For some women standing out in the open, exposed to the gaze and seem of all, threatened by the potential danger, risking limb and reputation, filled with the mixed emotions of fear, tension and excitement, street working offers an adventure matched by few other everyday experiences available to women.
For these women standing alone on the street late at night is the female equivalent to a man's adventure into unmapped territory. In October , at the beginning of this study, 71 brothels parlours or bordellos existed across the Sydney metropolitan region. Three years later, when writing this book, exactly 61 remained. Although this latter figure includes a few new premises, many more had disappeared altogether. The decline was due to some forced closure under the Disorderly Houses Act , but most closed down because of a general decline in business.
Although public fear of AIDS has been largely responsible for this downtrend, much of it is also due to the gradual decline in commercial sex with the increase in casual sex in society over the past 20 years. This will be discussed at length later, but, for the moment, let us look at Sydney's brothel industry in some detail. In Sydney, however, it is a specific term within the sex industry for the little houses in East Sydney. They have been a part of a tradition of brothels located in East Sydney, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills for well over half a century, directly descended from Tilly Devine's Palmer Street trade and the little brothels of the lanes in the s.
In 22 of these houses existed throughout East Sydney and Darlinghurst. Three years later only four remained, and still remain today.
The rest had been forced into closure by the Disorderly Houses Act , the City Council and the local resident action lobby. It was definitely the end of an era. But it is ironic that it should have survived the extensive police pressures of the past only to end in a period of "decriminalisation".
The operation of the East Sydney brothels is traditional. One or two women usually occupy one of these little terrace houses at a time. They stand in an open doorway to attract attention from passing male pedestrians and motorists. Their dress is similar to the women on William Street. The open door and red light are the signals indicating that the house is a brothel. When the door is open, it acts to invite men to step inside and inquire of the prices and services.
When it is closed it signifies that the occupants are busy. Furniture and decor in these places are minimal and not intended to impress visitors. Instead this indicates cheap prices and quick service. Bargaining and "short time", like streetwalkers, are the preferred options. These places have an advantage for the client, according to Lisa, who, like most of the workers in these brothels, is a "professional" of many years and gained her apprenticeship on the streets in the late s and in the lanes in the s:.
Men feel comfortable coming to our houses. They don't want to go to a massage parlour and be asked if they want all weird and wonderful things. They just want to come in here, have sex, pay their money and go. Young girls rush them; they are frightened if they go with the girls around the Cross they will be ripped off.
They like the homey atmosphere of our houses. They feel safe here, and they know that if they leave their wallet on the dressing table and they come back in an hour you're going to give it to them. They know they're not going to catch anything, and no one's going to bash them over the head. They feel welcomed and they know they can come in, sit down and watch television. The other kind of brothel is much more extensive. Colloquially it is referred to as "parlour", having derived from the term "massage parlour" and probably introduced into Sydney in the late s with the demise of the brothels in the lanes from an American West Coast concept of disguising a brothel as a massage clinic in order to avoid the law.
In the s Sydney parlours, like their American counterparts, had prostitutes dressed in the white uniforms of a masseuse, massage tables instead of beds, and no condoms on the premises, so as to minimise arrest. But with the changes in law in , this subterfuge and extortion was no longer necessary and "massage parlours" became brothels, plainly and simply.
It is possible that some police corruption continued by using threats of arrest of managers for living on the earnings. Parlours can be divided into a number of "types". For example, at one end of the trade is the average suburban parlour, with its armchair comfort but lacking exotic and expensive looking trimmings.
At the other end are the elaborate, extravagantly decorated, "haute classe" parlours, which one well-known manager of the famous "Touch of Class" parlour, the late Zara Powell insisted should be referred to as bordellos Reines These are mostly found in the inner city suburbs of Potts Point and Surry Hills. A third type might be the so-called "Asian parlours", which have Asiatic decor and employ Asian mostly Thai immigrant women.
Finally, there are the few bondage and discipline parlours, which cater for speciality services involving sadomasochism, fantasy jobs and other "kinky" sex.
The usual parlour arrangement involves an owner, a manager, a receptionist. Sometimes the owner and the manager are the same person, and sometimes the receptionist has the job of managing the premises. The manager's role is to organise shifts by Fostering each prostitute's working time throughout the week; to keep a ledger of cash received and paid out; to o anise a linen service or the washing; to purchase toiletries, bathroom and other items; to pay prostitutes their earnings at the finish of their shifts; and to hire and fire staff.
The receptionist's role is to answer the phone, make appointments for clients, answer the door, and see to the client's comfort in the waiting room. Although receptionists are not usually assigned authority over the prostitutes, those who have never previously worked in the sex industry sometimes assume a position of superiority over prostitutes based on the common social designation of whores as low status women.
Ironically, under the present legal situation receptionists are vulnerable to arrest for "living on the earnings of a prostitute" while the prostitutes have legal status. When a customer walks into a parlour without a prior appointment, he is the immediate focus of attention.
The receptionist offers him a complimentary drink and then advises the prostitutes on duty so that they might see him for a selection.
The receptionist is anxious to process her part in the operation so as to minimise the time she must spend pampering to his needs in the preparatory stage. She is also often anxious for him to be taken to a room by one of the prostitutes quickly to avoid becoming a sexual object herself. Men entering a brothel assume that all the women inside are available for their sexual whims, otherwise, they rationalise, whatever are they doing there?
