Backpage Chronicles Part I: It was the Only Option- Interview with Dominique Alford
There are a lot of things we want to forget about that we have done in the past. I always try and let people know that it's not where I am, it's where I've been. Once one "makes" it where they are going, many times they try to hide who they have been in the past. Truth of the matter is: if you had not been in that place, you probably wouldn't be where you are now.
I come from a lot of things that have made me the voice I am today: homeless, sex work and the sort. I am not ashamed of this. I had to do what I had to do and it created the mindset I have towards being successful centering around me not wanting to go back to it. But there isn't any shame about that.
That's why I appreciated speaking to Dominique.
Dominique Alford, a Houston raised Atlanta resident, is unabashed in his previous quest of survival. I've known Dominique for a couple years. We met through some mutual friends somewhere around 2013. He was a cool, funny character who was serious about fitness. He was lively around friends, but still very shy. Anyway, he was always a cool guy. He was also always on geosocial apps (Jack'd, Grindr, etc.)-- like most of us. What separated him from most of us, was he was straightforward on his profile and would explicitly say that he was only looking for hook-ups. He was a fun guy. A real fun guy.
About a year ago, he moved to Atlanta to follow his dreams of being an actor. Atlanta was his stepping stone as he was planning for his final move to be to Los Angeles after he got some work under his belt. Once he arrived in Atlanta, nothing was what it seemed. The place he thought he had to stay ended up being a guy trying to seduce him. He moved from there to a friend's place; the friend had a boyfriend and Dominique, based on his own perception of the depth of the relationship, moved out so that they could have their time together. He ended up moving to a place in which he paid month to month and money was low.
So, he started to escort.
Fast forward a few months later, he was here in Houston and there were some screenshots of him floating around in the local community of his Backpage account. "Backpage?" you ask. Backpage is a site that you can post ads for anything that you may want to sell much like Craiglist: motorcycles, phones, beds... and sex. I remember where I was sitting behind my desk when I received the screenshot of him sitting there thinking, "Why is my friend doing this?"
After some time, I caught myself and accepted that I don't even know why he decided to do it and I shouldn't allow my past to dictate what he should do.... MOREOVER, my feelings don't matter. Meditate on that before you judge.
When I approached Dominique to talk about it, he was completely open to clearing the air. He told me that times had gotten hard and he loved sex and decided to make some money that he needed while he couldn't find work. Although he didn't necessarily like having to have sex with multiple in a day, he took it serious as if it was his temporary job. He even tells me how he would go to men, stretch them out and then act as if he was satisfied and leave. "It was hard," he says. "I have a whole lot of stamina, but I never bottomed for men during my days of escorting. Actually I hadn't been penetrated in 2 years. All of the men weren't ugly, but very few were attractive to me. Based on what they asked from me, it would be much like a job. I know they wanted me to play into the role of how I looked even though I'm always going to be me. I would go in and fuck them and, because most of them just wanted my cum, I would go for a bit tell them I'm about to nut, spit in my hand real quick as I pulled out and act like my spit was cum. Then, I would go to the next. If they paid me for raw, I would just make my dick throb and moan. It was all acting for me. I needed the "role", they needed the actor."
It's an honest, compelling story. It's the story of an estimated 40 million people worldwide that are sex workers. Many people were introduced by different means or force, but there are also some people who make it a very lucrative career and do it out of necessity or just the feeling of self employment.
I was most amazed by the sincerity in his conversation around the idea of having to get into sex work. This was a guy who fell on hard times who made significant money to get him through. Still, as most sex workers will tell you, it is a harsh business. "Would I do it again? Yes, I would. But there are moments when you can make a lot of money and then there's nothing after. It's real inconsistent. And then I don't bottom, so that cuts out a whole group of people. People find it hard to believe I don't get play in my personal life but when you need to get play to live, it makes it worse."
So, it was a dangerous game. Not to mention all the different types of people you meet, the fact someone may know you and are trying to exploit you and the parameters you have in your personal life. Dominique admits he did have condomless sex with individuals based on the amount they were paying. Condomless sex is not uncommon and I would imagine that, if sex was work, then money would be the motive. When speaking of his preference in sex, he told me he has never enjoyed being penetrated before up until the night before. He tells me of meeting someone at the local bar and going home with them and finally enjoying being penetrated after all these years of life. Now, he admits since he has stopped escorting and the money is coming in, the experience of being versatile ("vers top" in his words) has really changed the way he looks at sex. And, potentially opens up future occurrences that he would normally not get into.
The truth of the matter is, escorting-- like so many other things like sexuality-- is not about the sex. Sex is the result of the thought, sex is the action not to be confused with the answer, sex is the response but almost never the stimulus.
Sex work is also the oldest profession dating back thousands of years. Overlooked and shunned by society, but sometimes a very crucial point of our survival. As disadvantaged people, I hate for people to demonize us for the things we do yet not give us a chance to do something else. Transwomen aren't able to get employed in places especially here in the South because of living their truths. People of color in general can't find jobs to get them financially secure because of having a small amount of weed on them years ago. Sex work becomes all they can do. This happens for more than people that look like Dominique or are following their dreams and waiting for the break, it also happens for people who don't fit the look of success or professionalism by capitalist, American standards. This is why stories like this are necessary.
It's easy to judge Dominique for putting his pictures and promoting himself on BackPage, but many people have been in this situation. And most of us are only a paycheck away from having to make a decision like this. I'm just serious.