It didn’t even cross my mind that something was up as I checked into my hotel, despite that fact that there were about 30 tall, fairly built-looking men waiting around at reception. I was exhausted and just come off a crowded flight first thing in the morning, dragging along my suitcase full of lingerie and silicone dicks. I picked up my key, signed the forms and head up to my room, ready to start hustling. As I got in the lift, one of the men got in with me and I made a joke about the amount of men in sports gear.
“Oh yeah, sorry if we’re a bit rowdy, the police football tournament is on this week.”
The FUCKING POLICE ARE STAYING IN MY HOTEL. 6 FOOTBALL TEAMS WORTH OF POLICE. FUCKING FUCKITY FUCK FUCK.
See, in my 5 years of working the sex, it is the first time that I have toured to a state where not only my line of work is considered criminal activity, but police entrapment is legal.
Luckily, I fly under the radar pretty well and apart from the odd comment or two in the elevator, the police left us well enough alone. For some reason, they have no problems raiding brothels (like they did in February this year), but going after private workers doesn’t happen as often, although it’s probably only a matter of time.
Every so often (and more often of late) articles pop up either in the newspaper or online crying about how ‘illegal’ brothels and massage parlours are exploiting workers/ruining lives/are a threat to health and safety of the general population. I’m here to tell you something.
LEGALITY DOES NOT EQUAL MORALITY.
The majority of sex workers have worked illegally in some capacity or another. Even under legalisation, I cannot legally hire security, admin or a driver without falling under the ‘illegal prostitute’ umbrella. Yet in other parts of the country, running my business in this way is totally fine in the eyes of the law.
I could be doing exactly the same job, and in every state be treated differently. Not just by the police, but by clients.
Under criminalisation, I am more likely to be treated badly or abused. Why? Because not only does being treated as a criminal contribute to stigma, but the people that book me are the people that have no issue with breaking rules. It does not mean that the number of workers is dramatically decreased or that sex work ceases to exist, that is never going to happen.
Not only am I more likely to be abused by my clients or the police, but being treated as a criminal means that I am more likely to be affected by societal stigma.
The term ‘illegal’ is used synonymously with ‘dirty’ or ‘bad’, and in the sex industry is also used as an insult to migrant workers (especially Asian workers) and the quickest way to strip them of their agency. Have a look at the next article you see pop-up about ‘illegal brothels’ and I would put money on the fact that they are talking specifically about Asian-run parlours. In a country that wears its blatant racism right down to its bones, it’s hardly surprising that we immediately label Asian workers as ‘illegal prostitutes’ that are being exploited, while white workers are revered as ‘high-class escorts’.
Fuck, we all have worked illegally at some point or another, no matter what race or class we are. These laws are not here to protect us either, used instead to ascertain control over a vulnerable group.
Don’t believe me? Totally fine, let me give you an example or three.
- In WA, NT and ACT, it is illegal to work in pairs (often done for security).
- In NT and WA it is illegal to hire security, receptionist or driver.
- In VIC it is illegal to provide an incall (forcing workers to travel to clients homes, which is wayy more dangerous).
- In most states, street-based work is illegal and heavily enforced (targeting survival workers and low-income workers).
- In most states providing uncovered services is illegal (despite having a better understanding of health and infection control than the majority of the population).
- Yet in SA, police have been known to confiscate condoms and dams in an attempt to discourage them from working. In other states, condoms are used as evidence of prostitution.
Laws have nothing to do with morality by any stretch, and trying to project your own idea of morality on an already marginalised group not only disempowers them but strips them of any agency of their own, actually leaving them more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. We are more than capable of providing peer education, setting up our own support structures and keeping each other safe without worrying about everything that being treated like a criminal brings.