However, prostitutes make themselves available in the brothel; receptionists never do. The system of selection is not always the same in every parlour. In some the client enters a lounge room and is seated among the workers, so that he may select the woman of his choice after a look around and a short conversation involving all of them.
In others, each worker on duty enters the waiting room individually so that the client might choose one of them after a series of such entrances and exits. A number of parlours parade their workers in a line, known to some prostitutes by the derogatory term of "meat rack", in order for the client to size each woman up and compare them before he makes his choice. Whichever selection process is used it has the effect of putting the women in a competitive relationship with one another.
Some prostitutes, critical of this system, argue that a client is looking for sex and anyone of the women would do. But a tradition of selection has evolved over the years, so that customers expect to see a number of available women, and this does nothing more than feed their egos and vanities. Most suburban parlours operate on a two shift basis 16 hours while many of the inner city premises have three shifts and are open 24 hours a day.
Women who have been with the same parlour for some time are in the best position to obtain shifts suitable to other routines in their lives and most convenient to their regular customers. Newcomers usually end up with the shifts no-one else wants.
Unlike the streets and the East Sydney brothels, prices in a parlour are fixed by the management and the customer pays for the prostitute's time, rather than a minimum or maximum service. This usually entities him to fellatio and coitus as many times as the man is capable of in the allotted time and any other kind of sexual activity carries an extra fee, or is negotiable with the prostitute. In most parlours, prostitutes are obliged only to participate in masturbation, fellatio or coitus.
If a woman is averse to other forms of sex or "kinky" sex, she may decline the request and refer the customer to a bondage house. But the practice of "extras" is declining because with decreasing business and fewer workers, most parlour owners are anxious to attract more prostitutes to their premises. The big inner city parlours attract more workers because their appearance and reputations are assumed to have a higher turnover of clientele.
Some of these fabulous parlours, with their plush, luxurious and expensive interiors, have cost as much as a quarter of a million dollars just to renovate. Customers are waited on by a manager making certain their needs are served, by a receptionist introducing them to the workers, and by a drink waitress serving the complimentary beverage.
Each man is ushered into a different waiting room, giving him the impression of exclusivity, and ensuring his every whim is satisfied. Many women interviewed have expressed dissatisfaction after having worked in these places, which usually expect them to dress in designer clothes, wear expensive jewellery and have their hair dressed at the most exclusive salons, all at their own expense.
In others, there is a list of workers' earnings displayed for all to see, with the name of the week's highest earner placed on the top each week. If a woman's name consistently appears on the bottom she is fired. Intended to motivate ambition in individuals in a spirit of "fair" competition, it promotes envy, suspicion and lack of confidence. Resentment among the workers in this kind of atmosphere is high, and women have pointed out that rather than a "fair" arrangement, high earning power depends on a number of factors other than an individual's ability, personality and looks.
It depends on such factors as one's shift night workers tend to do better than day workers , one's personal commitments restricting her to daytime work, the inconsistency of client turnover, and favouritism with a boss. A system intending to increase business, often actually has the reverse effect with a rapid turnover of resentful women. Relations between workers and management varies considerably from parlour to parlour.
The assumption that a female boss in a female parlour is a better arrangement than a male boss is not always correct.
Some men in charge are considerate towards their staff, and some women in charge act like tyrants. About half of the parlours are managed by men and about half by women although in many instances the owner is a man , but the problems that most often occur between a boss and a worker are more often due to poor industrial relations than unequal gender relations. There are, of course, instances where male bosses sexually harass their staff and some expect to sleep with new workers to "try them out".
But, some workers claim to prefer male bosses because they are easier to manipulate than a female boss.
Most workers, though, express a preference for a female boss, regardless of how tyrannical she might be, because female bosses are more likely to have a greater concern for health and safety in the workplace.
Women managers will appreciate the need for mandatory condom use in a parlour more than men in charge, who, like the client believe that condoms are a barrier to satisfactory sex. Female bosses are also more likely to have empathy for a worker suffering menstrual tension and not assume it to be a ploy for avoiding work, as some men are likely to do.
On the other hand, female bosses are more likely to detect a sham when it occurs. The crux of the tension in industrial relations in the brothel trade is linked to a conflict of interests.
The boss is motivated by profit; the worker by personal feelings. Thus, the boss expects the worker to see every client, unless he is diseased or violent, and is not prepared to accept her reluctance on grounds of physical repulsion or her fatigue. Some bosses believe their workers are basically lazy, and even rejecting a client under suspicion of infection is considered an excuse to avoid work.
Seeking a second opinion on a client's state of health serves two purposes: A client sitting too long in a waiting room is assumed by some bosses to be one of the worker's boyfriends hanging around or a drug dealer.
They want clients processed in a parlour like an assembly line, with their workers tirelessly doing the processing like machines. The human factor of weariness, and inability to function varying from individual to individual after a given time, and the psychological limitations to repetition are rarely considered in the quest for profit.
