Sex workers, transgression and “The Natural Way Of Things.”

I recently finished reading a brilliant piece of fiction entitled “The Natural Way of Things” by Sydney based author Charlotte Wood.  It was the winner of the 2016 Stella Prize and Wood’s previous work has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin and The New South Wales Premier’s awards respectively.   The work follows the plight of  ten women who wake to find  they’d been drugged, abducted and sent to a prison camp in the Australian outback to build a road for a corporation.  The guards treat them impersonally, and any questioning results in beatings. The compound is surrounded by an electric fence so strong just a simple touch can leave searing burns. Although told from the perspectives of two of the women, Yolanda and Verla, we progressively learn that each of the women were in the prison camp due to being involved in sex scandals of some kind. Maitlynd the school principal’s ‘head girl’… that morose gamer girl Rhiannon, the one called Codebabe and the wanking mascot for every nasty little gamer creep in the country. Then poor cruise-ship Lydia, then Leandra from the army, then … the girl the whole country could despise: little Asian Joy, from last season’s PerforMAXX.” Finally, there are the two point-of-view characters: Verla the politician’s mistress, and Yolanda, who should have known better than to go into that room alone with those footballers. We never get the full stories of these scandals, but then, we know them without being told. They are – and this is the point –all too familiar.   What we are lead to understand is that, eerily reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”,  in a dystopian society, transgressive femininty is punished – any woman who’s seemingly in charge of her own sexual self, is seen as an object of disdain,  who’s life simply does not matter.

Just after I finished reading the book another women’s death was announced in Melbourne. A young student from my own Alma Mater, LaTrobe University, was killed whilst walking home from her tram stop.  The police made an arrest within days,  in a similar fashion to the death last year of Eurydice Dixon.  Both of these women were young, conventionally attractive,  murdered by someone unknown to them.  Both deaths prompted vigils, an outcry of anger from the public in scenes reminiscent of the 2012 death of  Jill Meagher, we vowed “never again”, demanded justice and social change.

But what about those of us for whom the dystopia is closer to the reality of our daily lives. Whilst  there may be no electric fences or forced labour – whether we wish to acknowledge it or not – the way we apportion justice is in line with the way we see women as transgressive beings. Simply put, it has been almost 6 years since the death of St Kilda  sex worker Tracey Connelly, and her murder still remains unsolved.  Almost a year after Tracey’s death, a Transgender sex worker from Queensland – Mayang Prasetyo was killed in a murder suicide where the perpetrator was her ex partner.  Both times the headlines were full of references to gender, occupation, and in Tracey’s case, drug use.  The Courier Mail in particular made constant references to Mayang on its front page as a “Transgender Prostitute” and in one early article refused to use her full name.   The Natural Way Of Things for sex workers sees our lives as salacious headlines, and our deaths as inconsequential or often punishment for existing outside the proscribed sexual paradigm.  When I devoured Wood’s words,  I could not help but think of these two women, and of the other victims of Adrian Bailey – the convicted killer of Jill Meagher, who also happened to be sex workers at work in St Kilda.   Every single life lost matters, for sure,  but when we examine the way in which deaths are viewed  in broader society the dystopian society created by Wood becomes a little closer to reality than we care to admit.  It pains me to know that should anything happen to me in either the course of my work or otherwise, that my life simply does not warrant justice, and I am extremely glad to have a community of supporters who are open to challenging  The Natural Way Of Things,  so that it isn’t natural anymore.

Justice for Tracey,

Justice for Mayang,   for Aiia, For Eurydice, for Jill  and for the inevitable many more to come.

To my Mum.

It’s the eve of my 30th birthday, and I am stuck at Melbourne airport heading towards the place I once called home. A day full of work awaits me, although I am already some what delayed.    For the first time in my lengthy absence,   I’ll be coming home to a city that no longer has you in it.

We weren’t on the best terms. Your mental health,  the violence,  the substance use. The lack of ability to accept me all drove wedges between us that I didn’t think would ever be filled.  I put the idea of having a mother out of my head and filled the gaps with friends and created family instead.  My job was something you hated.  Yet it still brings me so much joy and stability – things I don’t think you ever experienced in your life.  I often wondered why the conservatism that governed you was expected to extend to me, and how a rejection of  me helped you stay true to an ideology that never really loved you back.  I always wondered how my job, the thing that gave me the financial independence you instilled in me was such a huge point of contention between two people trying to survive.  Sex work, sex positivity, being open about the sex I have and the sexuality  is in no doubt a perverse result of the way you raised me.   I know you don’t and never did see charging for sex as something that should be done, yet it’s been my currency for most of my adult life and I am not sorry if that disappoints you.  It’s been my ticket to freedom, to something much better than what you expected of me.  And it is something I never ever will apologise for.

