As sex work is the oldest profession in the world, it would be normal for it to also appear on the LinkedIn professional platform.
In September 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Ashley Richards’ advertising agency lost all its clients. That was the first time the girl from Brooklyn thought about doing sex work.
On July 13, Richards updated his LinkedIn profile with the new job. Richards, who has more than 11,500 followers on the platform, said in the post that he would charge exorbitant sums for sex work and that he would refuse “those who can’t afford to pay” because “I have nothing to prove to no one”.
After this phase, a whole madness broke out. Richards’ face appeared in all kinds of international publications, and her social media inboxes were filled with messages and friend requests. “I was sure this post would get more attention than others because it’s more controversial,” said Richards, 31. “I expected to get about seven comments. But it became a movement that I didn’t want to start.”
Richards, who identifies as a queer woman, thought sex work would help her overcome her sexual trauma and connect with her own body, while also building a career. “It’s not the career I wanted, but it still ties in with the other things I do,” she said.
As he worked a lot in the field of inclusion and sexual technology, where he talked about sex without shame and judgment, Richards forgot how stigmatized this job is. “I thought I could approach the job like any other and that I just had to be mindful of my own limits and not do anything I didn’t enjoy. As sex work is the oldest profession in the world, it seems normal to me that it also appears on the LinkedIn professional platform.”
But as much as she tried to open the conversation about the normalization of sex work, the virality of the LinkedIn post exceeded Richards’ expectations and she completely lost control of the situation. Many sent her love and appreciated her courage and honesty, but many gave her hate and questioned her morality.
“Is that good?” “What happened?” “She’s gone crazy!” are some of the comments he received. One user wrote: “You are playing a very dangerous game. Yes, you make money, but can you still look at yourself in the mirror after that? You won’t be able to fill the void in your soul like this.”
“One of the reasons I posted was to make it clear that I’m doing this so I can feel comfortable. But after it all blew up, I realized I had no control. Some 75 publications wrote about me and misused my pronouns, posted photos of me and my family, without asking my permission. I was all over the internet.”
Richards is aware of her privilege, of the fact that she allowed herself to tell the world that she does sex work. She said she wants to continue to promote discussions about the normalization of sex work, so that all sex workers in the world feel safe.
“We need to look at sex workers as human beings, not as objects or stereotypes of people who have no control over their own lives,” she said. “Sex workers are not necessarily victims of live meat trafficking. The more we decriminalize sex work, the safer the people who do it will be.”
After the initial post, which had almost ten thousand reactions and over 1,600 comments, Richards made another post in which she addressed those who supported her, but also those misogynists and disrespectful ones.
“I wanted to come full circle and see for myself what it means to have a job that I have always defended in my activism. And I wanted to announce that I’m doing this, to break the taboo of sex work. I didn’t want to upset anyone, I just wanted to express myself freely in my space.”