When workers complain of overwork, a boss might put on more staff, which then increases competition between workers, builds up staff tensions, and contributes to resentment among workers for the inevitable lowering of income. Unlike other industries, prostitutes have no union or industrial arbitration to turn to when they feel dealt with unfairly. Like any other work situation the presence of a boss in a parlour increases tension and decreases efficiency. Any worker who spends too long in a room with a client or appears to be too nice to a customer, is often suspected of making private arrangements either to get extra money from the client and thereby short-change the boss, or to see the client outside and thereby deprive the boss of regular income.
The problems of the brothel are often not so much related to police harassment, customer aggression or prying officials, but more usually due to the day-to-day administration of the place. The ultimate solution for most Australian prostitutes in Sydney when they feel they are being exploited, harassed and abused is to move to another parlour where the conditions are more satisfactory.
But that is often impossible for the immigrant prostitute, especially if she is in this country illegally. Most of the immigrant prostitutes are Thai, but large numbers also come from Cambodia, the Philippines or China. Even with a three or six-month visa it does not permit them to work in Australia. But many continue to stay and work in Australia after their visas expire, which means they become illegal aliens and as such are targeted by federal immigration officers.
These women are often caught in an economic dilemma. Most have borrowed heavily from opportunistic agents in their own countries to travel here.
These agents are operating an illegal trafficking business and the fees they offer to accrued interest for arranging passage are highly inflated. Since many of the women come from poverty stricken families, and they believe Australians to be extremely wealthy, they grasp the opportunity to work in Australia as prostitutes in the firm belief that they will pay off the debt well before their visas expire and have ample cash to send back to their families.
Invariably, they not only fail to do so but often accrue a further debt in order to pay the first and end up on a treadmill of prostitution and debt peonage. Arrangements for a working venue are usually made in advance by the foreign agents through contacts in Australia, so that the Thai woman with no knowledge of English will be taken to a parlour soon after she arrives.
Most but not all of the brothels receiving the immigrant prostitutes are the "Asian" parlours, so-called because of a decor of pagoda gables, rice-paper lanterns, Chinese screens, prints and other objects, and the Buddist shrines used as altars for prayers and offerings by the women.
Most of the clientele are South-East Asian men resident in Australia, with the occasional overseas visitor and Australian male looking for an "exotic" experience. Because most of the workers are in similar circumstances, these parlours act as a cultural refuge in an alien and sometimes hostile world beyond. Faced with the reality of a much smaller income than anticipated, many of these women are forced to work double shifts, or 16 hours a day, seven days a week, in an effort to rid themselves of their debts and send relief back to their families.
Thus, it is not whips, chains or locked rooms keeping these women tied to a ceaseless life of commercial sex but debt, poverty and a genuine fear for their safety if they return to their homelands still owing the traffickers. Very different is the situation in the bondage parlours.
The women who work in these places are among the most assertive and independent in the sex industry. As Marie put it: Few other sex workers have the same amount of control over their working environment as the bondage mistresses. Bosses often do not interfere with the way they conduct their work, because in some instances the boss does not understand sadomasochism and fantasy and feels more comfortable keeping his or her distance.
In the case of the ex-mistress who is a boss, she understands that this kind of work is a highly personal experience in which the mistress achieves the most efficient business if left to her own devices.
Experienced mistress Fatale explains her situation:. I like working in a dungeon where it is quiet and I have full control over the environment. I put on music which I know will heighten the experience. I am conscious of every move I do, and it is an exercise in all my skills. The compatibility with her working environment can be explained as being an extension of her private preferred home environment:.
I feel comfortable in the dungeon. It's like the way I live at home, in total darkness, like a cave, and this is how I am. My home is like a dungeon and a dungeon is like my home, so I am going from one comfortable environment to another as I go from home to work. To enter a bondage parlour is like passing into another world; a world of science fiction, of fairy tale, or Disneyland, or of a Hollywood set for a Gothic horror movie.
The lighting is dim, reminding one of gaslight, and the hallway walls are festooned with chains, whips and graphic images of torture and pain. The dungeon is the centre piece of this world; a large room painted black and red, with racks, torture wheels, ceiling harnesses, a complete set of whips and canes of every imaginable type on display, and leather suits for confining movement, like the ancient straight jackets of medieval torture chambers.
But the dungeon is not the only room in the house for client fantasies. For those with transvestite fantasies there is a "tranny" room, by contrast well-lit, and decorated with fluffy, frilly ultra-feminine dresses, rows of over sized stiletto-heeled shoes, and a dressing table that would make a film star envious. There is also a medical room, equipped with an operating table, charts and pictures of male and female anatomy on the walls, and every conceivable cutting, slicing, pulling, grasping surgical instrument available.
Water sports with enemas and urinal pans are usually conducted in this room too. Then there are schoolrooms, baby rooms, kindergartens, the variation from house to house is endless. Like most parlours, bondage houses have a "girl's room" where the women can relax between sessions, adjust make-up, hair and clothing, and chat about the last client. Where most prostitutes in other parlours change into conventional garments in this room at the start of a shift, mistresses will be stepping into rubber outfits, zipping up studded leather garments, bat-suits, nurses, teachers or infant costumes ready for a day's work.
