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.

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.

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.

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

Please – sign our petition and help protect our industry

There is a Change.org petition being run to help gain support for the continuation of decriminalisation of sex work in NSW.  You can read a bit more about the context two posts down.  Your support would be invaluable.  Please consider signing the petition here:

https://www.change.org/p/minister-for-justice-minister-for-health-minister-for-planning-minister-for-police-amp-emergency-services-save-decriminalisation-in-nsw-for-sex-worker-health-amp-safety?

Thank you,

John.