Last night on 60 Minutes we all watched as Cassandra Sainsbury was outed as a sex worker. As a seasoned sex worker myself I have so many complicated feelings about this.
For those that haven’t been following this story, with a struggling fitness business, 22-year-old Cassandra answered a Craigslist ad where she was lured by an offer of a loan and a trip to London. According to Cassandra, at the last minute her flights, booked by a third party, were changed where she ended up in Bogotá, Colombia. When Cassandra became aware of being used as a drug mule she alleges she attempted to back out of the deal, however her family and her life were threatened. Cassandra was later arrested at El Dorado airport with 5.8 kilograms of cocaine and is now awaiting trial with a possible sentence of 20 years and four months behind bars.
It’s a very sad story of a young woman who made a grave mistake and now has to face a very high price. This is where the story should have ended.
But, you see, Cassandra was also a sex worker.
The story was packaged nicely by 60 Minutes to use this bombshell revelation from her co-worker at Club 22, a brothel near Penrith in Sydney, in an attempt to smear Sainsbury’s reputation. To paint her as a woman who can’t be trusted, who does not deserve sympathy that is clearly guilty. It was also packaged to frame sex work as an illicit job where lowly vulnerable women with poor morals and greed will stop at nothing for the promise of easy money. As though drug dealing or trafficking would come natural to us as we sell our flesh.
Tom Steinfort from 60 Minutes stated, “Most of the cocaine ends up in Sydney’s bars strip clubs and brothels.”
Lets get real about drugs and the sex industry. Yes there are sex workers who are also drug users, yes drugs do get offered to sex workers in the course of their employment. Yes there are brothels that will supply drugs to their workers. But there are many more examples within our industry that don’t use drugs, who refuse clients that are on drugs.