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oh no, #fauxho
November 22, 2010 9:03 PM   Subscribe

[Warning: some links NSFW] Callgirl and blogger Alexa DiCarlo had some questions raised about her authenticity dating back to 2008 and 2009, but her website RealPrincessDiaries.com (archive.org cache) still attracted huge traffic and she was even named the #1 sex blogger of 2010. A student at SFSU's master's degree program in sexuality studies, she also volunteered her time providing sex education advice to teenagers online under the name Caitlain or Cathy. And she mentored newbie sex workers via e-mail, giving them pro tips and even sharing with them one of her top clients, Matt, whose identity and safety she vouched for. But in true Kaycee Nicole / JT LeRoy style, it now turns out there wasn't any "Alexa", "Caitlain", or "Cathy". Outed by the anonymous blog Expose A Bro, combined with the anonymous twitter account @ExposingAlexa, the real story has emerged. Alexa was apparently a married middle-aged guy named Pat, not a student at SFSU, had no formal training from which to be sharing "advice" (or naked photos!) with those teenagers online, and he was the "client" that "Alexa" had sent to her protégées to sleep with...

Sexuality educator Charlie Glickman weighs in:
"So what's the big deal? Personally, I don't care if someone wants to create an online fantasy personna. I don't think it's necessarily bad or unhealthy to explore the different facets of our psyches by writing stories...But I do take exception when someone creates false credentials in order to dupe the gullible. I worked hard to get a doctorate in sex education and many of my colleagues, whether they have academic credentials or not, have dedicated years of their lives to learn about sexuality in order to provide good information."
Glickman's comments section has exploded with fighting from sex workers and sex bloggers, including a few from famous escort/blogger Belle de Jour (outed last year as Dr. Brooke Magnanti):
"Why does any of this matter? Why is this not just ‘oh, someone's having a bit of fun?' Because “Alexa” referred men to sex workers, potentially putting them at risk. Because some sex workers were threatened with exposure – perhaps not by Alexa, but certainly due to the situation. Because there are already countless bullshit stories about sex work peddled to the media every day, and someone claiming experience they don't have Does Not Help. Because genuine sex educators fight to have their research taken seriously by prurient morons in mainstream media, and someone who tweets about “teaching your sons and daughters to suck ass and lick pussy” is absolutely not for real.

If someone was blogging about being disabled, and turned out to be able-bodied, there would be an uproar. If an anonymous blogger wrote about being a racial minority or queer, but wasn't, that would be clearly manipulative and unethical: that person would rightly be shunned. But somehow, because it's sex work, people still queue up to say “don't take it so seriously!” Fuck that – we are a targeted, criminalised, marginalised minority who have the right to tell our own stories, and the right to protect that right."
"Sexademic" Jessi Fischer -- who actually does have a master's degree from that SFSU program -- posted about Alexa, authenticity, and online anonymity back in late 2009. She now writes about Why the Alexa Di Carlo Thing Matters and posts several screengrabs of Alexa's now defunct blog to illustrate some of the falsehoods.

A lawyer and sex activist (but not a sex worker) comes forward on behalf of one of her sex worker friends who was scammed by "Alexa" into having sex with client "Matt" (both of whom apparently turned out to have been Pat): Part 1, 2, 3. The story is made even skeevier by the inclusion of one of "Alexa"'s purported e-mails to the friend about the sexual skills of "Matt".

Sex worker "Ten" (one of Alexa's protégées) barely missed being scammed into sleeping with Matt and relates her story here.

One of Alexa-as-Caitlain's teenage victims tells their story:
"The thing that sickens me is that we all gave him our pictures willingly. We believed that this person was our peer and our friend. One of us, so to speak, in our little private world away from "old adults". We believed this person was our age, a student like us, in similar situations like us, non threatening and most of us genuinely liked this person. I for one even had a crush on this person at one stage!! To think that the pretty young woman to whom I sent pictures of myself was actually a 40 year old man with nothing but sex on his mind actually hurts."
Los Angeles blog Sex and the 405 presents a different view, calling this outing a "Dangerous Precedent":
"Well-meaning members of the sex-work and sex-positive communities came together to enable the exposure of a fraud who could very well be engaged in criminal conduct with minors. But here's an unpleasant thing to consider: what's to stop well-meaning members of another community from coming together to expose a sex-worker, who is, by many state laws, engaging in criminal activity (i.e., prostitution)? Supporting the exposure of anonymous bloggers online sets very a dangerous precedent. This concerns me. As does the idea that the sex-work activism community may be inadvertently silencing the voices of sex-workers who do no meet the criteria of responsible blogging."
Sex educator Miss Maggie Mayhem and other blogs have cataloged some of the Alexa blowback by creating a BINGO card of common "this is no big deal" responses to the scandal.

Finally, everyone's favorite mystery man Pat posted a denial of these claims to a new WordPress.com site with a sub-domain name that intimated he would file a defamation lawsuit, but then quickly deleted all trace of the site. But not before screenshots were taken. Favorite quote from the comments on that blog: "this dude is the Turducken of bullshit artists".

The twitter hashtag to follow the story as it unfolds is #fauxho, and its tweets are archived here.
posted by Asparagirl (188 comments total) 93 users marked this as a favorite

 
What's wrong with being sexy?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:05 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh my.
posted by jokeefe at 9:05 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eeeww..
posted by Ahab at 9:08 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess the internet isn't about creative writing anymore.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:09 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cool story, #fauxho.
posted by mosk at 9:17 PM on November 22, 2010


Wow, that's pretty fucked up. Nice job pulling all the threads together for this post, Asparagirl.
posted by delmoi at 9:19 PM on November 22, 2010 [26 favorites]


Great post. What a shitstorm.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:21 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


What!?! You mean everyone isn't who they say they are on the internets?!!??!!

Oh. My. God.
posted by unSane at 9:21 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Holy shit.

Amazing post, thank you.
posted by zarq at 9:22 PM on November 22, 2010


I was all "yawn, another internet person pretending to be a dog, yawn," and then I read this:

he was the "client" that "Alexa" had sent to her protégées to sleep with

That's where it crosses the line from mildly creepy and weird into seriously fucked up territory. He needs to be put in a box and mailed to Israel, and they can prosecute him for having sex under false pretenses or just return the box postage unpaid. Ick.
posted by Forktine at 9:29 PM on November 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Wow everything my mom said was true.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:30 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love this, from Matt describing himself (under false pretenses, as Alexa) to a sex worker: "He used to be a leg model for some sportswear company and still has the legs to do that as far as I’m concerned." In a sea of so much bizarre nonsense, this stands out as an especially weird eddy.

I wonder what, if anything, he'll be charged with.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:30 PM on November 22, 2010


Forktine - there's also the part where he ran a site encouraging underage women to post nude photos. That goes beyond garden-variety creepy for me as well.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:30 PM on November 22, 2010


Yeah, sign me up for the same progression: "Huh, sounds like a garden variety... Oh, huh, I guess he really... Oh, shit... Oh, WOW. Holy creepy perv, Batman..."
posted by verb at 9:33 PM on November 22, 2010 [14 favorites]


"After some months, and I was 18 and had posted many more photos of myself in sexual situations in the forum...To think that the pretty young woman to whom I sent pictures of myself was actually a 40 year old man with nothing but sex on his mind actually hurts. It revolts me that maybe he was masturbating over my pictures?"

Thanks, I needed a good laugh.
posted by HopperFan at 9:33 PM on November 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


Wasn't it a married middle aged guy who was impersonating a young woman on alt.suicide, to goad members into hanging themselves?

I sense a Times lifestyle story coming up...
posted by fatbird at 9:33 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The cliche is to say "there must be a word in German for that" but in this case I'm inclined to think it's the French who must have a word for "the giddy, cynical pleasure enjoyed by one who watches a bastard's life unravel in a drawn-out, salacious and bizzare public scandal,"
posted by Diablevert at 9:36 PM on November 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


I, for one, am waiting for the Lifetime Movie about this.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:38 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would not sit on his sofa.
posted by clavdivs at 9:41 PM on November 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


That blogger sure had balls.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:46 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Navelgazer - that goes deeply into serious-time sex crimes, in fact.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:49 PM on November 22, 2010


Maybe he and Judith Griggs can meet, and find love together in this crazy, mixed-up world we live in...
posted by IAmBroom at 9:51 PM on November 22, 2010


Thanks, I needed a good laugh.

Umm... as the Simpsons might say, this goes beyond Eugene and Rusty. This guy is a sociopathic predator. Obviously one should exercise caution online, but there's a reason we have laws protecting minors from this sort of shit - their judgment is not considered to be totally there yet.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:51 PM on November 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


someone is wrong wrong someone is on the internet.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:53 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do think this is a big deal and very disturbing, but

If someone was blogging about being disabled, and turned out to be able-bodied, there would be an uproar. If an anonymous blogger wrote about being a racial minority or queer, but wasn't, that would be clearly manipulative and unethical: that person would rightly be shunned.

I don't think this is a good way of making that case. I think it's kind of ill considered actually.
posted by smoke at 9:53 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh lord. I guess we're going to have to start getting used to this social media sex fraud stuff. People hatch some seriously crazy, involved schemes for sex. Extra creep points for posing as someone offering help, only to exploit the desperate.

The whole "precedent for exposing anonymous bloggers" angle is moot, I think; that may very well happen whether or not this guy catches hell.
posted by millions at 9:53 PM on November 22, 2010


He was engaging with underage young people in the forum he set up called "Caitlain's Corner where he was pretending to be a female sex educator mentoring teenagers and giving them sexual advice and help. There's some evidence that he tried to convince some of the kids to try prostitution, and he certainly was collecting naked and sexually posed photographs. So this should be less an internet shitstorm than serious criminal charges.
posted by jokeefe at 9:58 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really fantastic post - thank you.
posted by rtha at 9:58 PM on November 22, 2010


What!?! You mean everyone isn't who they say they are on the internets?!!??!!

Did you leave your automatic mechanical pecking duck next to the keyboard again?
posted by setanor at 10:00 PM on November 22, 2010 [22 favorites]


I don't really know what those things are called, but they're more hilarious (a little bit) than this is (not at all).
posted by setanor at 10:01 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, let me get this straight. This guy tricked prostitutes into having sex with him for money?
posted by ecurtz at 10:01 PM on November 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


ecurtz - he persuaded young and oftentimes underage women into becoming prostitutes, using a fake identity to vouch for himself as their ideal first client.

Among many other things.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:05 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Obviously one should exercise caution online"

So posting sexually explicit photos to a site billed as "Learn How To Fuck" in lovely cursive script isn't the best plan? Who knew!

"we have laws protecting minors"

She was 18 when she posted the photos in question.

Not that I don't think that this guy should have every possible charge filed against him, and then some, not only for coercing minors, but for all the other disgusting crap he pulled. I'm just tired of people posting or sending explicit photos and then being *shocked! shattered!* at the creeps that come streaming out of the woodwork.
posted by HopperFan at 10:06 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


So posting sexually explicit photos to a site billed as "Learn How To Fuck" in lovely cursive script isn't the best plan? Who knew!

The link was from the other blog which until near the end of this was not known to be associated to the forum in any way by the users of the forum.

Put that 'Who knew!' back in your bag, you might need it again some day.
posted by setanor at 10:08 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm just tired of people posting or sending explicit photos and then being *shocked! shattered!* at the creeps that come streaming out of the woodwork.

