It’s a Saturday afternoon, and Daisy* is early to our meeting. When I walk into the cafe, she’s already ordered us both coffee.
“I didn’t know what you liked, so I just guessed” she says with a grin. I only thought people did that in movies.
She tucks her messy blonde bob behind her ears while she speaks, looking like every other twenty-something-year-old catching up for a late brunch in Melbourne. As we wait for our coffee we talk about the weather, our desires to travel overseas, and work. For me it’s admin, for her, it’s working at a licensed Melbourne brothel.
Thanks for giving me your time today. What made you agree to this interview?
Well, you asked me. (Laughs). I don’t know. I don’t really talk about this stuff much so I guess being interviewed about it is kinda new and a little challenging.
Why don’t you talk about it?
I mean, I obviously talk about it with the girls I work with but like, when I’m going out with my friends I’m not just like “you wouldn’t believe what my client did the other day”. Some people get really weird about it.
I guess. You don’t have friends you talk about it with?
My best friends know, and my girlfriend knows, but my family doesn’t and the people at my other work don’t, so I have to kind of be careful who I talk about it with. It’s not like this huge shameful secret for me, but I also know what the reaction would be if they found out so I just have to keep those lines separate. I definitely respect the girls who are open about it, but it just wouldn’t work for me.
So I guess this is the obvious question, but tell us how you started working in the industry.
I was out with my friends one night and I ran into this girl who I hadn’t seen in ages. We started talking and she mentioned that she worked at a brothel to kind of make some extra cash. I kind of just went “oh, okay”. I messaged her the next day and asked a little more about it, and I guess it just kind of went from there.
You mentioned that you’re in a relationship, does that clash with your job?
Not at all. I think that’s probably the most surprising thing to people, actually. They’re always like “but how can she be okay with it?” like, “you obviously don’t have a good relationship”. That kind of thing. It’s very insulting. I think also the fact that she’s a girl, people are like “oh so you’re a lesbian, but you have sex with men for money, how does that work?” I tell them; “it works really easily – she respects me”. It’s really not anyone else’s business.
Do you mind if I ask more about that?
About being a lesbian?
And a sex worker. Yeah.
I mean sure. It’s the physical act of sex, it’s not like – okay. Look at it this way. Masseuses, for example, don’t get pleasure out of massaging someone. They also don’t “sell their bodies”. They perform a physical act for someone, for money. Sex work is literally no different. I perform physical acts for someone, for money. The act of fucking can feel nice, but I don’t cum from it – it’s just work. It’s very impersonal for me. And I don’t have to be attracted to the client to do my job. That’s not what sex work is. You’re part actress, part masseuse.
What does a day in your life look like?
It’s very flexible. I have a casual retail job, which pays alright, but most importantly its stable. Sex work can be super lucrative, but there’s also the quiet nights, so it’s important to have something to fall back on. Usually I work there about three nights a week, depending on how I feel. I get there at like, 6 maybe and work until about 1 or 2 in the morning and then catch an uber home.
And how is sex work different to what you imagined before you started?
Literally everything is different. It’s so much more regimented, it’s so much cleaner. It’s also a lot safer, which I think a lot of people don’t expect. They have emergency buttons everywhere in the rooms and telephones and everything. Sometimes that’s not enough but it’s a lot more than you get at other jobs. I was expecting crusty sheets and clients who just wanted to take advantage of you. Instead it’s like, a thousand health checks and really sad, lonely old men. Of course you get the occasional dickhead but you’ll l find more of them on Tinder. Mostly the guys who go in there are nervous, usually first timers who just want to feel wanted.
So, let’s get to the elephant in the room. The stigma.
(Laughs), yeah, there’s a lot of that. It’s the hardest part of my job.
Can you tell us about it from your perspective?
Sure. I think I expect it from men because they’ll judge women either way. If she has sex, if she doesn’t have sex, if she has sex for money, if she has sex for free – they’ll say that sex workers don’t respect themselves but turn around and grab girls asses on the train, or rate our bodies to their mates. You know?
It’s like, I can have shitty, degrading sex for free on a Tinder date or I can get paid $250 dollars for an hour of time that I control.
I think the thing is that they’re going to see me the same way no matter what I do. They’re not going to see me as an equal, they’re going to see me as an object no matter whether I’m sitting next to them in the office, or lying naked next to them in bed. They’re still going to hate and objectify me no matter what. There’s nothing you can do to win their respect, so you have to stop trying. My work is not about men’s respect. I respect the hell out of myself, and nothing I get paid to do will change that.
Well said. And what about women?
That’s the really disappointing thing. It’s almost worse when women – especially women who call themselves feminists – turn around and say that all sex workers are evil or lacking self respect or call us degrading things. I think that sometimes it comes from a lack of knowledge, and sometimes it comes from just being an obnoxious and bigoted person.
What would you say to that kind of person?
You might think you’re ‘saving’ us or helping us by saying that we’re all at risk and all being hurt, but that line of thinking is so much more damaging than you think. When that flawed ideology becomes law it takes away our access to resources and help that we need. We respect ourselves and our line of work doesn’t change that.
