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Unlike other sites of its kind, STLASP is devoid of advertisements. Mac says she has invested several hundred dollars in software, server space and the domain name. She estimates that she generally spends multiple hours each week dealing with programming glitches, creating new features and moderating disputes between users. Having had no prior Web-design experience, she concedes she may have gotten in over her head with her not-for-profit endeavor.
“This does not define who I am as a person,” Mac says. “It’s a very small aspect of my life. The more I invest time into it, the more it becomes a bigger part of my life. And since I’ve been spending like five hours a night on this Web site, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, it’s taking over now.'”
Swimme is impressed that the mind behind STLASP is a woman’s.
“I love to see when it’s actually service providers who are out founding these sites,” Stacey Swimme says. “It’s much more common for hobbyists to create these communities. As an advocate, I’m always thrilled to support the work of individual sex workers who pioneer their own free-speech spaces.”
In the world of STLASP, however, “free speech” is a relative term. One of Mac’s earliest posts under her “Admin” handle is a lengthy “code of ethics” that lays out rules for maintaining civil discourse. “Do unto others, as you would have them do to you,” she writes. “Do not post against somebody in a rude or nasty manner. We all have a different perspective on life and general topics so respect others and they will respect you.”
The software for the forums automatically censors some content. Try to type the words “sex” or “money” into a post and they’re instantly altered to “sensual fun” and “donation.”
Such safeguards don’t bar the site’s users from self-indulgence. Women post pictures of themselves, often blurring their faces (but not much else) in hopes of concealing their identity. Men ask which local strip clubs offer “full service” and tip each other off to “UTR” (under the radar) adult establishments, such as a salon in a St. Louis suburb that offers a haircut with a happy ending. They frequently poke fun at their “Auto Specialists” pretext with threads like: “Pole position-how do you prefer to start the race.”
Some exchanges border on the cerebral. Observes one user in a February post on a lengthy thread entitled “Morality, Ethics and the Hobby”: “Our Western society’s anti-sensuality attitude foundations were laid around 430 CE with the philosophy of St. Augustine. It can be traced further back to the Gnostic Christians rejection of the physical world and the body as well as some of the letters of St. Paul.”
“My personnel [ sic ] morals and code of ethics calls to treat everyone with respect and human dignity in all my interpersonal encounters,” reads one of the replies. “For hobbyists it means being a gentleman with providers and treating them with the utmost respect a gentlemen [ sic ] gives a lady. For providers it means not treating the hobbyist as just another envelope but as a fellow human being that wants to do what comes naturally.”
In another thread begun in March, a poster writes, “The way I see it, indulging in this hobby is wrong. But I still do it because there is pleasure involved. I just haven’t been able to cheat my inner moral compass into believing that it is OK,” concluding in all-boldface, “It’s wrong. Still, I do it.”
In an e-mail in which he declined to be interviewed for this story, STLASP’s moderator, a user Mac deputized to police the forums for spam and other prohibited content who posts under the handle “luvs2duit,” described the STLASP community.
“There are a lot of very good people in here,” he writes. “The fact that they hobby doesn’t mean that they love their SOs [significant others] any less, or meet their obligations to the community any less, or are blatant in their choice of lifestyle.”
He then requested that Riverfront Times not pursue a story about STLASP:
“Our happy little life may be seriously damaged because folks outside the community will still view us as cheaters and perverts that violate the social norms. The fact is, many of us are much happier than our repressed neighbors.”
A sandy blonde in her thirties, Mac says she has been an escort for the past three years. She says that in addition to working on a graduate degree at an area university, she is her family’s main breadwinner. Fearing it would jeopardize her anonymity, she declined a request to provide documents to support her purported résumé.
Before moving to Missouri, Mac says, she lived and attended college in Southern California. A single mom at the time, she began working as a stripper to make ends meet. Eventually, she says, she began commuting to Las Vegas on the weekends to work at the city’s lucrative strip clubs. When she suffered a knee injury and could no longer dance, she became an escort.
She says the decision was as easy as clicking a mouse: She placed an ad in the “erotic services” section of Craigslist.
Mac had little trouble emotionally adjusting to her new lifestyle. “Actually it was kind of exciting for me,” she says sheepishly. “I know that sounds funny, but it was actually exciting. It turned me on. I liked it. I was like: ‘Wow, this is something really hot.'”
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