Living our best lives

I have to admit that I live in a bit of a bubble. I don’t watch commercial television or listen to commercial radio. I don’t read newspapers (online, or paper).

I have terms like “Donald Trump”, “Scott Morrison” and “politics” blocked on Twitter.

I really don’t need the ongoing train wreck of Western politics in my face – even occasionally.

And then there’s commercial TV and radio – swamped by cheap to produce reality TV, “current affairs” programs that platform racists in the name of “balance” and ignore the very real problems in the world in favour of tabloid sensationalism.

I’m happy in my bubble honestly. I spend my work times with interesting people who on the whole care about the sort of things I care about – social justice, tolerance, freedom – people who understand that the world is bigger than them and requires an open mind.

As I write this, I am in Canberra. I stopped earlier at a self serve car wash to wash my car and (disappointingly) had to listen to a commercial radio station for the 15 minutes it took me to clean the car.

It reaffirmed to me that I haven’t been missing anything. From the inane banter about clothing to the news items delivered in the most effective way to make a listener feel stressed about things that don’t actually matter.

It was all just noise. Noise that, if you let it, will drown out the things in life that do matter. This is the very real problem with the “modern condition” living in a place like Sydney.

I heard recently of a man, who emigrated to Australia from India and settled in Sydney. He found employment and has been living like so many of us do – working to pay the rent and have some free time and money to enjoy himself.

His realisation though is profound: he has decided to return to the small town that his family comes from in India – because the quality of life there, while modest, is better for him than the kind of life that we live here in Sydney. In his home town he doesn’t have a lot of money, but he has time – time to spend with friends and family doing whatever they want to, or even nothing at all. He may not have great restaurants to go to like we do, but food is cheap and he and his family have time to cook and share good meals.

The list goes on, but I think that you can see the point I am making – we sacrifice a lot living in a place like Sydney. Our lives are driven by work. Our free time is seriously restricted by the daily requirement to earn money to pay rent.

A semi-rural lifestyle with limited money may not seem like the best life to you and me – we have grown up in a different way and have different expectations – but I think that it can still teach us something.

That lesson is: we shouldn’t see work and the assumption that we must all do it all the time as an inherently good thing. For most of us it is a necessary thing, but it tends to draw us away for the fundamentals of human nature – that is connections with the people around us, the sharing of simple pleasures, and time to just “be”, rather than “do”.

I think that this lesson is particularly relevant when considering my industry. Paying for the services of a male escort like myself absolutely costs money. But it’s trading money not for another “thing” in ones life, but for an experience. The older I get, the less interested I become in having things in my life and the more I value the experiences I have with other people.

Much like the gentleman from India, what I really want is to live a life full of people and new experiences with them. I think that, if anything, is the way to live a fulfilling life.

John.

Minister Stuart Robert! The NDIS should fund sex services

You may be aware that an Australian woman living with multiple sclerosis challenged our National Disability Insurance Scheme and won when they rejected her request for the NDIS to fund a therapist to provide her with regular sexual release.

You can read about the case here:

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.abc.net.au/article/11298838

This is a huge step forward in the recognition of sex as a natural and fundamental part of the human condition and that people with disabilities deserve it too.

Sadly though that is where the politician stepped in (from the article).

“Minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, said that ruling was out of line with community expectations.

‘The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) intends to appeal the recent decision,’ he said.

‘The current position continues to be that the NDIS does not cover sexual services, sexual therapy or sex workers in a participant’s NDIS plan.'”

First – can I just say that it is nice to see a politician (particularly a conservative one) using the term “sex worker”. It’s rare and appreciated.

Sadly though Stuart Robert then fails to be a leader and reverts to nebulous conservative morality to justify appealing against the decision.

He claims that the NDIS funding sexual service for people who cannot experience sex because of their disability is not in line with “community expectations”.

There is a lot to unpack here.

The first is the idea that “the community” has a right to tell people what they can and can’t do in the bedroom. I think that we have, through things like the decriminalisation of homosexuality and indeed sex work here in NSW (and the Australian Capital Territory, and New Zealand), established that “the community” has no right to tell consenting adults what they can and can’t do to each other.

The second is that a minister of our government is hide bound to follow “community expectations”. This is absurd. Ministers make unpopular decisions regularly, they do so – they will tell you – for the good of the nation, to protect minorities, the environment etc.

So Stuart Robert claiming that he is duty bound to challenge the ruling because “the community” wouldn’t like people with disabilities being able to enjoy basic sexual release is nothing more than abdicating his responsibility as a minister and failing to be a true leader. Stuart Robert – if you are listening: man up and do your job.

Also – has Robert Stuart actually asked “the community” what we want? I’m fairly sure this question has never been polled anywhere, that being the case it’s even worse than abdication. He’s just deflecting and using the presumed moral authority (of “the community) to avoid having to take a stance that his party and his (presumably conservative) electorate might not like (read: he’s afraid he won’t get re-elected if he lets people with disabilities have an occasional shag).

