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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:
    http://www.nswp.org/laws/self-sweden-20061211.html

    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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Martin1973 1:34 am 14 Nov 08

Hi All,

I did make a suggestion in a previous post, for those that didnt read it I will post it on this site. Surely making the industry a safter environment is the way to go, bannit it our upping the age will only lead to more people working privately.

I do care for the girls/ladies in this industry. Its not all about filthy mugs, some clients are genuine & do treat working girls/ladies nicely.

Here was my earlier post, I have only re-posted it due to come comments about the industry.

” What I would suggest in the ACT is that they look more into the owners of each brothel, such as M**** who has always had a bad reputation. Do police checks on their backgrounds & make it harder for them to obtain a business as such. But as I mentioned in another post by making the legal age of working girls older is not going to change anything, they will find other ways of working. They will only take their clients with them & work privately. Its reality and anyone who thinks its not is wearing purple coloured glasses. There will be more illegal prostiution on going in the ACT. I certainly would hate the fact that any young girls may start walking the streets & entering into a car with a complete stranger to do a job as anything could go wrong.

I could & would never judge any working girl/lady as being so close to one I know all the ins & outs of the business, all the tricks & trades. Only those that have been there or close to those that work there will ever understand that way of life. They are human, mothers, daughters, sisters, relatives and could be the person living next door to you or the nurse who takes care of you whilst you are in hospital, same with addicts they dont walk around with signs on their heads advertising what they do in their personal lives.

Some are lucky & succeed in the business & dont get involved with the drugs as they tend to keep to themselves not speaking to any working girls/ladies about their personal lives or where they live, yet others sadly do get involved with drugs before working or when they start working & remain close friends with those in the industry going through the same situation as themselves. Most people working in the industry know they will be judged easily if anyone finds out sadly.

Also lets not forget the men that use these services – they dont tend to be judged. Some are married men, in relationships or on the other hand lonely and looking for female company either due to a deceased wife/partner, no body wants to have sex with them or they are just lonely and want to chat. “

These are just my thoughts, some may agree & some dis agree but we all have different views. Knowing someone to me that was so close & worked in this industry I do have first hand information of what it is like to be a working girl/lady & often had met many of them over the years. They are human like all of us.

Martin1973 1:16 am 14 Nov 08

JohnBoy

My apologies for my earlier post I was joking towards you in relation to your comment to Sepi with the rent boys. No offence was meant to you.

As for the other posts I shall word them better in the future, but do find the first comment from realityskin after Tess’s insight to us all was quite a slap in the face to Tess.

Mismoniker

Sorry the addy is martin19731973@yahoo.com.au
Did a few tests myself & it bounced back due to me not entering the au at the end.
I will only answer to you & by saying that you will know particular details when you contact me.

Sorry all for my earlier post if offence was taken – To Johnboy it was in relationi to his comment not to be taken personally. I have learnt from my mistake.

Granny 11:26 pm 13 Nov 08

Thanks, guys.

: )

You make me feel very safe and very humble.

(It’s sure not often that happens!)

I just really wanted dexi to know what was on my heart. If you haven’t already then one day your eyes will lock with someone who wants you because you are you.

New Yeah 10:42 pm 13 Nov 08

Thanks for sharing Granny. Your considered description of an emotional experience was intriguing to read. Much like the OP’s was. And unlike much of the other reactionary dross this thread generated.

Kudos to Granny and Tess Ryan.

scootergal 10:10 pm 13 Nov 08

From the other Tess Ryan, I only wish I was as coherent and seemingly balanced about my own sexuality and sense of self as this Tess Ryan is, regardless of her profession.

Having just come through one of the most difficult times of my life (and believe me, I could write ten books of it!), and starting to rebuild it, I share some similarities and views with her.

Right now I prefer not to go into detail about all of this, only to say that we all have choices, and she is happy with hers as I’m sure other sex workers are. I don’t judge anyone.

I hope you keep writing here Tess.

rivett2008 9:29 pm 13 Nov 08

Hi All & Johnboy

I get the impression that Martin wasnt being serious to you just having a joke to lighten the posts after some of the degrading posts & comments that were made by others.
I think the comment referred to your post ‘ How do rent boys fit in your world view Sepi?’
and it was lighthearted.

