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Your beginners course in understanding my work. Written in the interests of answering the common questions and misconceptions and saving sex workers from having to deliver a sex work 101 class to every person they disclose to.
1. I have good sexual health. I know this because I get tested. I get tested twice a year and more if there have been any risks. Some workers go more often. I use condoms for oral and full sex, i do visual checks on my clients for STI’s, I use lots of lube and have access to a variety of sizes in condoms, I know my condoms are in date and stored properly, I put it on, I take it off, i regularly check the condom during sex to make sure it is in tact and in place and for all of these reasons, I rarely have a condom break or slip. I also use condoms on toys and on fingers if they are to be inserted anywhere. Sex workers in this country are known to have better sexual health than the general public. We are professional about our sexual health.
2. Being raped or assaulted is not a part of my job. I have never been raped or hit during my sex wok job. When it happens to a sex worker it must be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately, not written off an inevitable part of the industry.
3. My clients come from all walks of life. There is no typical client. As long as they are clean and respectful, then I am happy to provide them a service. If they are not clean, I don’t mind waiting while they take a shower.
4. There is no typical sex worker, I know sex workers of all ages, I have a friend in her late 60’s and I know of even older. Fat or thin, tall or short, everyone can make money in the sex industry.
5. The sex I have at work is work. For me it is not comparable to the sex I have for pleasure or with a partner. That doesn’t mean I never enjoy it. Compare it to working in a childcare centre looking after other people’s kids all day, i might enjoy it and I might like those kids but it is very different to how feel when i care for my own child. It is just a service, an intimate service yes, but there are many jobs where people provide intimate services for money, such as childcare.
6. I’ve been known to partake in a recreational drug here and there but I do not have a drug habit to support, and I do not need to be wasted to work. Drug use is a characteristic of our industry, in that it’s slightly more accepted in some (not all – many try to distance themselves) workplaces. If drug use itself is higher in the sex industry than in other industries (say for example the nursing sector) then I offer the following explanations: Firstly,obviously the money in sex work is better. If you have a drug addiction to support or if your vice of choice is expensive, sex work is an attractive financial option. This is also true for big gamblers, shoppers, travellers, spenders, and those in debt. Secondly the flexibility of sex work makes it an attractive work option for those who don’t fit neatly into the mon to fri 9- 5, stay in your box and conform-or-else, type jobs. What I mean is, as a sex worker you can work for yourself, you can work for boss, you can work a few hours or you can work a few days solid, you can work regularly or on and off, you can call in sick all the time and still have a job. This means that people who need some extra money to score today, and the people who can’t get stable work because their life is not stable, or those people who can’t work long shifts because they need to self medicate, or people who get sacked from ‘straight’ workplaces because they were found out for using their sick leave to detox, still have a job option. I’m not using this post to weigh in on the ‘drugs are bad mmmkay’ debate, but I will say, people who use drugs either recreationally or habitually, can and are, and should be encouraged to be productive members of our communities, and it is up to everyone to make that possible. The sex industry has managed to make that possible and I think that is why drug use is more visible in our industry.
7. I personally do not have a mental health diagnosis. I think that makes me the opposite of normal these days. My point is, you don’t have to be damaged or deluded to exchange sex for money. Getting paid for sex also doesn’t cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or any other label. What can cause a whole array of mental health problems is ongoing stigma and discrimination, harassment, criminalisation and all its associated issues, unsafe workplaces, isolation, and any other number of life experiences and chemical reactions. There is nothing inherently damaging either physically, emotionally or mentally about getting paid for sex, though there are often factors associated with sex work that can cloud our experiences. And many sex workers do live with a mental illness and I doubt it is over represented in our industry. But like drugs, i think it is more accepted in our industry and the flexibility means that people with health considerations can find suitable work in the flexible sex industry, allowing them to manage their health and stay gainfully employed. Again, I think rather than giving our industry a hard time, other industries should be taking note. Stop with the exit strategies for sex workers, how about “entering strategies” rolled out to the employers whose work conditions are so rigid ensuring they are not accessible to people with caring responsibilities, with health considerations and disabilities, or to people who use drugs, older people, people with less English skills, or students, people with gaps in their resume’s and people with criminal records, or to people who need extra help or people who just want some control of their own working lives. These are the benefits of the sex industry, not the negatives.
8. There are no Madame’s and Pimps. OK, well there are female brothel owners and we do call them Madame’s, but they are really just an employer. They don’t generally have any other special role in our lives, just like any employer and employee relationship. And there are boyfriends/partners, drivers, drug dealers and runners, security and bosses. And maybe in other countries they are called pimps, but not in Australia. There people in abusive relationships who are being pressured to work when they don’t want to on in ways they don’t want to. But that is domestic violence, not pimping. The reality in Adelaide is that there are lots of brothels and lots of bosses, some are good and some are bad but there is even more sex workers who work for themselves or in small collectives who have total control.
9. Yes the money is good, but not ridiculous. It used to be much better but an increase in the industry and a decrease in disposable income has meant it is not the gold mine i once felt like (or maybe I’m jut getting older ;) ). Adelaide sex workers are among the cheapest sex workers in Australia. A mixture of different services offered by different workers, no labour rights or baseline wages in force, competitive market and vastly varying overheads make it difficult to negotiate pay rises across the industry or individually. When I first started sex work 20 years ago the average rate for an hour ‘fully inclusive’ session in a Adelaide brothel was $110 – 160 and about 5 years ago we had our first big price hike and now the going rate is about $160 – $240 for an hour. The sex worker generally gets about 50 – 60%. Keep in mind that most brothels also offer half hour or shorter services (I once worked in a brothel where I got paid $25 fr a quick fuck! needless to say I didn’t stay there long)and will provide discounts for longer bookings, some take shift fees or other cuts, and many sex workers offer ‘extras’ for extra cost or provide a different service for a different cost, private workers set their own prices based on overheads, services, commercial factors and their style of doing business. Give or take a few tips and noshows and there is no way I could give you any kind of average earning. I can tell you that if I work for an 8 hour shift in a brothel I would expect to earn between $200 and $500 but depending on the business, the time of day/year, the number of workers on shift, the price of service and cut I got, and a massive range of other factors, including luck, it would not be unusual for a sex worker in Adelaide to leave an 8 hour shift with anywhere between zero and thousands.
10. I currently do pay tax on my sex work income. I have to if I want to participate in the world of house and car loans, or any other significant financial transactions. I haven’t always paid tax on my sex work income because I feel it is unfair to take my tax money but afford me no rights in return. Infact the opposite, I pay tax on my income but my assets can be confiscated as ‘proceeds of crime’, my cash could have me charged with ‘illegal possession’, my business could be closed down at any point and my livelihood gone, without compensation, my health and home and professional insurance is not valid due to my illegal activity. But regardless of any of that, if I want to spend my money, I have to declare it. And many other sex workers and sex industry businesses are in the same boat. The glaring contradiction comes from the fact that a) The Australian Tax Office doesn’t care how you make your money as long as you pay tax on it, in one of their staffers words ‘even a hit man can declare their income and claim their expenses’ and b) Australia’s tax system is a national system and our sex work laws are state based and every other state has some form of legal sex work. Now ofcourse, being a cash based industry, I’m sure not every cent is declared, and being very good at evading authority and remaining undetected, I’m sure not all brothels are paying tax, and why should they until their business’s are deemed legitimate. But the truth is that three things in life are inevitable – your born, you pay taxes and you die.