The sex industry comment wars rage on – Tess Ryan has her say

johnboy 11 November 2008 124

Front page browsers will be fascinated to learn that the loquacious sex worker Tess Ryan has waded in to the raging inferno that the death of Janine Cameron has kicked off.

So here’s what Tess had to say:

    Given that I spent eight years working in Canberra’s studios and still know many Canberra studio workers, I hope that my experience will lend me some credibility when engaging in this enormous discussion.

    There is really no point in saying that I’m different because I’m independent. I worked in studios for a long time, and I enjoyed it and found it to be empowering, fun, interesting and positive. Some haven’t had that type of experience, and I acknowledge that each individual has led their own life and their experiences are valid whether they are similar to mine or not. However, to say that the only experience a person can have as a sex worker is negative, whether in a studio or elsewhere, is painting with a broad brush to your own agenda.

    Of course I realise that there are people whose minds are made up, and can always find some way of justifying their own position despite any evidence to the contrary. The argument that my experiences must be different to everyone else’s is a common one, although it never seems to correlate that a negative experience also isn’t everyone’s. It’s so much more comfortable to acknowledge that which meshes with your own beliefs. Cognitive Dissonance wins again.

    Sex workers who work in studios are not forced to. They can choose where they want to work and if the conditions, rules, receptionists, other workers or general environment aren’t to their liking they can go to a different one.

    Some studios have strict rules, some have almost none. Some have a policy against drug or alcohol use, some take the view that it is the workers’ choice. Those who say that the sex industry in general, or the Canberra industry in particular, is ‘rife with drugs, underage girls, organised crime and violence’ are indulging in a rather twisted fantasy.

    Why they are choosing to indulge in it is something that I’m not sure I want to explore, but it’s quite common for people to eagerly repeat stories of sex slavery and other sexualised violence against women with a lascivious gleam in their eye while mouthing disapproval. There are times when I can only shake my head in astonishment.

    What happened with Janine Cameron is a tragedy, but it would be no less of a tragedy were she to have died elsewhere.

    There are drugs all through society, at every level. Please note that when I refer to drugs I really mean drugs and alcohol. Some people use them, some don’t. Some use them for a lifetime without any negative impact, some use for a day and everything falls apart. Sometimes it ends in death, and I would hope that everyone would feel regret at that outcome.

    Some people seem to think that cracking down on drug use will stop these problems. Despite the evidence that countries which have a no tolerance policy on drug use and no NSP have negative health and community outcomes.

    What happens when drug users have to hide their drug use because of increased harassment? It becomes more dangerous. It increases the risk that if they overdose they won’t have anyone to help them, that they will be rushed and damage themselves while using, that they will take less time and be less careful about how they use. That can result in increases in incidents of death from overdose, Hep C infection, endocarditis and vein problems.

    I applaud Simon Corbell for taking the time to get informed about the Canberra sex industry before speaking out, for meeting with sex workers to discuss the current issues, speaking with the police about their interactions with the industry, and for not jumping on the political bandwagon. He’d be much more popular if he was making uninformed statements about the industry needing to be more heavily regulated, but he didn’t take that easy route. Before any conspiracy theorists start, he is not a client of mine and I disagree with some of his past actions, but credit where it is due (sorry dexi, but I know you’ll still love me in the morning, no?).

    The Canberra Times should be ashamed of that article. Their inclusion of Julie was unnecessary, not to mention irrelevant to the death of Janine Cameron, as was most of their unrelated incidents that they threw in like a dog’s breakfast. Because Julie was a sex worker her death is in some way related to the industry? How rude. Given the plethora of information floating around Canberra about that court case the Times would surely be aware that it was not. It makes such good copy though, doesn’t it?

    For the feminists: please stop reading the likes of Sheila Jefferies, try some Roberta Perkins to even out the perspective.

    Those who seek to control our sexuality through feminism are ignoring our right to autonomy and are in fact more insidious and damaging than the worst sexist male, who can be dismissed easily as a relic. A woman saying that the sex other women engage in should be controlled and certain types eliminated is respected as though she is somehow free from bias or cultural conditioning. It is wise to remember that feminists are subject to the same influences as everyone else in society.

    I’m still not sure why people assume that regular exposure to male genitals and money would cause a reduction in intelligence, autonomy and strength of character, who knew that that the penis was so potent?

