Dear Prudence

I Want to Try Sex Work, but I’m Afraid My Students Will Find My Profile

Is this a terrible idea?

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Dear Prudence,

I’ve always been interested in doing some form of sex work. I think I’d be good at it and would enjoy it. I’ve thought about doing some sugar babying in the past but never gone through with it. Recently, I’ve been wanting to start an OnlyFans account. The only issue is I teach college. I’m very worried about what would happen if a student stumbled across my account. Is this a terrible idea?

—Only Certain Fans

Let us say that it is a risky idea and that there is no way to predict what every student or administrator who recognizes you may do in response. Your concern is reasonable! But people contemplating a shift to sex work often fret about the problems of success: What if a client tells too many people about me? What if a colleague IDs me from a popular video? And so on. But they often overlook more common problems: What if OnlyFans gets shuts down or withholds my income? What if my channel gets crowded out by celebrity channels or other, more experienced professionals turning to streaming in the pandemic? What if nobody watches my videos at all? Bear in mind that since the coronavirus has pushed many sex workers into online work, you’ll be part of a significant wave, not a pioneer, and you may struggle to stand out. So many factors go into any individual channel’s success beyond just enthusiasm and attractiveness.

I realize this sounds a bit like “Don’t give up because it’s risky. Give up because your expectations are unrealistic.” I don’t mean to dissuade you from even considering it! But do some serious research before making a decision. Learn more about the history of FOSTA-SESTA (I recommend Melissa Gira Grant’s work on the subject); seek out writings from past and present cammers, sugar-baby daters, and independent porn actors; and establish a plan for protecting your identity and your earnings to the best of your ability (all the privacy strategies in the world won’t help if the IRS comes after you for unreported income). If you think you can’t live with a worst-case scenario, then I don’t advise you to take the risk. If, on the other hand, you think you can live with it and it feels worth it to you, then go forth, and good luck!

Dear Prudence,

My co-worker “Klara” is functionally homeless since her boyfriend left her. She has been living in her car. I have a small studio and have been occasionally letting her spend a night or two, plus coming over to take showers. We are not friends, and tenant rules are strict here. I had a terrible time last year where my roommates refused to pay rent, stole from me, and terrorized me (one of their boyfriends even threatened to rape me). I deliberately got this place so I would not have to share my space. Klara has been grateful, but she has also been pushing me to let her stay longer and longer.  She has cried to people at work that she is afraid she is going to get attacked or hurt when she spends the night in her car. None of them are offering to take Klara in but have been wondering why I don’t. I am very uncomfortable here, and I don’t know where the line is between genuine kindness and gullibility. Klara says she is saving her money and looking for an apartment, but I haven’t pushed more.

—Co-Workers Not Roommates

It’s hardly a question of insufficient kindness when you point out that you cannot take on a roommate in your studio apartment. That’s just acknowledging reality. You would be no help to Klara at all if you were evicted yourself for violating tenant rules (which I imagine include something along the lines of “no unofficial sublets”). But more than that, just because you’re the only person at work who’s offered her any real assistance doesn’t mean that you’re now single-handedly responsible for her well-being. There’s something grotesque about your colleagues’ response to her housing crisis. You don’t owe any of your co-workers an explanation as to why you haven’t turned your home into a transitional housing office—you’re one person, not a social services department—but if they don’t lay off when you tell them you’re not interested in discussing your personal life with them, I’d encourage you to go to your boss and HR for help. Your co-workers should not be harassing you, and management ought to have a vested interest in shutting down this line of conversation, which can’t possibly be conducive to getting work done.

I understand that you don’t want to push Klara when she’s in crisis, but on the other hand, you can’t keep risking your own lease, not to mention giving up the privacy and solitude you sought with this apartment. It’s time to let her know you can’t keep providing her with a place to stay overnight and offer to put her in contact with your local women’s shelter, transitional housing office, or other resources that are actually designed to help people in her situation and can do much more than you could.

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Dear Prudence,

I’m a 75-year-old woman who lives in Australia. For the last decade, I’ve been running a book club with other senior women, all of whom are interesting, intelligent, and relatively open-minded. The civil rights movement in our country was focused on Indigenous Australians, and the N-word has never been used here in relation to Indigenous Australians. (Mind you, we had plenty of other offensive names.) Last week one of the book club members was talking about tennis players, and she used the more formal version of the N-word to describe a famous male American tennis player. I was so shocked that I could find no words, and to my shame I let it pass. The Australian context is very different from the American context, and I’m sure it was not intended as a racial slur, but nevertheless it was a racial slur. Can you help me with a script to use in case this ever happens again?