According to brothel workers, working in a parlour has one distinct advantage over working the streets: For a lonely woman, working in a parlour can offer an opportunity for regular contact with other women and even for striking up friendships. Cameraderies between brothel workers are not unusual because of the ample time to communicate with one another between visits by clients, especially since they have shared experiences at work, regardless of their individual backgrounds.
There is less opportunity for this on the street, and whatever bonds form among streetwalkers these tend to be more often related to the after hours common experiences of scoring from the same dealers and using drugs together.
But brothel workers also express some disadvantages to working in a parlour. High among these are the restricted working hours, splitting half the takings with the house, and the imbalance of power with the boss in command dictating working conditions.
Another common complaint, especially where workers are not communicative, is boredom, sitting around waiting for the next client. Some workers blame their high level of smoking and drinking on this. For avid readers and students filling in time with an assignment, this is less of a problem, and may even be an advantage. But for some women, the parlour can be a lonely, tedious, stultifying environment relieved only by the occasional session with a client. Where intra-staff relations or relations between staff and management are strained, the confined space of the parlour can intensify disharmony and alienation, and a petty disagreement might trigger off months of tension and exacerbate an already explosive situation.
While this sort of situation can arise in any workplace, in a brothel, where there is an atmosphere of sexual tension, anxieties about clients, perhaps anxieties about one's own role, and the constant fear of public exposure, strained industrial or staff relations will exaggerate events to such a level that resolution becomes impossible.
This kind of situation can encourage an ex-streetwalker, who may have left the streets because of the daily hassles of visible prostitution, to return to the free-ranging life of street soliciting. Escort work also takes place in a brothel which offers house or hotel calls. An available brothel worker will be sent by taxi or hired driver to the place designated by the client over the phone.
It works much the same way for escorts attached to an agency independent of the brothel trade. I would phone up and tell them I would be on call that night. Then I got dressed ready to go out, and sat home waiting for the phone to ring.
I would catch a cab to the hotel, meet the client in the bar, fill in the Bankcard or take the money, phone through to the office to tell them I've arrived, have a drink with the client and go out or up to his room.
Most of the work was fairly chatty, chatting about his business or silly small talk, do the job in his room, and then phone through after it to let them know I've finished.
Escort work can sound glamorous and exciting, especially with a client with a high public profile. But it can also be the most dangerous of all prostitution work, as Zoe points out:. The job risk is much higher than in parlours. You are very vulnerable in the client's room and have no control over the situation, which can be pretty frightening if things get nasty.
You always let the client know that you have to phone the office before and after the job so that he is aware that you are being guarded. If you haven't phoned in an hour after you've told the office you've arrived when you are booked for an hour job, presumably they would send someone out looking for you.
But meantime you could be dead. What is referred to as "private prostitution" in Sydney is the equivalent to the work of the American "call girl". This is the most clandestine operation of the "professional" forms of prostitution.
The most basic example is one or two women in a rented flat answering phone calls from clients thus, the term "call girl" and making appointments to see them in the flat. The number of women involved in one such business can be as high as four or five.
There are also situations where a person rents an apartment or house and hires a few women as "call girls". The owner-manager might take all incoming calls and arrange the appointments. Although this kind of arrangement has all the earmarks of privacy and exclusivity, and certainly no one is seen without an appointment, in structure it is more like a mini-parlour then an independent "call girl" business.
In October I estimated there were some 76 "private prostitution" businesses see p. To gain an impression of numbers of private operations the advertisements in two major weekly publishing outlets for prostitute advertisers, viz. Under the column heading of "Home Entertainments" in Naughty Sydney were 46 entries; but after eliminating all duplicate phone numbers the total left was 38 businesses. Under the column heading of "Escort Services" in Naughty Sydney were 62 entries; but after eliminating all duplicate phone numbers and the obvious parlour advertisements the total left was 44 businesses.
Under the column heading of "Personal" in Wentworth Courier were entries, but excluding those for "straight" massage, male escorts, "call boys" and obvious parlours, the total left was businesses. Consideration, however, should be given to the probability of some businesses with two or more phone numbers which are impossible to determine by looking at the entries.
It is likely that, if known, the elimination of these would reduce the total quite significantly. This estimation does not necessarily mean that the number of "call girls" has doubled, but, applying the "rule of thumb" approach of , and comparing this with the decline in numbers of parlours, there does seem to be some correlation between the decrease in one and the increase in the other.
Ignoring probable discrepancies due to some businesses with two or more telephone numbers, and what appears to be a much higher ratio of single workers in than in , the calculated average of two workers per business decided on in the estimates will give us a total of women, compared to only in Since as many as 10 parlours have closed between and , it might be argued that more "call girls" in represents the shift of previous parlour workers into private operations.
Such a calculation, however, especially without knowledge of actual individuals involved in this surmised relocation, should be treated with caution, and used as a guide to possible trends only.
Can this mean that "private prostitution" has become more attractive to those "professional" prostitutes as business in general declines in the sex industry? Private prostitution depends solely on advertisements for recruiting business.
The amount of new business acquired through word of mouth is almost negligible and certainly not sufficient to maintain a business. The trick to advertising prostitution is not to be blatant so as to attract the law prohibiting the advertisement of commercial sex, yet to make it obvious to the male reader what the advertiser intends. This can be done without mentioning sexual services which also contravenes the obscene publication law nor prices because the implications are potent enough for the interested parties.
