Sunday, 14 August 2016

To network or not to network

It can be lonely being a sex worker yet I've met a few ladies who prefer to stay away from any socialising online or in real life and keep to themselves. They don't want any dramas despite the benefits that can be had from meeting and greeting with other working girls or clients. I can understand this - I've witnessed a few not so nice situations - but there are ways to go about it without your life becoming part of a collective train wreck.

Like it or not, if you're a sex worker in an agency or working from a house with other indies, you will come into contact with other working girls.  Read more...

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Sex workers and websites: if you build it will they come?

Although many sex workers are getting websites built for them or DIYing it with free sites like WIX or blogs, I have heard many saying they don't know what to do with them ("now what?") or how to get clients ("traffic") to go to them. So I've been picking the brains of one or two IT people and looking closely at how some of the sex worker success stories out there are using theirs.
... Read more on my website.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The pleasures of non-sex work

I often write about how much I love sex work, and one of the reasons I love it as a lifestyle is because it gives me so much time to get involved with various projects as non-Amber.

 Last year I learned a lot about publishing on Amazon kindle by guinea-pigging myself as an author and some little stories I wrote as my product. Sex work not only gave me the time for that but also the material as the stories were about a sex worker named Amber O'Hara (and a little about her quirky non-Amber identity). This year I will be ... Read more on my website

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Sex Workers Starting With Why

I've been enjoying the fabulous book Start With Why by Simon Sinek after a recommendation by someone I respect a lot and who has had an amazing career in their (creative) field.

In fact I listened to the audio book and loved it so much that I'm now reading it on kindle and have even gifted it to others to read. I've mentioned it to many people recently as well.

It's not that I aspire to be a leader but I like the basic premise, which is that we should start with why we are doing our "work" (or anything really) before we try and inspire others or sell what or how we do it (for example, via advertising to our staff, clients or just our supportive champions). If anything it confirms my long-held belief that sex workers can create their own niche services. There are many sex workers I know of consciously doing this  ... more on my website

Friday, 13 May 2016

Forced conversations when you’ve been outed

Cyber bullying comes in many forms, from the relatively mild (but still harmful) tweet-bombing, Facebook posting, harassment on online forums etc, to the most dreaded extreme for sex workers - being publicly outed and/or lied about as a sex worker on websites set up to humiliate.  When this happens, and sex workers have to deal with a horrifying situation where they are outed to their loved ones and communities, it is obviously carried out by someone seeking to hurt them. This usually happens anonymously and without warning although occasionally advance threats are made and/or the person outing her, by revealing certain private information, is identifiable. This heartbreaking scenario happened to a friend of mine recently online for the world to see.  She is still processing the repercussions...  Read more on my website.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Love as community - a contemplation

A contemplation on Amber O'Hara's What gets women off? and Love within Sex Work.

Amber O'Hara proposes an interesting question in her two part series What gets women off? One guesses she explores this question with more clarity in her essay Love within Sex Work. While "love" and "getting off sexually" are by no means the same, they are not totally different. We do equate them. Love has specific meanings as in parent/child love, child/parent love, love of life, making love, unconditional love, while "getting off" is about orgasmic responses. Sex while a bonding agent is a component of adult love it is much less important to secure bonds than popularly thought.

O'Hara seems to have a curiosity about connection that transcends these three essays... read more on my website

Monday, 4 April 2016

Welcome to my new website

I now have a new website of my own

If you are wanting to see my website, it is now hosted here.  I will continue blogging but from my own site, - I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Lurking and Peering and the Culture of Complaint

The day I visited my friend and fellow sex worker, Clio, at her house*, I was wearing my (non-sex worker-like) day clothes of jeans and a plain, dark woollen top and carrying a large, black art portfolio, as I was visiting to show Clio some sketches from a creative project I started at university. As I walked down her driveway towards her premises, (in a straight line as the driveway has a direct route towards Clio's front door,) which is clearly marked by a large number visible from the street footpath, a lady who was entering a next door property in the same block of townhouses, hesitated before opening her front door to take a lingering look at me, while two other residents of the same townhouse, watched me from different windows on different floors. As I walked past their house, I glimpsed another woman watching me through some foliage from an attached balcony.

