Self-Care for Sex Workers

Sometimes ‘self-care’ advice can be completely impractical to follow. How can I eat organically and do yoga when my chocolate stained doona cover has claimed me as its own? Do not get us wrong, self-care tips are well meaning and can offer great advice, but when your stressed, anxious or having a horrid time with mental health it is not always practical to expect yourself to meditate, eat kale, shower, get your nails done and see friends.

That said self-care is an ongoing process, not just something we should do in crisis. Magenta has popped together some real self-care tips from sex workers.

  • I get my nails done/hair done and tell myself it’s a justifiable expense because it’s ‘for work’
  • I send a blunt response to one of those really irritating timewasting pricks who keep texting me shit and then quickly block them before they have a chance to respond
  • I mentally compare what I just earnt in an hour to the income of whoever just made an asshole comment about sex work
  • Have a vicious gossip session with my other Whore friends – get it all out – then return to my kind self
  • I enjoy a Netflix binge complete with blankets, snuggles with my cat and chocolate. I validate that I need to be ‘unsexy’ for a while
  • I refuse to read or watch news reports on mainstream media – I will get the highlights from twitter, which keeps me updated and stronger sex worker activists have already called out the publisher on their stigmatising content.
  • I turn off social media and read. It may not be realistic for long periods of time, but my work phone doesn’t have social media installed. This allows me to consider my work hours as ‘low tech’ and allows me to disconnect.
  • I refuse to take part in any review/client forums, I find these spaces to be unhelpful and often quite rude. Kudo’s to anyone who doesn’t get angry reading them
  • If I am having a bad mental health day I let myself have it. I allow myself to do nothing, or do completely non-productive things like online shopping, eating chocolate and ignoring the work phone. Then the next day I try again.
  • Three things I do, bath, wine and a good book. This is my time; no one can interrupt this.
  • I box and play footy. Any way I can violently take out my anxiety calms me, and leaves me tired so I get a good night sleep.
  • Vent in my sex worker only groups. The people understand, can usually offer a giggle or a shoulder and a lot of support.

The above are some techniques used by a few sex workers to care for their mental health, prevent burnout and look after themselves. However, as a sex worker with mental illnesses I know that caring for yourself in crisis is not always easy or a priority. So, if you find yourself lacking in self-care, stuck in burn-out or in crisis here are my personal tips.

  • Eat something, anything. Ignore the balanced meal and eat what makes your soul happy, I suggest using ubereats. Finding it hard to face food? Try something easy like yogurt or a banana, or drink something with calories.
  • Call a friend who ‘gets it’. Other options include venting online, especially in sex worker only spaces. If phones make you anxious email/text/social media are all perfectly acceptable replacements. As is contacting Magenta for a peer educator to head over and provide peer support.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek help. A mental health plan from you GP, a sex worker friendly psych or an anonymous helpline.
  • If you have prescribed medications, ensure you take them as directed!
  • Sometimes you might feel like you are backsliding, but if you are trying to fix all your unhelpful habits at once it can be very hard to stay grounded. Its ok to not be perfect, especially if that’s the best way to get through a hard day. You don’t need to try to fix everything at once!
  • I also do something to tune out of the world. For me, I reread a favourite book (Harry Potter, if you are curious) or I journal.
  • Changing the format I work in often helps me. If I need routine and structure I head to a parlour. If I need to be at home as much as possible I offer shorter services to reduce the number of hours spent with clients.

If my crisis hits critical/dangerous levels, I try to be assessed by someone outside me such as my bestie, partner or a helpline. I take myself to my psych for an emergency appointment (if my budget allows) or present at the emergency department for an assessment. When presenting in ED it helps me to have a support person, whose job it is to help me stand up for myself against stigmatising language and treatment. I have found this support invaluable at each of my emergency room visits.

Self-care is personal. So while manicures, long baths and lit candles may work for one person; another may find that a horror film, being alone and pizza is what works for them. So we encourage you to comment below, or send us your best self-care tips.

Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault

Stealthing

So what is consent?

Consent is when we agree to something. We can only consent when we understand clearly what is being agreed to. We give consent without pressure, intimidation or force. Consent must be willing. We give consent in most things we do, from agreeing to do the dishes to having sex.

Consent is ongoing. Consent comes from all people involved having the freedom to say yes or no. Consent can be changed or taken back at any time. It is important that we check in with our partners boundaries. Our partners must also respect our boundaries

Sex work and consent

Sex work is consensual. Sex workers discuss services and cost with clients. When the client agrees to the booking consent has been negotiated.

When a client does something that wasn’t agreed to, boundaries are broken and consent no longer exists.  If a client changes the terms of the booking without talking to the sex worker consent is broken. It doesn’t matter whether this is done by deceit, fraud, force, threat or intimidation.

Being a sex worker still means you get a say in what happens to you. Sex workers are in control of their body and choices. Occupation does not take away anyone’s right to say no.

So what about when someone takes the condom off?

If a sexual partner (paid or unpaid) purposefully removes or breaks the condom without your permission – this is sexual assault. Popular media has been filled with articles about this. These articles have been calling this form of sexual assault ‘stealthing’.