Advertising prostitution is highly competitive and for the "call girl" totally dependent on it she has to offer a "personal service" in order to compete with the big parlours, and she must individualise her advertisement to attract the potential client searching for his special sexual fantasy in order to compete with other "call girls". The result is often highly imaginative text, coupled with wit and a childish prattle which seems to accompany the fantasies of male sexuality.
Some advertisements pander to male fantasies for exotica, others to coquettishness, and yet others to a kind of adolescent or infantile sex romp. A few examples of the text of these advertisements will suffice to illustrate the point:.
Oriental Delights Excitingly different International ladies of your choice. Try our new Spanish and Indonesian delight. Mediterranean Magic New to Sydney, leggy attractive lady, black hair, fair skin and very, very friendly. Black is Beautiful So too is Santina Carribean Beauty Dark hair, dark skin with fabulous body and a soft, caring touch. Leeza is sweet and serene but will make your desires just sizzle with satisfaction.
She adores dressing up and will fantasise beyond your wildest dreams. I am a sophisticated intelligent well-bred well spoken lady offering an opportunity for discreet executive to experience The initial contact with the client is by the phone. He may be enquiring about prices, or just trying to find out if the woman on the other end sounds like his fantasy or suits his personality.
It is this moment when the "call girl" needs to exercise all her skills at salesmanship, by coming across as pleasant, sexy and nice to be with, without giving too much away. After all, it might be a policeman on the other end and mentioning sex and prices could be construed as advertising. The most successful "call girls" are those with a pleasant disposition on the phone, a sense of wit and alluring. While the advertisement might arouse a man's interest, the phone conversation has to make the woman irresistible because even after making an appointment some men fail to keep it.
Many clients ring a number of "call girls" and then decide which they most like the sound of. The "call girl" also needs to be skilful in evaluating her caller by his tone, expression and enquiries in case she invites a dangerous man to her place.
But once this is done to her satisfaction and an appointment is made, the next step is to try to develop the new client into a regular. The business of the "call girl" turns over at a much slower rate than in a brothel, so she needs to cultivate a higher ratio of regular clientele. Men who prefer visiting a "call girl" to visiting a brothel are usually seeking more than sex; they are often looking for a female friend, companion or mistress.
The "call girl" recognises this and acts the pseudo-mistress with her regular clients, so that she might have a number of mini-relationships going at the same time. The emotional strain of keeping such pretence going is much more draining than the brothel worker who sees her clients for the express purpose of sexually satisfying them.
Although some clients in brothels do develop an attachment for certain women and this adds a strain in the relationship for the workers, the "call girl", from the first visit when the man arrives nervous and uncertain, must appear calm and amicable towards him even though she too might be secretly anxious, and thereafter as he becomes a weekly regular she has to maintain an intense level of intimacy with him.
And, while she might be the only woman he has such intimacy with, she is on the same terms with as many as a dozen or more men. The streetwalker who refers to the "call girl" as a "lazy flatbacker" obviously has never been in her situation.
There are certain distinct advantages to the working life of the "call girl". Not the least of these, so far as she is concerned, is the anonymity of the work. Whereas the streetwalker is in public view for all to see, and the brothel worker is occasionally discovered by a man known to her, or worse, a member of her close family like the Canberra parlour worker whose father walked into her workplace as a client , the "call girl" through the expediency of "sussing" a caller out on the telephone can usually detect anyone known to her.
In any case, she can always spot a man who has made an appointment through the "peep-hole" in the door. Since much of their work is carried out in the daytime, a mother of young children can work as a "call girl" between say 10 a.
She does not have to abide by a roster system. The chief disadvantage to working as an independent "call girl", especially if a woman decides to work alone, is the risk of violence. In spite of great skills at detecting a maniac on the phone a misjudgment sometimes occurs, and then the woman has to call upon all her powers of persuasion and remain calm in a potentially deadly situation if she is to escape injury.
If this fails the results are sometimes fatal. The history of prostitution is filled with tragic situations when a woman is alone with a crazed misogynist, like Julie Plater, who was bashed to death on Christmas Eve, , when she saw a man alone in a parlour in Harris Park, or of the horrifying death of the Kings Cross worker who saw a man alone and died with a leg of a chair shoved into her eye and brain. The heavy dependence upon advertisements is another distinct disadvantage of running a private operation.
If a newspaper in which an advertisement appears regularly suddenly decides to cease taking advertisements from prostitutes or deletes the "personal" column a "call girl's" business is drastically affected immediately. When the Manly Daily stopped running its "personal column" in the number of private operations on the North Shore rapidly declined almost overnight although when another printed outlet was found some re-opened. These then are the main types of prostitution carried out by "professional" prostitutes in Sydney.
As stated at the beginning of this Section they do not differ much from similar operations in other western cities, and if they do differ noticeably it is usually in degree rather than kind. The famous "window" prostitution in Amsterdam, for instance, is not unlike the east Sydney brothels, except the Dutch prostitute sits behind a house window while the Sydney worker stands in a doorway.
The women's attire, the male cruising, the bargaining, and closing curtains or door when busy are basically the same; the minor differences are but variations on a theme.
