Work It Out: What It’s Really Like to Be a Sex Worker in Australia

Work It Out: What It’s Really Like to Be a Sex Worker in Australia
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Bella Green is a stand-up comedian, author and sex worker based out of Melbourne. Her stand-up hour, Bella Green is Charging for It, was nominated for Best Comedy at the 2018 Melbourne Fringe Festival and took home the title of Best Comedy at the 2020 Adelaide Fringe Festival. 

Most recently, she’s published a memoir centred on her experience as a “Sunday-afternoon sex worker”. Happy Endings is described as “a memoir of lying down and standing up”. It’s a book that takes you through Green’s day-to-day in an often entertaining industry, where the hierarchy is strict, the names are fake, and spare towels always come in handy”.

Sex work
Happy Endings (Published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $34.99,  $12.99 on Kindle). Image supplied

On a public level, conversations around sex work often centre on stigma, discrimination and limited access to support. And throughout the many stages of the COVID-19 crisis, it has widely been reported that sex workers have been some of the hardest hit in terms of loss of income. And while all of those points of discussion are incredibly valid, it’s also important to understand the full scope of experience that comes with this industry. 

That will certainly vary from person to person, but Bella Green has offered some insight into her life and work for this month’s Work It Out. We spoke with her over email to learn a little more about the sex work industry in Australia. 

Work It Out: Sex Work

sex work
Bella Green is the author of Happy Endings (Published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $34.99,  $12.99 on Kindle). Image supplied

All the below quotes come from Bella Green. 

What are the best parts of your job? 

Setting my own hours and being my own boss. This is a way for me to run my own business with very limited education and zero start-up capital. I don’t answer to anyone, I don’t get up before 10 am, and I never have to submit a leave request. I’m also lucky to have some great clients. Sometimes I’ll be on a dinner date with a reg whose company I truly enjoy, getting paid to drink cocktails, and I think life is pretty amazing.

What are the worst parts of your job? 

Answering text messages! I reckon one in 50 SMSs I get are legitimate enquiries. The rest are “hey baby” or “u avail?” Or guys that sound legit but have no intention of ever booking. And like every other industry, I have some clients I don’t like and I end up gritting my teeth for two hours while they tell me their opinions on Trump and I put up with their body odour. Clients are a mixed bag.

Can you walk us through a day in the life of your job? (Hours, standard tasks, challenges etc.)

My typical workday would be a two-hour outcall to someone’s hotel or house. I spend at least two hours getting ready with makeup, installing hair extensions, shaving every inch of my body, and generally transforming myself from the garden troll I wake up as. When I arrive, I take the money, first thing. Ideally, we spend the first hour chatting over drinks, thirty minutes in the bedroom, and then thirty minutes of post-coital snuggles and chat, but sometimes you’ll get a client who wants to have sex for the entire 120 minutes and that’s exhausting. Afterwards, I tell them I had a lovely time, which thankfully the majority of the time I do, and I go on my merry way.

What are some comments or questions about your job that you hate hearing? 

That sex workers just lie around on their backs all day! This can be a really tough job. I’m a publicist, a receptionist, a website and social media wiz, and that’s before I even meet a client. In the room, managing men’s egos and insecurities can be very challenging — not to mention being a sexual gymnast. People think, “how hard can it be to have sex?” But it’s so much more than that. There’s a skill set you build over time doing this work.

What would you say are some of the biggest misconceptions attached to your work? 

That there’s a sea of clients and an endless demand of men wanting sex. There are way more people selling sex than buying! A lot of people think that if they “lowered” themselves to sex work, they’d make a ton of money, but in reality, there are 50 women who look just like you competing for one client. You basically need a marketing degree to do this job these days.

On average, what kind of wage can sex workers expect to earn? 

It’s so wildly variable. Some days when I used to work in brothels, I could do an eight-hour shift, get zero bookings, and go home with nothing. Other days I’ve been paid $3500 for an overnight booking as a private escort. At the brothel, I considered anything over $400 to be a good day. Working privately, I have some $0 months and I have some $10,000 months. I have the privilege of being white, thin and able-bodied — your mileage may vary. 

Want to keep reading about misunderstood industries in Australia? Take a peek at our Work It Out piece on nursing here.

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