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May 28, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Roxy Heart

Roxy! I really need your help. Last nite I was getting wasted with one of my friends, and chatting about sex, and suddenly she’s like, really serious and confesses that she’s been doing sex work to help pay for uni! I freaked out because she’s really young and she shouldn’t be doing that stuff becoz its dangerous, but now she’s really mad at me, and I don’t know what to do. Should I tell her parents or something? I really want to help her!!!

Roxy would like to start by asking you to take a deep breath and calm the fuck down. Admitting you work as a sex worker is not the same as admitting you have cancer, or that you murdered someone, so freaking out like you have is both unfair, and frankly, outright dickish.

Sex work in New Zealand is a legal, and for many workers, an empowering exercise of their autonomy over their body. Sex work can be lucrative, safe, and help bring real happiness to other people.

Of course, deciding to undertake sex work is not a decision anyone should make lightly. First, sex work is a profession that has a degree of danger. Having sex with strangers, particularly if you do “out- calls” and go to their house, can make you vulnerable. That’s not to say that it’s somehow “wrong” to do dangerous work: lots of work is dangerous. Instead, a person needs to be aware of the risks, and make sure they manage them. Vetting clients is an important part of this, and no sex worker should take a client who sets off any alarm bells: use your intuition, and if someone fails the “sniff test”, don’t bother going there. It’s also good as a sex worker to have someone you trust who knows where you are who you can contact if there are any worries. A common way established sex workers protect themselves is by having a small stable of regular clients who they have established a relationship of mutual trust and respect. If your friend isn’t in this position yet, it’s about time she worked towards that.

Secondly, sex work is highly stigmatised by our society, a consequence of our immature social attitudes towards sex,
and female sexual agency. This means that while it shouldn’t be, sex work is often viewed negatively by potential employers. In Wellington word can sometimes get around very easily, and in this information age, anything on the internet is pretty much impossible to delete. Your friend should keep this in mind, particularly if considering a career in the professions, or in teaching, where her sex working past getting out could cause major repercussions. Again, this is not something limited to sex work: I’d say the same thing to a friend considering a job in tobacco PR.

Third, this stigma means that many people who pursue sex work are people otherwise in vulnerable positions. Since you would probably have mentioned if your friend was addicted to drugs, the main concern here is financial stress: working as a sex worker because you have no other means to support yourself can cause you to take risks you otherwise wouldn’t. While Roxy is comfortable that the overwhelming majority of Wellington’s sex workers aren’t in a position of true duress, it’s still something to be aware of.

So what should you do? Well telling her parents will result in a Roxy Hart Psychic Face Punch, so don’t do that. Unless you have real and genuine belief that she’s in serious trouble you have no justification to cause her the grief telling would cause. In fact, I think perhaps you should butt right out, unless you can approach the issue with maturity. What your friend needs is someone able to provide her with support, someone who is willing to be there when she needs someone to talk to about an issue many people can’t handle.

I hope that you can be that person. <3 Roxy.

p.s. The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, an industry group, is there to provide information and support to workers in the sex industry. They can be reached at info@nzpc.org.nz.

If you have issues or concerns that you wish to discuss privately and confidentially with a professional, rather than a magazine columnist, Student Counselling Service can provide a safe place to explore such aspects of your life. The service is free and confidential. Phone 04 463 5310. Email counselling-service@vuw.ac.nz. Visit Mauri Ora, Level 1, Student Union Building. 

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