Don't worry, I'll have a talk with all those people terrible people who did stupid things and found themselves taken advantage of. How dare they tire you out, don't they know you need your rest?
posted by nomadicink at 10:11 PM on November 22, 2010 [27 favorites]


"until near the end of this was not known to be associated to the forum"

Not according to the "teenage victim's" story, but the timeline is a little fuzzy. I may have misunderstood that bit.
posted by HopperFan at 10:13 PM on November 22, 2010


HopperFan, she was eventually 18, yes, but not when "Caitlain" first convinced her to start posting photos.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:13 PM on November 22, 2010


I'm just tired of people posting or sending explicit photos and then being *shocked! shattered!* at the creeps that come streaming out of the woodwork.
It's less the creeps that come streaming out of the woodwork than the helpful qualified non-threatening adults who offer some guidance when you're at a confusing place then turn out to be creeps running an elaborately orchestrated scam to get laid.
posted by verb at 10:14 PM on November 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


"people who did stupid things and found themselves taken advantage of"

Let me pause to cry a tiny tear for people who still believe that anything on the internet is private. Ok, done. Now we can move on, back to Mr. Bohannon.

"It's less the creeps that come streaming out of the woodwork than the helpful qualified non-threatening adults who offer some guidance when you're at a confusing place then turn out to be creeps running an elaborately orchestrated scam to get laid."

You are quite right, verb, mea culpa. I think I'm reacting to this incident based on others of a different nature.
posted by HopperFan at 10:20 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


People hatch some seriously crazy, involved schemes for sex.

I'm wading nostril deep through a river of shit, baby. Just to be with you...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:22 PM on November 22, 2010


Yeaaaah... what helpful, qualified, non-threatening adult is going to ask you to send naked pictures of yourself engaged in sexual posing or activity?
posted by Justinian at 10:25 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


http://www.metafilter.com/tags/turduckenofbullshitartists
posted by setanor at 10:25 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's like a real-life phishing scam.
posted by Justinian at 10:25 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obviously this guy is a total scumbag, and I guess I missed the buried lead about actual criminal behavior, but why the post facto outrage from the sex educators? Even his made up persona wasn't qualified to be giving these people advice. That would be the equivalent of med. students giving unsupervised advice to random people on the Internet. And in this country a nice young "sexuality advisor" collecting your underage nudie pix is just as illegal as a sleezy old perve doing it.
posted by ecurtz at 10:31 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Justinian, if you're 16 and confused about your own sexuality, that adult could easily take the form of a sex-positive young woman only a few years older than yourself, cheerfully studying human sexuality and encouraging her readers to embrace it within themselves.

Just another aspect of how fucked up all of this is.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:32 PM on November 22, 2010


But those are some nice legs. Just sayin.
posted by iamck at 10:32 PM on November 22, 2010


Yeaaaah... what helpful, qualified, non-threatening adult is going to ask you to send naked pictures of yourself engaged in sexual posing or activity?
That's one of the reasons that a scammer sets up their authoritative voice, then asks marks to take the leap of faith.
posted by verb at 10:34 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm still RTFAs but there's a big honking question right there in the middle of the post:

But here's an unpleasant thing to consider: what's to stop well-meaning members of another community from coming together to expose a sex-worker, who is, by many state laws, engaging in criminal activity (i.e., prostitution)? Supporting the exposure of anonymous bloggers online sets very a dangerous precedent. This concerns me.

What's to stop exposure of any anonymously blogging sex-worker? Same thing that stops the exposure of any anonymous blogger: Who cares?

This wasn't a sex-worker chosen at random. The blogger behind Alexa/Caitlain was a sexual predator using the persona of a sex worker to get close to and get off on teenagers. He set off alarms and people teamed up to expose him, and rightly so. The random sex-worker's blog sets off no alarms, so why should they be targeted?

Fucking hell. Now I'm arguing, "If you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about."
posted by dogrose at 10:39 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


believe half of what you see and believe nothing you read on the web, never, never believe anyone and hope they don't show up on your doorstep!
posted by tustinrick at 10:41 PM on November 22, 2010


In re the "what helpful adult..." question --- the scientologists don't open cold with "and it's all the fault of Xenu, the alien who came from the sky to steal your mind-grapes." at the beginning, it's all "hey buddy, want to take a personality quiz? Ever catch yourself feeling down?" similarly, I'm sure this guy wasn't all "embrace sexual liberation! By sending me pictures of your tits!" right from the get-go. The young woman whose blog is quoted talked about running across Caitlain when she was thinking about losing her virginity and looking for advice. I think it's pretty easy to imagine how someone posing as a confident, experienced 20 year old could gain the trust of teens as few years younger,
posted by Diablevert at 10:43 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fucking hell. Now I'm arguing, "If you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about."

Au contraire. If you're innocent, you should be worrying more than the bad guys are worrying about being found out. This post is about a bad guy who didn't cover his tracks. If anonymous bloggers want to protect their identities, they should just take the basic steps he didn't.
posted by shii at 10:43 PM on November 22, 2010


In all of this, however, I will find some humor in his ludicrous alibi.

"No, I'm not Alexa, and I don't know her. Never met her. No idea what she looks like. Just any other client. Of course, as soon as she set up the site I immediately went on Amazon and bought four books on sex-work, and took care to review them, but come on, I was curious. Curious enough to call her and have her recommend me to other sex-workers. But only once! And I have no idea why anyone would pretend to do this sort of thing just to get laid. Also, who could find the time? Certainly not me, though I was just fired because of numerous complaints of my doing so. But not while pretending to be Alexa! That's outrageous! And it cost me my job! Now people won't want to hire me because of what I will now admit was something I shouldn't have been doing!

I'm hiring an attorney, I tells ya! This requires a defamation suit! And now my attorney is yelling at me a lot for having written this, and apparently the retainer I took out a second mortgage to afford is going to be better spent defending me against kiddie-porn charges at the very least. Come on! I've worked in IT for twenty years, for the government! Surely someone could've told me in all that time about google cache or the way laws work!
posted by Navelgazer at 10:47 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, "Caitlin/Pat" filled a void.

Had they had access to real sex education, fewer of the kids who in its absence instead went to "Caitlin" for sex advice would have been conned into trusting in "Caitlin/Pat"'s advice, or trusting "her" with their nudie pics.

This is what we get when we teach "abstinence-only" and other forms of cowardly non-education: if parents and schools won't provide sex ed, kids'll get it somewhere, and under less favorable circumstances, and in some cases (like this one) will end up victimized by predators.
posted by orthogonality at 10:50 PM on November 22, 2010 [27 favorites]


I'd also add (in tearing apart his alibi) that according to his story, it should be trivially easy for him to track down the "real" Alexa's identity. What's that Pat, you never met her? Guess she wasn't paying you in cash, then? So was it by check or credit card? Have you tried following up on, I dunno, where these payments were coming from? Was the account in the name of Alexa DiCarlo? What name then? Have you kept business records of income from this client? Do you keep your own records or do you have an accountant who does so for you? Where did this client's payments come from? Clearly "she" didn't stiff you, as you performed work for her for a long period of time, including "emergency" work which you've admitted to performing while at your day job for the state of Delaware. Unless you plan to tell us that you were paid in references to sex-workers. So where does the money trail lead, then? Are you supposing to tell us that your reputation has been shattered by Expose-a-Bro.com, losing you your job and what you deem to be future employment opportunities, and that you have either been unwilling to use your unique resources to discover the actual identity of Alexa DiCarlo, or else are unwilling to divulge the identity of a client who has left you to twist in the wind without herself stepping forward?

It's like watching the movie "Shattered Glass," except in real time and Stephen Glass's only harm was in presenting entertaining fictions as fact for the New Republic, and not causing untold psychological damage to unknown numbers of women.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:09 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


possibly orthogonality, but in general teens are pretty squicked out by their teachers and parents going on about, this is a penis, this is a vagina, and I'd wager even where there is sex education many teens learn more from the web and/or friends then they ever do from school.

What actually might be a good school topic is internet suaveness, so kids/young adults get it drilled into their heads about 1 - just how non-private the web really is, 2- how to protect your identity 3- Don't trust random people with certain basic things unless you want everyone else to see it. etc etc.
posted by edgeways at 11:14 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeaaaah... what helpful, qualified, non-threatening adult is going to ask you to send naked pictures of yourself engaged in sexual posing or activity?
You're not supposed to sexually exploit even stupid children. I know, I know, but I don't make the rules.
posted by planet at 11:29 PM on November 22, 2010 [34 favorites]


This discussion raises an important question, though. Is sex-crime victim-blaming more acceptable when it comes not from a place of sexism, but rather from net-superiority?
posted by Navelgazer at 11:37 PM on November 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


This is a whole lot. Terrific post.
There's something so perfectly contemporary about this, in the means of it's execution at least. I mean that sociopaths have been ripping it up likely since forever, and posing as people they are not in the process. But the way this particular one went about it is perfectly 'internet.'
I'm not letting my kids even know there is such a thing as the internet until they are at least thirty.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:56 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the internet no one knows you're a dog fucking douchenozzle.
posted by NoraReed at 1:11 AM on November 23, 2010


I have to say the intellectual dissonance here is really stunning.

On one hand, we've got self-identified sex workers, i.e. people who make their living selling a lie, frequently to the desperate railing on someone for doing exactly that.

On the other hand, we've got a creepy, adulterous pervert engaged in pretty broad criminal activity.

The whole "but this is the Internet!" side of things really doesn't interest me much. People pose as other people all the time. All technology did here was enable him to pull off a con he otherwise would have found a lot more difficult on his own. No, it's the idea that what he was doing would have been okay if he had been who he said he was. Seriously, any way you slice it, this person got underaged girls to send him nude pictures and got at least a couple of people to have sex with him. I don't really think that his gender, age, or marital status is necessary to determine that the legal and ethical value of those acts is pretty f*cking negative.
posted by valkyryn at 3:41 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I live in fear of the day when it's finally revealed in public that my blog about being a hapless, schlumpy, and largely undateable gay guy in his forties with mountains of credit card debt, car trouble, and a long history of florid misadventures is actually being written by a young, fulfilled, and financially successful woman with the looks of Audrey Hepburn in her prime and the poise and erudition of Julia Child.

Not that I'm not a hapless, schlumpy, and largely undateable gay guy in his forties, mind you. It's just funny how, for so many people, the internet becomes this sort of wonderland where their most insipid fantasies come out to play, where people fake the deaths of their made-up sad sack characters, or become the objects of their desire, or claim heroic adventures of recovery.

The more I write, out in a semi-public eye, the more I find that I don't need the embroidery, because the inflated narratives are the ones that really don't last, and just fade away into the archives. The thing about the lives of even the most presumably ordinary people in the world is that there is really wonderful stuff hidden in there, but we're a reality TV world now, and no story is worth telling unless it is THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE SHOCKING GROSS-OUT INSANE FULL-TILT PSYCHO-EMBARRASSING OMG DISGUSTING FABULOUS AMAZING AWESOME OUTRAGEOUS thing you've ever heard.

Everything's gotta escalate into insane exaggeration, so untrue that it must be true, because of a quirk in our sick zeitgeist where the only really believable things left are the things that intuition would seem to indicate as highly unlikely. The small isn't worthy anymore.

Then again, I'm not a fucking pervert.

Well, I am, but only a little bit.

