Discretion in the digital age

Social media thrives on extremes. Ditto the stereotype of the escort. Either you’re broke, desperate, abject, worthy of scorn, hungry for scraps of attention and recognition  — or you are a deity, an icon, an alpha — unshakable, demanding of worship and emulation, endlessly glamorous, spoiled, jet-setting, caviar-spooning, Benjamin-stacking.

But me? I live in the world in between. The world of nuance, subtlety, layers of meaning that slowly unfurl over time as you get to know me. I’m not flashy, I’m not in your face. I’m just me.

In other words: I’m a terrible fit for social media.

Ironic, really, because a significant part of my vanilla career was…you guessed it…advising companies on how to be good at social media.

I know the game. I know how to play it. Mostly, I don’t.

Because here’s the thing about being an escort: discretion and privacy — yours and your clients’ — must come first. I’m utterly hard-line about this.

If there’s any doubt about my ability to be discreet, my long-term failure is likely (and more importantly, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself). Keeping myself safe is important too. I have a fairly high tolerance for risk — most escorts do —  but I need to feel safe. And it’s not good for anyone if I do something stupid and end up injured, arrested or simply terrified, unable to follow through on appointments.

To me, discretion is largely about leaving things unsaid — not giving bad-intentioned people any ammunition in the first place. Creating a zone of silence, a chamber of secrets — and then concealing its very existence. Giving people no reason to question you. Gliding along quietly — a phantom. 

If you’re lucky, I’ll let you into my clandestine sphere. If I’m lucky, you’ll let me into yours. That’s discretion. That’s a covenant. That’s also very sexy and inviting — and refreshing, in a world addicted to oversharing.

My default state is silence. It’s simply a product of my upbringing and personality type. Little to no sharing, no selfie-taking, no flexing for the ‘gram (or Twitter). Want to know, with any specificity, where I am? Too bad. You can’t. Well, maybe if you are a screened client, and we agree to meet. That’s it. Until then, I’m a free agent, feral, a mystery.

Balancing privacy and discretion with escorts’ innate need to self-promote — hoo boy. It’s a tough one, and every single escort draws a different line. 

Having been professionally steeped in Overshare Culture for a decade, I’ve seen firsthand how social media has obliterated social graces, made mockeries of human relationships, and made everyone depressed, lonely and status-obsessed — among other things. 

In a way, I see professional companions as a Band-Aid for those ills. 

Escort dates are low-tech — rarely does the smartphone make an appearance at all. 

Escort dates are private — you can (hopefully) rest assured that your date won’t immediately post on social media about your little wine spill, your self-effacing anecdote, or your intimate preferences. (At least I won’t.)

Escort dates are human-to-human — just a lot of eye contact, enjoying each other, as outside concerns and distractions melt away. 

Escort dates, when done well, are an antidote to normal life. 

They are slow-paced (if you book enough time, that is). 

They are simple: the only focus is on enjoying each other. 

They are about connection, and only that — not ego, not scoring points, not trying to prove you are worthy. (If an escort accepts your date request: you are worthy.)

So it’s ironic, perhaps, that escorts (not all, but many) have embraced the custom of sharing a whole lot on social media. Am I the only one who finds it a little odd? Snapping photos of hotel rooms, dinners and other outings with clients, lavish gifts, gift boxes, gift cards, new purchases. (To be clear: I’m a fan of the before-date selfie — I am professionally cute, after all — but I draw the line at sharing photos from when I’m out in the wild — and especially when I’m with a client.)

(My favorite genre of photo, by the way, is the one taken at a dinner table. It includes a headless torso of the man who’s paying, sitting across the table from the escort snapping the photo. The man invariably looks lumpy, passive and badly lit — and somehow ravenous, as if he’s been caught reaching for more bread after not eating all day. I find it hilarious, yet brutal and objectifying.)

Listen…I get why people do it. The escort field is crowded, and we’re all jockeying for attention and approval. It’s to say: Look at me. I’m adored. (It’s also social proof: Look, I’m real, and here’s proof that I’m great. Except social media can be faked, and often is.) It’s also self-affirming: I’m having fun, I’m beautiful, I’m thriving, and I’m succeeding. Take that, haters!

When it comes to telling my stories here on this blog and on social media — I guess I’m marching to a different glockenspiel. Not everything is fodder for my own self-promotion — in fact, very little is. I value privacy a whole lot, because once something is shared digitally, that bell can never be un-rung.

Do I go on fabulous dates with wonderful people? Yep. Do you see it splashed all over Twitter or my website? Nope. Do I receive fabulous gifts from wonderful people? Yes. Do you see them? Well, I wear them and otherwise enjoy them, but I choose to thank the gift-givers privately, rather than social media shout-outs. Do I travel, dance, laugh, cry? Yes. Do you see that? A bit. The bits I’m comfortable sharing. The bits I’d be comfortable with my worst enemy seeing. 

If I’m being brutally honest, the collision of escorting and social media scares me a little. It doesn’t feel safe, or sustainable. Maybe I’m a prude, a spoilsport, old-fashioned. I’m innately cautious. I am, at 32, an elder millennial. I still remember how the world was like before all this took over. And I want that world back. 

And, indeed, I get it back — when I spend an evening, a day or a weekend with a client (or otherwise go off the grid). Being private, and living life away from your smartphone (if only for an hour) is a complete luxury — and that’s the point. (Escorts are luxuries too, after all). 

Would I risk cheapening the experience by flashing our time — our private time, our incredibly valuable time — over social media? I would not take that risk, no. Maybe that’s a missed opportunity, but I view it as a violation of the escort/client covenant. (Or at least a path I don’t wish to go down. If I share photos from dates, should I share a photo from every date? Will Client X get jealous or feel unappreciated if I choose not to share photos of his date or gifts? The slope is very slippery indeed.) 

I still remember, quite vividly, when I was looking to enter the industry and I surveyed the social media feeds of escorts across the U.S. I remember being shocked at how much they shared. Fear rose in my throat, and I actually felt quite nauseated. It wasn’t just the quantity of what they shared, but all the revealing details of their homes, friends, schedules, whereabouts, behavior behind closed doors, moments shared with clients. I guess I assumed, with escorting being highly secretive and all, escorts’ social media feeds would act as a little tease, not a full-tilt share-fest. I was mistaken.

Don’t get me wrong. Escorts deserve to be seen, heard, and respected. We should not be forced into the shadows. We should not be censored, de-platformed, or erased. Social media gives us a platform for sharing our truths — flawed, human, outspoken, opinionated. And that’s great. It’s all in how you use the medium. Sharing information cannot be undone. People see it, and they remember it. They really do.

Maybe these other escorts know something I don’t know. Maybe I’m hopelessly old-school, or my Caution string is strung too tight. Maybe they just don’t care, or they feel the benefits of revealing a lot outweigh the negatives. I can respect that. Maybe I’m simply naive, and these escorts are engaged in an expert game of invention, misdirection and myth-making.

Personally, I prefer to keep the best stuff behind closed doors — never photographed, recapped or shared publicly — just enjoyed.

This post was written by Shae Ashbury, a stubbornly secretive NYC escort. Visit my booking form, gallery, patronage and details, and testimonials. If you found this post valuable, consider tipping me by emailing an Net-A-Porter or Etsy gift card to shaeashbury@protonmail.ch. Thank you for your support!

Shae Ashbury