Below is a guest post by Clio the Whore.

For a brief but happy time I ran a brothel. I ran a good clean place with co workers I liked, and because I lived there I was able to be hospitable and flexible.

Then I received an email from the property manager, saying that he believed I was engaging in illegal activity ie: running a brothel and thereby using the house for purposes other than residential. He gave me two weeks to shut it down or I would be evicted. I was shocked. I rang him and he said there had been ‘multiple’ complaints (whatever that means) and that the neighbours found the demeanour of my clients threatening as they knocked on wrong doors and lurked and peered in windows.

I believed the complaints were largely spurious, and told him so. Clients do not lurk and peer. They may knock on wrong doors but they do not lurk and peer. It is not in the interests of men who visit sex workers to lurk and peer. In fact, as I found out from my clients recently, the neighbours were at times intimidating, making snide comments and watching my clients in a pointed fashion. Now, I can well understand why people would not want a brothel in their neighbourhood. They would associate sex work with gangs and drugs, and they would not want their children overhearing sexual activities. None of these issues were present at my place. As for the issue of using the house for non-residential purposes, how would it be if I fixed cars or did Tarot readings? Would he kick me out then? He huffed a bit and said it would depend on whether or not anyone complained. This led me to contemplate, in a rather personalised way I must admit, about the culture of complaint we have. Of which more below.

In fact they got me on two counts – the non-residential purposes thing and also that it is against the bylaw to have a brothel in a multi dwelling building. I could have argued, but I did not. I had several reasons for this. One was that I thought they had the right of it. Another was that even if I won the fight the neighbours would probably keep complaining until I was evicted. Another reason was that we sex workers live a bit off the grid anyway and a bad tenancy record would go against me. And – well, I felt that the privacy of my clients had been compromised rather horribly and I needed to take responsibility for that. I like my clients, and it was upsetting to hear from them later on that they had been subjected to something amounting to abuse from my neighbours.

We do have, I think, a culture of complaint, and on the face of it this appears to be a nicely liberal part of the modernity project. You can do anything you like, provided no one complains. Fair enough. Except what happens when someone complains? Those in authority have to Do Something About It. My property manager said he had investigated the case; in fact he had done no such thing. He merely took the complaints, did not explore their credibility and did not talk to me. He Did Something About It. He said he had to, you see, because someone had complained and he was then bound to act. The fact that he did so reflexively was by no means a bad thing from his point of view. He had shown himself to be Doing Something, and pleased his bosses and the complainants. Everybody wins. Except me.

Since then I have watched interviews with politicians in a new light. What happens is this. The reporter says, this is terrible and it must not continue and Someone Must Do Something About It. The politician then says yes, it is terrible and We Are Doing Something About It. In fact we are so Doing Something that we are all over its sorry ass. No stone unturned, no child left behind, no family must ever suffer the tragedy that has befallen these poor victims, and This Must Never Happen Again. Watch them. My hunch is that in fact they do very little about the issue, whatever it is, but it does make us all feel a little safer and happier for the thirty seconds or so where we actually believe them because they sound so earnest and active.

I doubt that my neighbours care that they have made my life more expensive and difficult, and that in fact they had nothing to fear from me, my co workers, or my clients. I am sorry that they were afraid of me and what I stand for. I hope they are happy on the moral high ground. I wish them no ill, even though I am slightly sick of them leaning on their balcony and staring at me. And you know, I quite like my life. I get to trade in valuable things – pleasure and laughter and sweetness and care. It would be nice to think that somewhere in their lives they have those things too.

* Please note - the feature illustration bears no resemblance to Clio's brothel or any other brothel I have been to.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Love Within Sex Work

A tweet from Australian escort, Gabrielle

I found this tweet the other day and it really resonated with me.  It's because I feel exactly the same about my clients.  I really love those dudes!  A lot of the time I give my heart and soul to my clients, and get it back in spades. 

