Keynote Speech – ANU Sex & Consent Week. Tuesday August 2nd 2016.

My name is Lucie Bee and I’m, according to SWERF rhetoric, a ‘Happy Hooker.’

SWERF, if you weren’t aware, stands for ‘Sex Work Exclusionary Radical Feminism.’

So, I’m a ‘Happy Hooker’ and I’m here to tell you, that’s a Goddamn Lie. What I am is an Angry Hooker. What’s worse for the SWERF movement, including ‘divinities’ like Melinda Tankard Reist, is that I’m a Loud Angry Hooker.  I’m a loud, angry, tired hooker.

I apologise if that word makes you uncomfortable. But it’s thrown at me like a knife so often these days, even when accompanied by seemingly benign words like ‘happy’, it’s thrown at me so much that I feel like I’ve earned the right to say it. To reclaim it. To call it my own. I usually don’t hold court much with the notion of reclaiming words, but disarming them, disarming people with them, is something I spend a great deal of my time doing. God knows I’ve heard them all this stage. Slut, Whore, Prostitute, Bitch and recently, a great deal of dropping the C-Bomb. – Which leads me to politely let the individuals throwing them my way know that if the ‘best they can come up with is effectively a synonym for my job, they need to try harder.’

I try really hard to come across as tough. Like I don’t give a crap. I feel like I have a responsibility to the workers I’m connected to all over the world to keep my head up. But those words sting. Always. It’s this moment of sudden breathlessness, when a discussion or debate turns suddenly more hostile than it was 140 characters ago.

SWERFs want me to tell you this all comes from my clients. And yeah, as I’ll go into later, much of it has. But lately, so much more has come from those radically opposed to what I do with my life. A vast majority are women, some men – and it’s funny because the minute a male jumps to my defence, he’s a pimp, he’s despicable, but old, middle aged, often religious men are allowed to write long think pieces about how little I know of my self and my mind – and that’s ok. They’re praised.

So, I’m a tired, angry, loud Hooker – for a few reasons. But I’m not here to focus solely on that. I’m here to tell you about my life, my story, not so controversial as I think it’s supposed to be, this industry and how I got here. So, let’s start at the beginning.

I preface this by saying that I might disappoint you. I fulfil many of the stereotypes that mainstream media and pop culture prescribe to fallen women.

My father was noticeably absent for most of my life, a fact for which I’m extremely grateful. He was the source of a great deal of abuse to me as a child and before that to my mother during their marriage.
I wouldn’t be raised by a single parent for my whole childhood. My mother was soon joined by my Grandmother & Great Grandmother. Being raised by three strong, courageous women – each who’d experienced abuse in their own right, from three vastly different generations – taught me a lot and in so many ways has enabled me to take on much of the fight I have today.

I had a catholic education – light on sex education, heavy on bullying. I spent most of my youth being told what I wasn’t. I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t cool enough and I grew up on the coast without a Billabong school bag so I was doomed to failure from the start. Needless to say, my early introduction to sex and sexuality was not in my home town and not via anyone I met there.

I lost my virginity early, more for the sake of it than anything. I’d been surrounded by friends who were taking the plunge and I got to a stage where I was sick of hearing about it without a point of reference that didn’t come from dodgy movie sex scenes or Mills and Boon novels. I’m the sort of person who gets things done and sex was absolutely no exception.  Once I’d done it, whilst I had nothing particularly dramatic to report and it had by no means been a terrible experience, I really didn’t have any desire for a follow up until I got much older. Rumours went around my school about my behaviour, whilst simultaneously insults regarding how undesirable I was followed or preceded them. Which got me confused as to how anyone could call me a Slut in the first place. But I’m not about to dive into understanding teenage logic.

In the years that followed my interest in sex grew and my sexuality developed. I discovered the joys of making out with girls for the sake of making out with girls, not for the benefit of men close by. I discovered that liking boys and girls was totally fine. I discovered that liking anyone, regardless of how they defined their gender was also totally fine, though not always understood and I discovered I didn’t much care what people thought about who I held hands with. I went to wild parties. I went to not so wild parties. I found myself in and out of relationships. I lost a partner to suicide. I lost friends to drugs. I self medicated with drugs and alcohol. I studied. I stopped studying. I worked, retail, the public service, administration – I kept myself busy. I met new people. I explored kink.

