Sex work, disability, and public discourse

A former client sent me a link today to an article in the Canberra Times about a (UK) woman struggling with the lack of sex life and the sexuality of her autistic son (hi S – thank you!). You can see the article here:

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/sex-and-relationships/i-learned-through-my-sons-autism-diagnosis-when-it-comes-to-sex-we-all-have-special-needs-20170426-gvssam.html

I’m extremely sympathetic to the family. Autism is not something that I would wish on any one, and I am sure that it presents a unique challenge when it comes to dating and relationships.

I was however disappointed by the language and tone of conservatism of the article (written by the young man’s mother). It was a sharp reminder that prejudice against my industry – despite being variously decriminalised (as in NSW and NZ) or legal (as in many other parts of Australia and the UK, where the author lives), the average person’s opinions seem to be stuck in the ’50s.

“Kerb-crawling to pick up a prostitute was definitely not on my to-do list after “Buy hummus, sort sock drawer, do Pilates”

Come on – it’s 2017, you do Pilates, and have raised an autistic child (and no doubt dealt with issues of discrimination and disability phobia for much of his life). Street sex work (not prostitution please – it’s a pejorative term) is mostly a thing of the (certainly in Australia, although it does still happen in the UK) past in this country. The Internet and mobile phones have seen to that – and sex work is safer and easier because of it.

“Our female friends were furious that we could even consider condoning prostitution. I tried to rationalise it by saying that I thought of a lady of the night more as a “sex care provider who is presenting herself as a commodity allotment within a business doctrine”. But it didn’t convince them.”

For everyone out there still stuck in a time warp, let me say it loud and clear: “sex work is work”. The author actually has it right here. Yes, sex workers (and we aren’t all women and we even work during the day) like me are people engaged in a business that isn’t a criminal enterprise – and seriously you need to check your moral outrage.

The irrational discrimination against both sex worker’s and the people who choose to see them is never more clear than when you are dealing with disability. There are people out there (male, female et al) who find it very, very hard, or impossible to have a safe, consensual sexual experience because of their disability. Yet these moral authorities of the community would deny the opportunity for disable people to ever experience something that these moral arbiters take for granted? Shame on them. I thought that we had evolved socially past that kind of behaviour.

Who are these faceless “female friends” – and why do they get to determine whether a 21 year old autistic man (or anyone else) gets to have sex and under what conditions?

“all my 50-something, divorced female friends are chewing holes in the furniture with sexual frustration”

Yet, I’m guessing that many of those same women would join in the condemnation described above. It’s dysfunctional and it hurts all sorts of people – especially those with disabilities – for no good reason at all. We really, really need to grow up.

As to the author’s dilemma, I am saddened that she, nor any of her friends with autistic children, ever thought to type the following into Google…

“sex for disabled persons UK”

If she had, she would have seen these links at the top of the search results…

There are many, many people out there in the world working hard to give disabled people access to the sexual experiences that the rest of us take for granted. Organisations like Touching Base here in Australia do a fantastic job of giving people with disabilities access to safe, consensual sex.

Despite all of the (often valid) criticism of western culture, lets not forget that our various societies have done many, many good things. I have heard it said that you can measure the worth of a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members. I am proud to say that I live in a society that is beginning to tackle and resolve the issues of sex and disability.

There is a long way to go, but just being able to say that in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK among others, that a disabled person can choose to engage the services of a sex worker like myself – that’s a huge victory for acceptance, respect, and compassion.

I wish Kathy Lette and her son well, and hope her book is a success, but I would also like to see her educate herself further if she is going to be a public figure in the discussion of sex work and disability. There is a lot riding on these discussions for a lot of very disadvantaged people.

John.

Why – some of – my clients need cash

You may have noticed this article in Fairfax media recently:

In summary: the government wants to get ride of $100 notes to stop people working for cash and not declaring their income.

When you add this statement to the Reserve Banks recent statement about wanting to eliminate cash altogether, I start to smell a rat / feel the thin edge of the wedge. I have a very real worry that we are taking the first step toward losing cash completely, or at the very least the higher denominations.

As someone who is regularly paid in cash – for good reasons – it’s a worrying development. Not because I want to hide my income – I don’t, I put it in the bank, claim deductions for business expenses and then pay tax on any profit.

It’s worrying for at least two reasons. First: people use cash to pay me because it’s anonymous. Second: it’s easy and instant. Lets unpack those points:

Anonymity: when you do something that is legal – decriminialised even – but still the subject of stigmatisation and social disapproval, then having the name my business pop up in your credit card or debit card statement can be a HUGE problem. We don’t live in a society where people’s choices – especially about their sexuality – are respected. So cash allows people, who don’t want to have to answer to others about their choices, to purchase my services in private.