As a straight male sex worker (escort) for women, I have been working with women with disabilities for almost my entire career. I know absolutely how important having intimate touch and the ability to enjoy and experience their sexuality is.

But personal experience shouldn’t even be necessary. Do we – does Stuart Robert – have no ability to empathise? Has he ever stopped to imagine never having someone touch him again in a sexual way? How about never being touched and being unable to even touch himself?

This is the reality of life for many of my clients with disabilities. And it’s not their fault. It’s just what they live with because life dealt them a shitty hand.

We happily fund or subsidise (through the NDIS) education, physical therapy, medication, accommodation, travel, and more for people who we as a society recognise are unable or disadvantaged to get those things for themselves because of their disability.

The only way that we can justify not funding sexual services as part of an NDIS plan is if we believe that sex isn’t an integral part of the human experience. I know that I personally need sex in my life to be a happy and fulfilled person. If I don’t have it, then it seriously impacts on my quality of life.

This is a message that I hear from my clients – able bodied or otherwise – regularly.

So why would “the community” have a problem with the NDIS allowing people with disabilities to occasionally enjoy what most of us take for granted?

John.

New South Wales and New Zealand – sex work paradise for clients and workers

As the only places in the world to have officially decriminalised sex work, NSW and NZ are simply the best places to be a sex worker for women, like me – or to be a client of sex workers.

If you are reading this article, then you are at least aware of the existence of sex work for women as an industry, which is great. But you probably don’t know much about its regulation – for which you can be completely forgiven.

The reality is that in most places in the world (including other states in Australia) my work would be either heavily regulated, or outright illegal. Which means that most of my peers – male, female, et al live and work with a lot more risk to their health, and to their legal and physical safety.

This of course also applies to our clients. There are movements around the world (and even here in Australia) trying, more or less successfully, to explicitly criminalise clients of sex workers.

While things are much better for many sex workers these days even outside of NSW and NZ thanks to the Internet, we live in dark times. The same tools that allow sex workers to find and vet clients are used by zelots to expose and out us, to shame us publicly, to entrap us and to block us from the online tools and resources that allow us to work safely

In the US in particular, this hysteria has even started to overflow onto the public in general and women in particular. Hotel chains, jumping on the wildly over blown “sex trafficking” band wagon are blocking single women from their bars (on the premise that if a woman isn’t accompanied by a man, then she must be being exploited by someone). It’s truly like something out of The Hand Maids Tale and genuinely scary to see women’s hard fort for rights being eroded so quickly and easily.

The lack of rigor (lets be honest – sheer stupidity) of this kind of thinking may, to the average Australian seem unbelievable, but it is representative of the general lack of sophistication of the discourse being had around sex work by people who are not sex workers.

So I wanted to take a moment to highlight just how lucky we are – as both sex workers and as clients to live in a place like Australia (or New Zealand). We are (mostly) free to go about our work. (Mostly) protected by the police and the law from harm (don’t forget that as a client of a legal business like mine, you are always protected by consumer law and the police).

At the end of the day, decriminalisation is good for everyone. It’s good for me, it protects you as a my client, and I would argue that it is good for our society in general.

Here in NSW we don’t waste police and government resources harassing consenting adults who just want to exchange some money to have sex in a safe, consensual environment.

When you are inside this system it seems natural and reasonable, logical even – and I think that we should celebrate that. I love my industry and the fact that I have the opportunity to meet the people I do through my work. And I hope that knowing a little bit more about how our work is regulated may help give you the confidence that you need to engage the services of a sex worker who is right for you!

John.

Sex and bullying

It is not an overstatement, I believe, to say that for many of us, society often bullies us out of having the sex that we want to have.

My memories of my late teens and twenties was of profound curiosity about sex. Granted, it was a relatively shallow, mostly hetero curiosity – but we can only be curious about the things that we know exist, so I don’t beat myself up about that. If society refuses to educate you, then ignorance isn’t your fault. Just your challenge to overcome.

As a straight male sex worker for women, I am exposed to a far wider variety of sexualities than I ever was growing up. It’s something that I am very grateful for. Even though I have no interest in and get no arousal from most of them, it has made me a more worldly and (most important) tolerant person.

I would derive no pleasure from ball busting. And have no interest in sex with another man. But I FULLY support the rights of other people to indulge in those things – even if just the thought of some of them makes my eyes water!

So it’s saddening to look around at society and see so much judgement by people of others just because of what turns them on.

It’s frankly disgusting that people think it’s ok to police other people’s consensual pleasure.

This of course dovetails neatly with sex work. I love my job. My clients enjoy a service that fills a need in their lives that they cannot satisfy another way.

But always there are people braying on about how all sex work is exploitation, or abuse, or immoral. They seek to police what two (or more) consenting adults can do together in private, with no more authority than saying “I think this, so you must obey me”.

It is the most shallow of thinking and the most self-indulgent kind of activism that, while denying sex workers their autonomy and livelihood also tries to bully clients of sex workers into doubting themselves and the things they feel they need to make themselves whole.