—Nice Book Club Ladies Using the N-Word

The Australian context may very well be different from the American one, but your claim that the N-word has never been deployed against Indigenous Australians by European colonizers is demonstrably untrue and continues to this day. (Indigenous Australian activist Stephen Hagan titled his 2005 autobiography, which documents his fight to remove a sign with the slur on it, The N-Word: One Man’s Stand.) To that end, don’t waste time waiting for someone to use the N-word (or any “formal” variation thereof) again, when you have sufficient cause to speak up already. Tell your fellow member that you wish you’d had the presence of mind to say something in the moment, but that it’s better late than never, and to stop using racial slurs in the future. Don’t get lost in the weeds of how she “intended” it, which is the favorite game of every racist wishing to get off on a technicality. She used a racial slur, and as the founder of this book club, it’s incumbent on you to tell her not to do it again. It’s as simple as that.

Help! My Partner Has Turned Our Home Into a Horror Show of Quilts.

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Jennifer M. Buck on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

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Dear Prudence,

I came out and started transitioning to male right after high school. I’m now in my late 20s. While I still go by the first name I chose as a teenager, I’m “feeling it” less and less. For starters, it definitely fits that particular “drowning Victorian orphan” trans male name stereotype (think Barrington or Elroy). People have had problems pronouncing it, spelling it, you name it. I also worry that potential employers won’t take it seriously. It’s gender-neutral in a way that’s confusing, and I often get told I don’t look like a “Heathcliffe.”

The names I’m considering now (John, Robert, etc.) are more conventional but seem like a better fit—easier to pronounce, easier to spell. But do I want to go through the name change process, legally and socially, yet again? I had just updated my passport! Is it reasonable to ask people in my life to have to switch first names again?

—Not Drowning but Waving

These are two very different questions! Let’s start with the second one: Yes, people can handle a second name change just fine. Some people might find it tricky for a while, but a second change doesn’t require any additional skill than the first did—willingness, effort, and time will do the trick. As for whether you want to go through the whole process again, at the risk of sounding like a cliché, I think you’re the best judge of that. Trans people sometimes develop in-jokes about certain naming conventions, but I’d encourage you not to treat those jokes as gospel or as if they’re true among all trans people at all times. And if it’s jokes you’re worried about, there are plenty of jokes about stolid, traditional transmasculine names too. Don’t let “avoiding jokes” be your sole guiding principle here. If the only thing you don’t like about your first name is how other people react to it, I’d encourage you to politely but firmly push back when people make jokes, mangle the pronunciation, or say rude things like, “You don’t look like [your name].” (No one looks like a name! A name is a representation of an identity!)

That said, I can certainly understand why a name that felt charming and exciting when you were in high school has subsequently paled after a decade of use. Why not try whatever shorter name currently appeals in some limited settings and see how it feels before deciding whether you want to update your state ID? If you find that you’re perfectly happy introducing yourself with “Barrington, but I go by Bruce,” and that there’s no need to go through the hassle of changing your passport and bank cards, then so much the better.

Dear Prudence Uncensored

“I really don’t want to intone, ‘This will happen to YO-O-U-U-U-U-U’ while raising a bony finger.”

Danny Lavery and special guest Carta Monir discuss a letter in this week’s Dear Prudence Uncensored—only for Slate Plus members.

Dear Prudence, 

Two years ago I was seeing a therapist I really liked. Six months into our relationship, he told me he was relocating to another city for personal reasons, gave me a month’s notice before our sessions ended, and offered to refer me to another therapist. I was disappointed, since I felt like we’d been making progress together, but I understood. I tried a therapist at another practice, but didn’t really jell with her, and stopped going after a while. I haven’t seen a therapist since. Since most therapy is remote due to coronavirus now, I recently thought I might be able to set up a video appointment with my old therapist. I Googled him and found he’s actually still in my city—just at a different location.