And I'll never tell.
posted by sonascope at 4:12 AM on November 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


On one hand, we've got self-identified sex workers, i.e. people who make their living selling a lie, frequently to the desperate railing on someone for doing exactly that.

posted by valkyryn at 3:41 AM on November 23


To characterize a performance or a roleplay as "selling a lie" doesn't strike me as very fair, and not all sex workers even do those things. I challenge you to read some of the blogs linked to above before wielding that broad brush on us all, there's a lot of very honest and candid sex workers sharing some very real shit.
posted by TheTorns at 4:55 AM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Were any of these girls who were exploited (according to legal statute) below the age of consent in a sex-civilized country like France or Holland?

My guess is No.
posted by bukvich at 5:24 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


On one hand, we've got self-identified sex workers, i.e. people who make their living selling a lie, frequently to the desperate railing on someone for doing exactly that.

Are they not selling sex?
posted by empath at 5:37 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sick of the whole Bingo card meme. It's a way of conflating bad-faith arguments with legitimate questions, used by people who don't really want their opinions challenged, but want to leave their comments section open in the hope of buckets of affirmation from strangers. Unsurprisingly, it was pretty hot on LiveJournal for a while.

That having been said, yeesh. This is the kind of guy for whom registered sex offender status was created. (Not that that would have stopped him...)
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:40 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Speaking as a highly nubile, sensuous sixteen year old girl with heaving bosoms, I was shocked by this.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:40 AM on November 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm glad this story has been documented properly now. Thank you.
posted by Jerub at 5:41 AM on November 23, 2010


I challenge you to read some of the blogs linked to above before wielding that broad brush on us all, there's a lot of very honest and candid sex workers sharing some very real shit.

I have read quite a number of them. Fascinating stuff. But as I'm of the opinion that "selling 'sex'" is "selling a lie," the fact that they are in earnest doesn't change things much. I mean, good for them, but I still consider their line of work to be incompatible with human flourishing. Whether it's performance or roleplay doesn't matter under that analysis.

Here's where I'm coming from. Sex is, in the Christian view as I understand it*, something deeply spiritual, the deepest form of connection between two people. It's one of the most powerful ways that we learn about ourselves, about others as human persons, and even about God. So engaging in sexual activity outside the confines of a committed relationship** is, in essence, trading on falsehood, the lie that you can have true intimacy without commitment, cost, or consequence. It's the moral equivalent of using diet pills, snake oil, and electro-stimulators to get in shape instead of how everyone knows that's really done: discipline, exercise, and good eating. The former can produce superficial, temporary, symptomatic improvements to one's physical condition, but will not make any actual improvement even over the short term. Similarly, the sex trade tells people they can have the benefits of true, committed, human relationships without the messiness or hassle of actually being in one when in reality, it's the relationship which makes the sex what it is.

How's the saying go? You don't pay a prostitute to have sex with you, you pay her to leave. The whole enterprise is degrading to everyone that participates in it.

So here, I see people who are basically capitalizing on one of the oldest lies in the world upset at someone for putting a little twist on that lie using modern technology. As I said, the intellectual dissonance is just fascinating. I see it coming down to "It's okay when I use a stage name to facilitate the exchange of sexual favors for money, and it's okay when I tell people how wonderful it is to be a sex worker, but it's not okay with you do it."

The mind just boggles.

*And that right there is going to lose me half my audience. Hear me out.

**I'm a little more flexible than most traditionalists as to what constitutes a "committed relationship," but I'm deliberately keeping that vague so as to permit the broadest possible interpretation. Not interested in discussing that particular point here, as any sincere definition of that point would work for these purposes.
posted by valkyryn at 5:42 AM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I encountered the Alexa persona a few years ago via my own blog. We exchanged emails, and even chatted a little. I was annoyed back then, but not because I suspected fakery - but because frankly, Alexa was a douchebag. And then I got to reading the blog posts, and... Well, things just didn't add up.

My first thought was that she was just a bit crazy, and tended to sensationalize things for her cooing audience. As I noticed more and more holes in the narrative though, I got genuinely annoyed. Here was somebody who clearly didn't have much (or perhaps any) experience in the sex acts she was talking about, let alone engaging in them professionally, dishing out advice and fishing for sympathy to and from a very large audience.

It all read an awful lot like fiction. Not just in the sense that it was bullshit, but moreover that it came across a lot like the fictionalized accounts of sex workers do in books or movies written by authors who don't have any real experience to be drawing from. Right down to the cliche self-loathing and melodramatic existential crisis shit. People lapped it up, too. It was amazing. The blog posts would get loads of comments. They idolized her.

More than anything, the sex blogging community was pissed off because she made us look like idiots, and people really seemed to be digging it. This wasn't just another idiot spouting disinformation and expressing shitty politics though, it was someone claiming to be one of us - and oddly enough, there wasn't that much precedent. At least not on this sort of scale. The scale was huge, too. That blog got a whole bunch of traffic, and shared it among us enough that people started to view her as an unfortunate ally in the quest for more pageviews. This person emailed us, commented on our posts, actively communicated with us. Up until the second round of people calling her out Alexa was engaging in nothing short of an infiltration exercise. Totally bizarre. The amount of time and effort put into this is just incredible.

Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by vocal sex workers is the amount of people speaking "for us" and making largely inaccurate assumptions, and just how much louder their voice often is than ours. Here was someone taking that to a new level, and using and infiltrating the very mediums we'd finally managed to get a decent foothold in. We hoped that by linking to all those high profile sex bloggers we actually respected in her sidebar she would manage to steer a few readers in the right direction, but I was always concerned that those names made her look like part of a community, that they legitimized her. She even won some "best sex blog" award shit from somewhere. It made my heart sink.

The unmasking actually makes me relieved, as snide as that might seem. Not because it's telling me much that I didn't already know (I don't care that Alexa was a guy, all I cared about is that she wasn't who she claimed to be), but because it means that less people are going to be basing their view of sex workers on fiction.
posted by TheTorns at 5:44 AM on November 23, 2010 [21 favorites]


*And that right there is going to lose me half my audience. Hear me out.

I'd wager more like 90%, here.
posted by empath at 5:45 AM on November 23, 2010


he was the "client" that "Alexa" had sent to her protégées to sleep with

Well no shit. I think people were saying this from the start. This kind of stunt has been pulled for before, will be again.
Hope at least he wore a condom.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:47 AM on November 23, 2010


> if you're 16 and confused about your own sexuality, that adult could easily take the form of
> a sex-positive young woman only a few years older than yourself, cheerfully studying
> human sexuality and encouraging her readers to embrace it within themselves.

So is there, like, a place, a role on the internet for sex-negative old farts forty years older that you, sourly reflecting on decades of experience with bongo-crazy featherless bipeds, who is trying to get you to read the memo that says posting naked pix of yourself and intimate details of your confused psychosexual teenage-wasteland life just because somebody you don't know from Adam tells you to is (t>99%) a really bad, dumb idea you will (t>99%) soon regret? Is there even the smallest audience for that kind of not-feelgood advice? Because if there is I'd like to add also, don't play in traffic, kids, you'll get your ass run over by a Peterbilt diesel.
posted by jfuller at 6:04 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Were any of these girls who were exploited (according to legal statute) below the age of consent in a sex-civilized country like France or Holland?

My guess is No.


I'm going to be a contrarian and say that even if these women were over the age of consent, this whole thing is So Not Cool. Sex workers deserve to take whatever measures they can to stay safe, and one aspect of that is vetting clients. This guy took advantage of the naivety of inexperienced women to bypass this crucial check. Part of being sex-civilized is recognizing that even paid sex workers deserve agency over who and what they do.
posted by muddgirl at 6:06 AM on November 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


I still consider their line of work to be incompatible with human flourishing.

Humans have managed to do some pretty impressive flourishing despite the continued prevalence of the world's oldest profession.

Still, the deeper point is that even if they are engaged in something you disapprove of -- selling sex, taking drugs, watching reality TV, whatever -- they don't deserve the attentions of a serial sexual predator (which is I think a pretty fair description of a guy who uses a false identity to coax sexual photographs from young women, etc). This was a point that Jesus made quite forcefully, especially with his connections with prostitutes and other outcasts. He reserved his strongest love for them; he wasn't saying (well, except in some sections written by Paul) that their profession is incompatible with human flourishing -- he was saying that a lack of love for them is incompatible with human flourishing.
posted by Forktine at 6:07 AM on November 23, 2010 [29 favorites]


Still, the deeper point is that even if they are engaged in something you disapprove of -- selling sex, taking drugs, watching reality TV, whatever -- they don't deserve the attentions of a serial sexual predator

I was kind of explicit in my first post that I think what the guy did is criminal. He's a scumbag.
posted by valkyryn at 6:15 AM on November 23, 2010


I'd wager more like 90%, here.

And you don't see anything wrong with that? Because I do. I mean, I pretty much agree, but doesn't that bother you even a little?

posted by valkyryn at 6:18 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


So she is a biological male who self identifies as female? We are all cool with that right. So we are judging motives?

We live increasingly in a post biological world, self identified sexual identity is no longer inseparable from the random chance of birth or various danglie bits.

I often wonder what will become of the concept of biological sex once humans are brains in a vat. Or when "I" am just a brainstem piloting a robot carapace.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:19 AM on November 23, 2010


I was kind of explicit in my first post that I think what the guy did is criminal. He's a scumbag.

Yes, you were. But you then went on to equate his actions with those of the sex worker bloggers:

So here, I see people who are basically capitalizing on one of the oldest lies in the world upset at someone for putting a little twist on that lie using modern technology.

Equating those two things is where I'm parting ways with you, in a big way.
posted by Forktine at 6:36 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Great post, Asaparagirl! Really well done.

On another note entirely, has anyone looked at the guy's original faux-blog entries? They read like a potty-mouthed combination of potboiler detective stories and Craigslist Casual Encounters ads.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:43 AM on November 23, 2010


Here's where I'm coming from. Sex is, in the Christian view as I understand it*, something deeply spiritual, the deepest form of connection between two people. It's one of the most powerful ways that we learn about ourselves, about others as human persons, and even about God. So engaging in sexual activity outside the confines of a committed relationship** is, in essence, trading on falsehood, the lie that you can have true intimacy without commitment, cost, or consequence.
Human beings are -- undeniably -- capable of combining penises and vaginas in a variety of permutations outside the context of a committed relationship. That is a fundamental feature of the human creature. To claim that those who do so are "trading on a falsehood" implies that they agree with you about the purpose, implication, and nature of sex. It's just as easy to say that monogamists are, in essence, trading on a falsehood, the lie that you can chain another person's soul to the ground with a tiny ring of metal, giving one's own petty jealousies and selfishness the weight of law.

Both your statement and that one are ultimately about presuppositions and the conclusions that follow. To say that others are liars, or that they are "trading on falsehoods," presupposes that deep down, they really must agree with your premises and are secretly lying about it. That's a pretty direct path to end-of-conversation.
And you don't see anything wrong with that? Because I do. I mean, I pretty much agree, but doesn't that bother you even a little?
It would bother me if you were subjected to a classic flame-out pile-on and berated. That would bother me a lot, because even though I disagree with what you're saying you communicate your views clearly, effectively, and without attacks on others. If people find the ideas offensive, they do in the same way that some conservatives find the existence of "outed" gays offensive.

I just don't see why anyone on MetaFilter should be assured of a certain percentage of agreement, though. If you lose your audience by stating premises they disagree with and announcing that your conclusions follow that premise, so be it.
posted by verb at 6:44 AM on November 23, 2010 [18 favorites]


And you don't see anything wrong with that? Because I do. I mean, I pretty much agree, but doesn't that bother you even a little?

