We see the world through our subjective frames of reference, and it’s not entirely our fault. But it’s ultimately up to us to challenge our perceptions and the way we move throughout the world, and to question what lies beneath our assumptions.
But for as far back as I can remember, I’ve always been quick to judge a situation or a person, assuming I know the whole story and that I can predict a certain outcome. It’s a thought process I have to actively train myself to alter, using a mixed bag of cognitive techniques to ensure I pause, reflect, question, and then draw a conclusion based on data, rather than a subjective feeling.
It’s this line of thought that led me to want to more thoroughly understand sex worker rights last year. I was directed by friends to Instagram to learn straight from the source, looking to the likes of Tilly Lawless and the ABC’s series You Can’t Ask That. I found a group of women online who not only focus on promoting their professional identities as escorts, but simultaneously (and perhaps not intentionally), work to remove the shame and stigma of erotic labour. There’s room for selfies, humour, friendship and sharing values, and we’re all invited to watch and participate. Because this world exists online, it’s a world that’s open to the general public, and the ease in which you can find these communities makes them easy to access.
So, I reached out to a few and heard crickets. Of course, these women can be targets for the perverse, and sometimes the well-intentioned but ultimately ignorant. We believe that these women are ours to scrutinise and question, owing us answers based on the impetus of our sheer curiosity. I know I certainly, and wrongly, expected a willingness to talk to me.
After a few exchanges with Estelle, I realised I fell into the camp of somewhat self-entitled journalists. I wanted to be a good ally and learn more about sex worker rights, but here’s the thing: you can’t just email escorts on the internet for quotes.
So I struck up an email exchange with Estelle, and eventually we agreed to meet. It was obvious to us both that my standard, superficial questions wouldn’t form the basis of a good interview. I wanted to know the why and how, and she’d shoot back with far more nuanced, engaging and in-depth questions.
Instead of a mainstream line of enquiry – how did you get into sex work, etc – we spoke about identity politics, gender politics, the meaning of love and intimacy, cultural values, and so much more. As a Turkish woman from suburban Melbourne with 7 years of sex work under her belt, Estelle had whole books of stories that couldn’t be captured within our tiny time slot.
This is not an interview about what sex work is. Instead, it explores a multitude of dimensions to further enrich your emotional intelligence.
Life as an escort and other things discussed in this episode:
- Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder
- Growing up within a Turkish, Islamic household
- The gender binary and harmful social conditioning
- Why love doesn’t last
- Teenage love
- Communication and expression
- Women’s health
- Calling people on their shit
- What is love?
- Having a strong sense of self and high self-esteem
- The definition of intimacy
- Ayurvedic medicine
- Self love and replenishment
- The energy output and labour of sex work
- The difference between good high energy and bad high energy
- Functional alcoholism
- Self awareness
- Yoga Teacher Training
- The emotional labour of texting
- Compartmentalising life as a sex worker
- Social media marketing for the adult industry
- The distinction between personal and private spheres
- The interpersonal skills you need as a sex worker
- Developing empathy
- Putting up boundaries and demanding consent
- Enlightenment at PolyVic meetings
- Client fantasies
- Review culture
- Victoria sex workers laws and legalised frameworks
- Working in a brothel vs working privately
- Slut shamers and being whore-phobic
- How can you demonstrate support for sex workers?
- The Scarlet Alliance
- Sex Worker Rights Are Human Rights
Header image via: Tony Lam Hoang