And that’s not even considering the consequences of malicious hacking of personal and business data about your spending habits – or its sale by banks to third parties to use in their marketing – just sit and consider the potential consequences of that for a moment. This kind of tracking and resale of purchase data has already had real world consequences.

Easy of use: our banking system is archaic – especially the electronic transfer system. It can literally take days for money to get from one bank to another. In short if you want to pay me electronically, then you need to do it in advance, in full – before you know if you even want my service. Cash on the other hand means that you can turn up to our date and decide that it’s not right for you and walk out the door. No harm, no foul, no trouble. But if you had to make an electronic payment in advance, then there is trouble, embarrassment, you have to give me bank details to make the refund, what about trust? What happens if something goes wrong?

If you can’t use cash, then paying for a service that is intensely personal and sensitive has another layer of stress and anxiety added to it.

In short, losing cash will hurt women’s ability to buy my services. To be sure, it will also be a problem for men as well, but men have significant advantages when it comes to social acceptance (or at least tolerance) of the things that they do compared to women.

Killing cash will make it harder for women to access legal services like mine. This is not a good thing for anyone.

John.

Yoga and being over forty

Seven Reasons Why Every Man Should Take up Yoga” – it’s the title of an article I read today. It could have been an average puff piece with little substance, but it turned out to be a worthwhile read. And I am certain that every reason is as much applicable to women as it is to men.

What really caught my attention though was that the article was written by a former cricketer Andrew May – and it focused on how yoga is especially beneficial to older men.

2016-09-08-14-29-42Everything that he said I have either experienced or could could relate to – specifically as a man who is now 44 years old. I’m not twenty-something (this is a good thing really) and I don’t have a young man’s body. Like Andrew May and his professional sporting colleges I have a legacy of injuries, large and small, I don’t heal as rapidly as I used to, I am not as flexible as I once was, my skin isn’t as elastic as it used to be, and I now tend to gain body fat more easily around my middle. All typical aspects of aging for men.

But that doesn’t in any way mean that I dislike my body, or feel bad about it, or don’t feel attractive. On the contrary, I love my body. And being older has actually brought some improvements. When I was in my twenties, I was always very lightly built. I’m no heavy weight now, but I have “filled out” you could say. My upper body is larger and stronger and I build muscle much more easily and quickly than I ever did in my twenties.

Anyway, for many people – male or female – aging is a huge challenge for our perception of self. We are no longer the person we feel we should be. Our body is busy betraying us, and of course work and family life make it all so, so much harder.

Andrew May’s response is that yoga is the answer – and I honestly can’t disagree.

I personally prefer pilates to yoga, but they share enough basic principals (like flexibility, core strength and stability, and control) that I personally feel they are interchangeable. 10 years ago, pilates gave me a solution to a lifetime of back trouble that started when I was 15 years old.

Andrew May observed that doing yoga bought him “better mates”, better mood, and better sexual function (amongst other things). Unexpected benefits perhaps, but I would say that it shouldn’t be a surprise really. Undertaking a discipline like yoga is completely at odds with the permanently busy, consumerist lifestyle that so most of us are ruled by. Taking time out to stretch, to breath, to extend our bodies and our awareness of ourselves forces you to stop, to disconnect from the rest of the world and to just be, for a time at least.

It is no wonder I think that in doing so we can find broader benefits than being more flexible – and of course there is nothing here that says women can’t benefit just as much as us men!

John.

A sex club just for women

I think that it is a sign of maturity in a society when it empowers women to be and do what they want to do – free from control or even the observation of men.

The normalisation of sex workers (male and female) for women is one example. It’s quite a big statement that women, who for so long have had their lives, finances, and their very bodies ruled by the whims of men are now able to choose to see a sex worker and not have to apologise to any one for it.

We are moving ahead. Becoming more tolerant of each other – not always and not everywhere – but we make progress.

Another small sign of this is the arrival of the Skirt Club in Sydney (http://skirtclub.co.uk/), a UK originated sex club exclusively for women. It has a modest global membership, but by all accounts it is well liked by the women who are members. I can imagine many men feeling threatened by the very existence of such a place, but to me it’s a delight.

You can read more about it here: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/sex-and-relationships/australias-first-womenonly-sex-club-arrives-in-sydney-20160831-gr623w.html

I love the idea of women being in control of their lives and perhaps more importantly being able to choose exactly what it is that they want to do with their lives, without having to involve or answer to men, if they don’t want to. At the end of the day, it makes all of our lives, whether we are male or female richer.

So cheers Skirt Club, here’s hoping that your first party goes well!

John.