Sure, it bothers me that 10% of the people here might find that sort of argument convincing, to be completely flippant about it. If you can't make your argument without appealing to Christian doctrine, then I'd suggest that you don't have an argument to be made.
posted by empath at 6:46 AM on November 23, 2010 [18 favorites]


Can I just express how gladdened I am to see that despite being well on the way to 100 comments here, there seems to be only one person exclaiming the moral bankruptcy of sex workers? I was bracing myself for a much nastier derail. It seems like there may be hope for Metafilter doing sex (relatively) well after all. Yay for that!

(I only hope this isn't tempting fate.)
posted by TheTorns at 6:50 AM on November 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


>>But you then went on to equate his actions with those of the sex worker bloggers:

>So here, I see people who are basically capitalizing on one of the oldest lies in the world upset at someone for putting a little twist on that lie using modern technology.

Equating those two things is where I'm parting ways with you, in a big way.


I'm sincerely curious as to why. If it's because you disagree with my moral assessment of the legitimacy of sex work, hey, fine, but I'd really be interested in your argument as to why what this guy did is that different from what sex workers do on a daily basis, i.e. trade sex for money using artificial public personae. True, some of the things he did are criminal, but most sex workers' trade is illegal too. True, he wasn't who he said he was, but most sex workers aren't either.

Really, how are you going to draw this line? Again, I think everyone involved in this situation, both this guy and his sex worker critics, are in the wrong (except for the minors he duped). You seem to want to say different, yes? I want to know why.
posted by valkyryn at 6:53 AM on November 23, 2010


Are you seriously suggesting that sex workers are victimizing their clients?
posted by empath at 6:55 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]



And you don't see anything wrong with that? Because I do. I mean, I pretty much agree, but doesn't that bother you even a little?


What's interesting to me is that you assume (and for all I know, you may be right) that you lose your audience because of the Christian nature of your argument, while for me, it's actually exactly the reverse.

It's because of immoral, victim-blaming, abstractly intellectualized, arrogant arguments like that that I've rejected Christianity, not the other way around. It could be a Buddhist argument that sex workers are all deceivers and-thus-its-ironic-when-underage-people-are-preyed-on, and I'd still think it was indicitive of a lack of basic empathy and a broken soul.
posted by Myca at 6:58 AM on November 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Both your statement and that one are ultimately about presuppositions and the conclusions that follow.

I'm pretty much okay with that; I think that most statements are ultimately about presuppositions and their consequences. A lot of what I try to do around here is point that out.

Still, though I seem to have managed to avoid all-out flame wars to this point, I do feel pretty berated around here on a regular basis. I know full well that many MeFites seem to disagree with me on a lot of things, but people refusing to listen from the get-go is still depressing.
posted by valkyryn at 7:02 AM on November 23, 2010


and he was the "client" that "Alexa" had sent to her protégées to sleep with...

Ew. Just ew, ew, and ew.
posted by ifjuly at 7:03 AM on November 23, 2010


Are you seriously suggesting that sex workers are victimizing their clients?

And vice versa, to be sure. But why can't it be both? I think those exchanges make everyone worse off. I mean, we think that drug dealers peddling heroin on street corners victimize their clients, and a lot of people also think that Wal-Mart victimizes its customers by getting them hooked on cheap goods, the ultimate cost of which is both hidden and bad for society. If we're going with the idea that anyone who sells something bad for their customers can be said to be victimizing said customers, why can't we say this too?
posted by valkyryn at 7:05 AM on November 23, 2010


but people refusing to listen from the get-go is still depressing.

Man, you made an argument based on premises that empath does not share. For him to stop listening isn't jerky.

If I made an argument about how, "it's ironic that rape victims complain about their assaults, because they commit assault every day by wearing short skirts," and it was all premised on, "Baal is Lord," I wouldn't expect you to listen, because I'd be making a morally abhorrent argument based on premises not shared by most people.

That's what you did here.
posted by Myca at 7:07 AM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


My general, and admittedly trite, test is to replace all occurrences of "Christ" with Flying Spaghetti Monster (you can insert the false deity of your choice) and see if the argument still makes sense. Often it still does, but the FSM is superfluous and only detracts from it.
posted by empath at 7:13 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd really be interested in your argument as to why what this guy did is that different from what sex workers do on a daily basis, i.e. trade sex for money using artificial public personae.

posted by valkyryn at 6:53 AM on November 23


I know a couple of the people linked to in the FPP personally, and their "public personae" are far from artificial.

I'm insulted on their behalf that you'd assume so, especially because what I'm saying seems to me and many others quite apparent when one actually reads what they write.

Unless you're someone that refuses to believe that anyone can have a valid outlook of their own sexuality that is fundamentally in disagreement to yours, of course. If that's the case I can quite understand why it may be easier for you to assume that they must be lying about a lot of things, but, if that IS the case I really hope this derail just fizzles out quietly sooner rather than later. There's really not much to be gained from debating somebody like that.
posted by TheTorns at 7:13 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, valkryn has managed to encapsulate just about everything that is wrong about the Christian view of sexuality in one convenient comment.

So engaging in sexual activity outside the confines of a committed relationship** is, in essence, trading on falsehood, the lie that you can have true intimacy without commitment, cost, or consequence

Here's a clue: Sex is not intrinsically about either commitment or intimacy. Sex is about satisfying a biological urge which exists so that there will be a new generation of humans to take our place when we die. Humans have many patterns of behavior in the course of satisfying that urge, and none of them, including Christianity, have a monopoly.

Now that's not to say sex can't be better -- particularly for certain people, or in combination with certain other practices -- if it is enhanced with commitment or intimacy. I practice monogamy myself. But to accuse someone of lying because they don't follow your style is simply, absolutely, wrong. There are some people, and for that matter some spiritual systems, for which other approaches are preferable.

Of course, the reason Christianity foists such a narrow and focused view of sexuality on its followers is that it is part of a comprehensive system of social control, and the reason Christians are taught to freak out so thoroughly at violations of this narrow approach is that it threatens the power of religious leaders to keep their followers in line. It's a crass and very obvious manipulative technique most of which snuck into Church doctrine through the writings of that misogynist creep Paul, a man who never even met Jesus of Nazareth and whose teachings bear scant relation to those of Christ -- but seemed quite useful to those at the Council of Nicea who were more interested in a tool for wrestling power from the pagan priesthood than in fostering an actual spiritual awakening in their followers.
posted by localroger at 7:14 AM on November 23, 2010 [26 favorites]


see if the argument still makes sense. Often it still does, but the FSM is superfluous and only detracts from it.

Which is why I asked people to bear with me. I wasn't going to lie about where I was coming from, but I did suggest that my position is at least intelligible without said reference. I can't believe that you mean that people exposing their basic assumptions about the world detracts from conversation, so the only conclusion is that you believe that Christians (or just religious people in general) exposing their basic assumptions about the world detracts from conversation. Which isn't terribly enlightened.

So fine, punt the reference to Christianity, see if what I have to say still makes sense. Go for it. You haven't really made the effort thus far.
posted by valkyryn at 7:17 AM on November 23, 2010


why what this guy did is that different from what sex workers do on a daily basis, i.e. trade sex for money using artificial public personae.


I'll take a stab at that, if you don't mind --

Sex workers and clients exchange sex and money with each believing they've given the other something that the other understands and values. This creep tricked people, taking and giving nothing in return. He intentionally deceived others. He intended all along, not to trade but to trick.

It's difficult, I think, for people as far apart as you I and may be on the fundamentals to talk, though. Because we disagree on both substance and semantics. But even if I agree, for the sake of argument, that trading sex for money makes humans into less than God hopes for them to be, I can't agree that they're selling a "lie" because "lie" to me implies a volitional and knowing deception. One blind man leading another into a ditch is not a lie. It becomes a lie when a sighted man deliberately leads his sister into a ditch.
posted by tyllwin at 7:23 AM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter Defense: she was eventually 18
posted by DU at 7:23 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Valkyryn, bro, bro.

Sex is, in the Christian view as I understand it*, something deeply spiritual, the deepest form of connection between two people. It's one of the most powerful ways that we learn about ourselves, about others as human persons, and even about God.

QUESTIONS
- Why should we use the Christian definition of sex?

- How do you know the Christian view of sex is the proper way to define it?

- Why do you assume sex is the most paramount form of intimacy to everyone?

- Why are "sex as intimacy" and "sex as physical pleasure" mutually exclusive practices? Do the hugs I give to acquaintances cheapen the hugs I give to my best friends? Does giving a stranger's child a stuffed animal through a "Giving Tree" Christmas program mean the stuffed animal you pick out for your own child is somehow less? And if so, does this mean all of our actions towards others should be interpreted in purely a literalist sense rather than intention and motive? And if so, does this mean when your grandmother knits you a sweater you think is ugly you can throw it in her face and tell her to make you a new one?

If it's because you disagree with my moral assessment of the legitimacy of sex work, hey, fine, but I'd really be interested in your argument as to why what this guy did is that different from what sex workers do on a daily basis, i.e. trade sex for money using artificial public personae.

A person who purchases the surface of a sex worker is looking for an artificial public personae. There is no secret that personae is artificial. Indeed, that is the point of going to a sex worker. You're looking for the sex worker to provide you a specific experience that you aren't finding "authentically," the same way you go to a restaurant to provide a dining experience you aren't finding "authentically." When a waiter is polite to you they're doing the same thing, but you aren't seriously arguing that because the waiter may be polite to you because it's their job and not because they truly love you and are deeply interested in your dining needs that you're being deceived. It's inherent to the nature of the transaction. There is a common social understanding that you are meeting someone's "job"/"artificial"/whatever personae when their job involves some service to you, no matter what that service is.

This is not what this guy was doing. He did not enter this blog world laying it out that his personae was an artificial one designed to entertain and engender discussion. He portrayed it as his true, real self. Now, the Internet is kind of a funny place as there is a wide range of opinions on what personae we should be assuming are inauthentic and in what contexts (from "everyone on the Internet is a 40-year-old pervert" to "Of course this 20-something Swiss model-professional DJ-Nobel laureate is exactly who she says she is"). But I think the common understanding here is that this guy, in this context, in the way he portrayed himself, the authority he adopted, and his interactions with the online sex worker community, was supposed to be taken as pretty much who he said he was.

So yeah, no, not the same brosephini. Not the same at all.
posted by schroedinger at 7:24 AM on November 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have to say the expose-a-bro evidence is pretty thin gruel for essentially destroying the life of this dude. It's a good start at collecting evidence for a court case, but if I were on a jury being asked to decide on the basis of that website, then all it would take would be for him to say "I was her IT guy, and helped her set up the internet stuff, because I am an internet guy, and she is a sex therapist, and she wants to be confidential," and bam, I'd have reason enough to doubt.

It's entirely possible that he did it, that he's an evil child molester, liar, etc., and so forth, but even though the alleged crimes are serious (under US law) and vile (under any moral system), and it's natural to feel repugnance at the whole thing, it seems to me that a lot of people in this thread are jumping all the way to the end and assuming guilt based on the word of some amateur internet investigators, which does not always work out.
posted by felix at 7:26 AM on November 23, 2010


It would be really, really tremendous to have this thread that isn't remotely about Christian morality re: sex-outside-of-marriage-type-situations not turn into a big argument specifically about that. Please, thank you.
posted by cortex at 7:26 AM on November 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


I can't believe that you mean that people exposing their basic assumptions about the world detracts from conversation,

It adds to the conversation in that additional words are said, and I appreciate other people's viewpoints, and I actually love religion and talking about religion, but that appreciation basically ends when religious people try to use religion to make an actual argument either about how the world is or how it should be.

