Jack Mannix used to be a street sex worker. He’s now a regular Sneaky columnist, and this month he took some flicks and spoke to two mates still in the trade about the realities and misconceptions of working in the sex industry.
So how did you get into the job?
Gia: The initial attraction to the sex industry was the glamour. I remember vividly the first outfit I ever wore as a sex worker – it was a mandarin orange silk kimono with these 1970’s shoulder grazing tassel earrings with black lingerie. It was my first shift in a lingerie restaurant in Melbourne. I was 18, and obsessed with these retro Playboys I’d found at a second hand shop in St Kilda. I felt like a fucking queen, but in hindsight I probably looked a little insane.
I worked there until I got a gig as a topless waitress at buck’s parties. Then I saw an advertisement for nude models. The first time I ever shot porn was with Angela White, an Australian porn star. She and I are friends to this day – I feel very lucky to have had my first experience fucking on camera with such a lovely person. Getting $600 for 2 hours work was mind blowing at 18.
My rent was stashed in my rice jar and I had the whole day to do whatever the hell I wanted! I’ve been a sex worker for 2 years now. I paint and draw in my spare time, and am planning on having my first solo show in 2014. I also plan on returning to uni to study Fine Art. I see myself working for another ten years, maybe fifteen. Heck, if I age okay, maybe you’ll catch me in MILFS Gone Wild!
Gloria: I’d always had an attraction to the sex industry. Even since I was a little girl! My favourite movie was Striptease. I found it really exhilarating and glamorous. I came from – not a traditional family – but my parents were very traditionally married. I also thought the outfits were really glamorous! I was actually quite extroverted. I used to dance in front of the mirror – I wanted to be an exotic dancer. I say that to people now and they think it’s weird as although I’m very confident, I’m actually quite shy and introverted.
Do you prefer working for yourself?
Gloria: Yes and no. Some days I really wish I had an agent because I’m getting increasingly frustrated with time wasters. I have a very low threshold for bullshit these days – I can’t tolerate it. I’m probably more cut throat than some other people. At least with an agent you have the benefit of filtering through all that bullshit.
I have no issue in paying agents for their services… girls bitch about costs all the time, but those guys put a lot of money into advertising. People say the work agents do is predatory, but they have a really valid role. And the overheads in a small business selling sexual services are massive. So if you want to make a lot of money easily, maybe work ten hours a week, going through an agent is definitely the best option.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions people have about sex workers?
Gloria: They’re always pretty stock standard. Most of it’s about STD’s – statistically sex workers are six times more likely to be clean than the average person. Our jobs and careers revolve around our sexual health, so that’s a pretty common misconception. Sometimes you give blowjobs and there is a risk of Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea – I think maybe one third of girls get that, but there’s a process to deal with it.
The thing to remember as well is most of the clients are married – the only other people they sleep with are their wives and other sex workers. Sex workers are clean – it’s a very low risk circle of people. We’re all pretty vigilant about our health. Obviously with street workers it’s a bit different, but the average sex worker in a brothel is very clean. There’s a misconception with drug use as well.
Yeah, most brothels are actually anti drugs.
Gloria: Yeah. I mean obviously there are girls that do drugs. Another misconception is the whole abuse thing. Most girls who have been abused are quite open about it – I know about six to eight girls who have been sexually abused, but I don’t think it’s higher than amongst the general population.
Gia: How often do you see a newspaper headline saying PROSTITUTE MURDERED, addressing them as a “thing” rather than a human being? How often do we see the same tropes and clichés of dumb strippers and street workers with drug problems on TV and film? How many dead hooker jokes do we need to sit through until we realize they aren’t funny?
We see sex workers as a punch line or a tragedy. I don’t blame people for having painted this bizarre picture of what a sex worker looks, talks and walks like. However, I don’t want children to grow up in a world where this is still acceptable, and I feel like as the idea of sex becomes less taboo, so will sex work. Education is the key.
Gloria: It’s also portrayed as this very glamorous thing sometimes. Either that or you’re a “victim of the street being abused by your pimp…” Or you’re this empowered woman. Even with girls that have been abused – this sounds kind of fucked up, but maybe sex work is good for them. They might be unable to form long term relationships as a result of this in their real life. It would easy to say that they just need to be sent off to a shrink, that’s not an easy solution though and realistically, once people are fucked they are probably always going to be pretty fucked up. If she’s experienced trauma that makes her disconnected from the sexual aspect of the work and the stigma regarding relationships isn’t an issue as she avoids them knowing they’ll end painfully – she may find a level of solace in her work. Choosing a job that involves romantic and/or social isolation can be a form of self-preservation for people that have suffered severe forms of emotional and psychological trauma from things such as abuse or abandonment. If a girl has been abused and actively chooses to work as a sex worker because she has been hurt by those that she loved and she’s unable to subject herself to the risk of being hurt again by people, that’s her prerogative – she might be able to find sufficient happiness with financial freedom, a few close friends and a cat.
Yeah, the reality is that it’s everything in between. Obviously for you sex work is something you’ve chosen and it’s not in any way a negative in your life… has it had it’s negative moments?
Gloria: Not necessarily negative or positive… When your personality is maturing and developing, sex work can set that in concrete. Sometimes I’m not able to cope with very basic things…like if the tram was full I’d be like “I can’t deal with this, I’m going home.” Because you almost live in this make believe world, where you have your own rules and way of life. Girls sometimes do start to lose touch with reality. When you have to deal with reality in daily life – stuff like going to a doctor’s appointment or standing in line at the post office – you become a bit of a princess.
Yeah, but I guess we – well, sex workers – do things that most people would normally never want to do – fucked up things. They’d probably prefer to spend a year waiting in traffic.
