How to Do It

I Asked My Neighbor on a Date. She Said Yes. But She Has No Idea That I Already Know Her Secret.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Yuricazac/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear How to Do It,

Recently, I met a woman named “Becca.” She is incredibly funny and seems like my kind of weird, in addition to being attractive. We live in the same building, and we’ve flirted pretty openly. Finally, I asked her if she wanted to grab a drink sometime, and she said yes. My question for you is if I need to disclose what I know about her—and what she definitely doesn’t know that I know.

Namely: I recognized her because I have been on her OnlyFans before. We live in a city where this isn’t a huge surprise—lots of attractive women here who are performers of one kind or another. But I can’t figure out how to say “I know you from your OnlyFans” without sounding like a freak. I also looked it up again after I recognized her and “enjoyed it” and then felt bad about that. Am I doing this wrong? Should I tell her?

—Love Your Work

Rich: So only one of us has an OnlyFans.

Stoya: Yes, I have an OnlyFans. So, when I first read this question, my eyebrows just kept going up further. And further. And further. And then I got to the “enjoyed it”—the inability to say “masturbated to” or “had sex with” is just one of my pet peeves.

And so I was like, “OK, I know how I feel.” And one time I was moving out of an apartment that I had lived in for almost a year, and on that day, two neighbors chose to let me know that they knew who I was. I got two “Bye Stoya”s from people who had never interacted with me.

Rich: That’s creepy.

Stoya: It was so unsettling. So for me, I’m like, “You need to move.” That’s how I feel. But I went to Twitter and I asked, “Hey, sex worker Twitter: If your neighbor recognized you from your OnlyFans, which they subscribe to, and wanted to ask you on a date, would that be acceptable in any context?” I didn’t even talk about going back to the page, and still, the sex workers were almost entirely a hard “no.” And some of them said, “I would move.”

Now, for anyone who feels like this is an overreaction listening to this: On Dec. 17th every year, we gather in community and we listen to the list of sex workers who have been killed. Some events, it’s just the trans women of color who work on the street who have been killed that year. And that list is always way too long. We don’t have protections from the police, we don’t have people that we can call to help us be safe, who are government-approved or the way that you’re supposed to do things.

And so, we have reason to go on high alert when things like this happen. Living life paranoid is awful. It’s this really stressful, delicate balance between protecting yourself—because you know half the world is going to go, “Oh, she was asking for it,” if anything happens to you—and also trying to be engaged and not be so afraid of people and the outside world that you can’t live a life.

Rich: What do you think is the primary issue? Is it the disclosure of this information, or is it that somebody would take in your content via OnlyFans and then pursue you?

Stoya: That someone would take in the content on OnlyFans and then not disclose that, that’s one part that is most chilling to me. The other part is, “I also looked it up again after I recognized her and enjoyed it,” and then felt bad about that. Well, yeah, your gut is telling you that you’re doing something that would probably be really upsetting for this person. It’s creepy, and your gut’s telling you that it’s creepy. The next time your gut tells you something is creepy, don’t do it and then you won’t feel bad.

There is no way to say, at this point—after living near her, flirting with her, asking her if she wants to grab a drink, and then circling back and masturbating to her OnlyFans—there is no way to do this without sounding off-putting.

Rich: Right. So you think that conversation should have happened early on?

Stoya: Yeah. I get recognized very frequently, and when people say to me, “You look like Stoya. Oh, you are. I know this part of your work,” it’s like, “Oh, great. Thank you for letting me know.” Within a week of knowing each other, I knew the extent of what they knew about me.

Rich: So it sounds like—and please correct me if I’m wrong—but it sounds like something that’s a huge trigger here is this idea that at one point in your interaction with this person, you learn that they’ve known you in a context that they have not been upfront with, and then you feel like you’ve been surveilled this whole time. I mean, one of the reasons why somebody might not disclose that information is because they don’t want that to put you off. But by doing so, they’re denying you the agency of understanding the entire context.

Stoya: Yeah. Depending on the individual performer in question, she may have the stance that she’s happy to go on a date with a client as long as she’s properly compensated, but she will never, ever recreationally date someone who’s seen her work.

It’s this information imbalance as well that’s really jarring. That’s another thing that sex workers on Twitter commented on: “The subscriber has seen so much of me and that is uncomfortable.” If someone has seen my work before they get to know me, they know what every inch of me looks like, they know so of many of my facial expressions that I haven’t made in front of them yet. I really appreciate when people work to correct that—for instance, rather than ask me a bunch of questions about the porn industry, when they tell me stories about themselves, and open up and even that out.

Rich: I am not in the vulnerable position of being a career sex worker, but I relate to this a little bit nonetheless insofar as someone who, on a smaller scale, has also been putting himself out in public. People may have read my work who I don’t know, and I also live in a major metropolitan area with a lot of other gay men. And so I have experienced hooking up with somebody and then hearing after, “I know who you are.” Somebody said that to me in those words, and I was just like, “Now you don’t.” Because I found that off-putting, and I wasn’t even afraid for my physical safety, and this wasn’t even somebody that I particularly enjoyed the sex with that much. But still, it was like, “Ugh, well, now you just made my decision for me.” I really didn’t like that, because then I feel like, “OK, then you’ve been observing this whole time and I’ve been under this microscope that I didn’t even know that I was under.”

My only other interpretation I think is even a worse faith interpretation, which is that he didn’t disclose this information intentionally to deceive this person in case, by disclosing this information, it automatically discounted him from a potential hookup. But in any scenario, it is of your opinion that it’s just too late, that it doesn’t even matter disclosing, not disclosing—don’t pursue this person, don’t go any further. You fucked it up. You tripped out of the gate. Correct?

Stoya: Yeah. And one sex worker, Lotus Lain, pointed out something very interesting to me. She said, “I mean, they could ask”—so her opinion differs from mine as far as bringing it up—“just like any human seeing me in real life can ask. But I will most likely decline mostly because I don’t like dating people that live near me.” So all that consternation and emotion about the sex work angle of this, and then here comes Lotus with like, “Dating neighbors gets really messy sometimes. So generally, no.”

Rich: Yeah. Usually when we talk about don’t shit where you eat, it involves work scenarios, like don’t hook up with a coworker because then you’re going to have to see them. But I think it applies to somebody that lives in your building, that if you happen to have an awkward falling out, now you got to look at this person all the time. That makes sense. I think geolocation apps somewhat exist to throw a wrench into the gears of that rationality. But at the same time, I get wanting to have at least a little bit of space.

Stoya: So give her a lot of space. Do not do this. Do not pursue her. Definitely don’t tell her that you went back to her OnlyFans to pleasure yourself to it. And try not to risk making this woman so uncomfortable that she has to deal with moving abruptly, because it really seems likely that that’s how she’ll respond.

More Advice From Slate

I’m a straight Asian woman in her mid-20s who has been dating a white man in his late 20s for almost two years. We have a very stable relationship—we have a healthy amount of sex, we like each other’s friends, and we never fight. We recently took the step to move in together, and it has been going well. We purchased a computer together to share when we work from home (we both work in an industry that requires a specific kind of machine). Yesterday, I was on the computer and opened the web browser. It opened a “private window” he hadn’t closed with many tabs of porn open. I of course don’t care that he watches porn. But I noticed that the porn was quite brutal, involving domination—he is very sweet and vanilla in bed with me—and especially domination of Asian women by white men. I’m well aware of the kinds of fetishes men can have toward Asian women from college dating, but my boyfriend has never shown any signs of this. Should I be worried?