If they happen to make an argument or endorse a policy that I happen to already agree with, that's great and convenient, otherwise, I just tune it out.
posted by empath at 7:30 AM on November 23, 2010


Similarly, the sex trade tells people they can have the benefits of true, committed, human relationships without the messiness or hassle of actually being in one when in reality, it's the relationship which makes the sex what it is.

I think most sex workers and their customers know they are selling and buying sex, not the false promise of "true committed human relationships."

So engaging in sexual activity outside the confines of a committed relationship** is, in essence, trading on falsehood, the lie that you can have true intimacy without commitment, cost, or consequence.

Why do you think that people who have casual or paid sex are looking for intimacy? Really, I think your statements here show that you're unable to see past your own Christian prejudices. You're assuming things about sex that don't apply to all people, not even all Christians. You wonder why people don't listen to you, but you're here telling non-Christians (or different kinds of Christians) that they're supposed to feel a certain way about sex because of your personal religion. Do you really not understand that beliefs that are derived from a particular religious belief system don't apply to people outside that system? I have no problem at all with religious people who apply their beliefs internally, to their own lives. But when they start going around proclaiming those beliefs as facts or acting as if they have some kind of universal applicability, it's bothersome. You are clearly a very smart guy, so your apparent inability to get this is weird to me.
posted by Mavri at 7:35 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know a couple of the people linked to in the FPP personally, and their "public personae" are far from artificial.

I'm insulted on their behalf that you'd assume so, especially because what I'm saying seems to me and many others quite apparent when one actually reads what they write.


Okay, that was poorly put then. My apologies. By "artificial" I meant something which could be as simple as "Using a stage name." "Maggie Mayhem?" Really? I mean, everyone knows that's not her real name, right? I'm under the impression that most sex workers don't use their real identities in their trade, if only as a way of avoiding prosecution and protecting their "civilian" lives. That right there suggests that there's a high degree of compartmentalization going on. But I did not mean to suggest that anyone was engaging in a kind of false-consciousness or being disingenuous. I do mean to suggest that sex workers are putting on an act, because they're paid to put on an act.

But it's not just with their names. When you're paying someone for sex--or for a performance of sex in the case of porn stars--you're paying them to act like they enjoy it (or not, if that's what you're paying for; whatever). Now those same workers may go on their blogs and say "Hey, I really enjoyed a recent experience," or "That totally sucked," and they may even be honest about that, but the point is that the consumer, at the point of consumption, can reasonably assume that what they're getting now is artifice to some degree. I mean, hell, the trope that a john falls in love with a hooker because he believes that she really cares about him when she's only doing her job is older than dirt.

Which is why I don't think this is a derail.

Sex workers, by their very nature, are actors, and everyone knows this. One can reasonably assume that before "Alexa" was outed, people believed that she was putting on the same kind of act, even if she was being unusually candid about said act. The outrage only came when the act was discovered to be larger than previously assumed.

So then: how are we supposed to distinguish these things? All I can come up with is that the "Alexa" bit goes a little beyond the scope of the normal act, but from where I'm sitting this looks like a difference in degree, not in kind. In other words, yes, the guy is not who he said he was, but to a certain extent, neither is anyone else in this industry, and I'm having trouble explaining why what he did is categorically different than what everyone else does. No one has yet made an argument as to why it should be considered a difference in kind, and I remain sincerely interested in hearing such an argument.

*Except the kiddie porn parts. I'm under the impression that the sex bloggers and most of the industry actually care about that.
posted by valkyryn at 7:35 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Asparagirl, thanks for the well-researched, thoughtful and thorough post. Would have been great for the December post contest, in fact.

I think we are all in agreement that people lie on the internet all the time. That's not the issue for me here.

And I think we can all agree that sending people you don't know nude pictures of yourself in sexual positions belongs firmly in the "NEVER DO UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES" column, too.

But this guy did more than take advantage of some gullible people to get his rocks off in private. That, though skeezy, is *probably* not illegal.

It's when he used fraud to get sex workers into his home that it gets into criminal territory for me, regardless of their ages. Because he is hiring prostitutes (and though I think prostitution should be legal, where he hired them it is still a crime), and he should be liable to criminal charges for the fraud and the soliciting sex charges at least.

The rest of what he's done can serve as a valuable resource for teaching your kids that, again, people lie on the internet all the time.
posted by misha at 7:36 AM on November 23, 2010


Sorry about contributing to the derail. I didn't preview.
posted by Mavri at 7:37 AM on November 23, 2010


I'm not too worried about the "what's to stop well-meaning members of another community from coming together to expose a sex-worker" question, dogrose. You see, one wonderful feature about the internet is : You can play by the rules of less crazy people merely by hosting your site abroad.

Any legit sex worker could host her blog in a country where prostitution is legal like Germany or France. Yes, you're online community might expose her, but the police will not see any cooperation from her blog's hosting service. In this case, we're talking about pedophilia however, not sex work. So U.S. police will see infinite cooperation from virtually any ISP or foreign police force.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:38 AM on November 23, 2010


So fine, punt the reference to Christianity, see if what I have to say still makes sense

Okay:
Sex is, in the Christian view as I understand it*, something deeply spiritual, the deepest form of connection between two people. It's one of the most powerful ways that we learn about ourselves, about others as human persons, and even about God.

Hmmm....still works better like this:

Sex is, in the Christian view as I understand it*, something deeply spiritual, the deepest form of connection between two people. It's one of the most powerful ways that we learn about ourselves, about others as human persons, and even about God fun.
posted by inigo2 at 7:42 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Forktine: That's where it crosses the line from mildly creepy and weird into seriously fucked up territory. He needs to be put in a box and mailed to Israel, and they can prosecute him for having sex under false pretenses or just return the box postage unpaid. Ick.

Oh yeah, rendition is awesome.


Seriously, what the fuck?
posted by paisley henosis at 7:54 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


So she is a biological male who self identifies as female? We are all cool with that right. So we are judging motives?

I know it's been awhile but this needs to be addressed. First of all, I see no evidence that Pat is in any way transgendered. Alexa is a completely different personality from Pat, with a different and continuing life history. It is possible that Pat has DID or something like it, but the chances of that are pretty unlikely.

Role-playing as sexual exploration is fine, but defrauding people into confiding in you or having sex with you is exploitative, whether you are cis or trans gendered, gay or straight, man or woman.

We don't have to judge anyone's motives - we are judging their actions.
posted by muddgirl at 8:06 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


In this case, we're talking about pedophilia however,

Are we? I can't read everything right now (@ work) but were some of the girls pre-pubescent? If not let's not start veering into Nancy Grace hysterics territory, it doesn't really accomplish anything. This guy is apparently creepy enough without flinging false pedophilia accusations around.
posted by MikeMc at 8:08 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd really like to emphasize muddgirl's comment upthread. Regardless of the Christian sex/morality derail, sex workers have the right to choose their clients based on their best guesses as to who is a safe client. And sure, we can talk about how these young women need to learn how to vet their clients carefully, but they were taken in by a large hoax that convinced a lot of other people, too.

Let's say we're even in our enlightened Holland -- is it okay to compromise those sex workers' judgment over what is safe? Are we more interested in calling them internet-stupid, or creating an industry where the maximum number of people are safe the maximum number of times?

If we're concerned for their well-being as human beings, this is a big deal.
posted by lillygog at 8:11 AM on November 23, 2010


Isn't the Internet great?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:15 AM on November 23, 2010


Fantastic post Asparagirl!

And if we're talking theology, I'm entirely certain that Zeus would approve of the sort of shit behaviour perpetrated by 'Alexa' since he was a fan of raping women while disguised as swans or bulls. This doesn't make it right.
posted by Coobeastie at 8:20 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


lillygog: Are we more interested in calling them internet-stupid, or creating an industry where the maximum number of people are safe the maximum number of times?

How about: we are interested in people learning not to be internet-stupid so that they can more thoroughly vet their prospects and be safer, increasing the over-all safety.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:29 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


So... we're interested in teaching people not to be stupid... and then scolding instead of helping them when they fail? It's the American Way.
posted by muddgirl at 8:34 AM on November 23, 2010


There is a common social understanding that you are meeting someone's "job"/"artificial"/whatever personae when their job involves some service to you, no matter what that service is.

This is not what this guy was doing. . . . I think the common understanding here is that this guy, in this context, in the way he portrayed himself, the authority he adopted, and his interactions with the online sex worker community, was supposed to be taken as pretty much who he said he was.


Okay, let's break that down then. For the people he "tricked" into having sex with him... didn't they get exactly what they wanted? I mean, he got sex, they got money. Fair enough, right? I'm having a little trouble seeing how the risk of exposure here is any greater than in any other illicit situation: the cops can get access to your email and phone records without too much trouble if they suspect you're doing stuff they don't want you to do.

But I'm really having trouble sorting out the rest of it. If everyone knows that we're talking to a professional personae, part of which is to convince people that it isn't a professional personae, where are the boundaries? I mean, you've got comments in the FPP where a sex worker describes sex workers as an oppressed minority group entitled to civil rights akin to those afforded on the basis of race or gender.

So where does the "job persona" end and the "real person" begin under such an analysis? If you want to say "I do this for a living, but it really isn't who I am," trying to cash in on it as if it were who you really are 1) just seems bizarre, and 2) would seem to avoid some of the outrage you talk about. But how can you take the other tack, "This is really who I am," how is that compatible with the admitted fact that you're interacting with a professional persona?

I just can't make the two go together.
posted by valkyryn at 8:34 AM on November 23, 2010


For the people he "tricked" into having sex with him... didn't they get exactly what they wanted? I mean, he got sex, they got money. Fair enough, right?

Wrong. They entered an agreement with someone who claimed to be "Matt", vouched for by someone who claimed to be "Alexa".

If Matt doesn't exist and Alexa doesn't exist, then they entered that agreement based on fraudulent facts - aka lies. The fact that it "worked out OK in the end" does not justify the lies.
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Here's a clue: Sex is not intrinsically about either commitment or intimacy. Sex is about satisfying
> a biological urge which exists so that there will be a new generation of humans to take our place when we die.

Well, that's certainly the anthropoid (revised taxonomy, Simiiform) POV. And I do see how commitment and intimacy get ineluctably tangled up with "spiritual" values and unprovable assertions and all that, which you'll want to avoid. Plus, sex in the simiiform manner so often involves all females approaching any male in lip-smacking fear with vagina presented, so that's another reason.

Counter-clue: amongst extreme K-strategists like us peoples, the urge for pair bonding carries as much selection value as just getting the ol' pole in the ol' hole.
posted by jfuller at 8:41 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wrong. They entered an agreement with someone who claimed to be "Matt", vouched for by someone who claimed to be "Alexa".

Because no john in the history of the world has ever given a name other than his own? Or claimed references he didn't have?

Again, I think what the guy did is reprehensible, I'm just having trouble figuring out why it's a different kind of reprehensible than the industry seems to take in stride.
posted by valkyryn at 8:42 AM on November 23, 2010


Because no john in the history of the world has ever given a name other than his own? Or claimed references he didn't have?

Two wrongs don't make a right and you know it. It's always reprehensible - this case is just more publicised.