Perhaps the aspect of prostitution which most fascinates many people is why women enter the sex industry in the first place. Many researchers have attempted to answer this by providing psychological motives from events in childhood or early adolescence.
But as we have seen, there have been so many conflicting opinions on the subject that little has been gained in this line of investigation. Jennifer James found early negative sexual experiences as a possible predetermining factor for her street and juvenile samples. In the previous Chapter, the present study indicates an early coital experience as a possible predisposing motive for women entering prostitution at a later date, based on a more representative sample of sex workers, and, unlike the studies of James , Mimi Silbert and Nanette Davis , these early sexual activities were little different in kind to the similar experiences of other women.
This Section, however, concerns the immediate motives for women becoming prostitutes, and attempts to reconstruct a scenario linking reasons given by the prostitute sample for entering prostitution, with the findings in the social background variables discussed in the last Chapter.
Distribution of streetwalkers, brothels, strip clubs and bars in Kings Cross Distribution of streetwalkers, brothels and houses of assignation in East Sydney and Darlinghurst Brothels and streetwalkers in Sydney metropolitan area Firstly, it is useful to consider some general social perceptions on why women enter prostitution.
The two non-prostitute samples of female university students and health-workers as indicators were asked if they had ever considered taking up prostitution themselves. Keeping in mind that in the preliminary stages of this study 13 completed questionnaires from these two groups were discarded lest they biased the findings, the balance responded as shown in Figure 4. Quite obviously prostitution is largely rejected as a job option. But in view of the high level of social resistance to the sex industry and the negative misconceptions about it, it may be surprising to find so many of the health-workers and students considered it at all, let alone nearly 9 per cent of the original number of respondents to the questionnaire who admitted to actually working as prostitutes.
Because the prostitute stereotype is a constant image of the archetypal "bad girl" in the subconscious of most women, it frequently flashes into the conscious mind whenever the individual thinks of "sin", "sexual promiscuity", "wantoness" and other concepts of negative socio-sexual behaviour. Other images, such as the nun stereotype for "purity", the temptress stereotype for "seductiveness", the virgin stereotype for "innocence", the housewife stereotype for "duty", the mother stereotype for "nurturance", also play their part of emerging from the subconscious whenever the conceptual occasion arises.
Women therefore relate to any of these at different times depending on the situation. Thus, a woman who is constantly concerned about her sexual behaviour with men may often fantasise about herself in the role of a prostitute, but she more than likely will never actually take on this role.
Many more women imagine themselves as prostitutes than actually become them. Those who do may simply be women who have put their fantasies into reality. In view of this, the imagined prostitute role will no doubt include motives for entering prostitution.
The two samples of non-prostitutes responded to a question on why they thought women entered prostitution. The reasons they gave are listed in Table 4. Very clearly the non-prostitute sample imagine drug-taking and economic imperatives as the most frequent reasons for women entering prostitution. They also imagine that pimp manipulation, greed and a higher income incentive, and a past as uncontrollable children or juvenile delinquency are powerful motives in women becoming prostitutes.
It is interesting to note the high ratios of psychological motives, such as low self-esteem, lack of love or affection, loneliness and nymphomania, supposed as underlying reasons for taking up prostitution. The list complements the usual assumptions about prostitutes made in the media, such as drug addiction, pimps, low self-esteem and poverty as the main contributors to women's entrance into prostitution. The general assumption here is that prostitution is such an odious existence that no woman in her right mind would freely choose it as an occupation; some powerful driving force over which they have no control gets them involved.
The reasons prostitutes give for having entered the sex industry, however, tell a very different story, as is seen in Figure 4. These subjects gave multiple answers, so that separate reasons were given. Percentages are of number of subjects to each reason. An immediate contrast with the imagined motivations for entering prostitution suggested by the health-workers and students presents itself Whereas the non-prostitutes supposed that drug addiction and pimp manipulation were high level motivations for becoming prostitutes, the reality of the prostitute sample is that these feature quite low among motivations.
The economic motives of unemployment, supporting families and pursuing higher incomes given by the prostitutes as reasons for their own entrance into the sex industry do coincide more closely with the assumed motives given by the non-prostitutes. Another economic motive often overlooked by non-prostitutes is that of offering commercial sex in order to pay for an education, for money needed to take an overseas trip, to pay off debts, to purchase a car, house or other large expensive item, or for some other specific purpose.
It is far from unusual to find a prostitute with a specific goal, giving herself a time span in which to earn a high income and acquire the desired object or objective.
The reality is then that the vast majority of prostitutes have entered the business for money and remain in it for money. In other words, prostitutes see and treat prostitution as a job option, unlike most non-prostitutes, who see it as an expression of a psycho-social deficiency. The age of entrance for the prostitute sample provides further insight into this phenomenon. Most prostitutes seem to enter the sex industry in their late adolescence to early twenties.
Very few were in their early adolescence and little over 10 per cent were over 30 when they began. An interesting pattern occurs in the 16 to 25 years age group which would indicate that there are two age periods when large numbers of women enter the sex industry: The first period saw the entry of many of those girls who had experienced early coitus.
These girls may have been promiscuous teenagers with a long history of coital activity, or, just as likely, they may have been girls who found prostitution the only means to pay for their drug habits. The women entering prostitution in their early twenties, on the other hand, are mostly women making clear and rational choices about becoming prostitutes based on a strong economic motive, either in order to pay for an expensive item or some other benefit, or, as Figure 4.
