laws, money, personal stories, sex industry, Sex Work, stigma
Money! Money! Money!
Thousands of words in this blog and not enough about money! Too much research into sexual health in the industry and not enough about the economics. Sex work is work, like all work we choose it for many reasons, but like all work, a big factor in those reasons is often our personal financial considerations. For me the primary reason I choose sex work over other work options is the autonomy it offers me. I can work for myself with little overheads.. so I do. I would still choose sex work even if it paid the same or slightly less than other work options. But if it were to pay considerably less, sex work would no longer become an attractive option to me. Like in any industry, obviously, money comes into it.
Due to sex work being so incredibly stigmatised and not to mention criminalised, it’s likely that I may never have entered the industry if it weren’t for economic reasons, I needed the money. I choose to keep coming back for so many more reasons but to begin with, it was almost purely economics.
Yet all the surveys being distributed from naive and voyeuristic psychology students asking about our daddy issues and drug use histories trying to figure out how someone could consider selling sex, rarely ever ask about my economic situation, or my spending habits, my savings and investments. I’m not talking about questions like ‘how much money do you spend on drugs?’ ‘was your mother on welfare?’ or ‘hookers should pay tax’, I mean, meaningful enquiry into the economic situation of sex workers before, during and after working in the sex industry and the barriers for sex workers becoming financially secure etc.
Sex work is not a gold mine, most of us are not making more than we can spend, but a lot of us are making enough and not enough of us have as much as we could. I’m not saying we should all aspire to have 3 properties and an investment portfolio, or that some of us don’t already, or whether acquiring wealth is even a worthy goal to have, and I dont want to imply that I think there is any particular ‘good’ way to use our money. This post is more about representation. I am suggesting based on my own limited experiences that, compared to people on similar incomes in other indsutries, there arent enough rich hookers.
And I wonder how much stigma and discrimination has to do with it. Do sex workers’ financial situations in decriminalised Sydney more accurately represent their income than sex workers in criminalised South Australia. Or for an even starker contrast, what would a comparison of sex workers financial situations and the level of stigma and criminalisation that they live with globally look like.
I’ve never been good with money, but then I never had money before I was a hooker, so who knows which came first. My parents weren’t good with money either, probably has more relevance to my career choices than the fact that my father didn’t love me enough. Not as interesting to psychology students though.
I think sex work has given me less respect for money, the money I earn in sex work doesn’t always equate to the effort I put in. I could get paid $700 for a two hour booking and then go home straight after it, or I could sit around all day answering the phone for 12 hours and only do one half hour job for $150. Sometimes its easy come easy go. You can’t plan for it, so it’s easier to spend. Common phrases that run through my mind are ‘oh, well I might not have done that last job, I didn’t know i was going to get that booking, so it doesn’t really matter if i spend that money on… (insert vice of choice)’ or ‘ohh, i can just work an extra day and make that money back, no worries’. It sure does make it easier for money to slip through my fingers, but it must be similar to any independent contract worker in any industry.
Being paid daily and even hourly doesn’t help either. Dribs and drabs of money is much easier to be irresponsible with than large sums once a week. I’m not complaining though, I love dribs and drabs of money. And in an industry where your boss’s business could be shut down by the cops any second, who would tolerate having their pay withheld for a week!
Perhaps I’m just too generous. Having come from not much money, a lot of my non hooker friends still don’t have lots of money. I don’t know about you, but when im going out for dinner, I don’t want to go alone, so I might pay for my friends. If im doing well enough to be able to afford a holiday, I don’t want to go alone, so I might take my sister. Are other hookers as generous?
On the other hand there have been times when I led a double life, no one knew that I was a sex worker and so I almost had to be careful to not have too much money. There was never any pressure or expectation for me to be ready for home ownership when I was meant to be making $15 an hour as a waitress.
And when I’m not telling anyone about my job or the income, who do I talk to for financial advice? It’s not like financial institutions are marketing their services to me. And working somewhere or somehow in a criminalised way, like many of us are it’s hard to know where to begin, who to trust, and whether its even worth it. Paying super seems a pretty far stretch for a lot of us.
Maybe there is an element of dirty money? I don’t think this plays into it for me at all. But maybe for some people, especially those new to the industry, there is an element of perceived risk taking or doing the wrong thing which impacts on the way people view the money they make from it? Like internalised stigma stuff. Or maybe not? I’m not sure.
For me there is an element of freedom that I get from sex work which impacts on the way I spend money. I feel like sex work allows me to live in the moment, and I spend accordingly. Live day to day, place to place, no savings but confident Ill have a roof over my head. Not to mention sex work makes me a rule breaker, I already live on the fringes. Avoiding authority, not much in my real name and I get paid and play with cash. Paying tax on my sex work money is a relatively new concept and I actually have no idea what an investment portfolio is.
It’s hard to build assets in a criminalised environment when you know that the cops could possibly seize everything you have as proceeds of crime, or even worse, here in SA you could be charged with illegal possession if the cops can prove you made your money from sex work.