Those years were a blur that lead me to the start of 2011. I was fortunate enough to be friends with an amazing sex positive dynamo, we’ll call her Scarlet, who confided in me that she worked as an erotic masseuse. I’d left another admin job, dissatisfied and depressed with  the 9-5 life I was living. I needed work. I enjoyed taking my clothes off. Reports said I gave a mean hand job so…

I interviewed with the management at a parlour in Fyshwick. I picked my name, Lucie – with an I E not a Y. They need more variety in the names on the roster and Lucie was a nickname of sorts, used affectionately by fellow book loving friends of mine, after the character from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They gave me a rundown on what was expected of me, what to expect from them. The parlour was clean, there were towels in abundance, each room with it’s own theme, some more realised than others (there was camo netting on the ceiling of the ‘jungle room’). I started a few days later, my first job. 15 minutes. A blow and go, with a guy who seemed to enjoy seeing first timers – though I was hardly the shrinking violet he expected.

It was over in, well, 15 minutes. And just like that, mind the pun, I was hooked.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that the financial aspect of the industry, in my early days, didn’t hold serious allure. Oh it did. I was also a night owl. Working at night suited me. The work suited me. I enjoyed meeting people and I enjoyed making people happy. This was, perhaps, an unconventional method of doing so but, I was also shy in a lot of ways, though I’d try not let anyone see it. The work gave me a thrill, a sense of bravado – for a moment I could step outside myself, become someone else, someone devilish and sexy. Someone who in the past I’d only managed to bring out on special occasions, or in the dark hidden spaces in masked sex parties, someone I’d always wanted to be, but never felt I had the right to.

It wasn’t all glamorous.

I experienced the perils of working in close confines with other women. There was a support network, but there was also competition. I learnt the same as I branched out. Slow at first, I traveled to Sydney, worked in massage parlours there so I could spend a little more time in the city. The women were fierce, territorial and I was still the self conscious geek I’d always been in the waiting room – it was behind closed doors, with men who adored me or, just liked the cut of my jib, that I felt most at home.

I experienced sexual assault for the second time whilst working. It’s played a part of my life, personal and professional. I have had my boundaries pushed by clients, but, perhaps more hurtful, by men I knew and trusted. I’m fortunate that these days that my reputation as a no-nonsense ball breaker affords me some level of safety. But I think what affords me more is I stubbornly refuse to be silenced. On any subject. I’m not scared to say I’ve been raped. That I suffer depression. That there’s days I can’t get out of bed and the world seems too frightening to put in to words. Since starting to become more vocal, whilst leaving myself open to immeasurable cruelty and emotional harm…I’m also protecting myself from those who’d seek to harm me in other ways. Should anything happen to me, a fact that I have to consider, I have to be prepared for – I would speak out. Or others would speak out for me. Unapologetic and unashamed. I have, in the past, had that taken away from me and I’ll never go back there again.

Eventually I started modelling – something I never pictured I’d ever find myself doing and my early efforts were…rough to say the least. I took up small pockets of space in Picture and People magazines. I got the unparalleled thrill of seeing ones self in print and despite trying to fiercely deny it, every image was a fuck you to my home town. From that, I started developing more of the social media presence I’ve become more known for now and it was twitter which lead an Australian porn company to contact me.

To date, I’ve done around 50 scenes. That doesn’t seem like a lot in three years, but I’m telling you that the amount of time, effort and organisation that goes into putting a scene together, makes that a figure I’m proud of. Not all my content is online, some is still in update queues for websites both here and internationally. Some of it is on my hard drive waiting to be edited and as someone who spends way too much time sorting, editing and taking photos of herself I can assure you editing your own porn is next level awkward.

