How Backpage Saved My Life

Sarah Fenix
Apr 8, 2018 · 5 min read
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(This is an essay I wrote on twitter and copied and pasted over here in case twitter starts chopping out pieces or just bans the whole thing)

OK MY NON-SEX WORK FRIENDS LISTEN UP I’m gonna tell you the story of how Backpage helped keep me safe during one of the scariest most dangerous times of my entire life

Trigger warning ahead for homelessness, abuse, drug use, coerced sex work, rape, cops being assholes, uh probably a whole bunch of other stuff.

I became homeless in March of 2016 when I abandoned my home, marriage, job, my entire life, because I was manic and I was under the spell of an extremely skilled and charismatic abusive piece of shit I refer to as “Barn Cat.”

Barn Cat was a heroin user. He used $100-$300 a day. (Side note, his abusiveness was there all along, he would have been abusive if heroin was not his drug of choice. Destigmatize drug use. Don’t say “addict”)

Before I became homeless, Barn Cat had been lying to me, telling me he was on suboxone or methadone. This lie came out in full force after about a week of us living in my car, when he was dope sick, throwing up blood.

He was sick. He was in withdrawals. He was suffering a lot. And I loved him. With my whole heart and every fiber of my being, I loved him.

Barn Cat needed heroin. Heroin costs money. Barn Cat had no money. I had to get money, somehow. From somewhere.

Friends from across the country had been sending me paypal donations to help me put gas in my car but what could I say now? Shit, I made a huge mistake, this person I love so much lied to me? And he needs heroin??? I didn’t know what to do.

So. We were stuck at a gas station along a highway. Barn Cat, throwing up blood. Me, panicking. I walked around the gas station, from semi truck to semi truck, asking IN BROAD ASS DAYLIGHT if any truckers would like to have sex with me

Yes really. Yes, really. When none of the truckers took me up on my super appealing totally not suspicious offering, I started approaching men on motorcycles.

BECAUSE I WATCHED SONS OF ANARCHY OK I thought it would work. It did not work. I had wasted 2 hours while Barn Cat was throwing up blood, probably dying, and I had no money.

Someone on here told me about backpage. I took my laptop to a coffee shop, took a quick picture of my boobs, and posted an ad for free. I got my first job about an hour later. I made $100, bought $20 worth of food, and gave the rest to Barn Cat.

After that, we got into a routine. Barn Cat would yell at me to post ads 3 times a day. I would do outcalls until I could convince a man to get me a cheap hotel room, then I would do incalls.

Over the course of 3 months, I estimate I made around $10,000 that I gave all to Barn Cat. AND I’M STILL GRATEFUL AS FUCK FOR BACKPAGE Because without them, I would have still been knocking on semi truck doors

Barn Cat took almost every penny I made, but I could also ask men to bring me a fruit platter from the grocery store, or a shake from a fast food joint, or a bag of bagels. AND THEY DID IT. SO I DIDN’T FUCKING STARVE

From time to time, I would get an overnight, which meant maybe I could throw in a load of laundry at some dude’s house. THAT WAS AMAZING, THANK YOU LAUNDRY GUY

With Backpage, I could post my phone number, and I would actually talk to these dudes a little bit. I could weed out the worst ones. If Barn Cat was really dope sick, I sometimes had to go anyway. But if I had a polite, respectful dude on the line, I could choose him over another

Being homeless was scary. Being under the control of an abusive man who needed an illegal substance to stay semi-functional was scary. Backpage was the only lifeline I had to people who would give me money, so I could stay alive

And yes, I tried to get out. On 3 occasions, I walked up to police officers and said “Help me, I’m a prostitute, that man makes me post ads and takes my money, please take me or him to jail” and they laughed at me and turned me away

I’m white, that’s all that saved me, I think. I’m still mad at those cops. HELLO OFFICER I AM DOING CRIMES RIGHT NOW PLEASE SAVE ME lol nope

Backpage gave me a basic screening tool, and access to money, and food, and shelter. Backpage kept me alive.

Backpage wasn’t at fault for Barn Cat being abusive. Backpage wasn’t at fault for the few men I ran into who really got off on hurting me in ways I don’t want to describe right now.

Backpage didn’t turn me into a sex worker, any more than Youtube can turn people in musicians or comedians. It was just the medium. A really good, really helpful medium that was free and accessible.

I’m sad backpage is gone. But more than sad, I’m scared for all the other sex workers who are where I was 2 years ago, who are going to go knock on semi truck doors or walk along the highway, with no way to screen clients.

Twitter is shadow banning sex workers and sex work topics. They shadow banned Stormy for fucks sake. So if you like this thread, screen shot it and post it on other channels you use. I give you permission. Please, please, please.

(Note — originally on twitter I asked for paypal donations for sharing my story, or donations to fundraisers in this tits and sass article. Here’s the link, give them money. I don’t need it. I’m OK )

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