Being sexy

The Herald published an article recently by the female escort Samantha X. You can see it here:

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/manis-matching-lingerie-drug-use-samantha-xs-7-lessons-for-escorts-in-training-20160525-gp3e00.html

I like seeing sex workers in the media being given time and listened to, but I felt compelled to talk about a few of the points that she made – as I think they apply more broadly than just to aspiring escorts.

Samantha X is now running an escort agency – two actually, one for women, one for men. In the article she spends a lot of time describing how a female escort needs to present herself. It was interesting, as it is a window into her world as an escort…

Black or white lingerie only (no colours!), subtle nail polished, conservative if classic attire.

It paints a picture, and when you see a photo of her you can see why she chose it. That look REALLY works for her. But it doesn’t mean that it is the only thing that works – and it (rightly) caused something of a storm in our industry for a while there.

I worry however that people considering being escorts might take it to heart and believe that this is the only way you can be successful. The truth is that how you look is much less important than how you treat people. There are vastly more escorts out there in the world who don’t conform to Samantha X’s formula than do (both male and female). And they are doing just fine thank you – even leading our industry. From dominatrix to big beautiful women, to “the girl next door”, to cosplay-gamer, to clown escort (you really must look up Sugar Weasel the Clown, he is hilarious) and everything in between that you could imagine.

There is a broader lesson though I think. And that is: attractive and sexy IS NOT about your appearance. It’s not about your nail polish. It’s not about the clothes you wear. It’s not about style. It’s about substance. It’s about you.

It’s easy to loose our confidence as we get older. Youth may fade, but in reality age is no barrier to being attractive.

Many women in their forties, or older book a date with me to reconfirm that they can still be attractive to a man and to re-engage with their bodies and their sexuality. And it always makes me happy to see someone who perhaps arrived nervous and introverted, leave me standing up straight and looking radiant and sexy!

John.

The sex bots are coming (again)

It seems every year or two we see one of these articles: “THE SEX ROBOTS ARE COMING!” shout the headlines. Read the article though and it’s usually about one or two people working in the industry of robotics, or robotic research talking up the technology or spruking their products.  See here:

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/how-sex-robots-could-revolutionise-bedtime-20160609-gpfy6b.html

The story is changing though, gradually. As per this article (complete with smiling women smooching very plastic looking sci-fi robots) there are interesting and disturbing nuggets of information. for instance…

“Companion devices such as the Pepper robot are increasingly being used to provide company to elderly people, particularly in Asian countries such as Japan”

and…

“Prof Sharkey said there was evidence that companion devices were also being use by parents to keep their children company. Research from California indicated young children had emotionally bonded with the machines”

Now, it’s a vast leap to go from companion devices for the elderly to a robot who rocks your world in bed, but if you grow up as a child with ever more sophisticated companion devices (robots), then perhaps you will grow up to be an adult who is more comfortable with machines and machine sex than dealing with the messy, complicated, often painful world of sex with other humans. It could well happen. In fact I expect that it likely will happen.

But all of this – in my opinion – misses the point. Click bait headlines aside, it makes me ask the question: “what do we want from sex?” and ultimately “what does it mean to be human?”

I am regularly contacted by women who have difficulty in reaching orgasm, or difficulty being “in the moment” and enjoying sex. Our consumer society responds to that by saying that the solution is a new vibrator, or a more powerful vibrator, or an AI vibrator! And that may actually work for some time. Powerful stimulation that simply CANNOT be ignored may get you there for a while. But it’s really only a band-aid, over-riding the basic problem, and potentially causing more of it’s own (as your body decreases clitoral sensitivity in response to the very strong stimulation).

So my response is that if we can’t be “in the moment” for sex, if we can’t reach orgasm easily, then the answer lies not outside of us, but in our heads. We need to go back to basics – work out what is causing the problem in the first place: too busy and stressed with work? Unhappy in our relationship? Tired and stressed by family and commitments?

We need to either change our lives to reduce of remove the cause, or we need to learn how to be at peace anyway. A combination of both is, in my opinion, ideal.

So where does that leave sex robots? Honestly I’m not sure. Until such time as robots are intellectually and emotionally equivalent to humans, I can’t see how a robot can ever be a substitute for the sexual arousal that comes from the close physical and mental stimulation of another person. But if we reach that stage, then what really is the difference besides a synthetic body?

So basically we come full circle. If you want a healthy, satisfying sex life (with a human or a robot) then you are probably going to have to sort out your own head first. A task that I am always happy to help people with in the pursuit of better sex.

John.

Double standards and #MasculinitySoFragile

I tend to avoid the parts of the Internet where men (and women) say dumb things like “oh she’s hot, but you wouldn’t want to marry someone who gives it away like that” alongside a photograph of a random sexy selfie.

