I was part of a TV pilot with Sam de Brito & cast. Fun shoot discussing male/female dynamics over a variety of topics.
The two have a complicated relationship in this industry. On a working front – I sell sex. I often sell the illusion of love embedded within a suspended window of time. I can sell intimacy, I can sell my body, I can banter my mind but I cannot sell my soul or emotions.
Ironically in my three iterations or journeys at varying points of my life through this industry I have learnt only the third time around the more I remove my emotions from my work – the more this industry drains and depletes me.
Objectification, guises, fantasies, lies, transactions, illusions pervade every facet of this work. For some it a magical coat they can enshroud themselves as a form of protection against the stigma, the clientele, the work, the privacy intrusion, the acts and the intensity of a job that pits you against the forefront of humanity in an incredibly physical way.
For some it also a barrier that allows them a relationship outside of the industry. Where our society traditionally views your body as the primary exclusive gift to another in a relationship the very act of devaluing it in a sale to anyone who may desire it within a community is a travesty of what constitutes a relationship.
For the partner on the other side, it can be a harrowing personal journey. Very few entering into a relationship with a sex worker have any understanding of how the industry operates nor how a human can safely, humanely and healthily engage in a large amount of sexual transactions with another without tarnishing nor compromising the sanctity of the romantic bond between two people.
The industry changes you. It evolves you, grows you, challenges and enlightens you. The fact you have travelled this journey frequently means that your respective partner has not travelled this same path. They cannot understand how your work ultimately is work. It is perhaps even harder to understand when your work perhaps transcends being just work and becomes a passion, a cause and a genuine source of pleasure and enjoyment.
They try. I remember when I first began, and my first true love whilst still working in the industry.
“Do you want a lift to work?” He’d never offered before. Kicking around in the lounge room he restlessly played with a childs football throwing it repetitively up in the air. Throw, catch. Throw, catch.
“You sure?” He shrugged.
“Yeah I guess. It will save you a taxi. It’s not like I don’t know where you are going.” I looked at him quizzically.
“What? It’s not like I don’t know where you work, what you do. It’s cool. I’ll drive you. I don’t have to do anything else except sit here and play Playstation anyway.”
“Thanks, I’ll grab my stuff.” He watched me intently as I ran quickly between rooms, gathering a bag, dresses, heels, lube, toys, work paraphernalia.
“What are you wearing tonight?” I hesitated.
“Why?” The ball thumped hard against one fist.
“A dress, some heels.” The ball thumped harder against the other fist.
“What dress?” I rummaged through the bag, pulling out a dress.
“This white one.”
“I thought you weren’t going to wear that to work?”
“Yeah, but it’s too short to go out in, figured I’d just wear it to work.”
“But I picked that with you. I like that dress.”
“I know, but I don’t want to waste it, I’d look like a slut wearing it out to town.”
“But that…fuck it.” The ball slammed against the wall.
“I guess if I like you in it, they will too. Wear it. Who cares?” He stood up, walked to the dining table and grabbed his car keys.
“Lets go. You’re running late.”
We sat at traffic, music loud in the speakers. He tapped incessantly at the steering wheel.
“I told you we should have left earlier, you’re going to be late. Traffic is shit.” The 6pm start was painful – peak hour traffic entering into the city only endlessly strung out the terse atmosphere in the car.
“Told you we should have left earlier.”
“No you didn’t.”
“I did.” His hand clenched around the steering wheel.
“You said I’m running late, not that we should have left earlier.”
“Well you fucked around getting your whore gear ready.” The palm of his hand massaged the horn.
“Hey, easy. You OK? I appreciate you driving me to work but not if you’re going to turn into an aggressive asshole getting me there. I need chill out time before work. Not personal bullshit.”
“What, you need to chill the fuck out before you fuck a bunch of guys? My apologies. I’ll shut the fuck up.”
“This was a bad idea.” He picked aggressively at the registration sticker. Lights changed, we moved forward into the main road that led to work.
“You’re just up here yeah?” I nodded.
“How’d you know?”
“I drove past about twenty times when you first told me. I went in. I watched them all come in and introduce themselves to me. I watched their arses, their smiles, and their suggestive tones. I watched them come onto me and I imagined you doing that. To every fucking Tom, Dick & Harry that came in. Don’t you know how we see you? How we talk about you?”
I sat silently. We pulled into the car park.
“I’ve got to go to work babe.”
“Bet you all fucking call them babe.”
“Oh for fucks sake – How often do I have to just tell you it’s fucking work?”
His fist slammed against the window. I stared at the corrugated iron fence in front of me.
“I love you Mick, I’ve got to go.”
“Love me enough to fuck other guys?”
