Mia Walsch is an award-winning author from Melbourne. She’s also a sex worker.
Her new book, Money For Something, is a deeply personal, startlingly intimate memoir about sex, work, friendship, drugs and mental illness.
As far as sex work memoirs go, Mia’s story is a far cry from the champagne-sipping, luxurious lifestyle of “Belle De Jour”. Money For Something is a turbulent sex and drug-fuelled reality rollercoaster that offers an unflinching and unapologetic perspective of one woman’s experiences in the Australian adult industry. Mia’s dark humour and refreshing honestly are what make Money For Something a memorable read.
Penthouse spoke with Mia about her new book, what the media gets wrong about sex work, and what it’s like to come out to the world as a sex worker.
What propelled you to write Money For Something?
It happened so long ago that I felt it slipping away. I had to capture it now. Also, Australian authors earn jack shit, so I needed the money. I feel like this is just another way I’ve used this work to earn a living.
How did it feel to write your memoir and reflect candidly on both sex work, drug use, relationships and those low moments?
I am a chronic over sharer so it was actually pretty easy. Ha! But really, my overfamiliarity can sometimes be problematic for me. I do sometimes wish I could keep my mouth shut. People have always said to me, ‘you’re so honest, it’s so refreshing!’ But it’s like, what else would I be? A liar? The act of writing it was a little bit emotionally hectic, but my emotions are often fraught so who can say if it was the book or not?
Did you run into any issues finding a publisher for the book?
I’ve spent the past five years as a professional author, so I already had an agent. Within a few weeks shopping it around, I had two offers. It sounds like it was easy, and I guess it was, but that’s because I’ve worked hard and been lucky enough to establish a career already and it becomes slightly easier the longer you’ve been at it. Plus, I knew it would sell! I’m a pretty good writer and it’s a funny and sad and kind of hopeful story. People love ‘salacious’ shit and I totally sold out to that. No shame.
What’s your favourite story or one liner from the book?
The bit where I sort of ‘dive’ into the pile of women when we’re all on ecstasy during a slow night at a massage parlour. It’s just this really lovely memory that sums up a lot about how I feel when I’m around other sex workers. Oh, and the line, ‘as if there’s a huge chasm between the jobs of hand and blow.’ I was really proud of that one.
You said in the book that you’ve always been very open about telling people you’re a sex worker, but what’s it been like publishing a book and coming out to the world?
Coming out to the actual world is… a lot. But also, look at the world. There’s a lot going on. Who the fuck cares? Go and give a shit about Indigenous overincarceration or climate change or a universal basic income for all. Leave sex workers alone. What someone does to make a buck should be the least of our worries. All of the openly out sex workers (like Jane Green, Gala Vanting, Bella Green, Rita Therese, and so many more I can’t even list) have been doing the work for ages so we’re at a place where I finally felt less scared about coming out. I’m really thankful to them.
Are you still working in the industry?
Up until this whole COVID-19 pause, I was working as the manager of a dungeon and an occasional Pro-Domme. I say ‘occasional’ because I’m not a very good sex worker. Like, not in a self-deprecating way at all, just in a ‘I’m a big weirdo’ kind of way. My ‘island of misfit toys’ vibe only appeals to a small niche of clients, ha! But for those clients, I am an excellent fit.
I’m not sure if I’ll go back to taking sessions. I love it but it’s been hard for a while for a lot of reasons. I feel like if I could just do old-school corporal punishment switch sessions, and switch tickle sessions, my two specialities, then I would just do that occasionally and have a nice fun time. But unfortunately, that might just be a niche too far.
How have you and your friends in the industry been affected by COVID-19?
A lot of wonderful, beautiful, and hardworking people have been massively affected and it breaks my heart. When I’m managing at the dungeon, I tell my co-workers that I want everyone to have a good time and make lots of money. I want that for everyone in the industry as soon as it can happen. If you can swing it, Scarlet Alliance is running a fundraiser to help sex workers who have lost income, so please donate.
Drug use was a big part of your story in your book. What’s your relationship with drugs like now?
I’m practically sober! It’s so weird. I don’t drink or smoke or do any gross bathtub drugs anymore. I had to give all that stuff up because I can’t do moderation. I’m all or nothing. I keep myself away from that lifestyle by being very, very boring in my day-to-day life.
Mia Walsch. Photo by Breeana Dunbar.
What’s something people on the outside and the media get wrong about sex work?
The mainstream media, the big news sites, they can’t get past the glaringly obvious to see the nuance of… well, anything, but especially sex work. The why’s and how’s for each individual doing this job are as complex as anyone else’s motivations for doing anything. But there’s no room for that in headlines, or in 250 words. As for everyday people, or ‘civilians’… I think one funny thing people think about sex workers is that we’re trying to steal your partners. We are not, I promise.
What’s been something you’ve found the most surprising about the adult industry?
So many things. When I first started, I was so baffled and kind of fascinated at the non-clients who come in just to look and then leave. Serial rejectors who I’d see at many different parlours. I think a lot of them have different motivations and I always wondered how one came to thinking of it as a legitimate past time.
Was there anything you wanted to put in the book but didn’t?
It sounds silly, but I wish I’d added in the subplot about my cat, who was a big part of saving my life. When there was nothing in my life besides drugs and being very depressed, she kind of gave me a reason to live. I gave her a little cameo at the end. It is weird because the book is so revealing, but that relationship felt too personal.
If you could give a prospective client three tips for ensuring a good booking for both parties, what would they be?
Only three? Oh, that’s hard! Um…
1. Be clean. Please wash well, swish a little mouthwash, etc. I’m neuroatypical and I find strong smells to be really distracting – they fill up my brain and I can’t concentrate on anything else. So, get nice and soapy, pop a mint, and we’ll all have a good time.
2. Never ever try to haggle prices. Just don't fucking do it. It will make the sex worker hate you. I’m always willing to work within a budget and adjust my sessions according to that, but the prices are the prices, and that’s it.
3. Go into the booking with a good attitude. I tell my clients to relax and that we’re going to have a fun, sexy time. It plants that expectation right away. Plus, especially in BDSM, there’s this expectation or specific fantasy that someone might have held in their head for years. Real life will never be like that. So just try to focus on and enjoy what’s actually happening, rather than what you’ve imagined.
What do you think the future of sex work looks like in Australia?
I hope that things get back to normal, but I do think we’re headed into a new normal and I’m not sure what the sex industry looks like in that world. I come from a science fiction background and my mind runs wild with ideas about the future. I do think some forms of sex work will move online, but there’s no replacement for one-on-one. That’s where I do my best, creating that charge in the air, and there will probably still be room for that, though maybe not on the scale we are used to.
You’ve written three other books, will there be more books in your future?
It’s what I do. I don’t think I could stop if I tried. In my other life I write science fiction and that’s always going to be my focus. But I only wrote about my first four years in the sex industry on purpose and I have lots more to write about it. I wasn’t going to blow my whole wad on one book when I can make more money writing it in several books.
Where can we see more of you?
I have a Patreon, plus I’m on Twitter.. I write science fiction under the name Marlee Jane Ward, so check ‘her’ out if you like that genre.
Money for Something: Sex Work. Drugs. Need. Life by Mia Walsch is available from Echo Publishing.