Also, giving a fake name and giving a fake history are two different things. False references are dangerous period.
posted by muddgirl at 8:44 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


In other words: Yes, I believe sex workers have to accept some danger because prostitution is illegal. That doesn't mean that individual actors who increase the danger should be excused - it means we should consider, as a culture, whether it is better to let these men and women operate in an unsafe environment, or whether we should work to make the environment more safe.
posted by muddgirl at 8:47 AM on November 23, 2010


There's a difference between someone acting and someone pretending to be an actor.

Even if dinner theater is the deepest way that we experience intimacy and connection.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:48 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My only contribution is to point out that Amazon makes it super-easy to find out about your purchases. Just putting your various Wish Lists on Private is not enough — you additionally have to go through a fairly tedious exchange of emails with tech support to make your email address and name unsearchable.

He did an amazingly sloppy job of not covering his tracks, especially for someone in IT. Has he not heard of a VPN? How to get archive.org to take down your old content? Registering sites anonymously?
posted by adipocere at 8:49 AM on November 23, 2010


If someone was blogging about being disabled, and turned out to be able-bodied, there would be an uproar. If an anonymous blogger wrote about being a racial minority or queer, but wasn't, that would be clearly manipulative and unethical: that person would rightly be shunned.

I don't think this is a good way of making that case. I think it's kind of ill considered actually.


Because fraud is good? I mean, certainly those cases don't have the wide array of criminal acts associated with this one, but they'd still be examples of shitty behavior.
posted by kmz at 8:50 AM on November 23, 2010


Again, I think what the guy did is reprehensible, I'm just having trouble figuring out why it's a different kind of reprehensible than the industry seems to take in stride.
I think this basically boils down to the idea that there's a difference between "Deception" and "Disagreeing with my premises."

You say that you are all about pointing out the fact that different people have different premises, but you seem to be missing the implications of it in this story.
posted by verb at 8:53 AM on November 23, 2010


My perspective on this comes from knowing people who did sex work and taking a course from a person who studied sex workers.

To start with, sex-worker advocates argue that the job would be a lot less dishonest if it were practiced openly. Do we call it reprehensible when we pay Nick Cage aka Nicholas Francis Coppola to play a role on screen? Sex workers see themselves as doing a job and offering an entertainment service. Pseudonyms are necessary for three reasons 1) protection from legal prosecution, 2) providing needed boundaries, and 3) open discrimination against people who participate in the industry. (Which doesn't apply to cops and hotel managers who take their own slice of the pie.)

Another side of the industry is that participants depend on each other for safety and community. Safe spaces and non-judgmental social contacts who don't see you as tricks are apparently extremely valuable resources. And that's where a chunk of the outrage at Pat comes from. Infiltrating the same kinds of networks that sex workers depend on for safety in order to provide fake advice and referral networks is scummy above and beyond sex workers and clients using fake names.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:06 AM on November 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'd wager more like 90%, here.

And you don't see anything wrong with that? Because I do. I mean, I pretty much agree, but doesn't that bother you even a little?


Christianity, aside from being fake, doesn't have a very good track record in these areas.
posted by device55 at 9:08 AM on November 23, 2010


"The outrage only came when the act was discovered to be larger than previously assumed."

Well, and the whole "goading teens into sending nude pics," which you seem to have missed.

"So then: how are we supposed to distinguish these things? All I can come up with is that the "Alexa" bit goes a little beyond the scope of the normal act, but from where I'm sitting this looks like a difference in degree, not in kind."

Really? And you, trained in the law? That's like saying that a stripper stealing your wallet is a difference in degree and not kind. You ignore that the exploitation in this is inverted, you ignore the very real difference between sex workers and sex educators, you ignore the solicitation of nude pictures from minors… I am simply amazed at the amount of willful ignorance and intellectual dishonesty that you are willing to propound in order to make a thoroughly blinkered theological point.
posted by klangklangston at 9:12 AM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Valkyryn, you can't deliberately beg the question (you even acknowledge that you are starting from assumptions that 90% of your audience doesn't share) then get upset when people don't engage your argument. You can't expect people to reply in good faith when your argument wasn't made in good faith to begin with.
posted by [citation needed] at 9:13 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


He did an amazingly sloppy job of not covering his tracks, especially for someone in IT. Has he not heard of a VPN? How to get archive.org to take down your old content? Registering sites anonymously?
posted by adipocere at 8:49 AM on November 23


Any ruse of this sort of scale is bound to have holes, I'm surprised their weren't more, given the time and effort put into all this. Perhaps Alexa was emboldened by the mass of sycophants ready to jump to her defense? Perhaps seeing how easy it was to maintain that following despite people exposing some pretty big falsehoods already, years ago, a certain false sense of security was developed?

It's really hard to put yourself in this person's shoes. Anyone crazy enough to go to all this time and effort to build a tower of lies for seemingly so little gain is clearly not terribly rational. I'm pretty sure there's easier ways to get laid, or see teenage boob shots. They might have been fringe benefits, but the entire point of the exercise? Surely not. Surely?

Maybe over time we'll hear more from people who were duped, and see a wider picture, more ends that might seem to make more sense of the means, and the apparent risks involved in those means. Continuing to spread the bullshit so wide and thin even after it all seems to fall apart is just so batshit to me. Why he didn't cut and run while he was still anonymous, perhaps crop up again under a new persona elsewhere having learned from his mistakes, is beyond me. All I can think is that he was just so proud of Alexa, and her success, that he couldn't bring himself to kill her and start again.
posted by TheTorns at 9:16 AM on November 23, 2010


Again, I think what the guy did is reprehensible, I'm just having trouble figuring out why it's a different kind of reprehensible than the industry seems to take in stride.

But, as you've noted earlier, we disagree on the basic premise. I don't see what the industry does as inherently reprehensible.

However, even if we did agree on that basic premise, there is such a thing as so great a difference in degree as to be a difference in kind. Let's say that we agree that the industry is harmful to morality. What this "Alexa" person did could have put these young women in physical danger.

I'd really like to focus on these young women, and sex workers, as human beings. My first priority is to secure their physical safety.
posted by lillygog at 9:47 AM on November 23, 2010


Sex workers, by their very nature, are actors, and everyone knows this. One can reasonably assume that before "Alexa" was outed, people believed that she was putting on the same kind of act, even if she was being unusually candid about said act. The outrage only came when the act was discovered to be larger than previously assumed.

So then: how are we supposed to distinguish these things? All I can come up with is that the "Alexa" bit goes a little beyond the scope of the normal act, but from where I'm sitting this looks like a difference in degree, not in kind. In other words, yes, the guy is not who he said he was, but to a certain extent, neither is anyone else in this industry, and I'm having trouble explaining why what he did is categorically different than what everyone else does. No one has yet made an argument as to why it should be considered a difference in kind, and I remain sincerely interested in hearing such an argument.


Ummm, the guy is not a sex worker. That's the whole problem. Are sex workers all liars/actors/whatever? Maybe yes, maybe no, but this guy is not a sex worker.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:50 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I'm insulted on their behalf
posted by HopperFan at 10:04 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm just having trouble figuring out why it's a different kind of reprehensible than the industry seems to take in stride.

BECAUSE THE PEOPLE YOU ARE TRYING TO ARGUE WITH DO NOT THINK SEX IS A DIRTY HOLY SACRED WRONGFUL SHAME SO YOU MIGHT NOT GET WHY THEY DON'T THINK SEX WORK IS EQUAL TO BEING A SEXUAL PREDATOR
posted by setanor at 10:09 AM on November 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


Here's a clue: Sex is not intrinsically about either commitment or intimacy. Sex is about satisfying a biological urge which exists so that there will be a new generation of humans to take our place when we die.

Wait, what? I want none of these things. I just want to get off. That's still allowed, right?
posted by elizardbits at 10:17 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Another side of the industry is that participants depend on each other for safety and community. Safe spaces and non-judgmental social contacts who don't see you as tricks are apparently extremely valuable resources. And that's where a chunk of the outrage at Pat comes from. Infiltrating the same kinds of networks that sex workers depend on for safety in order to provide fake advice and referral networks is scummy above and beyond sex workers and clients using fake names.

Okay, see, that I can understand. That makes sense to me. That I can easily see as being categorically different than the kind of "deception" that is the sex industry's stock-in-trade.

To restate more generally (and feel free to critique if I'm not getting it): the sex industry admittedly has a problem with credibility, i.e. traditional means of determining when people mean what they say they mean and are who they say they are don't work very well for a variety of reasons. Some of that is due to the legal environment, but some may just go with the territory--traditional celebrities also mitigate their contact with the public and most manage their public image pretty carefully. So the sex work community, such as it is, has developed its own, internal, and largely independent system for establishing credit on its own terms. This is a vital part of any community formation, legitimate or not, and across the board, tampering with credibility systems is a Really Big Deal, because it calls the entire community project into question. What this guy did was to infiltrate and exploit that system for selfish and scummy reasons. This is taking advantage of people in ways that break the cultural "rules" for such transactions.

Assuming the above is acceptable as a statement of the problem, I would consider that to be an entirely satisfactory explanation for the outrage this seems to have provoked. I just didn't get it right away.

I think that the fact that he was doing this for selfish and scummy reasons is probably important here too. This is the sort of thing that law enforcement would just love to pull off, but I don't think it would produce the same kind of outrage if it was revealed that "Alexa" was a cop. I'm guessing that'd be more of a "Well played, you bastard," than "DIAF," because the infiltration and exploitation would be for reasons which fit within the accepted cultural rules, i.e. sex workers know what they do is often illegal and that cops are usually out to get them. While there's certainly a debate about whether this is a good thing, everyone knows that it's a thing, and it's taken in stride as the lay of the land. But the shit that this guy pulled, on the other hand, is not.
posted by valkyryn at 10:23 AM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Another side of the industry is that participants depend on each other for safety and community. Safe spaces and non-judgmental social contacts who don't see you as tricks are apparently extremely valuable resources. And that's where a chunk of the outrage at Pat comes from. Infiltrating the same kinds of networks that sex workers depend on for safety in order to provide fake advice and referral networks is scummy above and beyond sex workers and clients using fake names.

valkryn, I'm really glad to see you zero in on this. This is exactly what I was trying to articulate, but not doing as good a job. Regardless of how you feel about the sex industry as a whole, this guy is messing with other humans in a bad, bad way.
posted by lillygog at 10:39 AM on November 23, 2010


Why he didn't cut and run while he was still anonymous, perhaps crop up again under a new persona elsewhere having learned from his mistakes, is beyond me. All I can think is that he was just so proud of Alexa, and her success, that he couldn't bring himself to kill her and start again.

Probably that, in part but if we're playing "speculating on the motives of psycho dbags" I'd plump for more that he had a certain investment in being her, too, not just that he'd pulled off the scam but in that he had fans who loved
him, people who trusted him with their secrets... He could have found pics of boobs anywhere. The charge is in the manner in which they're offered, part shy and part bold, and always in the desperate unexpressed hope of his approval. That's what you get out of there being a real girl at the other end of the inbox. It wouldn't surprise me if he got more of a thrill hearing about his encounters from the girl's side than he did from the act itself. It's a Svengali trip, one with an extra side of trust, of parity, because of their believing him to be
a woman. To win back that place again under a new guise would have been difficult, maybe impossible
posted by Diablevert at 10:39 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Regardless of how you feel about the sex industry as a whole, this guy is messing with other humans in a bad, bad way.