    Many sex workers, myself included, are feminists but we tend to form our own opinions on the rhetoric. We could perhaps be described as some of the most radical feminists, in as far as we are distanced even from the feminist movement by those who should be our strongest supporters. Xenophobia manifests in many ways.

    The well intentioned ignorant do more damage to the rights of the individual than any regime.

    I know there are studies which say that sex workers experience high levels of assault, mental health issues, drug use, etc. I’ve seen them. Most of those studies tend to be from countries which have criminalised or heavily regulated industries, with few exceptions. There are often problems in their methodology including interview techniques, testing protocols, collation and statistical analyses. You should never believe everything you read in a study, you should carefully check their methodology, their critics, their publishing history, the type of journal it was published in, whether the journal is peer-review, their references, whether the study passed an ethics committee and which one, whether it was academic or privately funded and the background and qualifications of those who ran it.

    Try looking at the Australian studies that show a very different picture of the industry to those cited by anti-prostitution campaigners, which show high levels of education, job satisfaction and autonomy amongst Australian sex workers. If you can go to the effort of finding the negative studies, then finding the positive ones should be just as easy. If you are confident in your assessment of the industry then you shouldn’t be afraid to look at the other side of the coin.

    As for the Swedish model, everyone loves that one except the sex workers in Sweden who have to live under it.

    A short excerpt from Petra Östergren, ‘Sexworkers Critique of Swedish prostitution Policy’ says:

    “…sex workers in Sweden experience difficulty in finding accommodation and constantly worry about being discovered. Consequently, they are either forced to move or pay exorbitant rents. They cannot increase their level of safety by working in pairs or groups and find it difficult to have any sort of domestic or family life as they are considered to be unfit parents. Östergren writes that sex workers find the law paradoxical, illogical and discriminatory. ‘It further obstructs their work and exposes them to danger.’ The better clients have gone away but the more dangerous and perverted ones remain and when apprehended are likely to deny that they paid for sex, if indeed they have. Greater competition leads to lower prices, but this only means that women take risks and are more likely to perform acts that they would have refused previously. Sex workers feel hunted by the police and dare not report abusive customers. However, they still feel stigmatised as weak, dirty and mentally ill, or as having drug problems. Some of the sample interviewed by Östergren reported that they felt used by politicians, feminists and the media who brag and tell lies about the beneficial effect of the Swedish law in comparison with other countries. They are only listened to if they say the politically correct thing.”

    More can be found here for those that are interested:

    I’m afraid that it’s true, many people choose sex work who have other options. The studies I mentioned earlier show that sex workers come from all walks of life, and that’s consistent with the range of people I have met through the industry. Does the choice of a woman without a University education have any less validity than that of those who are qualified as nurses, teachers, academics, lawyers and social workers? I tend toward the view that each individual has the right to make their own choices without needing to justify them to others, and certainly not to strangers who persist in referring to them as victims.

    Some people have asked why sex workers don’t tend to discuss our work with friends and relatives (or strangers on websites), and then go on to say that we must be ashamed, and that shame is what we should be feeling. Those attitudes are precisely why people don’t discuss it. Why should we expose ourselves to such unwarranted vitriol? Is it our responsibility to have that fight every single time we meet someone new?

    You can’t win an argument with an ignorant person.

    There are some here (and everywhere) who won’t listen to a word I say, because they don’t want to. It’s better to remain ignorant, because ignorance is bliss, I can see that and even sympathise a little. It must make life a lot easier, god knows mine would be if I believed everything I read in the Times. Why should we publicly proclaim ourselves sex workers and then defend our choices? It just can’t stack up against evidence like ‘What some bloke down the pub told me’, ‘What I saw on A Current Affair last night’ and the all time classic ‘Everybody knows that…’.

    Thank goodness there are those who are willing to listen to all points of view before forming an opinion, and who have the moral strength to reassess even their most treasured opinions whenever new information comes to light.

    Several people have pointed out that I, and those other sex workers who have commented here in a positive way about the industry, do not answer questions about our personal lives, relationships and partners. When we choose not to discuss it, because it is in fact no one’s business but our own, they jump to the immediate conclusion that the real reason for not telling complete strangers everything about our personal lives must be because our relationships are flawed or non existent.

    For the record, the majority of sex workers I have known have been in relationships while working. They tend to break up, make up, fight, love, have children, be romantic and all the other things involved in a relationship just as much or as little as everyone else. The only real difference is in the ‘type’ (god help us we just can’t escape the stereotyping) of partner they have. The partners are men, women, trans, het, bi, gay, young, old and every conceivable variation on human you can think of.