Then it seems that there are some people out there who see us as easy targets as well. watching us making money, busy justifying the reasons they should take it from us. Sometimes they see it as easy money, sometimes its jealousy, sometimes they convince themselves that we owe it to them. And i bet some people are counting on the belief that lots of us are not in a position to do anything about it when they rip us off. We might be scared to go to the cops, we might not know who to tell, we might not have any proof that we had the money in the first place, we might be scared of blowing our cover.
I guess another consideration is that due to the stigma and criminalisation and the discrimination we face from others, sex work is not always seen as a career by many, sometimes it’s just something to do right now. There isn’t much incentive to plan ahead if its seen as a short term option.
I guess for some there is the belief that the bigger the risk of discrimination that you face in doing sex work, the better the rewards should be, but for myself I feel like the more out and proud of my work I become, the greater my expectation that I’ll have access to the same financial security as other employed/ independent workers on decent incomes. I feel entitled to my seat at the grown ups table, and I want this money to work for me…
Well said. I started working in 2006 when I found myself ‘cut-off’ as a form of punishment and all financial support withdrawn. I had had an emotional breakdown and could not work mainstream although I am a Post grad in Health Science and Social Work. I still needed to be able to pay for the mortgage…so I began escorting.
I am also generous with money and often pay for dinners and this and that. I ALWAYS pay back my friends if I borrow from them because something makes it impossible for me to secure a loan mainstream etc.
I experience loneliness and isolation at times and want company and will pay for it if none is forthcoming. I have been used and abused for having money by liars, cheats and bullshit artists claiming to be my friend but whom weren’t.
I have a couple of property’s and a Trust, car and motorbike but I have been incredibly shocking with my spending habits. I have only just sought some money management advice and I am proud to say, my finances seem to be looking better and bettr. Unfortunately it is tinged with regret for not having sought it much earlier in my career. I would have a tidy nest egg by now!
Live and learn. Jx
Hey Michelle, i tried to click on Scarlet Alliance link (I’m a member), and SIN link but they don’t work… I’m wanting to link back in to sex work blogs/communities and do some more writing (have been published in Red Magazine in Vic). My working name is/was Jezabel Jodine. Jx
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As always a fan Jane, I hope that legislation in SA comes to it’s senses and you can be proud and upfront of the money that you work very hard for, and be able to hold your head up high supporting an ancient profession that holds an important place in a modern society.
Vinh Giang said:
Great blog! I am an Adelaide Entrepreneur, in a nut shell I teach the art of Magic online. I was wondering if you guys would be interested in writing a piece about us on your blog at all? We are trying to get some local support to help us build our brand a little more. Our website is http://www.encyclopediaofmagic.com.au
Hope to hear from you 🙂
Vinh (a local Adelaidian!)
lol Vinh, when you write a submission to steph key or your local MP supporting the full decriminalisation of sex work in SA, i will happily sing your praises on my ever popular blog. Pretty sure we actually need your support more than you need mine…..
is this spam? your soliciting skills need a little of your own brand of online magic.
Veronica C said:
I coordinate a Sex worker program in Fiji and I am very much appreciative of your blog. Sex work is illegal in Fiji and there is a huge stigma around the sex workers. I will make sure that I pass your blog address to my clients and I beleive it will be very encouraging and helpful for them. Keep up the good work and looking forward to read more updated blogs..
Polished concrete sydney said:
well after reading this articale i got a bunch of info about sex workers thanks.
Keep writing. People are listening and slowly the wheels of change are grinding around. Whether or not this change will be seen in our lifetimes I don’t know. I have written that tech may slowly cancel out sex workers but that could be way off the mark too.
Whatever happens, I appreciate what you bring to the community to fill the void between men and women and I can only hope that in time others come to see things as I do.
I don’t know about technology making us obsolete but it does seem to have made it safer. I can just set up a website to find clients instead of walking the streets and it’s a lot easier to vet them before a meeting. It’s also given us a community that we can share our problems with and get support from. For instance, I can visit the saafe forum and get warnings about dangerous punters in my area.
Taurean Bull said:
Written Jane, as usual to your usual high standard. In particular though, glad to read your last paragraph about getting advice on managing your money. You deserve something for your future, regardless of your vocation – I like to think of saving/investment as paying yourself first, before anyone else receives a cent from you. Google & have a read of “The Richest Man in Babylon,” An easy read with a great message. You already know my thoughts – I believe you could help secure your financial future with your writing. Clearly many others enjoy your blog too. Cheers!