Trauma bonding is an odd concept.   I still love you,  I still look to only the good memories we shared to sustain me, and sometimes I gloss over how shit things were in order to reconcile my memories of you with that of others.   I remember cuddling, watching television in the bedroom, meals that were too large even for growing appetites, birthday parties and christmases where several languages were spoken.  These are the things i choose to elevate in my memory in order to allow the darker times no room.

I am entering the end of a difficult decade,  but ultimately one in which I established myself as a person. I worked so hard to disentangle myself from you and make sure I give the best version of myself to the world.  But as I commence the task of finally closing off your life, settling your affairs,  I wonder when my life will begin.   The only answer i can possibly come up with is that it begins now. It has to begin now.  I can’t spend a minute longer thinking or wondering what might have been between us when what is and what always will be is the fact we were two people trying to survive, and ultimately only one of us did. 

I hope that wherever your faith sent you when you left us, you’re happy.  I hope that the things you love are surrounding you and there’s nothing that harms you in any way.  But please know, I’m still living the life you thoroughly disapproved of.  And I am having a lot of fun doing it.


Closing my eyes when we kiss – a piece about autism and sex work.

CW: this piece contains references to suicidal ideation and hospitalisation, along with the mistreatment of autistic people.





My longest regular client is a gentle, large man I will call C. He loves cars, dogs, whiskey and can tell you everything about Doctor Who – legit, the guy is a walking spoiler alert.  He is also an expert, gentle lover and knows exactly how to pleasure people.  He has done things to me that if hotel walls could talk we’d both be in trouble.  C started seeing  sex workers some years ago but said he’d been frequenting brothels as opposed to seeking out private escorts, due to having difficulty finding someone to see him. This absolutely floored me at first, due to his obvious bedroom skill.  He told me that when he started seeing me, he finally felt comfortable. It’s only been recently I’ve come to understand exactly why.  I keep thinking back to that first booking, and the laborious process it took to get him there.  He was extremely tense and stood in the room for quite some time without moving.  His face was searching for guidance.  Autistic people often rely on social ‘scripts’, proscribed ways of doing things to help them navigate social situations, including sex.  Picking up on this I sat down, he sat down. I undressed, he undressed. He slowly unfolded once he knew he was safe, me helping him understand his body and him mine.

“I am on the spectrum. I should have told you”.  When we were in each others arms at the end of the session.

“No, it’s ok, I mean, I already knew”  I replied.

“How?”  He was genuinely embarrassed that his autistic traits might be somehow obvious.

” Well… me too…”  I was looking somewhere between the wall and the third hair behind his  ear.

“you mean….”


“Ohhhh,  so that’s why you close your eyes when we kiss”  He was referring to my lack of eye contact. A rehearsed but huge smile spread across his face, and you could feel the breath he’d been holding in slowly being released.

He told me he had problems booking people because he didn’t understand social rules and how to approach people he never met.  He understood he was perceived as “rude” and “draining” and that he hadn’t been with anyone in an extremely long time as a result.  I simply said to him that sex workers deal with multiple shitty enquiries a day and it’s easy to confuse rudeness with a general lack of knowledge, and that at first glance it’s almost impossible to tell the difference.  So before he left we wrote a script together, word for word how he could approach sex workers he wished to see.   He emailled me the next day thanking me and we’ve been seeing each other for almost 18 months since.   He’s written the most hilarious but entirely unuseable reviews,  given me gifts and absolutely blossomed into a man who I care about deeply, and will always have time for.

I had always known my own brain was “different”. I barely spoke ( I know, hard to believe now, right) I refused to play with kids my own age , hated being touched by people I don’t know and had massive issues with sensory integration. However, because I didn’t fit  the script for a person with autism (assigned male at birth, fixed obssessions, severely limited social skills) I got over looked right up untill the latter half of 2016, when the lights got too bright….

