I have been participating around the blogosphere in ‘debates’ where I find myself constantly having to justify my job as a valuable service and needing to fight against the suggestion that I am an exploited victim (with the perpetrator being the employers or clients). In a way I hope that anyone following my blog for any period of time will be able to come to their own (possibly more informed) conclusions.
Recently I wrote about a client of mine who had autism, and it led to some discussion about providing sexual services to clients who have disabilities, which led to again more questions about the ethics of my work. As I already vented about, it was suggested that people with disabilities might be exploited victims (with the perpetrator being families and sex workers). Again with the notions of victims and exploitation. More inaccurate judgements and discriminatory assumptions.
Let me challenge a few of those assumptions for you.
Many many sex workers, including me, have got experience or training as carers, nurses and support workers in the disability and aged sector. I worked as a carer in my early 20’s both in disability and aged care, in one of my guilt induced, partner enforced ‘retirement’ from the sex industry. Frankly, dealing with naked body’s and natural bodily functions and things that other people find icky, and doing it all while trying to provide a little human care…. it’s not that far of a stretch from sex work. Except – one has way better pay and conditions (but I’ll do a post about that another time)
Anyway, many of us have a caring and compassionate streak, and enjoy those occasions when our work allows us to share with someone something special. For example, a young man with Autism wants to lose his virginity at age 30, or an old widowed man hasn’t been touched in a gentle caring way for years and wants a sensual massage. Or like my first overnight booking, with a man who was lacking in social skills and confidence and just wanted to wake up next to a woman for the first time in his life. I know a sex worker in her 60’s who only sees clients above 50, and specialises in nursing home visits.
Some of us enjoy this part of our work so much that we specialise in that area of sex work, like the amazing Rachel http://www.scarletroad.com.au/trailer/ some of us attend training like the training done by touching base, and some of us provide discounts. We are service professionals, we know our job, we train, we network, we bring experience.
Not all of our clients are men. Especially amongst our clients who have disabilities. Women with disabilities often express sexual desires and strategies to meet those desires. It is true however, that care agencies and institutions often overlook women as sexual beings so there are more barriers to women accessing a sex worker than for men. But there are still plenty of female clients. A male sex worker I know once had a woman contact him after seeing him on a list of disability trained sex workers. She didn’t have a disability, but she did feel vulnerable. She had been abused in her youth and had stayed celibate until her 40’s. She was calling my friend, not because she couldn’t get sex, but because she wanted safe, controlled, fully negotiated, consensual sex with firm boundaries and it needed to be with someone who was understanding, caring, compassionate, gentle AND sensual. She got that and she ended up seeing him a couple of times that year, each time becoming more confident.
And sex workers don’t always do sex. When working in my straight disability support job I heard a story about a sex worker being hired to teach a young man how to masturbate. He had been behaving inappropriately in a group home setting, pulling out his penis in public, and rubbing it literally red raw at night. After consultation with parents and doctors, a sex worker was hired to spend an hour in his bedroom with some lube and a picture magazine, showing him carefully and talking to him openly about where and when. It worked a miracle. Who else would or could do that job?
And our clients arent always lonely. Whilst doing my annual disability friendly sex work training, I heard another beautiful story about a married man and woman. Both with profound physical disabilities. They wanted to have sex. They needed someone to help them, to put them into position, and physically assist them. Who else will do that?
Now I wont deny that most of my clients are able-bodied men on their lunch breaks, looking for uninspired back rubs, blow jobs and a simple release. But that is not all our job is about. Even if you can’t see the service in sex, you can’t deny the value many sex workers provide for many clients that do not fit into your preconceived ideas.
Sex work is real work. Stick around, hopefully I’l convince you by the end.. (of my life)