It’s possible his plans just changed, but I don’t understand why he wouldn’t have told me if that was the case. I’ve been unsure about contacting him, because I’m worried he lied to me about his plans because he wanted to stop treating me for some other reason. A friend of mine jokingly asked if I thought he might have fallen in love with me, and I don’t really think that’s likely. But I don’t know what to think. Should I just email him and ask him for an appointment? I feel really weird and keep hesitating about contacting him.

—One More Appointment

Perhaps your therapist lied to you when he said he was moving, either because he was in love with you or because he had some other unutterable motivation he couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge. That would have been a fairly short-sighted lie, given how easy it was for you to discover where he’s currently practicing, and you don’t describe anything about your sessions or his general demeanor to suggest he was holding something back, so I think it’s unlikely.

Consider a simpler explanation: The coronavirus, which has upended so many plans, cut short so many career changes, and confounded so many cross-country moves, played a role in your therapist’s return. Or perhaps whatever personal reasons led him to plan the move in the first place later changed or fell through. Whatever the reason, it seems likely unrelated to you or your former therapeutic relationship. Transference is a powerful force! If you’d like to work with him again, send him an email asking if he’s available. If you do resume your sessions and you then want to discuss some of the feelings that arose about the idea of resuming your sessions, there are a number of ways to discuss feelings-about-therapy with your therapist, up to and including “I don’t really believe in transference.” If he does decline, remind yourself that it’s likely not about you and resume your search for a a new therapist. But don’t let fear that your therapist must be secretly avoiding you keep you from sending a perfectly straightforward, appropriate, reasonable request.

Dear Prudence,

Recently I had a package delivered from Amazon, and my landlord accidentally drove over it in the driveway. I’m renting a room in her house, so we share an entrance. She immediately apologized and offered to replace the item. It still mostly works but is slightly damaged. It also cost less than $20. I like my landlord, and she’s cut me a lot of slack with rent during COVID (I know that’s just basic human decency, but still more than a lot of other landlords are doing), so I don’t necessarily want to hold her feet to the fire on this. At the same time, this was a special birthday gift I got myself, and I do wish it was undamaged. I’m tempted just to report that the item arrived damaged (the delivery person really shouldn’t have left it in the middle of the driveway). I don’t have a ton of sympathy for landlords as a group, but I think in the hierarchy of capitalistic evils, megacorporations are definitely worse, right? Who should I ask for a replacement from? Or should I just let the whole thing go and keep the slightly damaged item I already have?

—Megacorporations vs. Landlords

This is not an instance of ranking professions on a scale of global evil and then sending them a bill for $20. Your landlord accidentally damaged your delivery and has offered to pay for it, so take her up on it. She’s willing to do so, she’s able to do so, and you’d like her to do so. Accepting her offer is the most straightforwardly obvious response, and the one that requires the least amount of effort from you. If you would like to do something about social and economic evils, consider supporting efforts to unionize among Amazon workers or donating some of your time and money to your local tenants rights organization. But asking either your landlord or Amazon to replace a damaged parcel does not strike a blow for either landlords or unscrupulous monopolies.

Classic Prudie

During my six-year marriage to an amazing man, I have had a cordial relationship with his mother. I am now pregnant with his family’s first grandchild. My husband and I mutually decided that we didn’t want to know the sex before the birth. My mother-in-law was livid with our decision, even though I tried to placate her by using the obstetrician she suggested and allowing her to attend some of my prenatal appointments. She continued to bring up gender at every opportunity. My doctor’s staff was aware of our decision not to know the baby’s sex, but after one sonogram I was surprised to see my mother-in-law at the office smiling ear to ear. A few days later I had messages from family members congratulating me on the baby girl I was having! My mother-in-law wheedled the information out of the ultrasound technician, who is a friend of hers, then announced it. I threatened the clinic with legal action and found a new doctor mid-pregnancy. My mother-in-law is smug about her tactics and told me nastily that if I “still had a mother,” I wouldn’t be so selfish. (I was orphaned at age 14.) I can’t express how betrayed and hurt I am by this. My husband sides with me and we’ve made a birthing plan that includes her not being permitted in the facility until we’ve been released. We will not inform anyone of the birth until after we’re home, and for the time being, she won’t be welcome to visit. Am I being too vengeful here? How do I overcome this feeling of betrayal?

Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit YouGet it from Slate