Which got me thinking.  Is this professional, or normal?  Around my friends it certainly is. I've noticed a lot more ladies are open about their enjoyment of their work and their clients, who see them as friends and genuinely feel affection, care and even love for them, or at least some of them.

How can this be professional though when sex workers are expected to provide a service which does not run the risk of destroying clients' relationships and marriages?  And how can sex workers see so many clients and genuinely love or care for them all or most of them, surely you'd have to fake?  I believe it's possible to love so many people in the same way that you can feel love towards many family members at once.  After all, it's common to love all your siblings or children, yet some you may feel a little closer to, or have a little more in common with.  Some of course you don't really like and will never get on with and that's that.  It's also possible to love people and not want to actually keep them all to yourself; In your affection or care for them you naturally want them to maintain the loving relationships they have established elsewhere, ie with their partners and families.  I quite like the colloquial term "side hoe," a function I am happy to professionally fulfill.

Yes, I've seen ladies fall in love with clients, and "end up" with them, three of my close friends in fact.  In all of these cases, their clients happened to be single.  So far all is going well and they are still happily together.  One of the ladies actually left sex work for her partner, with quite a financial demotion.  But that's another blog post.

And yes, there are clients who want nothing more from escorts they visit than sex, no affection required. They don't care about GFE, they just want a warm, willing woman.

But what about this, written by a client (used with permission) thinking back on his first ever booking with an escort:
"I went for sex, what I got was intimacy on a level I have missed for many years. It was as simple as that. Not that its simple of course... How did a woman I had only just met provide me with such an experience when she doesn't know me? I felt connected, safe, important and most of all I was present. So how did she do it? I suspect we both did it and I still don't quite get this part of it.

The most important parts of the whole session for me have come much more into focus. What I wanted and actually received was an intensely intimate sensual connection to someone, I didn't actually just want sex, I knew I wanted both, but actually I didn't I only really wanted the connection, sex was the conduit. It was important to me that this was mutually enjoyable, and that I gave pleasure. It was important to me that I was attracted to this woman, and I was, she was beautiful. It was mostly important that this woman enjoy what she does.

My choice of who to see was good for me, she was everything I knew I wanted from a sex worker and turned out to much more. Don't worry I haven't confused the transactional part of this, she was at work, I was a client. That doesn't mean its not personal. I am learning just by being and experiencing and I have missed that. Being able to do it in such a way is a huge privilege." 

I really feel that ladies like Gabrielle who tweeted above and some of my friends are able to offer services like this because sex work is now legal.  We don't have to mistrust every client who comes to us because he may be an undercover cop or we're about to get sprung for doing what we want to do.  I'm saying that we legal sex workers offer an easier service, one that is truly designed by us because we can.  (This is yet another reason why it is so important for the mental well-being of sex workers - which is a step beyond physical safety - that sex work must be legal globally.)  We can relax into what we do with our clients and offer what we are capable of offering or what we want to offer (including kinkier services in areas which interest and appeal to us).

Some ladies have back stories or cover stories in caring professions such as counselling, and there is definitely an element of this kind of comforting, loving care in sex work.  I also quite like the following approach as described in this wonderful piece by Eyal Matsliah, My Vision for a Conscious Sex Industry:

"I have a vision. A vision for a conscious sex industry.

In this vision, sexuality is acknowledged as natural and a crucial part of our lives, and the sex industry can be a part of it.

The fact that sex workers do not only provide sex, but can and do provide much more than that, is recognized. They offer affection, acceptance, support, guidance, friendship and even love.

Sex workers can act as counselors, healers, therapists, coaches, sex surrogates, confidants, guides, and friends.

In my vision, sex workers are independent, strong, and empowered. They are sexually and emotionally healthy. And so, they offer their services from a place of love of themselves, of men, and of sex. (This article talks about female sex workers, as they are the majority of the sex industry, however it is also relevant to male and trans gender sex workers and providers)

Instead of making the man disempowered and dependent, sex workers can empower a man’s sexuality, masculinity and confidence. Instead of perpetuating a need, they can teach their client how to not be needy, how to be independent in his sexuality, how to be a man rather than a boy."

(Read the rest here, it's incredibly inspiring).