Women who choose prostitution as a higher paying occupation represent over 40 per cent of the sample: Like many women in their early twenties, they have become dissatisfied with their low-paying jobs and little chance of an early promotion, and sought other means of earning much more in a much shorter span of time.
Well, possibly no other job options for higher earning power are open to them, and maybe, as women confident of their sexuality, prostitution seems attractive to them as mature young women. But it is not that simple. There is one other important, almost essential, ingredient for entering the sex industry which enables the mature woman despondent with her working life to cross the barrier of social taboo and adopt the role of prostitute. Let us listen to what some of the prostitutes I interviewed have to say.
Martine entered the sex industry for a clearly economic purpose:. I didn't have any money and I couldn't get a job. I was very depressed because I couldn't make any money, and I knew women working in bondage and discipline and this sounded too good to be true. It did also fascinate me and I wanted to do it. So I just started because there were opportunities there. I didn't have any trouble getting a job because one of the women running the place was a personal friend of mine.
I needed some money because I was having legal hassles and my present job wasn't bringing in enough to pay for this. A girl friend of mine had an escort agency and this seemed the quickest way to get the amount of money I needed. She was the first prostitute I had ever met.
I sat around with her listening to her conversations about work, and sat there with my mouth open hearing her on the phone making appointments. There was my girlfriend, Sharon and Kerry, the prostitute, who needed two girls to see two men. The phone call came and we just happened to be sitting there, and Kerry said: All you have to do is make love to these guys.
It will be real easy. The whole fear was getting over the first time. I met an old school friend and we had lunch together. She told me she was a prostitute and how much money she made.
She asked me if I would "sit" for her one night at five pounds a night in the s. But the fellows kept asking for me, not her. So, I thought, I must be sitting on a gold mine. And that's how I started. Caroline had also worked in the sex industry other than as a prostitute before becoming a sex worker herself:.
I arrived here without a job or money. Because I had worked as a receptionist it was easy for me to look for a parlour to work in. If I had not worked as a receptionist in a parlour before, there's no way I would have become a prostitute. I would rather have begged on the street than become a prostitute. It's marvellous just how many cops have got girls jobs. The first time occurred because I needed money to go overseas; I was determined to go overseas.
But it probably wouldn't have happened, or I wouldn't have thought about it, had it not been for the fact that I lived in the Cross, where a lot of my social life was spent. Although I didn't personally know any prostitutes, I knew of many hanging around coffee shops and other places. I thought about prostitution as a possibility to earn money for about a month before I actually tried it. We have earlier seen how Jeanette's husband turned out to be pimp and put her on the street pp.
Streetwalker Kelly had very similar experience:. I was living with this guy for four years and his ex--wife was a prostitute. As the years went by I found out he was having an affair with a girlfriend of mine and he started her working. Being as it may, love is blind, and I gave him an ultimatum: Apart from Kelly and Jeanette, these women entered prostitution for economic reasons although one could argue that pimping is also an economic motive, except the motivation is from the pimp, not the prostitute.
But in all of these examples one common factor clearly presents itself. Each of these women knew someone - a friend, a policeman, a prostitute who hires her, or prostitutes and their work generally - before they entered the sex industry.
It would appear that for most women an economic imperative or even a psychosexual inclination is not enough otherwise, the argument goes, all poor women and nymphomaniacs would automatically become prostitutes, which, of course, they do not. It seems that just as important as these two factors is the need for a woman to be closely associated with the industry first, or to have acquired some knowledge about it, before she actually takes the step to become a prostitute herself.
But there are exceptions. Marie is one such exception. You will recall that she was raised in a home with exceptionally frank views on sexual behaviour p. This might indicate that for Marie becoming a prostitute might present less trauma than for most women.
However, she entered the sex industry without prior knowledge about it:. I could see my money getting smaller and smaller, and I didn't really want to go back to one of those casual jobs; that kind of thing didn't appeal to me any more. I could easily have got a job and I had lots of offers in the fashion industry, but it just didn't appeal to me. I thought I would like to do something different. I had seen these ads in the paper, which said something like: It took me a whole day to make the phone call, and another whole day for me to get it together to go around there and see them.
I was surprised to find the other women there a lot like me because I had expected them to be different, like floozies. Here is an insight into the reason for so few women entering the sex industry as prostitutes. If a woman with Marie's liberal and open family life was so hesitant when her economic and psychosexual inclinations could have been motivation enough, it is understandable why simply being poor or inclined to promiscuity is not enough for most women not to just contemplate prostitution, many women do that , but actually to become prostitutes.
Knowledge or knowing someone is the key nexus between economic or sexual motives and practising commercial sex.
Certainly, those women above, judging by their comments, would never have become prostitutes had it not been for a friend, a cop or contact with the industry previously.
If Marie is an unusual case and, I must suppose, that there are other women with similar backgrounds who underwent similar experiences , then Katherine's case might even be more unusual.
Because I have been overwhelmingly curious about it, and having lived in London and run a wine bar, I used to see a lot of guys who needed extra attention. Having given it away for such a long time and feeling that that is not very fulfilling, and having travelled around living out of a rucksack for a few years, I wanted a bit of comfort as well. Not to make a fortune, but just to live comfortably and have a bit of money to spare to help people and involve myself in other areas that I like.
