Politics of the bra

As a man I will never need to worry about bras – proper fitting, discomfort, and – most of all – the politics of wearing or not wearing one. This article:

http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/why-is-my-choice-not-to-wear-a-bra-still-taboo-20160304-gnawq5.html

Was a surprise to me, but I guess I have to say, not too much of a surprise. After all, we are all human and people will always find a reason to be uncomfortable with other individuals around them. It’s sad that when a woman chooses not to wear a bra (which is a medically sound decision) she will be subject to public critiscism, by other women.

Just reading this article highlighted the complexity of the way human psychology works. Most of us, most of the time, don’t make decisions that are rational. We are for the most part reflexive creatures. Acting on our instincts before we even realise it, then creating justifications to defend our actions.

We can see it in the people who attack sex work as an industry. They have a problem with commercial sex and they try to hide it behind rhetoric about “saving” sex workers. We can also see it in people who attack, or denigrate the idea of a woman seeing a sex worker. Most of my clients are very selective about who they tell that they have or are going to see a sex worker like me.

There is always the fear that friends and relatives will disapprove and they will suffer from social stigmatisation as a result. It’s a very difficult situation.

In the years that I have been working in this industry I have seen it change – a lot. A big part of that change has been because of positive media attention, in this country. Articles published a few years ago about women buying sex transformed many people’s views. As a result, the industry grew significantly and many women started thinking about and making choices about their sex life that included being able to pay for sex and have it on their terms.

Women are choosing the see sex workers like me to have sex for the first time, to rediscover their bodies and their sexuality, to fill a need that the pressures of life and work prevent them from doing in traditional relationships – or just because they want to!

At the end of the day we can find all of the good reasons under the sun as to why a woman should be able to choose to pay a sex worker for their time and skills, but much like choosing to wear a bra, or not, it should be her choice, free of stigma. Free of judgment. And supported as her right.

John.

A study into women who buy sex – please help!

In recent times the global battle over peoples’ right to sell and buy sex has come to the shores of Australia. It’s been a difficult time for sex workers (male, female, and trans alike) in Australia. The media has mostly ignored us, preferring to print splashy pieces about “sex trafficking” and abuse from a vocal minority, rather than having an adult conversation about the realities of sex work, why we workers do it, why clients buy it, and what the harms and benefits are.

A big part of the picture of sew work that is missing is the story of women who buy sex (or might want to buy sex). The moral panic is always framed as “abusive men using womens’ bodies” – an untruth of it’s own – but it also (ironically) silences the voices of women who buy sex.

Part of the battle to debunk the moral outrage being spread in Australia by organisations like Collective Shout (who are vehemently opposed to sex work in any form) is hard data. To this end, if you have ever paid for sex, I would invite you to participate in this University of New South Wales study into women who buy sex. You can find more information and a link to participate here:

https://csrh.arts.unsw.edu.au/research/join-a-study/

Or you can email Hillary Caldwell directly: h.caldwell@student.unsw.edu.au

The only way to make good decisions about our society is to have good science, based on real data – something that this study will help provide.

As a sex worker who loves and values his job and – more importantly – sees the value of sex work to both provider and client, I would like to request anyone visiting here who buys sex to take part in this study. Yes it’s an imposition and it’s personal. But it’s necessary!

There is a high likelihood that NSW, one of only two places in the world where sex work is fully decriminalised will introduce a system of licensing in the near future as was done in Victoria and Queensland. And that’s a slipper slope, because the people who oppose us want sex work abolished, not regulated, or licensed, abolished entirely.

If you value being able to freely and legally buy the services of me and my colleagues, then we need – as a community – to take action to protect sex work from people who set their morality and opinions about sex and sex work above the truth, the evidence, and the greater good.

John.

Data mining and learning new tricks

Mastercard have been mining the data and come to a disturbing conclusion: people are buying memorable experiences, rather than goods in the post GFC world.

By Leandro Neumann Ciuffo from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Mina da passagemUploaded by Markos90, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19967318

By Leandro Neumann Ciuffo from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Mina da passagemUploaded by Markos90, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19967318

Aside: whenever someone talks about corporations data mining, it makes me think of this – thank you Scott Adams!

Anyway, that’s great if you are in the “memorable experience” business like me, but I guess that it sucks if you sell things for a living, or are part of the supply chain for making and selling things. As a one time industrial designer, I am feeling just a little bit smug about my career change!

It does however make me just a little bit hopeful for humanity to hear this news from Mastercard. Checking off “See the Eiffel Tower” on one’s bucket list may not lead to enlightenment exactly, but it’s definitely better than just buying more “things” to fill up the cupboards with.

At the end of the day, it is experiences that make our lives rich and open our eyes to possibilities that we would not otherwise have considered. This is especially true of our sexuality. Even my society spend a lot of time and effort trying to prevent people from having and enjoying sex. But, I know absolutely that it’s never too late to learn. Be it mathematics, cooking, music, or sex. We all have the ability to make ourselves better. It just takes the right moment and the right teacher. And as adults, we have a lifetime of experience and maturity behind us to make good use of the things we learn.