I like porn. I don’t like all porn. I’m happy to say I think some of it’s rubbish. I’m even more comfortably saying I’ve shot some rubbish. In my early career there was this desperation to create a name, create a face and do more, more, more – it’s hard, as someone like me, not subscribing to any specific porn stereotypes, particularly in regards to my appearance, it’s hard not to be aware of the pressing intensity of competition. A competition that you don’t necessarily want to be in, one I’m not altogether sure I believe in, but the knowledge that certain looks sell and….I don’t necessarily have those looks, is not lost on me. That, however is something that pushes me to build and develop even more on what I’ve done so far. I feel a responsibility to create the content that I know I’d want people to see and learn from. And I feel a responsibility to ensure that that content is representative of as many of the diverse, phenomenal, sexual individuals that exist on this planet. Lately, most of my work has been with Feminist porn companies, such as Bright Desire and Light Southern. Working with the smart, vibrant and inspirational women behind those companies has helped me define what Ethical porn should look like and what sort of impact I want to have going into the future as a creator.

Ethical porn, which Anti-Porn advocates will fiercely imply doesn’t exist – is the standard for which I’d hope to see all content produced. It’s intensely performer driven. It ensures the health & safety of performers, as well as taking in to consideration the impact on the viewer. You won’t find a lot of Ethical porn on tube sites – unless it’s been stolen. You will have to pay for it.

I love that people watch porn. I want people to watch porn. I want people to watch a variety of porn, with all sexualities, activities and fetishes represented. I want people to know that when they’re watching this porn that the performers have been paid, that their health and comfort has been taken in to consideration and dare I say it, they’re enjoying themselves, or at the very least having a good day in the office. I want this not because I am employed in this industry. Because I can honestly tell you that Porn in Australia is not something you can make an entire career out of. Many of us have day jobs.

I want this because I hear way too many stories of people who’ve been shamed in to remaining silent regarding their sexuality, who’ve never had the luxury of exploring or engaging with a part of themselves and I feel like as an industry we have a responsibility to create content for people to learn from, to enjoy – something that says, you’re ok. You’re not abnormal. You can like feet, you can like being tied up, having your hair pulled, you can be dominant, submissive, you can like missionary with the lights out. Your body is going to make noises that don’t always come from your mouth and that’s ok. Sometimes things are going to get messy, like really messy – that’s ok too. Sex isn’t just two people all the time. Sex isn’t a heterosexual couple all the time. Sex isn’t just for men. Sex isn’t just for the binary. This is beautiful. It’s weird. It’s fun. It’s for you.

We’re currently, thanks to Tube Sites, at saturation point with porn shot for and from the male gaze, with little consideration to anyone besides that – that’s an unfortunate fact and it’s not going away in a hurry. What we can do though, is speak openly and directly about porn and direct people to the kind of content that can help, not harm. We can speak about how porn, like candy, is a sometimes food. That the pizza boy probably won’t be up for banging strangers at the drop of a slice – and I can say this from a prolific pizza ordering history and from shooting a scene in which I had it off with a pizza delivery guy – finishing with the line ‘I don’t recall asking for this as a topping’ – That’s on the internet and that’s not going anywhere.

We can have these conversations with young people, we can have these conversations with all people. We can speak loudly, over the voices of conservative groups that for so long have dominated the conversation. Because the kind of sex education we need doesn’t just involve porn, it involves discussions of gender, of sexuality, of pleasure and relationships and friends with benefits. It involves emphatically assuring young women that they’re not damaged or broken the minute they lose their virginity and they can hold on to it or give it away whenever they damn well like. And it involves telling young men that they can have feelings and that won’t make them any less a man. And it involves telling young people that gender is a construct and biology sometimes gets it wrong and they’re right to sexuality and pleasure and exploration is no less as a result.  That’s the type of sex education we need. That’s the type that conservative groups like Collective Shout don’t want us to have.

That’s the type of conversation that women who jump on Facebook pages for ‘Sex and Consent Week’ telling people that I was a victim of anal rape, that i’m Ill educated, I’m a puppet for the industry – that’s the kind of chat they want to shut right down. And I’m here to tell you that I won’t let that happen.

My life, has not existed without it’s controversies. My participation in the porn and escorting industries stirs controversy, but more than that the fact I have a willingness to speak out about these things openly, without fear or shame, seems to really piss people off. I don’t believe that everything within the sex industry is without fault. That would be an ignorant position to take. What I do believe however, is there is an active, determined group of people, throughout the industry, all over the word, determined to make change from the inside. And that is due support and admiration, not stigma and disdain.