One of the main manifestations of my autism is extreme sensory defensiveness. I struggle with sound, light, and texture.  my apartment and my workspace is heavily curated to meet my sensory needs.   I moved temporarily into an apartment upstairs in my complex when mine was being temporarily re-furbished and the light in the kitchen was so bright I couldn’t move from room to room without anxiety. After severe anxiety after several months I attempted suicide.  All I could tell the psychiatrist was “the lights were too bright”. Assuming a psychotic episode I was sectioned and given powerful anti psychotic medication.  After a few days when it became clear I was not psychotic a specialised psychiatrist was brought in to assess me – we knew something else was “wrong”.   It took daily sessions over almost a month  but I was eventually diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  If it were still a part of the DSM  I’d fall under the category once called “Aspergers syndrome”.  She gave me tools to deal with my brain and linked me in to an occupational therapist who has changed my life but we both lamented the knowledge that the diagnostic criteria, research and support available for people who are not young men or boys is extremely limited.  One of the reasons most people like me go undiagnosed until adulthood is due to the concept of “masking”. we push our autistic traits down, hide them, or simply refuse to enact them so as to make ourselves appear “normal” (my disdain for that word knows no bounds) societal pressure and quite frankly, patriarchy itself means young women, girls, and anyone who falls outside the assigned male at birth category are more likely to have to mask behaviour and it can have devastating consequences, like suicide, or attempted suicide.  Knowing this,  it’s made me all the more determined to advocate for autistic people – particularly those who aren’t reflected in scientific literature.  Knowing this about myself, putting the skills i’ve learned into practice, finding people who accept my weird stims and love my autistic ass unconditionally, you can definitely see I am living my best autistic life right now.

Autism also makes me a great sex worker.  Bear with me,  but it does. I am an excellent mimic, it’s how I learn most of my social skills, and the techniques that get me through the day.  I observe hustling techniques,  great intro skills and when I am not working or capable of speaking, I  spend my time researching and reading about BDSM, and sex in general.  I have developed scripts for work that do lead to awkwardness when they are broken or deviated from, but my script base is growing by the day as is my confidence.  Autism also means I am more present and assertive with my boundaries.   I have specific areas of no touching which can lead to sensory overload.  For instance, my left ear, absolute no go zone, the space where my butt and thighs meet also the same.  When I am with my clients, I am not only more in tune with their needs but also with mine.  I know what I want to avoid and will always encourage clients to do the same.  BDSM is a lifeline for autistic sex workers. Repetition, developed personas and skill sets all help me navigate terrain that can be quite difficult.  Finding my power as a dominatrix, learning a  variety of special skills and being able to use my imagination give me an immense amount of power.  It also helps me remain able to work when full service is extremely difficult. Sometimes the non contact work of mistressing isn’t just important, but neccesary.

Sex work also has it’s challenges. I have been booked by several men in the past who believe they can push my boundaries precisely because I am autistic.  One client in particular disregarded my consent because he believed I wouldn’t “feel” something the way a non autistic person would.  I am constantly dealing with inadvertent and sometimes deliberate ableism from peers. The attitude towards autistic men is often dismissive and hurtful, and I politely remind my colleagues on a regular basis that if they had a negative experience with an autistic man it’s most likely *not* the autism that made him a shit client, nor does it make me a shit service provider.  One peer specifically stated she simply wouldn’t see autistic men and when challenged she said it was because they were “too much trouble”.  I disengaged from that conversation almost immediately, and it’s what lead in no small part to this piece.  I often find it difficult to share a work space, and it’s only in the last few weeks I have learned how to do it properly.  Room  sharing during brothel work is my idea of hell, to be quite frank.  A great deal of the time I struggle with consistency due to needing lengthy breaks from work when I am not coping. Consequently it takes me a long time to build up regular client bases, which I inevitably lose when I cannot see them.

Ultimately,  I am both rewarded with the work I am provided with, and  I do believe I am a worker with insight and value, even when things are tough.  To my clients with beautiful brains,  and me with mine.

here’s to us,  and closing our eyes when we kiss.

#VicVotes 2018: Being a sex worker during an election campaign.