In fact I find it most appropriate a comment to realityskin after what was written after Tess’s post, she was genunie & giving some people out there a good insite to the industry, & I got the impression Martin was giving realityskin a hint to find out for himself.

Many on riot posts appear to have personal attacks on each other including personal attacks on working girls too degrading them, perhaps they too should get warnings.

Thanks for the interesting read everyone 🙂

dexi 5:36 pm 13 Nov 08

Love is a strange and wonderful thing. Thanks Granny it was a beautiful story.

imhotep 4:21 pm 13 Nov 08

I’m gobsmacked Granny. I’ll never look at your posts the same way again. You’re wasted here on the riotact!

tylersmayhem 3:53 pm 13 Nov 08

Wow Granny. Thank you for sharing such a special moment of your life. I very memorable piece of writing which I won’t forget for quite some time. 🙂 Thank you!

Granny 2:21 pm 13 Nov 08

For me, sex is worshiping somebody else with my body – whether that is only one time or a lifetime.

There are men I have loved that I hardly knew.

The most special one was in California, I guess. I looked up from writing a poem and he was standing there watching me. He asked me out for coffee. We talked. I hardly knew him. He asked me out again. I wasn’t supposed to go, but I did.

He was part scam artist, part gigolo. Women were his work, his livelihood. I had no money. I had nothing. He didn’t need me, but he wanted me.

I went back to his apartment, and we enjoyed each other all night. His housemates walked in on us and we hardly noticed.

The next night, I was in trouble and I needed help to get back to Australia. He wasn’t home but a neighbour let me in and put a note on his door. When he found the note he came for me and we spent the night lying next to each other holding hands. Both were just as special to me.

Next morning he helped me get to the airport and I was back in Australia. He would have come out here, but he would have been bad for me and I couldn’t risk it.

It took me six months to get over him, and we used to write to each other and talk on the phone.

I still can’t hear Me and Bobby D or certain songs by Simon & Garfunkel without thinking of him. Goodbye, Joe also reminds me of him – Joe was his real name.

I suppose you could say that I cost him two lattes and a slice of cake, but if anybody else had offered me that for sex I would have told them to get lost.

The fact is that something in me responded to something in him and I wanted to give him something of myself. I don’t know. Something. For me it is a free gift. Always.

I was offered a thousand dollars once to sleep with somebody and I just couldn’t. We were really poor. He looked around the house and said, “You don’t have much money do you?” He didn’t smell bad, but he just smelled kind of wrong and he didn’t get that if I could have had sex with him it would have been given freely and he tried to take it by force. Well, how could he? It wasn’t possible for him to take what he really wanted. That is something that can only be given.

After fighting for a while I knew that I couldn’t win. I told him, “You’re stronger than me. You can force your way into my body, but I don’t have to stay. After you go I will kill myself. I’m out of here,” and then he broke down and cried and I held him.

I don’t know if I would have suicided, but I meant it at the time and he knew I did. I guess it was fairly fortunate that I’d been reading ‘The Rape of Lucrece’ not that long before. Who knew that Shakespeare could be so useful?

So I can’t speak for other women, only myself, but I am sorry you feel that way about us, dexi. Women can be rejected too, you know.

Holden Caulfield 1:43 pm 13 Nov 08

What about a woman who openly says she wants to marry a man on the basis of his financial wealth, which could be described as selling both her body and her heart to the highest bidder she can tempt … where do they fit into our let’s-label-everyone-society?

MissMoniker 12:48 pm 13 Nov 08

dexi said :

The issue of safe working conditions for prostitutes, is the challenge that presents itself and it is woman like Tess Ryan, that are working towards this goal, by setting an example for other women.

Oh touche dexi, you are SO right.

dexi 12:34 pm 13 Nov 08

“Objectification of women occurs far more often than objectification of men.”

Purely from a objectified male perspective.

