real life

Taylor Tara became a sex worker at 47. This is what she's learned about men.

Ten years ago, Taylor Tara was sitting in a Cairns coffee shop, thumbing through the personal ads.

Her heart beating fast and loud inside her chest, she dialled the number of a local brothel. Answering machine. She tried another. Someone picked up this time, and yes, they were open to new staff.

“Come down tonight, and we can take a look at you.”

That evening, Taylor Tara began a new career as a sex worker. She was 47 years old.

The things you want to know about escorts, answered.

Video by Mamamia

Taylor, a mother of three and grandmother of seven, is now among the more high-profile women in her industry. The author of a series of memoirs, including the newly released Behind Closed Doors, she’s joining a small cohort of her peers seeking to demystify and destigmatise the profession.

“[Sex workers] should all be held in such high regard for the work that we do,” the now 57-year-old told Mamamia. “We deal with so many different styles of people, so many different sets of problems. It’s just endless.”

“I have never felt so sick and so nervous.” The first night.

When she first started her career, Taylor shared the misconceptions most have about sex work. That it goes hand in hand with drugs. That it’s for a certain type of person, with a certain type of look.

But after ten years as a single mother, she had a string of “two or three” bad relationships, the last of which stood her up for their first weekend away together. And she took a leap.

“I thought, ‘You know what. If you want it, you can damn well pay for it.’ Because that’s all the relationships seemed to be about,” she said. “None of the nice things. We didn’t go out anywhere. It always just seemed to be [sex].”

Her first night on the job in a Cairns brothel, Taylor was lined up with the other women on shift, ready for clients to choose.

ADVERTISEMENT

“[It was] the scariest moment of my life,” she said. “I have never felt so sick and so nervous, all at once… I thought, ‘Who is going to pay for me?… And what do I do? I’m actually going into a room to have sex with a complete stranger — that’s not me.'”

Taylor expected to go through the shift without being booked. But at least, she thought, she could tell herself she'd given it a go.

She had three clients that night.

"You sort of expect unattractive people, people that no one would be interested in. And I expected they would be drunk. But they were just normal people," she said.

"One just hadn't had a girlfriend for quite a few years. He was working on some complex as an electrician, and [the booking] was just his little bit of grounding time, to feel the special effects of having someone."

As she progressed further in the industry, she realised that was just a taste of "the need for this profession and what it entails".

"Society isn't the way it used to be. Life is not the way it used to be, and relationships are not the way they used to be," she said. "It all falls into the too-hard-basket for guys."

"The emotions came up." The unexpected side of the job.

These days, Taylor hops around regional Australia, catering to clients feeling the isolation of life in a remote town.

ADVERTISEMENT

"They're just normal, lonely people that have no way to meet people," she said. "And they just need someone to look after them."

Often their needs are about more than just the physical urge - they could handle that themselves, she points out. Instead, it could be anything from a need for intimacy, to stress-relief or sexual exploration.

"Sometimes you go out for dinner dates. Some people just like to come and sit in the spa for a couple of hours. I've got a [client who is a] crossdresser who's absolutely amazing," she said. "I've been seeing him for years; it's such a beautiful, different, professional relationship than you would ever imagine."

LISTEN: Australia’s former highest paid escort speaks to Mia Freedman about sex work, making her own rules, and what happens inside the sex industry.

Taylor sees, in the most intimate way possible, a cross-section of humanity that few other professions could rival.

But within that, a broad range of social problems are reflected back at her. Mental ill-health. Loneliness.

She's had clients in nursing homes; clients with disabilities; a client with psoriasis who said women never wanted to touch him; a client who hired her overnight just so he didn't have to wake up alone again on Christmas morning; a client who received her services as a gift from his sons — "He'd been on his own for so long, and they recognised that he must be needing it, which I think is so sweet".

For some, the moment of release and relaxation they find with her brings a chance to be vulnerable, in a way they feel unable to be in other settings.

"One guy just started talking, and then he just broke down because the emotions came up," she said. "Men can talk to [sex workers] and they don't have to worry about feeling embarrassed; there's no judgement, they'll probably never see us again. But it gives them that release."

taylor tara sex worker
Image: Supplied.
ADVERTISEMENT

For those who are clearly struggling, she has cards that refer clients to local mental health and crisis services. But she can only do so much.

"I'm not a counsellor. I can be a sounding board, I can give opinions, I can talk about options and things like that, but at a point I have to say, 'Hey, you know, if you really need someone to talk to and you find this is a real problem, here's a card... my God, it's just never-ending."

Relative stigma.

There is one area of her client's lives that she prefers not to discuss, though. Their relationship status. She doesn't ask. It's not something she needs or wants to know about.

"As much as I wouldn't like my partner, if I had one, to see a sex worker, I would actually prefer him to see a sex worker than start up an affair. With an affair, it encroaches on your home. It can ruin your life. But a sex worker isn't going to call you; it's done and you're gone," she said.

"It comes down to each individual; if they're going to have sex with someone they're going to have sex with someone, regardless of whether it's a working girl or whatever. It's just a better choice, I think, in the long term."

Still, that blame is among the many things that prevent some people from supporting her career choice.

Fortunately for Taylor, even those closest to her — her now adult children — are perfectly accepting. When she gave her first television interview on ABC's You Can't Ask That in 2016, she checked in with them first. Same with the release of her first memoir.

"My daughter is just so proud of me. When I started writing my book, I said to her, 'Now, you do know when I said it's mostly massaging someone, I was lying a bit, right?' She said, 'Of course I did, Mum.'

"And I said to my boys, if they ever want to read my book, they need to let me glue together the pages that they're not allowed to read," she joked.

"But they're just happy that I'm out there doing it, for people and just for life. Because I always brought them up never to judge anyone."

00:00 / ???