Today however that part of the net popped into my life in a rather nice way in the form of this thread (below) on Twitter. It’s a great piece of social commentary on the way that women, expressing their sexuality, and enjoying and celebrating their bodies are shamed, while men who do the same thing are either ignored, or lauded for it.

It’s a pretty nasty double standard, and one that has been exposed to the cold hard light of day by Twitter user Hetero Meg. The thread is long with a range of photos and comments that mercilessly mock the very real misogyny that so many women experience from day to day.

hetro-megI am lucky to be living and working in a time where women are being given more freedom in society – enough freedom in fact that some, feeling the need for intimacy and pleasure in their lives that men can’t or wont give them will reach out and book a date with me or another sex worker.

Not that it’s easy for women mind you. When men visit brothels, strip clubs, or escorts it’s ignored, or even lauded. But most women coming to me are very, very keenly aware of the approbation that would rain down on them if friends or family knew. I am sure you can see the parallel here…

The response to this thread has been educational. Firstly, tears of laughter from the majority of the women in my Twitter feed, followed closely by the expected snarky comments, attacks on feminism, and general unpleasantness of a bunch of men who immediately respond to feeling threatened by what? Harassing the women who make them feel uncomfortable about their own behaviour. No wonder women are reluctant to tackle inequality, sexual harassment, and the host of other challenges that they face every day.

Anyone who thinks or says that feminism has achieved its goal and is no longer needed is wrong and I would suggest that they look a bit harder. Misogyny is all around us and it will only go away when the searing wit and voice of women like Hetero Meg calls it out and burns it down.

John.

Porn and same sex marriage

I don’t think that this will sway the “anti-porn” campaigners out there, but you never know. Those who also support same sex marriage are going to find themselves on the horns of a particularly uncomfortable dilemma.

A study, reported here has shown that men (especially with low levels of education) who watching porn regularly are more likely to support same sex marriage. That is undoubtedly a surprise to many people, but a welcome one.

The question of course is “why?”. There isn’t a good answer to it, but the authors surmise that men regularly exposed to porn are simply being given a broader education in sex and sexuality. Exposed to different kinds of sex (lesbian, gay, group, bi etc) these men appear to lose some of the prejudices that they might otherwise have held.

As I pointed out in my post titled Pawn Sacrifice last week, education is what lets us make better choices in our lives. Who would ever have guessed that mainstream porn would have fallen into that category of education? Certainly not me – I see most mainstream porn as boring though, not inherently bad.

So, hurrah for science, and discovering that a daily dose of porn is helping men accept the fact of same sex relationships!

John.

Harm reduction, not abolition – is the moral and humane thing to do

This article is a little different to my usual writing. I have been in an introspective and philosophical mood in recent times and when I heard the news that California had recently refused to implement new rules that would reduce adult films shot in that state to little more than this:naked-gun-safe-sex

I felt compelled to write about it. While it may not directly touch on what I do as a male escort, I hope that on reading it people will understand the broader point and how it relates to sex work – and in fact pretty much all of our lives.


The Californian Occupational Safety and Healthy Standards Board recently failed to pass new regulations that would force porn performers to use condoms, dental dams, and even goggles to protect them from the risk of sexually transmitted infections while making films and images about sex.

It was a win for that most elusive of beasts: common sense and incidentally for the concept of “harm reduction”. Even if only marginally (the board failed to achieve a four to one majority by just one vote).

The adult film industry in California already has a system for ensuring the health and safety of its performers. It is called PASS (Performer Availability Screening Service) and is administered by the Free Speech Coalition. It provides bi-weekly STI testing for performers, the results of which are held in a secure, private database, and allow producers and agents to see the availability of performers (but nothing detailed about their health information). It also provides performers with access to both testing, and – in the case of an infection being detected – support and treatment services.

It’s a good system. From what information I can find online, it works. Under that system there hasn’t been a case of HIV transmission on the set of an adult film in California in over 10 years (2004 was the last recorded time in California, which prompted the shift to bi-weekly testing with higher sensitivity testing methods).

There was an on-set transmission of HIV between to male performers in Nevada in 2014, however it appears that it happened under less stringent testing standards – which really just re-inforces the point. PASS works, less rigorous testing does not.

So what has all of this got to do with sex work and my blog? The short answer is: the PASS system is a good demonstration of sensible, tolerant attitudes toward dealing with a real risk (STI transmission between performers).

It accepts that there is a risk and that it needs to be taken seriously, and it sets out to minimise that risk without creating unintended adverse side effects. This is classic “harm reduction”. Continue reading