Totally. Again, my confusion arose from the fact that while I have a perfectly good justification for thinking that this is wrong, i.e. I think the whole sex industry is wrong, I was having trouble coming up with such a justification for someone who thinks there isn't any problem with having a sex industry as such. And now I think I see it.
posted by valkyryn at 10:43 AM on November 23, 2010


BECAUSE THE PEOPLE YOU ARE TRYING TO ARGUE WITH DO NOT THINK SEX IS A DIRTY HOLY SACRED WRONGFUL SHAME SO YOU MIGHT NOT GET WHY THEY DON'T THINK SEX WORK IS EQUAL TO BEING A SEXUAL PREDATOR
Just to make clear: Valkyryn's comments do not suggest that sex is dirty, wrongful, or shameful. The Christian view of sex that valkyryn outlines holds that sex is really, really awesome and important and that it's cheapened by treating it as a simple biological function or recreational activity.

You can disagree with that, and you can even say that -- as with Islamic cultures that talk big about Women Being Super Important -- it just becomes a sneakier way of devaluing something in practice. But collapsing his views in that way is a flagrant misrepresentation.
posted by verb at 11:00 AM on November 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


valkyryn: I think beyond that, there's another concern here which is that visible "faked" accounts of prostitution undermine the credibility of people with experience doing sex work.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:16 AM on November 23, 2010


My difficulty with the Christian interpretation here (and related interpretations, like the Kantian one) is precisely that they privilege how I think your sexuality works over how you think your sexuality works. And honestly, I just don't think that we have the ability to get around the problem of authority that that introduces. When we try, we end up pretty quickly in situations where we are claiming that sex is 'better' that the people involved report as as being 'worse' and vice-versa.

TheTorns had a comment earlier that touched on this, but rather than saying "Sex is X" where X can equal any of loving communion, cheap thrill, reproduction, biological urge, friendship, etc., maybe we ought to realize that there are a variety of things that Sex can mean, people put their own individual meanings onto it, and attacking people who do not share your meaning is a little like screaming at someone that "Hummus is the one true food," and that people who do not agree are "liars."

Like: Naw man. Maybe they just don't dig on chickpeas. That's cool. They're not stopping you.
posted by Myca at 11:16 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate to be briefly snarky, but--I'm pretty sure my reading of the New Testament says that, basically, prostitutes (and presumably therefore sex workers in general) are still people who deserve treating with the general respect and dignity as, you know, everybody else.

Let he who has not sinned and all that?

Right.

Just to have someone here to point out that what valkyryn's saying up there--the point of which I'm not totally sure I get at all--is not in any way a comprehensive description of what Christians In General would think about this, please.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:18 AM on November 23, 2010


attacking people who do not share your meaning

Pretty sure I never did that. Just sayin'.

posted by valkyryn at 11:27 AM on November 23, 2010


Again, my confusion arose from the fact that while I have a perfectly good justification for thinking that this is wrong, i.e. I think the whole sex industry is wrong, I was having trouble coming up with such a justification for someone who thinks there isn't any problem with having a sex industry as such. And now I think I see it.

While I still think your initial comment was begging the question, I take back the accusation that it was made in bad faith. You have clearly made a good faith effort to understand other views in this thread, which is the important part, as far as I'm concerned. Please ignore my callout above.
posted by [citation needed] at 11:29 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a good time as any to introduce myself. I am Maggie Mayhem and it was quite a surprise to find myself linked on a FPP.

The spectrum of internet fakery is pretty wide. No, Maggie Mayhem is not my real name. It's also fairly unlikely that the screen name you operate under is your real name either. Although we might have a pseudonym, most of us are usually being pretty upfront about ourselves. There is a difference between an exaggeration and an outright lie especially when it has been cultivated for nefarious means.

Someone who goes into as much effort as the Alexa persona did in the creation of an online persona is an anomaly. When we say that he had an extensive internet persona we're talking about 6 different Tumblr accounts, roughly 100 tweets everyday, a fake escort business website, the main blog "The Real Princess Diaries," email correspondence with a lot of different people, and several other side projects. It wasn't just sex workers and teenage girls that "Alexa" was talking to but also prospective Johns. Being "Alexa" was a full time job for this person and there was no monetary compensation. These sites did not utilize any form advertising to generate income and because "Alexa" wasn't actually an escort there was no money coming in from that either. A lot of time, effort, and money went into this project. It's definitely enough to make me wonder if collecting some underage photos and meet up with for sex under false pretenses were just the tip of the iceberg.

At the very least, the fact that the person most likely behind this whole facade was employed by DEMA should be of concern to everyone and not just sex workers. Between this guy and Andrew Shirvell, just what the hell is tax payer money funding?
posted by Mz Martini at 11:39 AM on November 23, 2010 [18 favorites]


Pretty sure I never did that. Just sayin'.

I was thinking of this comment and the bit about "So engaging in sexual activity outside the confines of a committed relationship is, in essence, trading on falsehood, the lie that you can have true intimacy without commitment, cost, or consequence." And then, "I see people who are basically capitalizing on one of the oldest lies in the world upset at someone for putting a little twist on that lie using modern technology."

I think that many people, including some (but probably not all) sex workers wouldn't consider this a 'lie' in the sense that you cited, and wouldn't think of themselves as liars because of it. You called them liars and said, in effect, they they've forfeited the moral right to be upset when they're lied to in turn.

I mean, I'm glad that you turned it around, and I certainly don't challenge your right to put that meaning onto the sex you're having (I don't think sex is 'essentially' meaningless any more than I think it's 'essentially' meaningful), but I do think that that's an attack.
posted by Myca at 11:41 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do think that that's an attack.

Fair enough. I was trying to explain where I'm coming from more than make any prescriptive assertions, and it's become clear to me that I did a bad job explaining that. I think my point came through in the end though.
posted by valkyryn at 11:45 AM on November 23, 2010


Always good to get some first-hand information, Mz Martini. Glad you dropped in.

Just for clarification, you mean the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, yes?
posted by valkyryn at 11:49 AM on November 23, 2010


elizardbits: Wait, what? I want none of these things. I just want to get off. That's still allowed, right?

Of course! I didn't say the only purpose of the urge was procreation, I said the urge existed because of procreation. But you don't have to answer it in the default way, particularly now that technology has driven a pretty big wedge between sex and its only original universal function.

While sex can be a spiritual experience, so can any powerful feeling, and you could make just as strong a case that all powerful feelings are simply be what they are and that any implied higher functions are silly illusions. When you take anything like that and say, in effect, "you're only doing it right if you do it my way," you are basically pushing all of the people who don't see it your way (and there will be a lot of them, pretty much no matter what your way is) and pushing them to the margins, calling them inferior, and setting up an excuse to make them miserable because you don't like their "choice." I don't think I have to go on about the evil that grows from that.
posted by localroger at 11:56 AM on November 23, 2010


ps I didn't mean to imply there that elizardbits was trying to make valkryn's point; he wasn't and I realize now that comment makes a very poor transition.
posted by localroger at 11:57 AM on November 23, 2010


"This is the sort of thing that law enforcement would just love to pull off, but I don't think it would produce the same kind of outrage if it was revealed that "Alexa" was a cop. I'm guessing that'd be more of a "Well played, you bastard," than "DIAF," "

No, it really wouldn't.

The attitude would be (at least partly) that police can't even bother to take reports from sex workers who are robbed, assaulted, and raped, and they're doing this...why?
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:01 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


police can't even bother to take reports from sex workers who are robbed, assaulted, and raped, and they're doing this...why?

To protect the moral fabric of the community, my good man. To protect the moral fabric of the community.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:05 PM on November 23, 2010


moral fiber and tittypix

takes the thing where cops extort sexual acts from sex workers to a whole new weird internet dimension
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:09 PM on November 23, 2010


The attitude would be (at least partly) that police can't even bother to take reports from sex workers who are robbed, assaulted, and raped, and they're doing this...why?

I get you on the "Why?" part, but in the cops' defense... sex worker victimization doesn't exactly make for awesome cases.

Most departments and prosecutors' offices are pretty much swamped dealing with cases they can put away pretty efficiently. Hell, even homicides are only prosecuted about half the time, and there's enough armed robbery, theft, and drug offenses to prosecute where they've got the guy dead-to-rights. Simply having the victim testify--and the victim basically has to testify under the Sixth Amendment--that she was there to get paid for sex is enough to make a lot of juries skeptical. As the sex worker is likely the only eyewitness, that does bad things to the prosecution's case. The defense attorney will have a field day with that.

Because prosecuting attorney and police chief positions are political positions, sometimes even elected positions, there's an incentive to have your case resolution numbers as high as possible. Not spending time and resources on cases where evidence is hard to come by and victims are unsympathetic is kind of a no-brainer when you're thinking about the next election. There's enough law-abiding voters--some portion of who are probably johns to boot--pissed that their stolen car didn't get returned or their assaulter didn't get arrested that making headlines in prosecuting johns who beat up their providers isn't going to play on the evening news.

This isn't to say that there's no injustice here. There is. But it may just be a situation where law enforcement is responding to--and admittedly arguably perpetuating--the way things are: there's a double standard, and people just don't give a damn.
posted by valkyryn at 12:18 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wrong. They entered an agreement with someone who claimed to be "Matt", vouched for by someone who claimed to be "Alexa".

Yes, because usually in such interactions both parties use their real names and identities. Don't they?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:28 PM on November 23, 2010



Yes, because usually in such interactions both parties use their real names and identities. Don't they?


Read the rest of the thread, particularly valkyryn's objections and the responses.

It's not about the actual name that they call themselves. It's about the physical and emotional safety of all parties in a transaction. It's about someone presenting themselves as an expert and mentor to young women in a vulnerable position.

I use a pseudonym in my interactions at Mefi, but I present myself as what I am. On the other hand, dhoyt used pseudonyms in his interactions at Mefi, but his intent was to be disingenuous. In many respects, I AM muddgirl although it is not my legal name, just as Pat may actually BE "Matt", but he's not Alexa and it was disingenuous, fraudulent, and even trollish to take advantage of the trust of others.
posted by muddgirl at 12:39 PM on November 23, 2010


Yes, because usually in such interactions both parties use their real names and identities. Don't they?

Did you know that there is a difference between using a false name and constructing and using a dualistic false identity for the purposes of sexual predation?
posted by setanor at 12:39 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Quite frankly, "Alexa's" hard drive will be a fascinating wealth of information. Obviously the sexual exploitation of minors is the biggest problem here but this is the cached reservation page for anyone who wanted to book an appointment.

Take a nice long look at the questions on that page and meditate briefly on the cold sweat and clammy skin that those who filled it out might be feeling right about now. While it would be easy to point and laugh at someone for giving that much information up, it's important to consider that someone who has booked an appointment online with an escort before would probably be aware that this form was not what you could call "industry standard." In other words, those who tried to book an appointment probably hadn't done it before and given that no one actually had an appointment with "Alexa" (she was "always fully booked") may not have ever engaged in that kind of business deal. All of their information might be sitting alongside pictures of underage girls.

Someone who filled that out honestly and completely did so in good faith and as a demonstration that they did not harbor any intent to harm "her." In a strange twist, that very form had been constructed to lend credibility to a man posing as a reputable escort in order to make references for himself to see real escorts. I hope that there's a screenwriter taking notes on all of this.
posted by Mz Martini at 12:52 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Screenwriters, hell, the local prosecutor could be able to fill his docket with plea bargains until the statute of limitations runs out. Is there any word on whether or not law enforcement is involved?
posted by valkyryn at 1:15 PM on November 23, 2010


It's not about the actual name that they call themselves.

