Nov 20 2016 Branding and AuthenticityCategory: General     02:48AM   0

Today one of my Twitter friends and real life colleagues tweeted me a compliment: "If I were a GFE, you'd be my role model, and I'm serious lol! The look, the intellect, the packaging. Marketing brilliance."

My response--"Aw, thank you! My trick is actually very simple: be honest, authentic & care about people as people. The rest = just packaging"--was genuine, but something about the conversation stuck with me and left me feeling a bit unsettled throughout the day.

Yes, I see being an escort as a business, and to that end things like "the packaging" and marketing matter. But there's something more for me that exists in the complex interplay between 'work' or 'labor' and what lies beneath the surface; the abstract level of awareness where things like meaning, purpose, and consciousness manifest in my life and in my work. I question whether it's possible to capture the essence of that nuanced state using the "sex work is work" framework; the framework that discusses being an escort or companion in terms of "getting the most bang for your buck" (regardless of which side of the exchange you're on). Because while it's true that I wouldn't be meeting clients if I weren't being paid for my time, I feel I'd lose something if I saw clients simply as dollar signs, just the same as I feel they'd lose something by seeing me simply as the "product" (no matter how brilliant the packaging).

In "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life," Goffman distinguishes between the expressions we "give" (those we employ to convey what we want to convey) and the signals we "give off" (those we are largely unconscious of). The parts we play on life's stage contain both, and they influence the interactions we have with other actors. I propose that one of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) in the business is not in creating neatly packaged and brilliantly marketed identities to "give" the impressions we think are most likely to be profitable, but in finding ways to convey nuances in personality and experiences that are most aligned with the truths we "give off."

Because as Kurt Kobain said, "I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not." In other words, my "brand" is only as good as it is authentic. Does that mean I have to start getting dolled up to go to class every day instead of wearing yoga pants when I roll out of bed too late? No. But it does mean that if that brand doesn't align to who I am beneath the veneer, and if I don't continue to do the reflexive personal work that makes me me, no amount of marketing brilliance is going to make the work worth it. Just my 2 cents.



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