In most Australian states it is required by law for a person who engages in sex for money to complete a full STI screening every 3 months, so interactions with medical staff soon becomes a dreaded routine, one that I have grown to despise due to the snide comments and blatant harassment that occurs.
(In before “not all doctors!!!1”… I am aware that there are amazing medical doctors out there, but the vast majority are judgmental as all hell.)
I moved to Melbourne at the beginning of this year, a state that is well known for its legalization and regulation of sex workers. I was naively happy because I believed that this would make my interactions with the doctors so much easier and open. What an idiot.
Because STI checks aren’t cheap, doctors will try and discourage you from getting regular full blood screens unless you are a “high risk patient”, meaning someone who is showing symptoms, someone who has had unprotected sex, or someone who has multiple partners. So unless I specifically disclose the fact that I am a sex worker, I get told that I am being paranoid to get tested so regularly. Messed up, right? Then comes the humiliating part. The Look. Now, this Look is either one of surprise (because I ‘don’t look like a hooker’ – whatever that means), one of pity, or one of outright disgust. Then if it is a male doctor odds are I will either get hit on, asked how much I charge, what my services are, etc. If it is a female doctor they will physically move their chair further away from me, scared that getting too close to me would make them a ‘ho by association.
This Melbourne appointment was by far one of the worst that I had endured however. After grilling me about whether or not I knew how to use appropriate protection, he then began to tell me what he thought was an amusing anecdote about his friend who visits the local brothel every week.
“So do you take a lot of drugs then?”
Ugh, I hate this part.
“No, I try and stay sober, I feel safer that way.” Not always true, but I wasn’t going to tell him that.
“I don’t know how you girls do it, I would have thought you would need to get high all the time. Y’know, to cope.”
I just wanted to get out of there, I hated the way he was looking at me. I should have worn a bigger jumper, longer pants, anything.
“What is your mental state like? Any depression? Anxiety? Do you hate your job? Love it? Do you have a boyfriend? How many clients do you see a night?”
I tried to keep my composure and a neutral face, even though I could feel the lump in my throat rise. My eyes began to feel hot and the tears welled. I hadn’t felt this humiliated in a long time.
I think he saw this, and quickly wrote me a script for the highest dose Valium available. Fuck it, at least he was good for something. I got out of there as soon as I could and cried in the bottom of the shower for 40 minutes before taking a handful of the tiny pills and passing out cold for the rest of the night.
I hate health checks.