I'm not the first freelance writer to pay her bills by doing sex work, and if the current economy is anything to go by I won't be the last. In Sydney, where just within the past week a good friend told me she moved in to a ‘quaint attic space’ for the princely sum of $280 a week and yet another friend invited me to join him at a café where I would be unlikely to get change from $20 after ordering a smoothie, sometimes I’m surprised that there aren’t more creatives lining up at the knock-shop raising money to get their books published, photos printed, and music recorded.
Of course, I shouldn’t sound so blasé about it. I am aware I'm discussing a profession that chews people up and spits them out at an alarming rate; an industry in which many of my contemporaries indulge in illicit sexual affairs, use alcohol and hard drugs on a shockingly regular basis, and bring their long-held personal grudges into the workplace with often-dangerous results. Yes, in this industry my work is commonly undervalued, my services haggled over, my job security almost non-existent, and payment for my time sometimes arrives late or not at all. Oh – you do know I'm talking about writing, here, right?
If I had a dollar for every time I told someone I work in the sex industry and they looked down on me with pity and sadness, I could happily retire right now. Conversely, stating that I’m a writer generates exclamations of joy and excitement, despite the fact that writing is often the trickier to manage of my two professions. Unlike writing, sex work is rarely if ever something I will be asked to do ‘for exposure’; and although fucking strangers may not be everyone's idea of an empowering feminist occupation, there’s a high chance I leave the parlour feeling a lot better about myself than the kid who recently taste-tested and reviewed twelve cans of cat food for Buzzfeed.
Of course, writing isn’t all stress and struggle. I do genuinely love it, and have enormous pride in the work I’ve done: I have met and interviewed some amazing people, I have a memoir on the way, and of course, I’m published in the pages of this very magazine. I’ll hopefully still be writing long after my ankles give out and can’t be strapped into stilettos to prowl the parlour floor anymore. Although just as I was beginning to think this was my more palatable profession, an internet commenter left me a note saying that one day I would be embarrassed by ‘putting myself out there like this’, referring not to sex work but to my written oeuvre, which apparently contained enough discussion of heavily personal topics to convince him that one day I would look back in regret.
I suppose you can’t win them all, and maybe it’s true that when it comes to work, capitalism is screwing us all - but at least with sex work, I get to choose the position.