Sex workers need to be resilient AND fragile

I watched an interview with director Guillermo del Toro the other day and listening to his description of what it takes to be a director resonated with me as a sex worker.

You can see the interview here:

It may seem like a strange comparison, but I think that his first point is spot on – you have to be both resilient and fragile.

In the case of directing film and television a director has to be able to deal with the business of making a film – wrangling crew and equipment, dealing with producers etc.  For sex workers, we need to do the job of making the booking happen for our client – organising hotels, travel, safer sex material like condoms and lube, our clothing, hygiene, regular STI testing.  The list goes on.  There are lots of practicalities, large and small, that we have to stay on top of, all to make sure that when the moment arrives that we meet our clients that we can – as del Toro puts it – “be fragile”.

For a director that means being able to work with their actors (and crew), be sensitive to their needs and to the story.  To empathise and to give them what they need to be able to give their best performance.

For a sex worker, we need to be emotionally available, receptive, and responsive to our client’s needs.  Some people need their sex worker to be kind and compassionate.  To listen and empathise, to be gentle and caring.  Others need us to challenge and excite.  And many variations between. 

We live and work in a strange place of real emotions and responses in a setting where we are being paid for our time. There are inherent contradictions in that situation, but it can’t be faked – especially for a male sex worker for women. This may in part be the reason that there are so few of us that are able to do the job at all, let alone stay in the industry in the long term.

Women want sex just as much as men, so there is plenty of demand for my time and my colleges in the industry. As men we may be good at doing the “resilient” part – but it’s the “fragile” moments that we need to be ready to give to the women who book our services. It’s the fragile moments that make the experience real.

John.

Farewell 2020, hello 2021

I really hope that 2021 be a better year for all of us!

I’m sorry that I have not been posting regularly here, but you know – 2020…

Seriously though, it was a long year with a lot of personal challenges on top of the insanity of covid-19. Thank you to everyone who booked with me last year, for your support. That made it much easier than it could have been.

I am now back at work after a few weeks off and looking forward to meeting new people and renewing my connection with those I already know.

For anyone who may be wondering – I recently closed down my Twitter account. It had served its purpose (supporting and advocating for the sex work industry) at a time where it was under serious threat in Australia, so it was no-longer needed. I will continue to post here however.

So I want to wish everyone well and I look forward to hearing from you in the future!

John.

This is why I do it…

I recently had a booking with a woman who (like most of my clients) had never seen a male sex worker before.

She was nervous, but determined and we had a good session together. That evening she sent me the text below (shown with her permission).

It was a nice reminder to me of a large part of why I do this job (besides earning the income that we all need to get by in life). It’s because what I do brings people joy. Not the momentary endorphin hit of a new purchase, but something that lasts for days – and perhaps even a lifetime…

I have always enjoyed the work that I have done (mostly around IT and design), but I can honestly say that while much of it was useful and beneficial to my clients, none of it ever really made a difference to anyone’s life. Not in a significant or lasting way. That work was unimportant to people’s lives.

With sex work though, I feel that although I can only ever see a tiny fraction of all the people in the world, I will, in most cases, make a significant and positive contribution to their lives and their happiness.

And that, I think, is enough.

John.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of my clients who have made this year such a success and so much fun.

I have been enormously luck to once again get to travel, making films, and enjoying the company of wonderful people – even when it’s only for an hour or two.

You make John Oh the best job in the world and I look forward to another year of exploration, discovery, and fun.

I wish everyone the very best for a safe and enjoyable Christmas break.

John.

The chance to say goodbye

Just to clarify before I continue – I am not retiring! This post is a celebration of my ongoing experiences as a sex worker and a reflection on the ebb and flow of people from my professional life.

I have been a straight male escort for women and couples for almost ten years continuously. In that time I have met and had the good fortune to spend time with many, many lovely people. It has been a transformative experience for me in many ways. It lead me to a balanced and happy relationship with my sexuality. It made me financially stable and secure. It has allowed me to explore my other passions like photography and film making.

Sex work has been an enormous net benefit to my life.

I like to also think that – based on what many of my clients say – I make a difference to their lives as well.

As a sex worker I am not owed anything by my clients beyond the terms of our booking and the basic respect of any interaction with another person. This means that I give my clients privacy and allow them to dictate things like when we communicate. I am there for them when they need and want me. That’s the deal that I accept and respect as a sex worker.

Clients have come and gone as the years have passed. Some I see just a handful of time, others stay for many years. But because I don’t feel that it is appropriate for me to intrude, when a client moves on with their life I rarely get the chance to say goodbye.

This week saw the last booking that I will have with a client who has been seeing me regularly for almost five years. She is moving overseas, so this is a natural end to our professional relationship. I was lucky in this case, because the circumstances allowed us the opportunity to say goodbye, to reminisce, and to close out a chapter of our lives with smiles, hugs, fond memories, and some tears.

It’s a relatively rare thing for me to have this privilege. I understand that I am not owed it. So when it does happen it makes it even more special.

