Sex workers are a diverse bunch. It’s the ‘oldest profession in the world’. It shouldn’t be surprising that for every man and woman involved in the industry, there are an equally abundant number of motivations, stories, experiences and perspectives. No one’s pretending like it’s a regular nine-to-five job. But it’s an important one.
Consider Jessica Bardot: a professional sex worker who assists people with disabilities.
“I really want to allow my client their dignity,” she says. “When I was 17, I broke my neck and I was in halo traction for six months. I had to rely on other people to wash me, clothe me and to go to the toilet. I had to learn to walk again… I know what it feels like to not be able to do the small things that we take for granted every day.”
Mathew is one of her clients. “Mathew was nearly 8 years old when he had haemorrhaging of the brain after a tonsillectomy,” Jessica explains. “He went into cardiac arrest for 15 minutes which resulted in a hypoxic brain injury.” His mum and dad were the ones who made the initial contact, deciding that after missing out on so much already, he didn’t need to forgo the important affection and intimacy afforded by sexual contact.
These are real-life stories that aren’t scandal-laden or sufficiently lurid to make headlines. These are the stories that don’t get told.
Jessica acknowledges there still remains a stigma surrounding sex work, and the added element of working with disabilities can complicate matters more. Her commitment is unwavering, however. “Everyone, regardless of being abled or disabled deserves to have intimacy, affection and connection in their lives.”
And the stigma is slowly receding. Mathew’s dad tells us that 99 percent of the friends he’s told about their arrangement are totally on board. “We tell people that his personal carer helps to get his tyres rotated,” and “a monthly grease and oil change,” he adds cheekily.
She doesn’t turn up to the house “glammed-up” either, intentionally arriving at her dates with Mathew under-dressed so as not to draw attention from nosy-neighbours. Even though acceptance of sex work is on the rise, there are still those who would cast a judgemental eye on their special arrangement.
Jessica knows one other sex worker who provides services similar to hers. They aren’t anomalies, though. Touching Base is a Sydney-based non-for-profit that maintain a referrals list of sex workers that provide specialised services for people with disabilities. According to their website, they also provide training workshops tailored to disability service providers, as well as generally focus on “issues of access, discrimination, human rights, legal issues and the attitudinal barriers that the two marginalised communities can face”.
Among the media portrayals that conjure images of seedy back alley brothels, fishnet stockings and women in dangerously high stiletto heels leaning into cars, it’s near impossible for the majority of the public to have an accurate understanding of what a varied field sex work can be – and importantly – the unique service it provides for people from all kinds of different backgrounds. Mathew’s parents sum it up: “Everyone has the right to intimacy, connection and affection. It’s difficult to change people’s perception if they’ve never lived with someone with a disability. If we can change one person’s perception through this article, then that’s a great start.”
Sadly, Mathew passed away on 26 May 2018, just after the writing of this story. We are publishing it with the permission and support of his loving parents.
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