Sex work is real work

Olga Steblyk / Lead Photographer

Sex work often conjures up images of red-light districts and disadvantaged women working out of desperation, but these are images that the media has told us are normal.

“Sex work is not like it is in the movies,” says local Brantford sex worker who, for her own safety and privacy, has opted to stay anonymous and be called Jasmine.

Jasmine is a massage attendant at an exotic spa. She works almost every day for anywhere between eight to 10 hours. Jasmine is relatively new to contact sex work, as she was originally an online personality on the subscription-based content service, OnlyFans.

Three months ago, she said she decided to make the transition from a “no-contact sex work position” to a “contact sex work position.” This is not a common switch in the industry, she said, because usually sex workers do this in the reverse. Jasmine said she did not enjoy working from home during her time with OnlyFans, so she took the leap.

“I love interacting with people and I think my experience is a little different from a lot of other girls that go into this job because I didn’t go into sex work out of desperation or the need for money,” said Jasmine. “I went into it to explore my own sexuality and just because I love sex. And why not get paid for it?”

While exploring her sexuality in her current position, she said she is most certainly noticing the lack of education, support and kindness in the sex work industry, especially in Canada.

“Almost every week, I genuinely consider moving to one of the Scandinavian countries that supports sex workers and actually protects them,” said Jasmine. She said in her brief three months as a massage attendant, there have already been many times when she has not felt safe at her job.

At her spa in particular, there are no bouncers, no security system in place or even cameras to ensure the girls’ safety. So she took it upon herself to buy her own personal alarms to have with her during sessions with clients just in case.

“When you’re in the room alone with a customer, there’s not really much that can be done other than to scream and hope that the other girls hear you,” she said.

Luckily, her and her coworkers have not had any major issues in this area, but she said it is important to stay alert and lay down the law with her clients.

“I lay the rules down ahead of time, saying this is what you’re allowed to do, this is how much you’re allowed to touch or not touch. If you wanted extra things you’re going to have to pay for it,” she said. “They understand that nothing is going to come for free and if they do get aggressive, I get aggressive right back.”

In Canada, Bill C-36 states that the purchasing of sex work is illegal, but the selling of sexual services is decriminalized. In theory, this is supposed to protect sex workers and try to abolish prostitution by criminalizing the buyers of sex work. But Jasmine says this does the opposite because sex work is still illegal and there is no protection for sex workers or standards for businesses that sell sex to uphold.

Jasmine said this is extremely frustrating for her and others who work in the sex work field because the responsibility falls on them to ensure their own safety and payment.

“It’s usually just the girl’s responsibility to be safe, you have to fend for yourself. If somebody screws you over and doesn’t give you your money, that’s on you, you lost it, you should ask for it first,” she said.

As a newcomer to this industry, something Jasmine wishes more people knew about sex work is that the people who do this work are people too. They are mothers, daughters and sisters who have chosen to do this and would like protection at their job like anyone else.

This article was originally published in print Volume 23, Issue 8 on Thursday, April 4.

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