Male sexuality seems to be bound up in how a man can pay for the affection’s of the opposite sex. This is not an invention of the male side of the equation. This is dictated by women, and in the case of prostitution, openly. If anything, prostitution reinforces that sexual contact implies an exchange, greater than the shared experience. What may be at stake with women’s opposition to prostitution, is market share and the ongoing payment of restitution. This is about ensuring that women set the agenda and price to exploit male sexuality. Prostitutes accept a one off payment that implies a direct exchange. Whores give men the wrong impression, yes.

Men’s attitudes to women may stem from the constant denial and humiliation of male sexual expression. Whores create the illusion of acceptance, but will indulge in the same put downs as soon as they amongst the other girls. Whores are just women too.

Banning prostitution, you ban a safe form of male sexual expression, even if it is just an illusion. You won’t stop men wanting to express themselves sexually and you won’t stop woman exploiting it. Men if you want sexual expression, free of material exchange, then I suggest finding another man. If you want sexual expression with a woman then be prepared to pay for it.

If you want love, happiness, and a family then you might like to forget the whole sex thing for a while.

Sorry, I don’t buy in to the whole exploited woman thing. I just don’t see it in real life. When I do see it, there are usually drug and alcohol issues.

The issue of safe working conditions for prostitutes, is the challenge that presents itself and it is woman like Tess Ryan, that are working towards this goal, by setting an example for other women.

Granny 12:04 pm 13 Nov 08

You just need to use a few ‘goshes’ and ‘darnits’, AngryHenry! Try it, it’s fun ….

*hehehe*

AngryHenry 11:38 am 13 Nov 08

johnboy said :

If your foul mouth trips a language filter you don’t get a warning.

In future I suggest you discuss queries on editorial policy via the contact form as doing it here really gives us the gears.

But consider that martin is being threatened with blanket moderation and you just lost one spray.

Hey sorry, wont happen again! You make me feel like a petulant child sometimes JB.

johnboy 11:25 am 13 Nov 08

If your foul mouth trips a language filter you don’t get a warning.

In future I suggest you discuss queries on editorial policy via the contact form as doing it here really gives us the gears.

But consider that martin is being threatened with blanket moderation and you just lost one spray.

AngryHenry 11:21 am 13 Nov 08

Martin1973 said :

Holden Caulfield & Fc

Pay top dollar and see what you get for your moneys worth – Love to hear the feedback from you both in the room, more like you bot would be like a dead donkey pair of sacs in the room after paying top dollar!

realityskin – No working girl would fuc*k you in the back of your ute, mate you have not class, lower than a drunken 60year old on the banwagon!

Realityskin – Gp pay your top dollar then come back to all of us & tell us it it was worth it rather than you wank*ing to some Pamela Anderson Video! Ans for the rest of you that put down the prostitution industry, shame on you all.

Johnyboy – I get the impression you pay for the male services not the female ones, can you please shed some light to us all how your services are, well experienced??

Christ I just wish Chantalle was her with her opened minded heart and soul and to answer all the questions on this site as no doubt she would and without shame. One thing you owe to her is her honesty and integrity!

Dunno how some of my comments on a previous post ended up moderated after reading this spray… Why’d you even allow this shit to be published?

wishuwell 9:05 am 13 Nov 08

Im pretty sure that I’ve never taken this action before on this site, but Martin you are really beginning to give me the shits.

johnboy 8:31 am 13 Nov 08

Martin, your behaviour is not acceptable.

Cease the personal attacks on other readers or be no longer heard.

This is a final warning.

Martin1973 2:18 am 13 Nov 08

Holden Caulfield & Fc

Pay top dollar and see what you get for your moneys worth – Love to hear the feedback from you both in the room, more like you bot would be like a dead donkey pair of sacs in the room after paying top dollar!

realityskin – No working girl would fuc*k you in the back of your ute, mate you have not class, lower than a drunken 60year old on the banwagon!

Realityskin – Gp pay your top dollar then come back to all of us & tell us it it was worth it rather than you wank*ing to some Pamela Anderson Video! Ans for the rest of you that put down the prostitution industry, shame on you all.

Johnyboy – I get the impression you pay for the male services not the female ones, can you please shed some light to us all how your services are, well experienced??

Christ I just wish Chantalle was her with her opened minded heart and soul and to answer all the questions on this site as no doubt she would and without shame. One thing you owe to her is her honesty and integrity!

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