    The one thing they aren’t though, is people who judge us for our work.

    So to the whole ‘all sex work is wrong.. wrong.. WRONG’ gang, please feel free to MYOB. I don’t need your respect, I have my own.

    …and that of my family, friends and coworkers. 😉

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124 Responses to The sex industry comment wars rage on – Tess Ryan has her say
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PurenPretty PurenPretty 6:04 pm 05 Dec 08

dexi said :

Haven’t we done this all before. You sound like you need to talk to someone. Bringing back a dead thread after being asked to let another die might not be the best option.

If the treads still here, people are still reading it and if I’ve got something to say, I will, whether it be here or somewhere else!

dexi dexi 5:26 pm 05 Dec 08

Haven’t we done this all before. You sound like you need to talk to someone. Bringing back a dead thread after being asked to let another die might not be the best option.

PurenPretty PurenPretty 5:11 pm 05 Dec 08

Mr_Shab said :

Purenpretty – I’m sure you’ve got something to say here; but if you don’t elaborate, then you’re pretty much leaving us in the dark. What do you mean by “addictive”? What tactics to brothel owners use to “lure a young girl” into working for them?

For whatever reason people enter the sex industry, the main reason is obviously the money. With this money brings a new and more extravagant lifestyle, what you couldn’t afford before is suddenly possible. Maybe “The Party Lifestyle”. An addictive lifestyle, and more money than an average young girl is going to make in a majority of other employment areas. I have seen brothels written advertising notices outside shopping centres and have seen brothel owners flash $$$$$ around to get new faces into their establishments.

But is, what you do as a sex worker (escort) whatever you want to call it, when you enter that room and close that door, forever long the booking may be, really worth that extra money. NO WAY, your selling yourself short. Even, if you see a client and sit and talk to them the whole booking and don’t have sex, its not worth your dignity and reputation in society. Your not going to try and tell me your going to walk down the street with any self respect.

MissMoniker MissMoniker 3:46 pm 05 Dec 08

PurenPretty said :

How many hookers have a cent to their name.

Oh yes “PurenPretty”, I can see how that statement would be a powerful way to “lure a young girl into working in the sex industry”. How insightful you are, brilliant.

PurenPretty PurenPretty 2:54 pm 05 Dec 08

How many hookers have a cent to their name.

Mr_Shab Mr_Shab 2:49 pm 05 Dec 08

Purenpretty – I’m sure you’ve got something to say here; but if you don’t elaborate, then you’re pretty much leaving us in the dark. What do you mean by “addictive”? What tactics to brothel owners use to “lure a young girl” into working for them?

PurenPretty PurenPretty 2:39 pm 05 Dec 08

Watching a brothel owner in action, trying to lure a young girl into working in the sex industry is particularly digusting.

rivett2008 rivett2008 11:53 pm 01 Dec 08


So if you know its an addictive, dangerous lifestyle could you shed some light into your own personal experience into the working industry? You do have alot of comments on different sites so one would think you are a ex worker or one that visits these places often?

PurenPretty PurenPretty 11:33 pm 01 Dec 08

I-filed said :

I know four former sex workers who delivered the same spin as Tess while they were ‘working’ – and believed themselves at the time. They have done a complete turnaround since giving up the work and don’t even allow their closest friends to mention their time in the trade. Cognitive dissonance indeed …

Well, heres another former sex worker that agrees with this statement.

If you really have to do it/try it, dont stay too long, an addictive, dangerous lifestyle.

poptop poptop 1:32 pm 15 Nov 08


dexi dexi 9:52 pm 14 Nov 08

Sepi- “Currently girls like Jeanine can walk in off the street and start work. And once they’ve done it once they may as well keep going.”

I agree sepi, Janine Cameron should never have been allowed to work as she was underage. She died of a drug overdose, not prostitution. If we want to save lives, then we need to address the addiction.

Its an interesting idea about a cooling off period. My experience is that girls that haven’t done sex work before, come to a brothel and look around. They spend some time talking to the girls, then come back the next night or or during a quite shift. Some don’t come back. Ive worked in a girls rooms where the older workers would spend time training the new girls about what was expected in the rooms as far as health and safety. There was never any pressure, its not for everyone. The procedure of brothel work isn’t as simple as you would expect.