John.

Sex work and disability – a short video series

I have recently started posting a daily micro video blog to Twitter. This is the first series that I made and posted.

If you have a sex work topic that you would like to see me talk about, please feel free to let me know in a comment, email, or tweet.

John.

We need your help

If you are reading this, then it’s likely that you have at least contemplated purchasing the services of a sex worker.

If you live in NSW in Australia, then you have nothing to worry about – today – if however you live in Victoria, then your right as an adult to buy sex is under threat. The Victorian Liberal party has recently announced that they have adopted the “client criminalisation” model for regulating sex work (they call it “Nordic model” so it sounds nicer) and will take that policy to the next election in Victoria.

I don’t want to rehash why this is bad for everyone (including sex workers) in this post.  If you are interested, then google “why the Nordic model does not work”.  Suffice to say Amnesty International, the WHO, and basically anyone who values evidence and harm reduction has condemned it. Sadly, it’s popular in certain feminist circles that want to abolish sex work, and unsurprisingly with conservative and right wing political parties.

What’s happening in Victoria is the thin edge of the wedge in this country in what has, since the US recently past their FOSTA/SESTA laws, become an undeclared war on sex work.  NSW (and New Zealand) with our full decriminalisation of sex work sit, like calm little eyes, in a growing global storm.

Sex workers are uniquely vulnerable as a group.  Publicly supporting us and our right to work safely is very difficult for anyone given the stigma that surrounds our industry, so we tend to have to fight our battles on our own.

I am writing this though to ask for your support because it’s no-longer just about us.  If you would like to be, or are a client of sex workers, then the zeitgeist is trying to turn you into a criminal.  If you can publicly support the message that sex work is work (not abuse, not trafficking) then I for one will be very grateful.

If you can sign the various petitions calling for the protection of sex workers, that will definitely help.

You could also consider making a donation to the sex worker organisations that fight to protect people like me.  They do hugely important work helping to protect the rights and safety of sex workers, talking to government and media, conducting research, and more – all of it on very minimal funding.  In Victoria you can donate to the Vixen Collective and in NSW it’s Scarlet Alliance.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you too for any support you can give.

John

Enjoying a beautiful day

The last few weeks have been pretty rough for the sex work community world wide.  You may not be aware of this, but the US government has created new laws that make promoting sex work a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

Sex work is still decriminalised here in NSW, Australia, but the ripple effect (more like a tidal wave) has effected sex worker even here through uncertainty, the closure of advertising platforms, and the creation of a climate of fear.

It’s been a stressful time watching friends and co-workers, both here and abroad losing their incomes, being persecuted, and generally having a very bad time.

It’s times like this that self care becomes important.  And while you may not be in my industry, I think that the lessons still transfer.  We all encounter stress in our lives and our jobs.  And that stress can be very damaging if we don’t recognise it and give ourselves the time and space to recover from it.

I know that many of my clients come to see me for exactly that reason.  You don’t need to visit a sex worker though – it can be as easy as getting out in the sunshine – which is what I did today, taking my camera with me.  So here are a couple of photos of me from sunny Darlinghurst in Sydney for you.

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.

Australian census and sex work

A lot of people have been talking about the census and the ABS’ decision to retain our names and addresses and to use them basically as they see fit to link to other information and databases.

It’s a privacy concern for everyone, but for me – and all other sex workers – it’s immediately worrying.

I just completed the census – and did so honestly.  But by doing so I have put myself at risk.  I stated that I am self employed, and that I am a sex worker providing companionship and sexual services for women.  And I had to put my name and address on that information.

By doing so I created a real risk that one day that data may be used against me in some way.

Living in NSW where sex work is legal, I have less reason to be concerned.  And Australia in general is fairly tolerant of sex work.  But we live in a time of creeping conservatism. Of governments and people becoming less tolerant and more judgmental.  And while today’s government may not care that I am a sex worker, what about next years?

And who knows in the future what data our government will share with other nations like the US in the name of chasing terrorists.  The US, where sex work is a matter of near hysterical fear.  Will my name end up on some TSA watch list in the US to prevent me entering the country?

This sort of thing may sound far fetched.  But really that’s the point.  We fight hard to win our freedoms, but just because we have them doesn’t mean that will always be the case.  So it’s important to think about all of the bad things that can come from giving our governments more power over us.

We were lucky this year, with the state government inquiry into the sex industry.  The government chose not to listen to the conservatives who hate sex work, the churches who hate sex, and the sex work antis who can’t or won’t believe that people can make informed choices about doing sex work.

Instead they listened to the voices of sex workers, scientists, police – and I expect the politicians and public servants who remember the bad old days when sex work was illegal and corruption was rife in the NSW police force because of it

My fear is that one day the census will become a treasure trove for a less benign government who sees a few votes in punishing sex workers, or excluding known sex workers from their country.

Paranoid?  Perhaps, but that is how we prevent overreach by our political class.

John.