Anti-Sex Worker activists will tell you that our jobs are what kills us. And I’m here to tell you that it’s in-fact those activists that kill us. They perpetuate a stigma that tells the world we don’t known our own minds, that we’re lost, abused, less than – that we don’t have the ‘luxury of a university education.’ They’ll call us pimps, liars, happy hookers – they’ll tell you, during the online conversation taking place during Amnesty ICM last year that ‘Your concept of consent is somewhere between Ted Bundy and Bill Cosby’ (That’s a real quote and I’ll readily admit I cried after that one). They’ll tell me when I engage in these discussions that I’m not welcome, that I’m privileged, a fact I don’t deny and thus not deserving of a voice and ‘Don’t I have another pensioner dick to go suck?’

They’ll take the pictures and the stories of our friends, of those activists who’ve worked so tirelessly for our safety, for the recognition of our human rights and they’ll use their stories as cannon fodder on social media and in the mainstream media for campaigns that don’t represent them. That attempt to desecrate their memories. That trivialise their work. They objectify us as much as they claim the clients they hate so much do. They tried to do it with Grace Bellavue, but her writing remains as testament to the absolute powerhouse she was as a human being, a sex worker and an activist.

SWERFs will tell you that as feminists they support sex workers. That as supporters of sex workers, they support the Nordic Model. If you support sex workers, if your support their right to health and safety and rights – then you’ll know that the Nordic Model is absolute garbage. I wish I could offer you something more eloquent, but I feel like we know each other well enough now that you’ll sympathise with my desire to tell it like it is. Antis are going to tell you that the Nordic Model Decriminalises sex work. Because we’re not at fault here. We are the poor, damaged minority, just working and trying to get by.

So they promote a model which criminalises our clients instead.

Think about that for a moment. “We don’t want to destroy your livelihood by throwing you in to jail. We want to do that by throwing men in to jail.” Because all our clients, of course are men. And all sex workers are of course women. Not only does their rhetoric make broad assumptions about our work, our clients, but it also makes even worse assumptions about who we are as a community. They steadfastly ignore male and Trans* workers in all dialogue. The methods for enforcing this system in Sweden involve stalking individual workers – oh wait, it’s the police doing it – ‘observing’ workers, in order to find out where they’re working, then catch clients as they leave.

Explain to me, please, how anyone is supposed to work in these conditions?

Did I mention that in Sweden workers run the risk of losing their homes? See, it’s illegal to profit off the proceeds of prostitution, so land lords are now nervous. What was once taking place in the open is now being pushed underground. Explain to me how an industry taking place under cover of darkness, untraceable, helps workers? Explain to me how that helps victims of trafficking or slavery? I asked the same questions when Visa and MasterCard decided they wouldn’t work with Backpage – because the one thing that’s going to really stop trafficking is if traffickers can’t advertise. Who cares that the removal of those ads also took with it a key strategy for monitoring and tracking abusers. Who cares that it was a knee jerk reaction to a nasty letter from the Cook County sheriff whose track record regarding the location of traffickers and the trafficked looks statistically woeful. And who cares that that decision then impacted sex workers all over the world, including in Australia, where Sex Work is legalised in some states and decriminalised in NSW.

Decriminalisation is considered best practice by Sex Workers, by Amnesty International, By the World Health Organisation, by UNAids. It doesn’t decriminalise pimps. It doesn’t take away from laws regarding trafficking or slavery. Those things are illegal. The laws surrounding them are not hindered by a system that acknowledges what helps keep sex workers safe. In NSW, I can go to the police as a victim of assault and be taken seriously. I can go to the police as a victim of robbery and be taken seriously. I am afforded the safety as a human being that so many other parts of the world take away from me and consistently take away from people I work with and care about. It’s better than legalisation. Legalisation leaves Sex Workers running in a series of bureaucratic circles and often ends up marginalising anyone who doesn’t have the capacity to do so. Sex Workers who are drug users, those working on the streets, those who don’t wish to hand over their personal information to a doctor not of their choosing, to a government department who doesn’t necessarily have their best interests at heart. It’s as bad, if not worse than criminalisation, in that it effectively demonstrates that sex workers aren’t afforded basic rights to safety, privacy and health care. For example, In Tunisia sex workers under a legalised system, are required to obtain permission from the Police and PROOVE they can work outside the industry in order to leave it. Decriminalisation was implemented in NSW 20 years ago because of police corruption. It’s been proven time and again that police cannot be both protector and enforcer in regards to these issues.