I realise this blog post will be a bit woo woo for some, but they will just have to get used to it.  Sex work is being developed by sex workers and clients themselves in all sorts of directions in countries where it is legal, and love within sex work is one of the directions. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Not About The Heart Of Darkness; Whoring As A Profession At The End Of Capitalism*

This is a guest post by Christchurch escort Clio the Whore.

'You live in a fantasy', says my client wistfully. He is lying on my bed in a state of post coital triste, having expounded to me his marital problems. He looks around him, at the beautiful room bathed in golden light with its fin de si├Ęcle Parisian theme, he strokes the flank of the warm woman in his arms. 'You are so lucky', he tells me, 'You get to have sex all day'.

He is right course, it is a fantasy. Whose fantasy is it? Then and there, it is his fantasy. And mine? Clio is named for the Muse of History, a nod to my academic past. She works from an upmarket residence, has as clients mostly working class older men, and does a little 'domming' where required. She likes her clients and finds her time with them often enjoyable. She employs the same professionalism she always has. She sees whoring as part social work and part theatre sports. She is the ultimate capitalist, an independent business woman in charge of her own destiny, apolitical, amoral, individualistic, for her the money meter runs all the time. She is the ultimate anti capitalist, living off the grid and on her wits, undertaking transactions of a sort older than feudalism.

Left wing critique of sex work is predicated on two ideas – that it is inherently degrading to sex workers, who are mostly women, and that it must exist within patriarchal systems. Late stage capitalism with its cultural impoverishment and austerity measures has driven women into sex work and also made sex work more dangerous and more alienating. Sex work cannot be decoupled from the capitalist system in which it thrives. There would be no need for it otherwise. Most sex workers would choose not to be doing it. Sex workers are victims either of social and economic forces around them or their own pasts. They may be considered to be 'prostituted women'. Sex work by its nature is traumatising. Clients or 'johns' are engaged in oppression whether they know it or not. The buying of sex exists as part of the commodification and objectification of women and is a result in part of the patriarchal view of family life. Sexual transactions are qualitatively different from all other transactions. Sex should never be bought or sold.

Sex work activists and their liberal feminist allies emphasise choice. If a woman has choices over her own body, sex work may be one of them. If sex work is dangerous and degrading, it is because it is criminalised and unsupported, not because of inherent issues in sex work itself. Sex work is just that - work. Sexual transactions are like any other transactions. Sex workers are better paid and perform often under better conditions than their counterparts who may work under a zero hour contract on minimum wage. And yet, nobody tries to 'rescue' workers from the cleaning industry. Sex work advocates accuse other feminists of identity politics and are concerned that the voices of sex workers themselves are not heard.

The subtext behind these arguments is the question of whether or not sex is like anything else. Proponents of sex work say yes of course it is, it can be freely bought and sold like any other service. A sex worker might say that her actions are no more intimate than that of a physiotherapist or counsellor. Left wing critics argue that sex is different. It is an intimate act involving the whole self.
Sell the act and the self itself is being sold, and the selling of sex is at the absolute sharpest end of the worst of capitalism and patriarchy, where a less powerful individual, usually a woman, is selling herself to a more powerful man. Inequality is inherent.

I became interested in this particular aspect of the argument, whether or not sexual transactions are like any other transactions and whether or not sex is like any other activity. It seemed to me to be treated by both sides as a given, and yet it underpinned the other arguments. It also seemed to be the aspect most amenable to being addressed by looking at the experience of individuals, and that is what I can offer to the debate.

My experience is limited because I am new to the industry and my situation defies commonly accepted stereotypes of sex workers - I am an educated Pakeha woman and my background has no particular trauma or impoverishment. In the past I would have seen sex workers as victims, of poverty, addiction, or the men in their lives. When I began this work I was astounded to find myself selling sex, astounded to find that I did not 'feel oppressed', and astounded to find that I liked my work and (most of the time) my clients. Am I subjected to false consciousness? Should I feel victimised?