B. Todish said:
In the USA I got demonized for using the term sex worker! A woman from a PROSTITUTE association castigated me and said: “Sex is not work!” Then I was criticized from a USA sex worker association, because I dared to go public about surviving as a sex worker for a very short time in 1886! This woman said that it was dangerous to be publicly out because others might follow suit and get repercussions! (It was, OK I guess for ME to have gotten repercussions, even if only her criticism! lol ) BTW I have gotten severe repercussions, by being public, I have even been banned from 2 (two) academic assosiations- I have letters stating that “You made too many people uncomfortable.'” etc. On top of all this, I was told by a woman in a sex worker association that I was’nt a real sex worker! Ironic, then, that I get repercussions at all! I am so confused that I wonder how to even sign this comment because if I sign my real name, people will say I am just trying to get shock value from using my name, and if I use my stage name, people may say that I am defensive and shame filled. So it seems like it is impossible. I have written books: “A Self Validity Contract to Replace The Social Contract: A Manifesto; “The Social Contract Is A Bully Contract, Or A Crime; and “Transcending Competitive Chaos”. but perhaps due to having an online negative reputation for having been desperate, homeless, and an ex-prostitute, oops,sex worker, oops girl friend experience” , I am, and my name is, unmarketable. I wish I knew for sure, but it seems impossible to even find out for sure if I even DO have enemies. My own older brother told me “You have enemies.” But when I asked him who my enemies are, he refused to tell me, so maybe HE is my enemy! I am about to give up trying to communicate at all, It is like I have gone into hibernation, I am addicted to sleep and isolation, I am practically a recluse. I would write about that, but then others, or even my own intrusive thoughts criticise me and say that “It could always be worse”!
Hi B Todish,
Im not entirely sure i understand everything you have said but, for the record, I think you have the right to call yourself whatever you want to. Its probably a good idea to be aware of the conotations of any label you use, because it will effect how people react to the word. I hate the term ‘survivor of prostitution’ because it is so heavily used by anti sex work feminists who equate all sex work as abuse and all sex workers are victims, and then use that to lobby for policy that harms us. And experiencing sex work as abuse is so far removed from most sex workers realities. It places people who once worked in the sex industry, and now dont, as the same category as battered wives and victims of rape.
Where as sex worker, as you state, implies work and many people dont like that. I would be surprised if the person who attacked you for using the term sex worker was from an actual sex worker organisation, a peer owned sex worker group governed, managed and staffed by actual sex workers. Id guess it was more likely to be a ‘rescue’ type service governed and staffed by nurses/social workers/academics/ non sex workers and recieving donations and/or government funding to ‘exit’ sex workers from the sex industry, or save trafficking victims.
But anyways, I support your right to call yourself anything you want. but it wont stop people from reacting to that choice. I use the word whore because I want to reclaim it, but im aware that it illicits a certain reaction or preconception, and Im prepared for that. And there are other times where it is more appropriate for me to use sex worker.. depending on the desired effects and the audience, and my mood.
It sounds like you have been very brave in disclosing your sex work experience publicly and have suffered some shitty consequences in return, which is really sad, and must be really difficult, but Im sure its not been in vain. Im sure your openness has challenged people and perhaps made it easier for the next sex worker who comes along after you. No doubt you have inspired other sex workers in the process. But it is your choice to make noone else has to live your life, and I would hope that other sex workers do not judge you for choosing to disclose or remain annonamous at any given time.
As to whether you have enemies or not, I ofcourse do not know. I hope you have someone closer to home who can help you work through this stuff. I am happy for you to email me, but I cannot guarentee that I will respond straight away. It often takes me more than a month to respond to emails, but I will get to it eventually.
( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Thank you for the informative and truthful blog. I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts, but, I happened across your website in my search for some answers. I’m due to work my first shift this Saturday in Brisbane Brothel. The owners have been less than forthcoming about how things might work and I’m desperate to know at least how much I should charge clients if I’m asked to go over and above the normal ‘service’. It’s impossible to find anything online about this and I’m petrified of turning up on Saturday and being thrown to the wolves with no training. Any assistance you could give me would be so very much appreciated! In any case, take care and I look forward to following your brilliant blog x
hey there, missrahrah,
unfortunately my blog is fairly adelaide specific when it comes to pricing and laws etc. I suggest you ring respect, they are the queensland sex worker org. It is completely ‘peer based’ which means its run by and staffed by sex workers. They should be able to answer a lot of your questions. I am happy for you to email me with any questions, but, I may well take a long time to get back to you but i will eventually. ( email@example.com )
Also the other workers in the brothel will most probably be your best teachers. If you’re lucky enough to work with good people (and the vast majority of us are amazing people) they will be happy to share all their tips and tricks with you. Its possibly a good idea to check with them or the manager/receptionist on shift what the normal pricing structures are, as some will have rules about how much you can or should charge for what.
Also there are heaps of good groups on fb with other sex workers who can help with your questions.
and did you see this post? http://becauseimawhore.com/2011/10/13/hey-little-sister/
And good luck, make a fortune! xxxxx
I just now found this blog, and I’ve a read posts now. I’m so glad I found it. I’m also a sex worker, though I mostly specialize in massage, but I can relate to you in so many ways. Kudos for having one of the best blogs I’ve seen in a while! The way you express yourself is brilliant. Please keep posting!
Oops, I meant to say that I’ve read a few posts now. And I’m going to keep reading. I’m hooked. 😉
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If your body become as goods that you can sell then you lose your humanity value
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