Yes, which is why I said "real names and identities", being a sentient creature with moderately good reading comprehension.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:28 PM on November 23, 2010


In other other words, I can make a clear ethical difference between:

(1) Alexa, a sex worker, marketing herself as Tanya, a "different" sex worker; or Pat, a john, presenting himself as Matt a "different" john;

and

(2) Pat, a john, presenting himself as Alexa, a sex worker, who has had sex with Matt, a different john.
posted by muddgirl at 1:45 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did everyone else not grow up on lambdamoo or something? Some of these distinctions feel like mediated communication 101, but it's obvious that they're not intuitive and have to be puzzled out by those who arne't familiar with the conventions.
posted by verb at 1:59 PM on November 23, 2010


Mental Wimp: No one is particularly concerned that Pat used the pseudonym "Matt."

What is a concern is that he apparently posed as a sex worker to 1) collect information from prospective workers and clients, 2) publicly spread bad information about prostitution, 3) lure potentially underage women into prostitution, and 4) manipulate newcomers to prostitution into trusting him as a safe client.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:30 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Did everyone else not grow up on lambdamoo or something?

I'm just waiting for the revelation that Pat is actually just another identity for Aglaia.
posted by Myca at 2:35 PM on November 23, 2010


They don't seem that confusing to me. We're talking about a specific service negotiation here: sex work; but we could be talking about any other service negotiation.

I am a freelance engineer*. Essentially, it does not matter whether I call myself MuddGirl Industries or DBA Tech or IsoLathe or whatever - the services I provide are the same, of the same quality; I am still a licensed engineer, yadda yadda yadda. (It's actually surprisingly common for contracting engineers to change their business name once a year, for a variety of reasons both ethical and non).

However, it DOES matter if I present myself as a licensed engineer when I'm really a med student, or if I present myself as a doctor when I'm really a pilot.

*This isn't true, it's an illustrative story.
posted by muddgirl at 2:35 PM on November 23, 2010


I'm just waiting for the revelation that Pat is actually just another identity for Aglaia.

Heh. A friend of mine was the one who put up the "Stop Aglaia" web site back in the day, after the whole Dennis Leary scam. One of the early tipoffs was that Aglaia stole some writing from my web site and passed it off as the work of the person she was posing as. She didn't realize the person she was scamming happened to be an acquaintance of the actual author.

I feel that in some tiny way, my horrifyingly bad high school poetry did some good.
posted by verb at 2:56 PM on November 23, 2010


To use an analogy:

"Yeah, I'm a lawyer. Here's my blog on the subject. You need a lawyer? Well, tell me what you need in detail. Whoops, I'm sorry, I'm all booked up and I can't take your case, since I'm a busy lawyer and all. So you want to break into the business? Here's some advice. Here's some more advice. BTW, I have this friend who needs some contract work done. Do you think you could contact him? He'd be a really easy first case and you can trust him since I'm a lawyer and all."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:02 PM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


friend of mine was the one who put up the "Stop Aglaia" web site back in the day, after the whole Dennis Leary scam.

Oh man, I was once married to a woman who'd been scammed by Aglaia, a year or two before we met. She was told that Aglaia bought her a ticket to come visit, and was actually sent to the airport to pick it up. It was only after several hours of excuses and waiting around in SFO that she realized it was all bullshit. That kind of thing can really do a number on your ability to trust.

So yeah, I'm tetchy about internet-scammers-with-false-identities-invented-to-prey-on-the-misplaced-trust-of-innocent-people.
posted by Myca at 3:13 PM on November 23, 2010


muddgirl and KirkJobSluder, again, the problem is one of credibility, i.e. how do you know people are who they say they are? That's why most professions which involve some kind of expertise are regulated by law. Claiming to be a licensed lawyer, doctor, or engineer when you aren't one is actually a crime. Even more, acting like a lawyer, doctor, or engineer when you aren't one is a crime.*

Claiming you'll have sex with someone for money when you won't is not a crime, and far from being regulated, the oldest profession is completely illegal in most states. Which, again, is why I've come to believe this particular stunt is so damaging to the people involved: it directly screws with the system of credit the sex industry has created for itself to authenticate and mediate transactions.

*Well, lawyer and doctor anyway. Not all engineering fields are regulated the same way, but there are certain things for which you need a license, e.g. designing bridges. But I think the Internet is sufficient evidence that claiming to be a software engineer when you aren't is pretty doable.
posted by valkyryn at 3:26 PM on November 23, 2010


So regulate it by law, which is what I've been arguing for. It protects the worker and it protects the client. But it ruins our moral fortitude, or something.
posted by muddgirl at 3:29 PM on November 23, 2010


So regulate it by law, which is what I've been arguing for.

The way my wife puts it is, "Either 1) sex workers are exploited and abused and not really consenting, etc. or 2) They're knowingly and willingly consenting to a freely chosen line of work. In neither case, does turning them into criminals make anything better."

What I don't get is that the standard party line of the keep-it-illegal squad seems to be something like, "sex workers are exploited and abused and not really consenting and that's why they ought to be criminals."

Which ... seems like it skips a step or something.
posted by Myca at 3:38 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Myca, if you subscribe to the arguments in the West Wing episode "The Women of Qumar," the argument seems to be that permitting voluntary sex-work makes it harder to prosecute in cases of forced prostitution.

It's a dumb argument, and a frustrating one, but there it is.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:55 PM on November 23, 2010


...aaaaand Jezebel has now basically reprinted this post. Happy to help you sell more ads, guys. *rolls eyes*
posted by Asparagirl at 4:10 PM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


What's fascinating to me is that it seems what this guy was about was creating his perfect whore. He had been disappointed with their "performance" in the past--the fact that they weren't really into it, completely about fulfilling his fantasy. And so since he couldn't find a sex worker to do that, to be "genuine," he decided to create her. And then he used that creation to try to train inexperienced young women to be his fantasy--mostly by writing fiction and welcoming others to model themselves after it. What calls him out is his experience doesn't *sound* real to those who have experienced it. He writes as an erotica writer writes, complete with slo-mo effects. He could never have a found a real woman who could embody what he had created as Alexa.

It's all kinds of fucked up, but also all kinds of sad.
posted by RedEmma at 4:13 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


...aaaaand Jezebel has now basically reprinted this post. Happy to help you sell more ads, guys. *rolls eyes*
posted by Asparagirl at 7:10 PM on November 23 [+] [!]


Well. Are you Anna North, the author of that jezebel post? how can we be sure?

If you aren't you deserve her paycheck for today.

wow.
posted by ServSci at 4:34 PM on November 23, 2010


Jezebel has done this sort of shit to us before, though, haven't they?
posted by Navelgazer at 5:23 PM on November 23, 2010


...aaaaand Jezebel has now basically reprinted this post. Happy to help you sell more ads, guys. *rolls eyes*

You are famous now! Time to let the royalty checks roll in.
posted by Forktine at 5:36 PM on November 23, 2010


Pft. I doubt those jezebel writers get extra money for pageviews. I think they just don't get fired as long as they meet quota.

Also can we talk about how it is that despite some REALLY glaring red flags, its so easy for us (myself included) to continue to believe what we want to believe.
posted by stratastar at 6:13 PM on November 23, 2010


...aaaaand Jezebel has now basically reprinted this post. Happy to help you sell more ads, guys. *rolls eyes*

Don't know if this was originally there, but you're now credited.
posted by emilyd22222 at 6:23 PM on November 23, 2010


[comment removed - not okay to bring people's personal names off of their non-Google-indexed profile page and bring them to heavily-Google-indexed here.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:45 PM on November 23, 2010


Isn't this what all dating sites do?
posted by destro at 7:57 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The lengths men will go to in order to enjoy some intimate time with a female never ceases to amaze me. And always leaves me so happy that I'm gay. Seriously.

But I'm not really getting the intensity of the hate here. Matt was vouched for by Alexa, but then Matt had to behave himself or he'd totally discredit Alexa. So, Matt did what Matt was expected to do. He paid the girls, yes? He had to be the nice client as Alexa described, yes?

A fascinating elaborate con, to be sure. Probably not cool about the photos, but puh-lease, if you want me to be outraged, stop calling every man that appreciates youth a "pedophile".
posted by Goofyy at 5:14 AM on November 24, 2010


I mean, we think that drug dealers peddling heroin on street corners victimize their clients

We do?! Nobody told me.

Sex workers deserve to take whatever measures they can to stay safe, and one aspect of that is vetting clients.

I think that, even ignoring the underage aspect of the fraud, is the real big issue here. If prostitution was legal and protected, this behavior--i.e. misrepresenting yourself as a prostitute or manager in order to set yourself up with other prostitutes--would and should certainly be illegal.

If he were benefiting financially from any of the fake sites, could he be charged with mail/internet fraud?

Isn't this what all dating sites do

Let you create two fake accounts with different genders and use the first account to convince other site members to have sex with the person in the second account?

I wasn't aware of that, but maybe.

I once had a female teacher named Pat Bohannon. I didn't like her, but I surely hope he is not her.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:15 AM on November 24, 2010


Holy moly, look what I just found... According to long-time sex worker and blogger SerpentLibertine, Alexa tried to get SWOP-USA (a major sex worker rights and advocacy group and anti-violence consortium) to formally endorse and adopt a Code of Ethics back in 2009. Luckily they realized something was shady with her and it never happened:
"As far as Alexa goes, she seemed like a nice enough person on her twitter feed that genuinely cared about sex worker rights and I’d engaged in twitversations with her from time to time. People have been raising suspicions about her identity for awhile and when she approached SWOP-USA earlier this year about supporting her “Code of Ethics” for sex workers, several people raised concerns about not just the Code but Alexa herself. She was asked to meet with a rep from SWOP before we threw support for anything that she did, and she declined. So no, there was no disorganization on our part; people just thought she was shady. Look, I can understand if someone doesn’t want to hang out with other sex workers, but why go through such trouble to keep your identity hidden? It only makes people think you have something to hide."
I dare you to read the bullet points on Alexa's "Code of Ethics" and not choke with laughter...or rage. This is serious chutzpah.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:06 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


The mind boggles, Asparagirl. This really is just going to get more and more interesting!
posted by TheTorns at 3:54 PM on November 24, 2010


Thanks for the effort putting the story together, i can't be bothered to read it so i'm grateful for the precis, which was very informative. I think i know all about protecting kids from internet silliness/manipulation, but i didn't.
posted by maiamaia at 3:59 PM on November 24, 2010


Goofyy: A fascinating elaborate con, to be sure. Probably not cool about the photos, but puh-lease, if you want me to be outraged, stop calling every man that appreciates youth a "pedophile".

Your personal OutrageOmeter is your own business, and I don't think anyone cares all that much about how you calibrate it.

Early in the thread, the accusation of "pedophilia" was raised and then dismissed, and the discussion moved on. You must not have read the whole thread. Otherwise, I'd wonder why your only comment focused on a non-issue.
posted by dogrose at 7:00 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Guardian's Comment is Free blog now has an article up about #fauxho -- The outing of a fake sex blogger: Sex workers knew Alexa Di Carlo was a faux creation, but the stigma attached to their profession meant no one believed them
posted by Asparagirl at 1:45 PM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I dare you to read the bullet points on Alexa's "Code of Ethics" and not choke with laughter...or rage. This is serious chutzpah."

That so-called code is a big giant tell. It's a john's wishlist.
posted by aerotive at 9:16 AM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


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