I am in charge in my Whoring Room. Hurt or degrade me, and you leave. Quickly I learned to keep safe, and do only what I felt comfortable with. The New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective gave me good advice – stand on your dignity, charge what you are worth, stay safe. I don't bargain, for example. When men text things like '$60 for anal that's my best offer' I reply 'Would you bargain with your hairdresser or your GP? I too am a professional, providing a service'. I use the conscious use of self to assess needs and engage clients, and to keep safe. I also act. I act domme, I act cute, I act like a pet. These are roles which I enjoy, but they are roles nevertheless. My Whore's Drawers, as I call them, my wardrobe of skimpy yet elegant outfits and killer heels, are my uniform. If I was an airline pilot I would wear a pilot's uniform. Both uniforms denote professionalism. Moreover, my clients mostly treat me with respect and gratitude, far more so than if I worked in fast food, or the health sector, for that matter. 

All this implies that sex is the same as anything else. I offer counselling with actions, or massage in costume, or a little bit of theatre. A fantasy. You want a drill bit inserted into your rectum? I can help with that. Have diabetes and need care and patience to maintain an erection? I can help with that. It's all the same to me. While I pride myself on my focus and use of my whole self, it is the same ethical base as for any other personalised social services, and nobody sees those as the selling of the self. I sell my labour too as I always have. Moreover, I mostly like my clients and I hope I see them as whole people.

And yet. I want to return now to the man who envied me my fantasy life, the man seeking a brief escape from a sexless marriage, from the stress of a job he thought he would be able to retire from by now, and also from the soulless anomie of an increasingly atomised society in late stage capitalism where affection or its simulacra are bought and sold like everything else. If an hour with me is a commodity, if in fact I am a commodity for that particular hour, so is he, so is everyone else who is alienated from the forces of production.

I wish I had a clear stance on whether or not sex is different from anything else, and a tidier argument. My hunch is that critics of sex work and its proponents are making an Aristotelian category error, a bit like arguing whether or not a blade of grass is odd or even. It is a question best dealt with outside the arena of politics and activism, and yet, a bit like deciding somehow whether or not a foetus is a person, it underpins whole arguments and affects the real lives of sex workers, their clients and policy makers.

The strangest question I have been asked by a client so far is 'How can I go home and be on my own knowing what I now know about myself?' Sex is deep stuff, saturated with meaning. Humans touch each other here. Lives change in my Whoring Room. I wonder about sex work under a non capitalist non patriarchal system, as if that ever existed. I would be perhaps sacred, and valued. I would be a healer and an educator. Perhaps I am already.

Here is a quote from David Rosen, in the magazine Guernica:
'The prostitute's sexual exchange is the purest expression of capitalist alienation, the relation between buyer and seller'.

If sex work is a Bad Thing, as left wing thinkers like Rosen propound, then it is not because of the sex. It the alienation, and that alienation pervades all aspects of our lives in society. Buying and selling sex has taken place long before capitalism, and in other societies where patriarchy may take different forms or even be mitigated by other social forces. It is the alienation that degrades women, commodifies us, and leads men into situations where oppression is easier than communicating. One socialist commentator states it is important to see sex workers as victims, because calling them victims points to the fact that there is oppression**. But here and now, oppression is ubiquitous. As Clio the Whore, I would call us not to suppress sex work, but to reclaim our humanity and the depth of our relationships.

* From the weblog Diary of a London Call Girl, by Belle du Jour (Brooke Magnanti). 'It's not all about the sex - never has been. It's about the heart of darkness.'


**Laura Fitzgerald, A Socialist Perspective on the Sex Industry and Prostitution, Socialist Party, 7 Aug 2013
Melissa Gira Grant Will Nobody Listen to the Sex Workers, The Guardian, 15 March 2014
Melissa Gira Grant, Waging War on Sex Workers, Guernica, Feb 15 2013
Lasn, Kalle and Adbusters, Meme Wars, the Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics, London, 2012
Christine Overall, What's Wrong with Prostitution? Evaluating Sex Work, Signs, Vol 17 No. 4 Summer 1992, pp. 705-724
David Rosen, Prostitutes as Victims of Throwaway Capitalism Guernica Apr 22 2011