It’s been four years since  Victorians last went to the polls and the stakes have never been higher. In 2014 in the seat of Richmond, incumbent Richard Wynne held onto his seat by less than 1000 votes. His biggest challenge was Greens Candidate Kathleen Maltzahn and it is looking to be a similar showdown again with the Greens mounting a targeted offensive in Richmond touting it as a winnable seat.  This  has also meant that sex workers have run a protest campaign since Kathleen’s preselection last year, and will continue to do so right up untill the election itself, one of three successive protest campaigns and amongst upwards of twenty years worth of campaigning specifically against Maltzahn herself.

Why you might ask?

Kathleen is a proponent of the Nordic Model of sex work regulation.  (aka the swedish model, aka client criminalisation, aka a general fuck show of dangerousness for sex workers)  She has stated several times on record, including here:   Greens must take their sex work principles seriously that she would vote with her conscience instead of endorsing official Greens party policy which is the “Decrminalisation of all Adult sex work”.   To back up slightly,  let’s look at what those terms mean.  “full decriminalisation” means the removal of all laws governing sex work from the criminal code.  It means, that far from being de-regulated, sex work  businesses and sex workers themselves are treated like other businesses.  Global endorsement for decriminalisation is widespread, including most recently Amnesty International voting to ammend their public platform to support the immediate decriminalisation of sex work as a matter of human rights.  The Swedish Model, the model proposed by Kathleen Maltzahn and bodies like the Nordic Model Australia Council,  and The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women  discourage the criminalisation of sex selling, rather encourage the criminalisation of sex purchasing… ie. sex workers can sell sex,  it just can’t be bought.  This is a failed and dangerous way of regulating sex work. Why? because it simply doesn’t happen that way.   In Sweden, National sex worker association Rose Alliance have stated that often under these laws, third parties like children and partners are criminalized simply for their association with sex workers themselves.  It is virtually impossible to police one group of people without targeting another, and to argue for anything other than that is spreading incredibly damaging falsehoods. Although Kathleen herself has recently stated she would vote in line with Greens Party Policy,  this only comes after the Victorian Liberals announced they would push to have the Nordic Model adopted as part of their policy platform at their state conference.  Not wishing to potentially alienate progressive voters and anyone with a brain, Kathleen announced she wouldn’t vote in  a way that put her more in line with people like Matthew Guy than her own party.  However, the liberals have discarded this policy and she’s back to spruiking the Nordic Model to anyone who will listen.

Kathleen has also had a long history in the “anti trafficking”movement, which lead her to found organisation Project Respect. This is an organisation which openly claims to wish to abolish the sex industry and sees it as a source of human trafficking.   Recently, Project Respect was granted without tender process, $300,000 from the office of Jenny Mikakos, and regularly receives funding from the Australian Federal Police, as per the proceeds of Crime fund.  This comes on top of an environment where peer based organisations like The Vixen Collective remain unfunded. When Kathleen was a councillor in Yarra, Project Respect commanded an increase in funding in conjunction with the cities of Moreland and Monash, and this funding arrangement has carried over into as recently as 2016-17.  (All of this information is readily available to the public on the Project Respect Annual report for those respective years contained on their website)  It is an incredibly dubious arrangement, one in which compromises the impartiality of local government and could be seen to have unduly influenced Kathleen’s preselection now and then.

So why protest, what does it mean?

Sex workers have been used as a political football in Victoria for years.  We are a group that is systematically ignored by politicians, and who regularly have our work places taken over by religious and non peer based outreach organisations including Project Respect.  A protest campaign has been run because we are sick of parties like the Greens willfully selecting candidates who do not abide by their own policies.  But also, we are tired of being further stigmatised, and backed into corners whereby our allies, even within the Greens themselves, are attacked.  If you look at the front page of  The Herald Sun, you’ll see a resignation from senate candidate Joanna Nilson.  Joanna has voiced her support of sex workers openly, and has held beliefs around making the party an inclusive and welcoming space for marginalised people to be, she is precisely the candidate  the Victorian Greens need, and it is an absolute betrayal of Greens principles to force her into a situation like the one she’s found herself in.   Being a sex worker during an election campaign, even one that does not consider themselves politically active, means that your future will always be considered political fodder, even if you don’t think it will. I am so proud to have been involved in these campaigns over the years,  but it is exhausting.  The best thing non industry people can do for us now, is to get behind our protest campaigns,  challenge all your left leaning mates to take the time to research the parties they are voting for, and most importantly, come out and protest with us.  This isn’t an abstract issue, it’s a matter of all our collective futures.