If you have never had an orgasm. Or you have difficulty reaching orgasm reliably. If you want to broaden your understanding of sex and what it can be. Or perhaps explore your kinky side. Then drop me an email, or a text and tell me what you would like to learn. It would be my pleasure to be your teacher.

John.

Things you don’t know about maths and sex work

My recent interest in mathematics lead me to this website: http://betterexplained.com and also to the mailing list that the owner Kalid Azad runs.

His most recent email titled The Simple Intuition Behind Counting, is a cracker. I won’t try to explain it, but take a moment, go to the site, have a look at the archive. It really is eye opening to have your fundamental ideas about the things that you “know” challenged.

To this end I want to mention another occasion where I had my beliefs altered by evidence. That was in the debate surrounding sex work. I used to believe that regulation (meaning licensing) of brothels was a good things, while private worker should be decriminalised fully (meaning no regulation, no licensing etc).

It was a naive view that came from a lack of education, even if I thought that it was reasonable. Continue reading

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.

Pawn Sacrifice

I just watched the movie Pawn Sacrifice – a brief history of the life of chess grand master and world champion Bobby Fischer. It’s a lot less dry than one might think at first glance. Fischer was arguably the finest chess player ever, twice defeating the Russian grand master and world champion Boris Spassky. Fischer was also mentally unstable and increasingly paranoid. Something that would lead him to retire from public life and competitive chess at the age of 32.

It was strongly implied in the film that Fischer was used as a political tool by the US government against the Soviet Union in the middle of the cold war. The defeat of the best Russian chess players of the era by a boy from Brooklyn was a huge blow to Soviet pride I am sure.

Sadly for Fischer his mental health issues and antisemitism eventually bought him into conflict with his own government. His unofficial rematch with Spassky in 1992 lead to his US passport being canceled. Eventually Iceland offered Fischer asylum in 2005 and he died there in 2008.

The movie paints him as eccentric, irrational, paranoid, and truly a genius. It didn’t show the side of him that many people claim was kind and compassionate.

Earlier in the movie the comment is made that there are about 318 billion ways that the first four moves of any game can be played. That is a vast phase space to even try to consider, and it makes the game of chess effectively endlessly variable – to the average human mind like me anyway.

However, at the end of the movie, having beaten Spassky, Fischer makes the comment of chess:

“It’s almost all theory and memorisation. People think [that] there’s all these options, but there’s usually one right move. Of course in the end there’s no place to go”.

It’s unlikely that these are Fischer’s own words, but it’s a poignant moment and the artistic license seems fair. While there may be 318 billion options, most of them are to be ignored or dismissed outright, much reducing the phase space that a genius like Fischer would ever need to consider when playing.

At the end of the day, this is much life for the average person. We live in a world vastly more complex than an eight by eight board with 32 pieces on it. However the choices that we have available to us at any one time are always limited to a relatively small number of options. What our politicians and leaders do every day effects this range of options.

When a politician or a religious leader stands up in front of our nation and tells us that same sex marriage is unnatural and harmful (as they seem to be doing regularly in recent times), they reduce the possible phase space for a happy life for people who don’t identify as male or female and heterosexual. For many (especially young) people in the LGBTQI community they reduce it to nothing, leading to a life of bullying, harassment, exclusion, and for some, suicide.

Viewed from this (mathematical) perspective – an envelop of options or choices that can lead to happiness – “morality” as defined by our society and especially religion begins to look cruel and needlessly limiting.

Fischer perhaps saw a truth in the world. To defeat Spassky in the fourth game of the match in Iceland in 1972 (according to the movie), he took Spassky outside of the chess game phase space that his opponent expected him to play within (and had studied and knew). When he did that Spassky was lost and unable to respond effectively. And Fischer won.

When people tell us that enjoying our sexuality is wrong, or dirty, or bad they are limiting our opportunities for a happy life – limiting the phase space of our happiness and well being. When we fail to educate children properly about sex and sexuality and give them the chance to develop in a safe and non-judgmental environment, we are limiting their chances for a happy and fulfilling life.

I recently talked with someone who described how she has dealt with the subject of sex with her daughter who is almost a teenager. What I heard was the exact opposite of what most people seem to experience. That was a parent who never hid, or denied sex, who didn’t make a big deal out of it, but provided reliable information when her daughter was ready for and wanted to hear it. It was one of the best pieces of parenting I have ever come across.

In doing so I imagined the phase space representing the possible futures of that child opening up, blossoming, becoming richer with potential and pleasure and pruned of danger, of pain, of suffering – not entirely safe and secure of course, but she now has the tools and knowledge to avoid the worst pitfalls perhaps.

Nothing we do can keep children – or anyone – entirely from harm, but when we educate, when we put aside dogma and prejudice, we give people the opportunity to make better choices in their lives and allow them to avoid the bad ones.

John.

Sex and mathematics are hard

If you were like me growing up, then the subject of mathematics at school was hard. Dare I say even impenetrable.