“You know it’s not like that.” His fists clenched around the steering wheel.
“Please don’t go.”
“I have to. It’s Saturday. We are busy. I’m on roster.”
“I mean seriously, please don’t go. We can find another way, go back to hospitality, do your web stuff.”
“It’s not like that Mick, you know that.” His voice lowered, became childish.
“Please don’t go.” I braced myself to cut the chords of his emotions.
“I can’t. This is my work. Life is not like Pretty Woman. You know that.”
He began to cry. I’d fallen for the bad boy first up. I was still only eighteen, headstrong, incredibly sexual and determined to lead my own life. I still am. He at 33 had lived a harder life longer than I’d been alive. I was his idealism; my naivety was not a weakness, but a strength.
“Love you, have a good night. I’ll see you when I get home yeah?”
“I thought I’d never love a whore again.” He sat quietly tears drying on his face. He was too proud to acknowledge them to wipe them away.
“It’s not the whores you love, but the beautiful complexity of the women that become whores.”
“Perhaps. Just go. I want to go home. Have fun at work.”
“Can’t wait to see you again when I finish.” I meant it.
“Just get the fuck out of the car.”
I left and went to work.
I remember my next boyfriend.
I fumbled for my keys, the long archaic iron key that unlocked the renovated church I lived in. A myriad of coloured lights streamed through the stained glass windows onto the lounge room illuminating the assorted mixture of fabrics, furniture and neglected dust. It was nine am in the morning.
My face as always felt slick with make-up. The constant layers you applied hurriedly between clients began to glue together with spit and lube and sweat. After two or three clients you’d furiously try and strip it all from your skin. There was no time to continuously reapply your face, re-dry your hair, stare for hours in the mirror trying to recognize your own sleep deprived, sex sated eyes.
I still felt dirty despite the ten showers I’d had that night. My clothes stuck to me, I smelt like the brothel. My eyes dragged against my cheekbones in weariness. Internally I still felt lubed, my muscles sore, aching whilst strange bruises were already erupting on my legs, my arse, my neck from half wearily stumbling into furniture, chairs, walls, people.
Your mind after a shift is exhausted. There is only one focus and it’s back to a bed in which you’ve reveled in all night. Talking, interacting, giving, taking. The pure human energy you give and receive often shifts you into two states – cataonic from weariness, or manic from excitement.
I took the carved wooden stairs to my room. He was waiting. Once again somehow fate had intervened and he sat upright in my bed, light streaming through my floor to ceiling hand plated windows.
The grey across his temples matched the dullness the night had turned his ice blue eyes.
“Hey.” I dropped my bag at the door.
“You still awake?” He fumbled in the bed.
“I couldn’t sleep.” I slowly started ripping off my clothes. I was tired of undressing seductively, I just wanted to be naked, and myself, in my bed, with him. He continued to stare at the strange half balcony that was a side-effect of the architectural transformation of my house from a church into two freestanding townhouses. Long and lean I stretched out my body alongside his, flinging a leg over, arm across his chest. We’d only know each other ten days.
“How many man did you fuck tonight?” My hand stopped circling his nipples.
“I know that, how many is a few?” My leg pulled back to my space.
“What does it matter?” I looked at him properly for the first time. His eyes were bloodshot, tired, tear crusted.
“It matters to me. I tried to sleep. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t stop imagining you fucking them, the way you fucked them, what you said, the way you bent your body, how hard they fucked you. If they disrespected you, if they didn’t care, and even if they did care, how they tried to get a part of you that was…”
“I’m “yours” now?” He shifted uncomfortably in the bed.
“I can’t do this Grace.”
“Can’t do what?”
“This. You working. Stop.”
“It’s not that easy James. I have no savings, you know I literally live night to night.”
“I’ll support you.”
“I couldn’t handle that.”
“Fuck why not? Wives do. Women do. Why the fuck do you want to fuck multitudes when you can be supported by someone that loves you?”
“Do you love me?”
“I’m a private school, catholic boy whose socialite mother would die if she knew I’d fallen in love with a hooker. But I love you. What do you want? My money?”
“I don’t want your money, that’s why I want to keep working.”
“I can’t handle you working.”
“I can’t handle being supported by you. I want my own money, my own independence.”
“Well earn that like every other fucking woman doing a normal job.”
“I don’t want a normal job.”
“I love this job.”
“Everyone else in the fucking world hates their job, who gives a shit, just do it.”
“Why do I have to hate my job just for love?”
“Stop Grace. Do you love me?”
Sometimes whilst a romantic notion, leaving does not always mean the past is forgotten.
