as part of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival 2019
Sun Sep 1st 2019, State Library Victoria, Isabella Fraser Room
with facilitator Jules Kim, Nadine Chemali, Fiona Patten, Nic Holas and Rita Therese
I was interested in this session as I follow a few sex workers on social media and even got asked by someone on Facebook to help look for someone as I was “familiar” with the sex industry. It should be fairly obvious by now my relationship with the industry, I have sex about once every two years if I am lucky.
I did follow one of the panel members but they blocked me and I can’t even fathom the reason, people just do a snap turn on Twitter and you can’t take it personally. Rita Therese talked about the need to curate herself so she did not turn off prospective clients and that she can’t promote causes as it will also distance some people from her.
The premise of the session was to discuss sex worker voices in print and the media. There was criticism from the audience Q&A that there weren’t enough currently working sex workers on the panel. There is a history with the MWF of them having an event around the “Invisible Women” book that included several SWERFs on the panel. Rita Therese said she had protested that event and now she is on a panel “suck it bitches!”
There was some discussion about the tragic incident in Sydney and it was a workplace death. Whenever someone is a sex worker and something happens to them that is the thing that is focussed upon by the media.
Nadine Chemali mentioned that we mainly hear from white sex workers and people of colour and those in marginalised communities are afraid to speak up as they are being persecuted. In a lot of cultures people are not open to speaking about sex. The many “massage” places around the place still have people who work at them and they are not heard from at all.
Nic Holas said he is out about his sex work and starring in hardcore porn, but not everyone at his work knows about it. He is more embarrassed from taking money from News Corp than working in porn. There was some discussion about short form writing and online outlets being more receptive to articles written by current sex workers, but if you work for a tabloid expect it to sensationalised.
Fiona Patten said she was outed as a former sex worker to her parents when someone faxed them the front page of a newspaper. She said she was the first former sex worker to serve in Victorian parliament “but many of my clients come before me”. Fiona and Rita Therese both said they had supportive publishers in writing their books and Fiona always likes seeing new sex worker voices.
Jules Kim from the Scarlett Alliance and the member of the audience from Vixen Collective both spoke of the need to be more inclusive and did bring up the past controversies of panels about sex workers that did not have any sex workers on the panel.
There were some good recommendations of books written by sex workers but I did not take them down. I am sure the panellists will fill you in if you get in touch.
It was a good discussion with a lot of things covered. You can follow some of the panellists on social media or just a sex worker if you want a more interesting feed.