RJ Thompson is a lawyer and an escort — and he wants to dispel the myth that all sex workers are ‘victims.’
RJ Thompson, a.k.a. Carlos Alexander, is a lawyer and sex worker
RJ Thompson, Managing Director, Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center: I’ve had many clients sort of want to rescue me tell me they can help me get out of the work before they know that I’m an attorney, you know, or many other things. That I’m multilingual. I’ve lived in ten cities. Their assumptions about who does sex work is a very narrow sometimes.
He became an escort to pay off his college debt.
Thompson: I first started doing sex work in college as a go go dancer in Tampa Florida and over a period of several years that evolved into stripping the adult film industry and then later full service work, as we call it, or escorting.
Thompson: While I was working in D.C. I started stripping which is different from go go – full nudity. With full service work, I was trying to get out of debt from undergrad and law school. So my salary as a public interest nonprofit lawyer were never really sufficient to get a handle on my dad and so full service sex work. Escorting was really able to help me transform my entire financial life.
As a lawyer, he helps both sex workers and survivors of sex trafficking.
Thompson: The Sex Workers Project has been a leader in the national sex worker rights movement and is uniquely situated because we do both direct services social services and legal services for sex workers and survivors of trafficking here in the New York City area. But we also do a great deal of public public policy advocacy work legislative work media education training supporting community organizing both locally and nationally. So we were involved in the fight against FOSTA/SESTA at the federal level where part of a new coalition in New York City that’s forming to fight for policy and legislative change at the city and state level. And we provide really critical culturally competent trauma informed harm reduction services to our clients so like I said earlier many of our clients are transgender women. Many are undocumented. Many are queer. Many are people of color and so we provide. Immigration legal services. In the past we’ve provided worker rights and criminal justice related legal services which were moving back towards in the near future.
But he wants to dispel the myth that all sex workers are victims.
Thompson: I think it’s really important for people that understand that sex work like any other job whether it’s restaurant work domestic work construction being a lawyer or doctor. No matter sort of where in the social and economic hierarchy a job is all jobs have pros and cons all jobs can be exploitative or not all jobs have positive and negatives right. So we often in society and in the media here so much of victim narrative around sex work and terrible exploitative human rights abuses happen to some sex workers. But it’s important to note that terrible exploitative things happen in all labor sectors and there’s nothing different about sex work other than the sexual stigma and social stigma attached to it.
Despite the stigma, he says sex work is more common than people think.
Thompson: It’s not talked about as much in among gay and bisexual male communities I think but if you go online, you know, when I started I saw half the people from my gym people I recognize from the street from bars or whatever [were] escorting full time or part time. And just I think the stigma is so deep that many people don’t talk about it. But it’s actually a very very common work.
Thompson: Most of my clients were older than me and I would say most of my colleagues in escorting were not all but the majority were younger than me. So I sort of fell in between. But I have had clients from 20 years old to people in their 60s. And I’ve had straight identified bisexual and gay clients also cis-gender and transgender women and transgender men.