sex

This Playboy fight teaches us all we need to know about sex work.

Well here’s something I never thought I would say: those Playboy bunnies have really taught us a valuable lesson.

Far from the 1960’s sepia-toned view of the Playboy Mansion being a household of sexy girls serving martinis in bunny tails, the modern home of Hugh Hefner is finally being seen for exactly what it is: sex work.

The Playboy house is about young women exchanging sex for money. Willingly.

Sex work: it’s a trade that has been around in some format or another since the beginning of time. And whilst I am not interested in the moral slinging of mud as to whether it is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, I will say that sex work is a reality of the human race. It exists.

But for some reason, the gated community of the Hefner Playboy House has always circumvented the label of ‘sex work’, somehow being seen as another format of sexual entertainment. Playboy Bunnies aren’t prostitutes, and Hef’s bevy of blonde girlfriends aren’t sex workers – they’re just pretty, young women having fun with men. Aren’t they?

Fair to say that this perception changed forever, when Hef’s ex-girlfriend Kendra Wilkinson declared that she slept with him in exchange for money.

“I made the choice to sleep with an 80-year-old man for some money.”

And like that, her role – and the role of the other ‘girlfriends’ – was exposed for exactly what is was, cute titles and all. Sex work.

Holly Madison, Hugh Hefner, and Kendra Wilkinson cosy up in happier times.

Kendra has been speaking out in recent months in a retaliation against the other ex-girlfriend to Hugh Hefner, Holly Madison (they dated him at the same time), who has been vocal about her abusive experience in the house.

Two women, one man, one role, two different experiences.

In the years since she 'quit' her role as girlfriend, Holly has gone public with a slew of accusations against Hefner, including drug use, blatant sexism, intimidation in the bedroom, bribing her with cash not to leave, and harassing her with letters after she did. Her 2015 book, 'Down The Rabbit Hole' painted a damning picture of life inside the mansion.

In a public spat, Kendra fought back via Twitter and recent interviews to say that Holly, herself, and every other women living in the Playboy mansion were there under their own accord.

“He’s done zero harm in my eyes to anyone that I’ve ever seen, and his intentions were only to make everybody happy," said Kendra to SiriusXM in America this week.

"It was just the woman’s choice to be there and f–k him. That’s it. I mean, that was everybody’s choice. What do you think you’re going to do? You’re moving into the Playboy Mansion and dating a man who has multiple girlfriends.”

And so, within the microcosm of the Playboy world, two very opposing sides to the sex industry emerge: the victim and the champion.

Holly Madison's book, 'Down The Rabbit Hole', painted her time in the Playboy Mansion as abusive and damaging.

As with anything in life, there is no black and white. There are vast shades of grey between women who are illegally coerced or trapped within prostitution, and women who consciously and happily choose sex work as their occupation.

In my lifetime, I have personally met women from both sides of the fence.

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One, a heroin addict who turned to prostitution to feed her habit. She lived in a squat with four other men she would regularly have sex with in order to stay, and to pay for her drugs. She was indeed trapped in a cycle that was unhealthy for her, and difficult to escape.

On the other hand is a young woman who is professional sex worker. She has a website, regular clients, even social media pages. She does not hide her profession, and often speaks to various news outlets about what she does. Health and safety are paramount in her work, and she's the first to admit she loves what she does. She is a woman who loves sex, and enjoys doing it for work.

Watch the Mamamia team confess how often they're having sex. Post continues after video.

In between these polar opposites are varying shades of reliance and freedom, safety and danger, sex and violence. No two sex workers experiences will be the same.

And as Holly and Kendra have shown us so clearly, even two women from an almost identical environment, will walk away with wildly different experiences.

Sex, after all, is so damn subjective.

Holly Madison felt trapped and abused, and Kendra Wilkinson felt empowered and enamoured, both by the same man.

Both women have gone on to marry, have children, and create new lives outside of the sex trade. Kendra is unashamed of her past, whilst Holly seems to hope it will fade away like a bad dream. Neither woman is wrong in what she feels.

But both examples work together, to give a great example of the true complexity of modern sex work.