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I used to work in a ‘Asian’ brothel.  It was owned and run by Maya, a Chinese woman in her fifties. Maya had migrated to Australia with her husband more than 20 years ago. She opened her own business after separating from her husband 10 years later. Maya had dabbled in sex work in China but only took it up full time in Australia after she was made redundant from her bank job. Opening her own brothel seemed a natural progression for Maya and even though business was successful she still continued to ‘jump the desk’ so to speak, servicing her clients,  sucking cock for cash like the rest of us, even after 10 years. Maya was a business woman. She worked very hard and was was proud of her success.

Maya was being extorted by her landlord. He charged her excessive rent for the commercial premises he leased her, smug in the power he had against her. He knew that stigma, discrimination and racism would stop Maya finding another premises to run her business from and he was right. But Maya was no push over, she was was always wheeling and dealing with the landlord, negotiating  improvements and additional inclusions to make up for the extra rent she was paying.

Mayas business was promoted in all the places adult services are advertised, alphabetically listed among other adverts that began with ‘Asian’, which comprises approximately one third of adult services adds in total. Maya and her workers knew their market well and worked it. I was the only white sex worker there, the others] workers came from a diverse range of backgrounds and Maya marketed them all expertly playing on a range of stereotypes that are usually applied to Asian women. Workers convincingly dropped their age by more than two decades when clients wanted younger workers, went from speaking English fluently to using broken English when clients wanted someone new to Australia, they softened their voice for clients that wanted someone submissive and gave each other crash courses in massage techniques to satisfy requests for an authentic Thai masseuse.  Googling countries, cultures and conversation language to assist them in playing the role requested by the client is all part of the service at Mayas.

Id started working at Mayas  after a friend introduced us and she offered me a room rental option It was a great deal, I ran my own advertisements, answered my own phone and paid a small fee per job for use of the work room, clean linen, use of the bathroom, and the staff room. The set up suited me perfectly.

Mayas business was similar to other brothels that id worked at. it was a discreet, converted house with 3 or 4 work rooms (bedrooms) and a separate staff room (kitchen/meals/lounge room)  which offered  the workers privacy from clients between jobs. There were 2 or 3 workers on shift at any time and the routine of meeting the clients and doing the booking was no different than anywhere else. The work was the same, the way we stayed safe from police and the authorities was the same and there was equal attention to hygiene as any other brothel Id worked in. This brothel traded on stereotypes, exploited fetishes, marketed itself in a way that ensured it was able to meet the expectations of the clients and at the same time encouraged potential workers to select it accordingly.Just like any other brothel.

I enjoyed the company of the other workers, like i always have. The staff room of a brothel is a special and unique place. it has the potential to produce moments of intimate connections and friendships with people whose real name you don’t even know. The experience of the work and the stigma associated with it helps to equalise us, our shared rejection of social expectations gives us the courage and ability to be open minded and non judgmental and the individual control over our own privacy allows us a rare degree of honesty and anonymity. This results in things being shared in staff rooms of brothels that may never be shared anywhere else. In Mayas staff room, just as always, we joked about the clients, shared tips and tricks, talked about the stigma and the laws we deal with and a range of other things in between.

But here i had the bonus of fresh home cooked food too! Because Mayas was just like any other brothel I’d worked at but it had some beautiful differences. It was so much more cozy than the often sterile brothels i had been used to. It always had the smell of home cooking, because someone was always cooking and the work rooms doubled as bedrooms for the travelling workers who were staying on premises and the decor had a personal touch. It felt homely because it was a home. The atmosphere was relaxed, workers chose when they worked, when they rested, and when they participated in the sense of community that was always present in the kitchen and dining room also known as the staff room.

Lots of sex workers are concerned about their privacy, and worry about being outed to their friends and family and It was no different in this brothel. Many of the workers i met at Mayas had chosen to maintain anonymity by travelling for work. Different workers came and went and came back and stayed or didn’t. The routine and rotation was different for each worker, depending on their lives and situations, their wants and needs.  Some had a regular circuit from state to state, some worked at Mayas around their study and uni holidays, some came to make a lump some for a specific purpose and had no intentions to continue after that, and some of us had our regular shifts each week. Some of us were local, some from interstate, or overseas. Workers were referred to Mayas by friends, other employers or via the very healthy grape vine that i became aware of.

Even though there were many languages being spoken, and the workforce was transient i quickly learnt that the majority of workers I met at Mayas were connected to a tightnit community of migrant workers that shared information, referrals, contacts and recommendations, that helped and cared for each other as a matter of responsibility beyond the context the work. There was a fully functioning network that spans the seas allowing workers to share important information with their colleagues, for example, the laws in each state or the best places to go for sexual health check ups or free condoms. It was impressive to see it in action. And places to work was just one of the types of information you could get from the network.

Id been working there a few weeks, and was happy with how it was going, but was trying to build my business up. So when Maya asked me if I wanted to pick up more clients i jumped at the chance. She suggested she could advertise me in the Chinese paper and market me to her clients along with the other workers. She proposed I would benefit from increased business and could repay the cost of the advertising from my first job. At first i was unsure if my tall buxom frame and blonde  bombshell image would be profitable with Mayas usual clientele who came to a place that carefully marketed a different stereotype. It felt like a risk to outlay money for the advertisement when i was unsure if would result in more business. But Maya explained that many Chinese clients visit her business because it has been recommended to them, or they don’t speak English or only read the Chinese news paper, these clients  have a variety of requests and fantasies, including buxom blondes. It made sense, so i agreed and Maya went ahead and ran an add in the Chinese newspaper for me.

I normally insist on having control over how I’m advertised, promoted and described to potential clients. I want to be comfortable with the way I’m marketed and i don’t want to deal with disappointed clients who had expected something different, but this time i decided to just let Maya do her thing. Business boomed and surprisingly Maya’s promotion generated a considerable increase in clients for me. The majority of my new clients were Chinese speaking men responding to the add in the Chinese paper that Maya had placed. I needant have doubted her astute sense of business and her knowledge of her market because despite my initial uncertainty her predictions were accurate. She continued to run my add in the Chinese newspaper regularly and I provided her clients the best service I could.

It was a few weeks later when i was chatting to the friend that had introduced me to Maya. I was full of gratitude for the introduction, expressing my satisfaction at how well business had been going. I told my friend how happy i was with the arrangement, and about all the extra business i was getting from the new add. I praised Mayas marketing techniques, explaining how I had initially thought Mayas clients wouldn’t be interested in seeing me, but thanks to Mayas skills and initiative, i had been very successful. My friend told me she had seen my add, and asked who wrote it. I told her i had left all that to Maya, because she knows her market so well. I hadn’t really even bothered to ask what it said. My friend laughed and agreed, Maya really did know her market. My friend told me the the add Maya was running for me that had resulted in so much unexpected work roughly translated into ‘big Australian horse has arrived, looking for many riders’ which she giggled and explained is similar to the ‘town bike’ analogy.

I blushed and we both laughed!  I was glad I let Maya have control over how she promoted me because its not an add i would have written. But if i had have written the add it may not have been so successful with Mayas clients. She really did know her market.

I continued seeing clients who were responding to the add and providing the best service I could with a deeper understanding of what they were expecting. To this day I still have clients who come to ride the big Australian horse and my friend still teases me about it.