The term ‘stealthing’ first made it onto the website Urban Dictionary in August 2016[1]. Using that word makes it sound like some kind of top secret James Bond type mission. By using this word, the media makes it sound normal, and the serious nature of the act is lessened. Don’t let this fool you though. It is Sexual Assault.

This is dangerous for the sexual health of all people involved. It puts people at risk of sexually transmissible infections (STIs), blood borne viruses (BBVs) and unwanted pregnancies.

Tips for working

The following might help you develop more confidence when providing sexual services. These are not defensive strategies against assault.

The only person responsible for sexual assault is the person who CHOOSES TO COMMIT assault.

  • Communicate the boundaries of your services clearly. You might choose to;
    • Have a clearly advertised ‘Do and Don’ts’ list
    • Discuss the service clearly with the client and confirm the agreed upon services and charges before starting the booking
    • Ask your client if they are aware of your boundaries
  • Be confident when reminding the client of your boundaries during the service
  • If a client has removed the condom, take action!
    • You can end the booking and tell the client to leave if you feel safe to do this.
    • Remind the client of the agreed terms of the service (the consensual agreement you came to). Clearly explain your boundaries again.

Magenta have many more tips – please visit us for more information.

So, what can I do about it?

If you experience sexual assault at work, or in your personal life, no one can tell you the ‘correct’ steps to take. It is important that you do what you feel is best for you. Your self-care, safety and wellbeing are the most important thing. If you choose to seek help, Magenta Educators can support you in;

  • Getting PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)
  • Getting Emergency Contraception
  • Arranging for forensic evidence collection
  • Getting a complete sexual health screening (STI and BBV check)
  • Making a report (anonymously if you wish)
  • Accessing legal support
  • Providing referrals to private psychologists, councillors and medical professionals
  • Peer support

For More Information


Sexual Assault Resource Centre

24 Hour Emergency Line: 08 6458 1828 OR 1800 199 888
http://www.kemh.health.wa.gov.au/services/sarc/index.htm

WA Police

https://www.police.wa.gov.au/
Emergency: 000
Police Assistance (non-emergency): 131 444

Magenta

Phone 9328 1382
0403 188 540
www.magenta.org.au

 Pep Helpline

1300 767 161
http://www.waaids.com/other-items/pep-campaign.html

SHQ (Sexual Health Quarters)

Phone: 9227 6177
www.shq.org.au

 STC Clinic (South Terrace clinic)

Phone 9431 2149

RPH (Royal Perth Hospital)

Phone 9224 2178

 

 

[1] http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Stealthing

Sexual orientation, gender identity & intersex status discrimination information sheet

From 1 August 2013 it will be unlawful under federal law to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their:

  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • intersex status

Same-sex couples are now also protected from discrimination under the new definition of ‘marital or relationship status’ (this was previously ‘marital status’).

The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 (Cth) (SDA Amendment Act) inserts the new grounds into the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (SDA).

Most states and territories have some form of protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the SDA Amendment Act introduces more inclusive definitions and addresses gaps such as a lack of coverage for acts or practices of the federal government. It also qualifies the exemptions for religious organisations to the effect that it does not apply to conduct connected with the provision of Commonwealth-funded aged care services. It also includes the new ground of intersex status which is not covered by any other law.

Click to Download

How Legislation is made – a brief summary

The steps to a new law (including changing an existing law);

  1. The new law is written by the government, known as the draft legislation or draft bill.
  2. The government releases the draft legislation for comment and feedback. Based on the feedback the government may alter the draft legislation.
  3. The draft legislation is presented to the lower house of parliament and read through three times. In the second reading, the lower house members debate the bill and can vote to make changes or amendments to the bill. After a third reading the lower house then votes to accept or reject the bill.
  4. Once the lower house of parliament votes to accept the bill, it then goes to the upper house and the bill follows the same process there. As in the lower house, the upper house can vote to make amendments to the bill. The upper house then votes to accept or reject the bill.
  5. When the upper house has accepted the bill it goes back to the lower house. If the lower house votes to accept the bill it then goes to the state governor to be signed (into law). It is at this point that the bill becomes an act of parliament and is the new law. Some acts of parliament or parts of the act may not come in to effect immediately but it will be written into the act when it or parts of it come into effect.

LASH Study findings on the Sex Industry in Western Australia

In 2007 and 2008 the Law and Sexual Health (LASH) study surveyed sex workers in commercial sex work businesses In Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Three capital cities were chosen for their different legal climates: Melbourne, where sex work is only decriminalised in licensed brothels (licensing), otherwise it remains illegal; Perth, where sex work remains criminalised; and Sydney, where most form of adult sex work are decriminalised, without licensing.

Through legal research we determined the laws and the level of policing of those laws in Victoria, WA, and NSW. We also mapped the female brothel-based sex industry in each city. Brothels were chosen at random, with a survey target of 200 sex workers in each city. Each brothel was repeated approached until every sex worker consented to participate or refused.  Each participating sex worker completed a questionnaire that was available in 4 languages.  Those women were then offered testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, Mycoplasma genitalium infection, and trichomoniasis. Comparisons were made between cities.

Go to LASH Project