Prostitution gives you the security, but it also gives you a lot of free time. Katherine had an economic motive for entering prostitution, and it seems that her "overwhelming curiosity" might have been the other side to a sex life that was not "very fulfilling". You will recall she had never had an orgasm before the day she began prostitution p.
Obviously there was a very powerful psychosexual motive propelling her towards sexual experimentation. It seems that for her, prostitution was an inevitable conclusion, or, at least, would have eventually been attempted in her quest for fulfilment as a sexual being. As it was she was nearly 33 when she became a prostitute, an age well beyond the average for entrance. None of this should detract from the fact that overwhelmingly entrance into prostitution in inexorably linked to the economic situation of the women who become prostitutes.
According to an American study conducted by John Decker in , 31 per cent of his sample of 29 mid-west prostitutes took up commercial sex for entirely economic reasons, 10 per cent did so for psychological reasons, and 59 per cent became involved due to a combination of factors.
Eileen McLeod's , pp. It was clear to all of these researchers that the economic position of women entering prostitution is a reflection of the situation of females generally. In spite of women's better education and involvement in the nation's productive output, men still remain the economically privileged sex. Hackneyed arguments to prop up this inequality, such as men need more money as the family "breadwinner", no longer have validity in the face of increases in double-income families, divorce rates and single mothers.
The high ratio of single mothers in prostitution is one example of this. Prostitutes generally are women who have tried to address the disparity in wage-earning power by entering the sex industry. But, as we have seen, they are just the tip of the iceberg. A common assumption exists that prostitutes are women incapable of other kinds of employment.
Little separates the three groups in their past work experiences. Popular perceptions might have assumed a much higher ratio of other sex work, such as stripping and pornographic movies, for the prostitutes.
But the most instructive finding here is the low ratio of prostitutes who had never had any other work experiences. What this configuration indicates is that prostitutes are women who have emerged from the general workforce; prostitution is not their first and only work.
A comparison of Table 4. A glance at both Tables 4. Little can be gleaned from this profile, however, that might provide some indication of the prostitutes as a group of women with special work skills.
In fact, on the contrary, they appear to be a highly diversified group. But if anything, their work experiences do seem to lean towards the lower paid occupations of factory work, office work, sales work, domestic work and work in the service industry.
This might explain why prostitution might appear an attractive economic alternative to the women involved in those occupations, but it does not help us to understand why women in high paid administrative occupations or in arts with a high level sense of creative achievement would turn to prostitution.
Comparing this Table 4. Fatale, you may recall, is the bondage mistress with a close affinity with her working environment p. She is also an artist, and to understand this side of her is to understand why an artist could find sex work attractive. I am from London originally,. I am a lawyer who has also lived in Hong Kong and New York. I confess that I have wanted to explore the possibility of seeing you for some time but I was a little nervous given you are … well, let's be honest, now so well-known.
But my intrigue has got the better of me. Would you happen to be free for dinner next Tuesday night? For the record, I did meet with Fraser and he was lovely.
And in our four-hour meeting we had very pleasant sex once, for nine minutes, and that was right at the beginning. The rest of the time we talked. And as for Ben: I find that these days men are more interested in talking to me than having sex with me. And you may find it hard to believe that I often find myself leaving appointments feeling sexually frustrated, sometimes cursing the fact I ever wrote that bloody book.
Instead of feeling refreshed, elated and relaxed after a marathon sex session with a nice man, I'd usually depart a hotel room feeling like I'd just done a Q and A and book-signing session.
Take a dear regular, Lee. He was young, with a big head of frizzy hair and a weakness for working girls, and he had been a client with my agency since the day we launched. He would always buy the girls a gift and the girls loved him.
He was a pleasure to deal with and he was always so polite to me. And that day finally arrived. He was so nervous I thought he was going to pass out. I tried to kiss him but his lips were trembling so much.
I've never been with a celebrity before. I don't know whether to feel horny or starstruck. I had to laugh. Is that how clients saw me: It was very sweet - if only my sex life didn't have to suffer.
Or there was Cam, the truckie who booked me for an hour at his city hotel one December afternoon. I knew that when I clapped eyes on him standing by the lifts, I was going to have the best sex of my life.
It had been ages since I'd had sex, and the sun was out, it was Christmas time, I was in a good mood ….
Cam wasn't attractive at all, but you'd know by now that attractiveness rarely matters. I can have the best sex with the most unattractive men - and it's usually those kinds of men who make me orgasm. Most escorts say the same thing: Maybe we relax more? Maybe we actually like them as people more? Maybe we feel more powerful, more in control? A good-looking client just makes me nervous. A good-looking client who is an arrogant dickhead is the worst kind of client; any girl will tell you that.
Anyway, Cam was bald and stocky with a moustache which had a bit of cheese in it I think it was cheese. He was wearing a gold chain, a red checked shirt and these big, chunky workmen's boots.
He lacked decorum, he was brash and rough around the edges. When we got to the tiny studio room I put my bag down and went to kiss him. You're in trouble today …" I whispered seductively into his hairy ear...
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