I wanted to like maths. I wanted (desperately) to be good at it. But the simple fact was that while many of my fellow students worked hard and learned the material and got good marks, I simply couldn’t – my brain refused to understand. Maths used in physics was no problem for me (oddly). if you needed to calculate vectors, acceleration, or the voltage drop over a circuit, then no problem. I could do all of that. Or write an essay on Anton Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, or a 20,000 word creative piece. But maths simply eluded me. To this day, I don’t know why.

It’s become an item of almost faith in our society that “children learn far more easily than adults”, we hear that their brains are like sponges, able to soak up much more new information than adults, and learn much better. This may be true, but I think that it leads to a kind of over-reaction, whereby we assume that as adults, things that we couldn’t learn as children are going to remain forever impossible.

This is simply wrong. You only need to look at mature age students in higher education. My mother (at age forty something) studied horticulture and received high distinctions across the board – much better than the average young adult in her course.

The point is that things that once may have stumped us don’t have to stay out of reach as adults. I recently decided that I wanted to understand calculus. I took to Google and found a slew of “introduction to calculus” pages. And guess what? Grasping the fundamentals was simple. I mean really simple. Something that felt impenetrable as a teenager made perfect sense to me – granted, I did have to go back and refresh my algebra knowledge, but that turned out to be a simple enough task as well. Now – amazingly – I understand and can use calculus. I even signed up for a mathematics newsletter that I stumbled across during my research and the first issue I received today taught me something new and even gave me a chance to have some minor insights of my own about numbers. Hurray for adult learning!

Of course we learn all the time as adults, we often just don’t see it as “education”, rather we treat it as just part of our work.

Sex of course never gets a look in when it comes to learning. It’s not taught in school. It’s not taught at work (well for most of us). In fact, it’s never taught at all. It’s something that you might go and learn about on your own, or perhaps, if you are lucky, then you will get to explore with a partner.

For most of us though, it’s sink or swim, pick a few things up here and there, watch some porn, read some articles in magazines. Hardly a rigorous process and one that is as likely to mislead as it is to inform. And of course it is compounded by the comfort of finding out what “works” for us, then never taking the opportunity to learn new ways of experiencing sexual pleasure.

So what does it all mean? It means a few things to me – firstly: your pleasure and knowledge of sex is in your own hands. No-one is going to teach you, so you need to find out how to make it good yourself. Secondly: it’s actually good and important to be sexually knowledgeable. The more you know about sex and sexuality the more chance you have of enjoying it and being able to give your partner pleasure, and being safe.

Lastly: knowledge is power! I now know how to solve certain mathematical problems that once eluded me entirely – and I also know how to reliably give almost any woman an orgasm.

John.

Performance anxiety – it’s not just for men

Today I read an article in the local paper written by sexual health therapist Matty Silver. You can see it here.

It’s a good article focused on male sexual performance – or lack there of. It’s something that rarely if ever sees the light of day in the media. After all much of the time the media wants to paint men as either macho machines, or one dimension slaves to their penis, so talking about men feeling intimidated by, or unequipped for a healthy sex life rather breaks the stereotype du jour.

In reality men have their own issues around sex. Plenty of them. Personally I fought premature ejaculation for many, many years. I was lucky to come across a book by Canadian doctor Sy Silverberg. Along with some assistance from a kind partner, it changed my sex life forever, and allowed me to enjoy sex in a way that I had never been able to before.

All in all, I think that this article is a step in the right direction – it demonstrates that we are all complex, emotional, and more or less fragile beings. Something that should be respected.

What jarred for me though was the second last sentence:

Women don’t need to perform – they can just lie down and don’t need to do much – they can even fake an orgasm!

I understand what Matty Silver was trying to say with this, yes, there is a very obvious difference between men and women, women don’t need to get an erection to participate in sex, yes they can “just be there”.

But really?  An otherwise sensitive article that accepts that stereotypes about male sexuality are damaging then goes and drops another unhealthy stereotype on women. It seems wrong.

Not all women can just “lie back and let it happen”. Nor should they. And it’s a bad message for anyone with a platform like a major newspaper to be sending.

What I would rather see is the acceptance that women and men both can have performance anxiety. It may not be so clearly evident in a woman as in a man, but for a caring lover it should still be obvious through body language, through lack of vaginal lubrication, and lack of relaxation. These are all things any partner who cares to look for them can see.

I often meet women who come to me because they need a chance to explore their sexuality and build their confidence in themselves and their body and their ability to enjoy sex in a non-stressful, non-judgmental situation. It is something that I can offer, being an escort that (to many people’s surprise) women often can’t get in a relationship.

This really is the problem though, for both men and women, often regardless of age. We are never given the opportunity by life to develop the skills and confidence with our bodies that we need to have a healthy sex life. I do what I can through the services that I offer, but really there needs to be a community wide change in attitude to sex, sexuality, and relationship.

Personally I think that it is time for these issues to be given as much attention and priority in our society as learning maths and (in Australia) English.

John.