I cowered against the wall. My eyes stared at the navy blue patterned carpet of the hotel room. I cringed as I heard the shatter of the glass just millimeters from my head. Glass rained down upon me in a thousand shards, digging into my skin, decorating my hair, the larger fragments awkwardly posing at my side.
“You. Fucking. Whore.” I curled back inside myself as I had learnt to do. Strong in self, strong in mind, strong in belief, block the outside world.
“Mick, please stop.”
“Shut the fuck up you fucking whore.” I tuned out. Knees to chest, arms around legs, head lowered. Sit. Ignore.
“You fucked him didn’t you?”
“I didn’t fuck anyone Mick.” I kept my voice lowered, even. He’d finish soon. The outbursts only got louder, more insistent. Jumping states away from our influences only meant I had to learn to take eighteen years of violence, drug abuse, lost years, frustration. Coming clean meant righting your mind again. No-one ever told me it meant watching someone you loved come undone without support whilst having no life experience to empathise. All I could do was crawl into my corner of the wall and hope that he loved me too much to directly hit me.
“You’re a fucking whore. I saw the way you looked at him.”
“The one at the bar.”
“What fucking guy?” Another glass his the wall behind me. Tiny rivulets of blood were starting to trail down my arms and legs from the shards that had embedded in my skin.
“THAT FUCKING GUY.” Patience. Wait. Sit. Eventually he’d calm down.
Finally the last glass hit the wall across from him narrowly missing the TV in the hotel room. He leant back against the wall, legs outstretched on the bed.
“Fuck, what have I done. I’m sorry. It’s just hard. I don’t know anyone and I’m on twelve hour shifts, seven days a week, two weeks on, two weeks off. The thought of you alone and bored and here in this resort. It drives me insane.”
“I’m sorry.” I picked the largest shard out of my arm, fascinated at how the blood ran thicker, stronger.
“Don’t be sorry. You created this. You got me here. You used your contacts to get me my tickets, a good, high paying job. We’re safe. I’m clean. I’m just angry and confused and alone and my only escape is you. I love you.” The balls of his thumbs trailed across my teenage eyelids, covering, stroking, comforting.
“I’m frightened of you. Frightened you’ll leave, frightened you fuck them. Frightened you’re teasing me after eighteen years of opportunities, rehab and escape.”
“I promise I won’t leave.”
I eventually left, a year later, wanting more, worth more. Thankfully I was tired of self destructing with another. Five years on, I never thought I’d leave love for work.
He fingered the long fragile stem of the Reidel.
“So you’re leaving?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are. You. Breaking. Up. With. Me.” I thought such phrases were left in high school.
“I don’t know.”
“Grace you either do or you don’t. Stop fucking playing. Stop getting drunk and telling me you want something and changing your mind when you’re sober. Make a fucking decision. What do you want?”
“I think I want to work again.”
“Basically you want to fuck a football team every night instead of be with me?”
“It’s not like that. “
“It is. Either you want to be with me or you want to work and go on this idealistic little fucking path you’ve got set in your head. What do you want?”
“It’s not that easy Matt.”
“Yes it is. What do you want? Make a decision.”
“I want to work again, I want my freedom, I miss it, I can’t help it.”
“You know I cannot stay with you if you work? I refuse to deal with it.”
“Then that’s it?”
“I..” I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t explain how important my independence, freedom meant to me. He never understood from the beginning, I doubt he’d ever understand now.
“I want to go.”
“Have your freedom. It’s over Grace. You’ve made your decision. I hope you’ll end up happy. Fuck.” He pushed his body away from the table to stand up.
“This is it. I’m not going through this mind change bullshit with you again. Are you certain?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry.”
“I’m going.” My heart broke. It’s always harder leaving a relationship when there’s nothing wrong with it at all.
So here it is, seven months on and I’ve got everything I imagined. Thousands of men behind me, a few I loved, many I hold in deep affection.
There are women that lie eternally to avoid the above situations. I could. I could keep this a secret, live a secret life and watch my bank balance grow & fatten. Many women do.
Ultimately people stare at me and wonder if this is worth the potential sacrifice of love either now or in the future.
I’m free, to earn my own money on my own terms, my own way, with my own body with whomever I dictate.
I’m free to create artistically without boundaries or financial restrictions, free to write, free to express any part of myself in what ever language I choose.
I’m free to travel, to dictate my hours, my lifestyle, my pleasure.
Freedom always has a cost, perhaps I’m still idealistic. I still believe my freedom and love can be satisfied by one. Only time will tell.
Session Four: The Space Between hosted by Kate Pardey and Liam Darmody
Most of our lives take place in the space between.
Grace Bellavue, Adelaide Escort
Georgia Heath, will tell us Why Barbie is a Feminist?
Rosie Jones, will share her personal story of becoming a woman