A stripper, a sex worker and a go go dancer walk into a book festival and … talked about their work. All three women were in agreement that sex work is just that, work. Work that needs decent conditions, support and respect.
“What is harder, sex work or writing?” Writing!
“I was already going to bars and taking my clothes off for free, so I might as well get paid”
“I was a stripper but I was also a student, a daughter and an athlete”
“My job was to service the car, not drive it”
“It was a playground, I could experiment with different personalities”
“There was my night self and my day self”
All three women talked of friendships formed, shared experiences and Jodi Sh. Doff talked about a fox hole mentality. Her experience in 1970s New York was different than the others who worked in a job that had been legalised or decriminalised. 70s New York strip clubs and brothels were run by the mob. The women were at the bottom and they had to look after themselves as no one else would. Jodi Sh. Doff read out an extraordinary piece of writing that was raw, scary and horrific.
There was talk of men needing someone to talk to, needing to go to sex workers because they were unconfident, scared or felt inadequate. Kate Holden would prefer her husband to go to a sex worker than have an affair, and her son would she felt at least have a good experience if he chose to go to a sex worker. Leigh Hopkinson had always been honest about what she did, but gradually became more wary as people’s reactions could be negative. In Jodi Sh. Doff’s case she earned more than working as a young person in a law firm. There were drugs but these came before sex work, not because of it.
All wanted to work somewhere where they could be someone else, a full on Go Go dancer, a seductive striptease or a princess. However it was still just a job, and as Kate Holden said why are we still talking about sex workers, we don’t interview sandwich makers!