The vision some of us have of those working in the world’s oldest profession is admittedly rather bleak. Emaciated women, rife with STI’s and addicted to drugs, controlled by the proverbial pimp with a fancy car and gold chain. They are practically raped in a small, damp room with just a stained mattress in it, and then tossed out into a dark alley to wait for the next assassin. Sound familiar?
We’re confronted by similar stereotypes to this on TV and other forms of media, but how true is it really? Happily, I personally don’t know any girl that fits this description. I run a legal brothel and I’m the Madam to a group of quite astute young businesswomen. Of course, to the customer they are genuinely sweet, endearing and gentle; they are also extremely seductive and sensual. But my point is they’re working here because it’s their chosen vocation, and what they happily provide is a service. Yes, they are real “happy hookers” (I’ve always wanted to say that!)
Sex work is a real occupation governed by laws, just like any other job, trade or profession. There are rights the girls are entitled to from The Cherry Tree Garden when they use our beautiful rooms, like protection from health and safety risks, bullying and harassment and they too have responsibilities to both their guests and my shop. For example, that they are free from STI’s and have documents to show this, they always put their guests comfort first, and they protect and hopefully enhance the hard-earned reputation of my shop. Doesn’t sound much different from the so-called “household brands” we see promoting their wares in letter box drops and in TV advertising, does it? Fact is, it isn’t much different at all – except for the product itself and the absence of buyer’s remorse!
In the legal industry at least, and certainly here in my shop, there are no edicts to work 24/7, and the girls are free to negotiate independently with their guests how their mutual time is to be spent. It is truer to say there is a “service level agreement” which defines the working relationship and it’s framed in a way that my shop, the girls, and their guests are treated to their expectations, and we try very hard to go well beyond that. From reviews of Google and the emails we receive, which we post on our website, we do exceptionally well on all these measures, despite being unable to promote ourselves where and how we choose, and despite being the newest kid on the block.
In the past, there have been demonstrations and lobbying by sex workers because many conditions around sex work are confusing and contradictory. The reason why these laws are so restrictive is because laws tend to mirror, rather than anticipate, society’s attitudes and are often slow to keep up with contemporary ideas. Social media laws anyone? In the past, when these strict laws were created, attitudes toward prostitution were, overall, very negative. Now that times have changed, some groups in society are in favour of formalising legal prostitution as a socially acceptable vocation. With that being said, those lingering stereotypes are still alive and well, leaving what is a genuine choice about work having to take place away from the gaze of “decent society”. This just seems ridiculous to me, considering that sex is one of the most natural, straight-forward, not to mention the funnest, activities we engage in, whether monetary payment is involved or not. Never to forget that it is this same decent society who pay my bills with their patronage.
The confusing laws around sex work is another topic entirely that I’ll address in other blog posts. The purpose of this one is to try to shine a light on those stereotypes and show them for what they are: outdated.
Unfortunately, in real life there are individuals who are still the way I described at the beginning, and that is tragic. In those situations, a woman may be desperate for drug money and, not being able to secure a different job due to addiction, provides gritty sex to disrespectful and forceful men. But sex work is not by itself the common link between drug addiction, rape and poverty, or its cause.
There are rules that guests must abide by, such as accepting the specific activities they had negotiated earlier and not forcing a different activity instead. Our guests pay the negotiated amount as they arrive. This sounds exactly like a trip to the barber or to the dentist (although more pleasant). There’s no reason for either the guest or the sex worker to feel awkward. Neither are defined by providing or purchasing sex. It says absolutely nothing about who they are as individuals, good or bad, unless of course they behave in an unacceptable way during or after their appointment, but that goes for everything they do in life.
The girls who work here are certainly far from impoverished. They also enjoy providing a sex service to make their guests happy and fulfilled. They could certainly do another job elsewhere, but they choose this one.
I can tell you the brief story of one Chinese girlfriend as an example. She started her career as a forensic pathologist, that is, she spent her days with naked dead people. Her career switch not only made the naked bodies she was dealing with much more interesting, but has allowed her to make a life many people only dream about. She has just turned 32, worked exceptionally hard, and since retired (to the disappointment of many, I assume!). She’s far from a unique example of a professional woman pursuing a career of choice. As long as people hold inaccurate beliefs about sex work and those who provide it, we’ll continue to have difficulty working in this industry, as well as in so many other aspects of our social life: from banking, to our own personal relationships with family and friends.
There’s a perception that this industry breaks up marriages and families, yet there’s no evidence whatsoever showing that to be true. In fact, sex workers save many marriages, where the female partner may not be able, or want, to engage in sex with their partner for a multitude of reasons. Rather than having an affair, or going down other anti-social alleys, he will visit our shop and his relationship stays intact. There are many other places and circumstances that have a far greater potential to break up relationships, such as casinos, drug use, domestic abuse, financial hardship, alcohol and, of course, infidelity. It’s not the service providers like us that instigate the destruction of our institutions, rather, it’s more the individuals inside relationships and their own personal situations and the choices they make.
One positive thing about living in this era is that, in general, we’re all more tolerant of one another. If you’re gay, or have a lot of tattoos, are a female CEO or a man wearing heels, as long as you don’t harm anyone else, you are rightfully empowered to function as an equal member in our community. Come on folks, what about giving sex workers a break?