Gloria: Those simple things are really hard to deal with in some respects. You start to become accustomed to being out of touch with normal every day stuff, and that sometimes becomes very hard to deal with. I could get a normal job but I would find it incredibly stressful… having a boss, having stupid rules – having to double staple something would kill me. I’m quite argumentative too, and that’s an issue I’m going to have when I leave sex work eventually. I’ll probably always have to work for myself.
I can’t see you working for anybody else! Do you find it difficult navigating your different identities. Do you feel like in your normal life you ever have to not be “her” – are you at peace with these slightly different personalities?
Gia: Its sometimes difficult to keep Gia and myself separate. I’m a Gemini, which is the sign of the twins. I see it like this: Gia came out of the womb first and held my hand across the road. She’s the bossy twin, the type A personality who doesn’t take anyone’s shit. There was a period I went through where I felt exhausted by sex work. You see some darkness in people that saps everything from you. I had to let Gia take over, and distance myself from it.
Without that armor, this industry would chew you up and spit you out. I don’t wear the same lingerie, perfume or clothes to a booking that I would wear when I’m at coffee with a girlfriend or on a date with somebody in my personal life.
I came out to my dad about being a sex worker recently. I sat him down, and told him about my job – but also about how happy it made me. I told him about Vixen, a peer based sex worker support group I’m part of, about the amazing people I’d met and even showed him my award for “Best Newcomer”. It was really great being able to share my success with him, even though it wasn’t a traditional “success”.
He listened to all I had to say, and then said to me that no matter what, I was his daughter, and he would always love me and support my choices. I feel very lucky to have such a supportive father.
The major drawback to being a sex worker is how tricky it is to date people. Most sex workers who I know are fairly nurturing people who have a lot of love to give. A lot of people are not down with dating somebody who has sex for money. The idea of ‘sharing’ them seems shocking. This is something I find frustrating, as sex with a client and sex with a lover are two different things. I am always open about my work with people, and I do explain to them that whilst I might not be able to commit to them sexually, emotionally I am there for them 110%. The positive to all that is it’s taught me a lot about non-monogamous relationships.
Gloria: I don’t date much but when I do I find myself turning on that “entertaining” personality. I’m quite open emotionally with clients. But I do put on this personality too.
Have you had many of those problems with clients getting emotionally attached?
Gloria: I’m quite straightforward with clients. I’ve never really gotten too emotionally involved with a client. It’s always a business thing. If it was real life, who knows? I do actually like the sex, but it’s not a relationship that’s going to go anywhere. Most clients respect that but some do have the sliver of hope – which is actually what keeps them coming back! But it’s similar with real life relationships – that hope keeps things going.
So are there some things you don’t do as a rule?
Gloria: Most things are open to negotiation. It’s not really the money, it’s more in the tone of their voice and how they’re asking about it. Most guys are like “I wanna fuck your face”. My reaction to that is “well, no mate, you’re not going to skull fuck me.” I won’t do school girl fantasy. I once had a client who was a school principal – he wanted to do that and it just didn’t sit right with me. I won’t do scat play. I’ll do piss, that’s fine. Everything else in kind of negotiable. I won’t do anything outdoors or in public – I don’t think it’s right that a family or a child sees me giving somebody a wristy! It’s not about the legality – I just don’t want to subject people to that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t have sex with a partner in public. Basically anything I wouldn’t do in my personal life – I’m not going to go and fuck a boyfriend in a club toilet – never say never – but some clients want to do that stuff and it’s not worth the money. Ninety percent of my clients want sex, blowjobs – normal, vanilla things. I’ll do non-vanilla stuff in the right context – if they ask nicely.
Do you get many clients that want non sexual content? Like role playing.
Gloria: Yeah sometimes. I’m more into domination than playing a submissive. I don’t like playing the role of whore or slut.
And to be perfectly honest I can’t see you playing a submissive.
Gloria: Haha yeah… I’d be sitting there wanting to spit at them or yell at them.
Yeah I think you’d fight back!
Gloria: It might be ok if there was a guy I was attracted to who was playing the role in a convincing way. And if I’m in the mood for it. But people yelling or abusing me I’m not into. Light spanking I could be down for. I’d be ok with it if they’re genuinely interested in playing that role, but if they’re going to go home and beat off because they were calling me a whore – I don’t like that idea. I’m not the right sex worker for that kind of stuff. A friend of mine once went to see a client as a submissive, but when she saw the look in the guy’s eyes when he was choking her – this disgusting look on his eyes – she was really fucked up for days after it. Unless it’s something you’re into in your personal life, you shouldn’t get into it as a sex worker.
On that topic – it’s something that’s a real gray area in terms of rape in sex work – have you encountered many bad clients that were a potential threat?
Gloria: I haven’t. I do know some girls that have compromised with that kind of stuff because they’ve needed the money, but you shouldn’t compromise just for money. I can usually tell when I’m screening a client. I’ve had one client where I got a really bad vibe, and I went back to my car and didn’t come back. He didn’t call back asking where I was, which was probably a good sign that I did the right thing.
Yeah he was probably expecting that reaction! “Oh, another one ran away, just like the last one!” I found to some extent that sex work liberated me – what about you guys?
Gia: Sex work has liberated me. I respect myself- I see my self worth. I left an abusive relationship before I was a worker, and sex work has helped to heal me. I don’t accept sexual partners treating me with disrespect. I don’t always remove my body hair. I’ve learnt to reject this ideal of what women are “supposed” to look like according to mainstream media, because I’ve met brave and beautiful women of all shapes and sizes who make money from sex.
Sex work has given me the freedom to choose what to do with my life, and explore avenues I might not have had access too. I’m not here to paint a hallmark card of being a hooker, but its not the spiral of despair people make it out to be. It’s a job, like any other. It’s just the right job for me.