When it doesn’t happen, I am satisfied with the knowledge that a person is moving on with their life, hopefully with good memories, perhaps with new confidence. Some will have found a partner, fallen in love perhaps. Others have outgrown the need for companionship of the kind that I offer.

But I always feel a little wistful looking back over the last nine odd years and wondering where those people, who I was lucky enough to share a little piece of their lives with, are now.

I hope that they are happy. And I want to say thank you, even if I can’t reach out and say it directly.

John.

Scuba diving at Oak Park Beach, Cronulla, Sydney

Twelve months ago I completed my Open Water scuba diver’s certificate. It was something that I have wanted to do for many, many years, and I am very pleased that I finally did it.

scuba diver with underwater camera, over seaweed bed
scuba diver over seaweed bed

I recently had a chance to dive at Oak Park in Cronulla, Sydney. It’s a fascinating and popular dive spot that is relatively easy to access straight from the beach. I dove with a a local group and was “buddied” with a diver who, like me, was also a photographer. So we headed out and spent forty minutes on the bottom photographing the fish life off Oak Park Beach.

I am always surprised by just how “tropical” the fish around Sydney are. And the seemingly never ending variety is quite amazing.

Female blue grouper comes up to check out me and my dive buddy for that day.

The highlight of the dive for me was finally meeting some of Sydney’s famous blue groupers! These fish are HUGE. The males being the biggest, with a striking blue colour, while the females are smaller and a green/brown colour. They are quite comfortable around humans (due to being fed, which is not ideal) and when they spot a diver, will come to investigate and often hang around in the hope of a sea urchin treat!

A male blue grouper hanging around, hoping for a treat of sea urchin
The resident male blue grouper Gus (there is only one male at a time in any given area) hung around, hoping for a treat of sea urchin. When a male blue grouper eventually dies, one of the females with change sex and become the new Gus!

The fish life is so varied – most of which I have never seen, or even know the name of.

These fish stayed close to the rock walls at all times and moved in large highly synchronised schools. I have no idea what they actually are! And fish identification, I have found seems to be even harder than bird identification!

Fish that I have yet to identify – hanging out along the sandstone wall that you follow out from the beach at Oak Park
My dive buddy photographing the “old wives” (Enoplosus armatusthat are very common off Oak Park beach
Another species that I couldn’t identify, doing a great job of camouflaging itself among the plant life on the sandy bottom
“Don’t mind me…” Gus chilling with my dive buddy

If you are a certified scuba diver – or you would like to get your Open Water certification – I am available for adventure bookings, whether it’s a day diving in Sydney, or a week on the Great Barrier Reef, or diving in Fiji. I can am very easy to travel with and will bring you home safe with loads of beautiful photographs of your trip – both above and below the water.

John

Thank you – Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all

Another year is drawing to a close and I want to thank everyone who has supported me this year.

It’s been a long and busy year, with some amazing travel – from Iceland, to Fiji, to Kangaroo Island, to New Zealand. Meeting new clients and seeing more of the clients who I have been seeing for as long as seven years! It continues to be an amazing journey with all of you.

Some clients have moved on, their lives taking new – and I hope – fun and fulfilling directions. It is my pleasure and my honour to have known you and I hope that I have been able to add fun and happiness to your life.

I am extraordinarily lucky to be supported in my work by so many generous and wonderful women.

John Oh with camera

This year has seen me launch of a regular short video series on Twitter and Youtube about sex work, aiming to raise awareness of the industry, its benefits, problems, and challenges. It has been a huge challenge putting out a short film every day, but I have learned a lot from the effort and it has brought me into contact with people both inside and outside the industry that I would not have met otherwise.

I intend to keep publishing my “ShortTakes” on sex work into the foreseeable future – but they have also inspired me to do more as a filmmaker and this year I hope to begin publishing a series of educational films about sex and sexuality that are frank and also beautiful.

The year ahead has more exciting travel booked and my diary is filling up, which gives me a sense of security that I cannot thank all of you enough for. The support that you give me has made my life secure and given me opportunities to explore my passion for photography and film making that I have never had in the past.

So in conclusion – thank you! To everyone I am lucky enough to have met this year – clients and peers – I hope you have a wonderful holiday, stay safe, and I look forward to another exciting year with you all!

John.

Stopping to “smell life’s roses”

I’m sure that like me, for most of you reading this, the end of the year is a busy period. This year hasn’t been as bad for me, as I have had some travel to New Zealand to break up the usual end of year busy period.

Franz Joseph glacier – New Zealand

But even with less things to consume our time and attention, it’s still easy to get caught up in being “busy”.

I learned a while ago that I am happiest and most productive if I make a point of not doing any one thing for too long. So each week I try to take a couple of days away from work and my various personal project to do something completely different.

I haven’t been doing much photography for my own pleasure recently, so I decided this week, that I would make the time to look for and photograph some beautiful and interesting landscapes and city scenes. I didn’t have my good camera with me though, but I did have my phone, so while exploring, I shot some images that will remind me to go back to these places in the future and shoot them again properly!

Llankelly Place – Potts Point, Sydney

Southern Highlands creek view

John.