I think a lot of women need to stop making assumptions on things they know nothing about and start actually listening to sex workers. I guarantee we know more about our own lives than you do.
What about sex workers that actually are forced into it, or trying to escape it?
That’s called sex trafficking, or sex slavery, and it is completely different. The idea that the two things are the same is reprehensible. There is a massive difference between people who choose to enter this industry and people who are forced into it, and combining the two is the most damaging and useless thing ever. It doesn’t help either group.
For sex workers In Australia at least, there’s a fair amount of help for women who are trying to leave the industry. We don’t need to be saved. Self respect isn’t the issue here.
Have you ever run into issues while doing your line of work?
Of course. And when bad shit happened, I took time off and spoke to my therapist. I’m very privileged being able to do that of course – because a lot of the girls are supporting kids or doing sex-work full time and can’t afford to just cut and run. But in any case, the things I’ve experienced at work are nothing compared to the shit dudes have done while I wasn’t working. I’ve dealt with levels of sexual violence from men that I’m not comfortable talking about here.
You don’t have to justify it.
I guess. I just feel like if I don’t add that worse has happened outside the brothel, people will be like “oh but what do you expect? You’re a whore.” That kind of thing. That’s the real danger. When we do admit that we’ve had bad experiences, people just disregard it because we’re in the sex industry. You wouldn’t say that to a you wouldn’t say that to a masseuse, you wouldn’t say it to a model – why are we different?
Would it be a line of work you recommend?
Probably not. It’s not that it’s a terrible line of work, it’s just that it is very personal. I wouldn’t be like “oh, just do sex work!”, because it’s not for everyone. It’s something you have to enter under your own volition. You have to want to do it. And you have to continue to want to do it.
One of the girls I worked with constantly got pressured by our boss to stay at work when it was clear that she’d had a bad experience and wanted to go home. That’s really awful. I didn’t tell anyone after I had bad shit happen – I just got changed and left and didn’t come back for a week while I sorted myself out. But they legally and physically cannot keep you there, so you need to know that you can and should leave any time you want to. It’s like any line of work – your mental health comes first.
I also wanna mention that I’m a pretty privileged sex worker as far as it goes. There’s a lot of workers who don’t work in legal brothels or like, trans sex workers who are at a much higher risk than I ever was. There are a lot of women who can’t leave and still deserve understanding and respect. You don’t get to pick and choose which sex workers you respect.
I feel like there would be a lot of pressure to conform to beauty standards in order to make money, what’s that like?
That’s interesting actually. Because I don’t feel like there was actually more of a difference than usual. You’re in lingerie so you’re already appealing – there were times that I felt like I was at a disadvantage because I had comparatively shorter hair than any other girl, but it also makes you stand out. Sometimes they want something different, and I knew how to market myself. That’s the most important thing.
Doesn’t matter what you look like, some clients will want you and some won’t. It’d be so much tougher in other industries, honestly.
Where do you see the industry going in today’s political and social climate?
I think socially we’re being more and more open about it in Australia. But I also think that with the openness there also comes a certain obsession. At the moment it’s seen as taboo, but also as risque and exciting. So many media outlets use our stories for shock factor or clickbait, like “the REAL life of a SEX WORKER” kind of thing. It’s like – yeah VICE, we get it, sex sells, but we’re also real people. Your neighbour, your friend, your daughter, your co-worker. So it’s just really exhausting. We’re not tokens, and we don’t exist for you to laugh at or critique or judge. So I think socially we’re at this weird point where our stories are so interesting, but we’re not respected. I also think that the industry reflects the social climate too, so what happens socially we’re going to see at that level. The kinds of fetishes and kinks, for example, as they filter into social consciousness will be reflected in the sex industry, and vice versa.
Politically we’re at a whole other level. I think politically we’re kind of invisible, unless someone wants to make martyrs of us poor violated whores for political points. The same politicians who pay us to fuck them turn around and throw us under the bus.
What do you think, as a lesbian and a sex worker, of people dressed in BDSM outfits marching at LGBT Pride events and holding up “equal rights for sex worker” signs?
It’s completely inappropriate. I attend pride as a lesbian, not as a sex worker. There should be rallies for equal rights for sex workers, yes, but it’s not something that has any place at an LGBT rally. It’s just so irrelevant – the oppression I face as a lesbian and the discrimination I face as a sex worker only intersect because I am both. They’re two completely different things. It’s like me turning up at a Black Lives Matter rally with a sign saying “I’m gay”. It just doesn’t belong there in that moment.
Daisy, thank you so much for coming out today (mind the pun). Final question, if you saw an accurate representation of your career in the media, what would it look like?
It’d be someone who isn’t defined by her career. It’s like defining someone by what they have for breakfast. I have an entire life outside work, why on earth would that be the majority of my personality? I’d also love it if sex workers were represented as more than just the butt of a joke. It’s a really shitty, very damaging representation. Plus, the real joke is the men who pay hundreds of dollars just to jackrabbit fuck us and nut in under a minute. But whatever.
We at The Gal Pals would like to say a big thank you to Daisy* for allowing us to publish this story, and for allowing us to interview her in the first place.
*Names and places have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
If you have a story you would like to share, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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