Finding another financial solution. Sex work is the only solution that pays that well, in cash, at the end of the shift. As for the drug world, when you have a serious habit, you sell everything you own first, then you have three option, steal, deal or hock your box. The honest ones, hock their box. However, there is a cheaper solution. Get off the gear. It can be done, but only you can do it. Consider yourself financial counseled.

Poptop, A single paragraph turn on…….. “Wanna argue”

poptop poptop 4:46 pm 14 Nov 08

Arguing on the internet is like . . .

dexi dexi 4:18 pm 14 Nov 08

RA not a restaurant. There is no need for dishing. Its a forum to express Canberra views. Some one who’s been here a while might better explain. Its an exchange of views. No one has to accept whats written as being anything but a personal view or experience. This is meant to be fun and educational. As you should know as your worked in the industry a while, the world is full of wonderfully diverse people.

Martin1973 Martin1973 3:38 pm 14 Nov 08


“Nice backtraking Martin – however it hardley seems as though your posts were meant in jest.
I didn’t know whether to be offended or just feel sorry for you.
I will got with the latter.
Although I could not be bothered even reading your last two posts, because from reading all the other posts you have put up, quite frankly I couldn’t give a damn what you have to say on the topic anymore.”

That would be a post to be expected from you afterall you did dish out your insults to people in the working industry & feel that is ok to do but cannot handle it when a comment is made back about about yourself. Your are simply uneducated about the whole industry.

Holden C

“From now on I’ll send all my light-hearted replies to Martin’s email for his prior approval, seeing as he’s the only one he thinks is allowed to comment in jest. :p

There’s a lot more I could choose to say in reply too, but this isn’t the time or place for a pi55ing contest with some no-name I’ve never met.”

Feel free to forward all your replies no worries – As per above you dished it out further above & got it back & obviously didnt like it when a degrading comment was put foward about yourself. If its ok for you to be degrading at times towards the industry shouldnt you stand like a man & take some flack back.

As you know this site is easy to change names on here – One will disappear, a new person will appear no-one really knows who is talking to who on here. People log on from all places, ids etc.

And indeed I was genuine in my apology to John Boy but not for your others just should have worded it abit better.

Once confirmation is received from the persons to the email aedress it will ce changed & a new one exchanged,think you were abit behind on that one there.

sepi sepi 10:45 am 14 Nov 08

I don’t have all the answers to the sex industry.

I do have one suggestion.

A two week cooling off period should be required for those signing up to work in brothels. During this time they should be offered financial councelling, to perhaps find another option.

Currently girls like Jeanine can walk in off the street and start work. And once they’ve done it once they may as well keep going.

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 9:22 am 14 Nov 08

Indeed, kudos to the Granny.
Like, free glass of wine or whatever it is she drinks at the next RA thingy kind of kudos.

Tess Ryan can have one too.

dexi dexi 9:10 am 14 Nov 08

Whilst there has been no inspections in the last four years, there has been some great work by SWOP who run an outreach program. They visit brothels and private workers with information and support. Its programs like this that have a huge impact on health outcomes and should be encouraged.

Holden Caulfield Holden Caulfield 9:06 am 14 Nov 08

FC said :

Nice backtraking Martin – however it hardley seems as though your posts were meant in jest.

From now on I’ll send all my light-hearted replies to Martin’s email for his prior approval, seeing as he’s the only one he thinks is allowed to comment in jest. :p

There’s a lot more I could choose to say in reply too, but this isn’t the time or place for a pi55ing contest with some no-name I’ve never met.

Mr_Shab Mr_Shab 9:01 am 14 Nov 08

Well – this thread has generated some of the more interesting comments I’ve seen on RA in the last four or five years.

Granny – that was an amazing post. Your writing is outstanding at times, if scarily revealing. I’m not sure I’d be keen to lay the torrid details of my sexual history on barrelhead like that – even anonymously; so kudos.

If we’re to draw anything from this thread, perhaps it’s that sex and sexuality is waaay too complicated to pigeonhole; and that the sex industry is just another element of that tangled web.

Sepi – I’m still waiting for a suggestion. The system as it stands needs enforcement; but it’s a hell of a lot easier to enforce in a regulated environment than in a criminal one.

FC FC 7:32 am 14 Nov 08

And Granny,
I also found your post to be an excellent and inspiring read. So thanks 🙂

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