In Victoria, in order to work I have to apply, using my real name for a registration number. That information remains in a data base which we’re assured is protected. Excuse my skepticism. If I don’t have that number and a client rapes me. Or beats me. And I go to the police station – they’re in a real bind. Because they’ll have to figure out what to do with me first. And after that, they’ll have to ask the age old question: Was it rape, or shoplifting? I want to tell you that this is a hypothetical. But it’s not. It happens. It’s not a joke. Or a meme. It’s a constant threat to my life, it’s a threat to the lives of others and apparently in Victoria and other parts of the world, our lives are not very important. When we’re killed, when we’re assaulted, when we’re abused we stop being human and become nothing but the sum of our work and the stigma attached to it. My job doesn’t dehumanise me. Other people do.

I love my job. I actually really love my job. I hate having to spend all my time convincing people of that. I hate being told that I suffer from ‘false consciousness’. I hate being told I don’t matter until I’m a corpse. I hate that I can be raped, or assaulted and that won’t matter up until the person responsible kills someone good, someone pure, someone not like me. I hate that my family lives with this every day. I hate that there’s groups of people seen as ‘saints’ that daily insult me, bring me down, threaten my safety, threaten my life – in the name of God. In the name of a warped radical feminism. In the name ‘protection.’

But I love my job. Even on the bad days, I love my job. I love my clients. I love the ones that just drop by for a shag, I love the ones that tell me that I’ve made a difference to their lives, I love the ones I spend hours gaming and eating pizza with. I love the ones who I can introduce to something new. I love my disabled clients who I can offer the gift of touch and intimacy, something society still doesn’t seem to understand they have ample right to. I feel the sorrow that radiates off the lonely and I listen. I just listen. I don’t judge. I offer shelter. I love that too.

I love the emails thanking me for being a proud unabashed, sometimes flat chested (this is totally a push up bra) Geek, with opinions. I love knowing that I touch people, without always touching people. I love that instead of waiting for the mens mag industry to catch up with me, I wanted a cover and I took it. I love telling people that they’re beautiful, that they’re all so beautiful and I am nothing if not for their respect and support. I love educating people. I love talking about sex and intimacy and rights and consent and the responsibilities we all have to each other in these things and more.

This fight, all these fights have no doubt prematurely aged me. I feel it every single day. But, I won’t stop. I can’t stop. We’ve come so far and we have further to go and if I go to my grave having done even the little I’ve done so far, by god, it’ll be worth it. There’s the people I work with now, there’s a generation after us and more to come. They deserve the right to live safely. To an education system that respects and encourages them. They deserve this regardless of who they are, what they do, where they come from and I will gladly make the rest of my life about pursuing these goals.

So, yes. I am a tired, angry hooker.

And I guess, in a lot of ways, that makes me a very happy woman.

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2 comments

  1. Govinda Brown · August 7

    I saw you on the ABC and thought to check your site and read your blog.
    I suffer from depression and anxiety too and I know the crush it can cause.
    I am also deeply religious but that’s between me and the divine and I think people’s religion is a relationship between themselves and the divinity and they can shut the fuck up about knowing what an omnipotent deity thinks someone else should be doing.
    Also I can’t believe in a divinity who is less moral then a moral human, who counts anyone less for gender, sexuality, race etc because serious that’s a massive fuck up for a omnipotent and omni-benevolent being to create someone to hate.
    Anyways I was raised a white Monotheistic Hindu (English/French/Irish heritage) born in India and raised in Australia. I was egged as a child, beaten and etc for my differences.
    Later I grew up in youth homes and on the streets and in foster care and the most compassionate people for my differences were my foster brothers/sisters/others and friends who are LGBT (and the new letters) or just different.
    I truly believe it is people like you who suffer from depression, because there are inequalities in the world and shyt sometimes it is hard to get out of bed and face them. But I love those who are loud nerdy/freaky and proud of being different and believe in pushing back on the bullshit, it is those people who better society.
    So this is just a complementary note from another nerd with depression who wants a better society to say great writing and thanks for ABC interview. And to quote Michael Franti “All the freaky people make the beauty of the world”

    Like

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