by EVA SLESS
I have a problem. The problem is I am angry. Really really angry and I’m trying to write. I don’t like writing when I’m angry because I find a lot of points get missed and lost and I get a bit shouty and sweary which, in turn, makes me look like a petulant child who hasn’t got her own way.
My anger started on Saturday night when a friend wrote a Facebook status. The status asked that if sex work was as empowering as some sex workers “claim” it is, would they then encourage their daughters to enter the profession? And then she went on to say no, of course they wouldn’t because really it’s a degrading and exploitative job and no-one should ever feel proud or ’empowered’ because of it.
She then bandied around some ‘statistics’ that the majority of girls who work get into it, do so solely because of drug habits and as a last resort. because of desperation. She claimed that the sex workers who advocate what they do as a positive thing are just kidding themselves because everybody knows there’s nothing empowering or positive about sex work…
She says this knowing full well what I do. That I am a sex worker. That I am also a mother to a daughter. And that my world, my job, my career – has been built of the positivity of sex work.= display_ad('x18', 'hidden-xs hidden-md mm_incontent', 'MM In Content'); ?>= display_ad('x20', 'visible-xs mm_mob_incontent', 'MM In Content (Mobile)'); ?>
My friend was wrong. And this is why:
When it comes to my daughter and what I will ‘encourage’ her to do, it actually has nothing to do with a specific job or title and has everything to do with giving her the tools to make choices and decisions on her own.
I will ‘encourage’ her to be a good and decent person. To treat others with respect and to not judge anyone by how they look, where they are from, who they love or what they do for a living. I will ‘encourage’ her to make her own well-informed choices and live her life in a way that makes her happy, satisfied, fulfilled and confident. Whether that future job is as a surgeon or a sex worker is entirely her choice and, if I do my job as a parent properly, will be the right choice for her.
I cannot stand the uninformed and ignorant rant that sex work is not empowering or a real ‘choice’.
I am going to put it in a very simple way:
I love sex. I f*cking LOVE it. I have loved it before I even knew what it was or that there was such a thing as the patriarchy. All I knew was that something down there felt really good.
As I grew up and learned more about it – I loved it even more.
And as I started to do it… I realised I was really, really good at it.
So, something I really enjoy, am good at and can be paid to do is somehow NOT my choice?
I work for myself. I have no pimp, no manager, no brothel. Just me and a few advertisements dotted around the place, but I am being forced into this?
No. Really I am not. And to say that I am, is insulting and ignorant.
Now we come to the whole “exploitation” thing. But before I go any further I will put in my usual disclaimer: I am aware that the sex industry is not perfect. I am aware there are many, many girls who are being forced into this work. Being trafficked and held prisoner.
I know there are drug problems and that rapes and attacks happen. I know there are men who exploit this industry to the point of girls being killed while they work. I know this. I have spent the last fifteen or so years researching, writing about, talking about and talking to sex workers. I know the drill. I know there is a horrible dark side and I would never ignore that or pretend it’s not there.
However (and it’s a pretty big however) every coin has two sides, and there are some really amazing, positive sides to the sex industry. For example, when my ‘friend’ goes on about the people who use the service, she claims they are all just degrading women and using women and seeing women as nothing but objects. So, I wonder what she would say to one of my clients, Phil*.
Phil was shot in the back when he was nine in an accidental farm incident. He has no feeling below his waist and is in a wheelchair. He is quite shy too and finds it very hard to talk to women, let alone have the courage to ask one out on a date or be intimate with.
But he is human. He has urges and needs and desires. He calls me every few weeks and I go and hang out at his house for a few hours. He’s a funny guy and we get along great. He is a great kisser, considering he’s not kissed all that many girls before, and really knows how to use his hands and tongue.
Yes, he pays me for my time. That’s my job. But there are times that I go hang out and have a coffee with him just because I want to – because we get along. We chat on the phone if he is feeling lonely and I have even gone out to dinner with him and my husband. I genuinely like him and he genuinely likes me.
If it wasn’t for me, he would get absolutely no sexual intimacy at all and I think that’s a real shame. Sex is a basic human need like food and shelter and can turn people funny if they can’t have it.
Phil is not my only disabled client, there a couple of guys I see who have mobility issues and other disabilities, but who are red blooded humans who want and desire sexual contact but because of their situations find it difficult to get.
Are they really just exploiting me? Isn’t it (when you really think about it) almost the other way around? I mean they are paying me $3-400 an hour for what is free for most people.
Then there are my female clients. I actually see more and more women these days, but there are two I see a lot. One is a bored bisexual housewife who likes to spend days in bed watching lesbian porn and eating pussy, and the other is a lesbian who works such long hours and travels so much she has no time for a relationship or even to meet someone for casual sex.
Is she exploiting me? Is she just some screwed up, sleazy misogynist who wants to humiliate and use me? No. She’s simply paying for what she doesn’t have time to do otherwise.
There’s Gary who has just been divorced and really doesn’t want a relationship, but still wants to have sex. There’s Fred who, at 30, was still a virgin and was scared he would disappoint a potential mate so wanted some tips. Harold is 70 and his wife died last year. We don’t have sex but he likes to cuddle and talk about the days when he and his wife had a wonderful sex life.
Actually a lot of my clients don’t want sex. They want company and conversation.
Susan has really bad endometriosis. Like really severe. She cannot have sex at all. It is painful and uncomfortable and upsetting. And I mean all sex. Not just penetration. Unless she takes super-strong pain medication she finds all orgasms painful and, because the medication has some severe side effects, she really doesn’t take it all that often.
But she really wants her husband to be able to have a sex life so she called me. I went out for coffee with her and we chatted for a long time about the whole thing and now, every month or so I go out to their place and spend an hour with her husband. Sometimes she is there, sometimes she isn’t. But the arrangement works really well for them both and they have a wonderful, strong relationship.
I see couples who want to experiment and spice up their love life with a threesome. I see people who have lost their partners to illness and accident. I have even spent time with a very gay man who just wanted to make sure he was gay (long story, have blog about it, will post one day).
I do not believe a single one of these people is exploiting me or using me or treating me as just an object. To say that is almost like saying that I, as a woman, am not allowed to enjoy or be promiscuous with my sex life because enjoyable non-relationship sex is purely men’s territory and anyway men only want sex to use women.
It is highly insulting to every single one of them (and to me) to make that claim.
Once again I will state that this job is my choice and I f*cking love every damn second of it. To claim I do not is ridiculous.
I have spoken to over two hundred working girls in the past few years and I can tell you for an absolute fact that only three of them entered into the job as a last resort. None of them did it to support a drug habit.
I will also tell you that in that bunch of two hundred there are law students, medical students and even a couple of police officers. There are mums and wives. There are women saving to buy a house. Women supporting their families because their partners are unable to work for whatever reason. And there are women who, like me, do it purely for the sex. Yes there is money involved. It’s a job. But to say it’s only about the money is stupid. I mean, would you do YOUR job for free??
The difference is that I rarely come home from work in a foul mood from dealing with all the shit most people deal with day to day with their bosses, work colleagues, and jobs they have to do. I get to play and laugh and joke and orgasm at my job.
This “friend” of mine claims to be a feminist. But, in my understanding, the word “feminism” it is about allowing women to have the right and freedom to make their own choices. Whether it has to do with work, voting, sex, autonomy, money, whatever. It is about choice and, in my opinion, that should not be conditional. It should just be.
*All names have been changed, other than Eva’s own.
Eva is a Melbourne based freelance writer. Who writes a lot about sex, sex work, the sex industry and Tim Tams. Sometimes she writes other stuff too. Follow her blog here.