, or you can sell your lingerie on an online auction, Brooks explains, listing the merits of being an internet-savvy escort. Of course, for escorts trying to be discreet, search engines and internet caching can make life hardbut Brooks says escorts shouldn't be worried if they keep personal details to themselves and stay away from police-patrolled sites like Craig's List.
After years spent as her own boss, bodyguard, and now publisher, Brooks isn't worried. She knows she's her own best watchdog. Im always going to be far more concerned for my well-being than anyone else, she says, except maybe my mother. Now that would've really calmed my customers down. Hey, did you know thats my mom out in the parking lot?
Click Me runs on villagevoice.com weekly. Got a question about cybersex? Write to your friendly cyberhood sexpert Bonnie Ruberg to ask advice or just to share stories about sex and the internet: bonnie [at] heroine-sheik [dot] com.