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.
Find that hard to believe?
Think about it this way, cocaine can be a fun party drug, but it has the unfortunate side effect of causing erectile dysfunction. Our job as sex workers is to have sex with our clients, if party drugs are involved our ability to perform our work is diminished. Why would clients pay us to have sex with them if they are incapable of benefiting from our services? And more so, why would we as sex workers want to make our jobs harder?
So while there is drug use within the sex industry it is not as prominent as this story has made it out to be.
Monogamish explained with 'Prude and the Porn Star'.
The 60 Minutes story also included the opinions of the Former Chief of the Australian Federal Police Mick Palmer who claims that the criminal market that traffics drugs controls most of our industry and that Cassandra was targeted. It's an argument that lacks logic in this case as a key piece of evidence is the Craigslist ad Cassandra answered.
So unless the great drug traffickers of this world are using some form of telekinesis mind control, implying that Cassandra could have been targeted in her job as a sex worker simply makes no sense.
But that’s the point isn’t it? When it comes to tarnishing the reputation of a sex worker it doesn’t have to make sense.
As sex workers we are vulnerable to public perception, despite operating businesses within the law.
Despite our jobs being lawful, we frequently get painted as society's dirty outcasts.
The anonymous sex worker who outed Cassandra made a point of saying that Cassandra was a FIFO sex worker who travelled from her home in Adelaide to Sydney for work. That sex worker said that Cassandra probably travelled to Sydney because Sydney has a more lucrative sex trade than Adelaide. To most people who aren’t familiar with the sex industry this would paint Cassandra in a very bad light.
However as a sex worker it does the opposite. It is public knowledge within the sex industry that sex work in Adelaide is criminalised where as in NSW it’s decriminalised and despite the law, there is a current sex trade in Adelaide.
How can you consume porn in an ethical way?
If Cassandra wanted to be a sex worker in Adelaide she absolutely could have been, in fact taking travel time and costs into account Cassandra probably would have made easier money doing sex work in Adelaide. Which means that Cassandra was most likely travelling from Adelaide to Sydney to perform sex work within the law.
The fact that the anonymous sex worker overlooked this in the course of the interview made me question the validity of her opinions of Cassandra.
If Cassandra's involvement with the drug trafficker had anything to do with her career in sex work, then shouldn’t that have been included in the interview?
It would also be interesting given the substantial financial investment 60 Minutes put into this story to find out if that sex worker was paid for their input.
So how do we digest the 60 Minutes story?
Well personally, I think its lazy reporting and an incredible ratings grab. I think Cassandra’s prior work in the sex industry is completely unrelated to the mess that she’s found herself in. I think its incredibly sad that another sex worker would seek to harm one of her peers, her brothel, and our industry in such a way.
Cassandra Sainsbury is a young woman, and my heart goes out to her and her family. It’s truly a horrible outcome already and I hope that the Colombian police find the drug traffickers responsible.