Sex Work Diaries: The Whore’s Living Room

In the latest edition of our Sex Work Diaries series, Melbourne-based sex worker Casey Cleaver discusses the bond shared between women working in a brothel.

The lounge where the whores convene between appointments is one of my favorite places in the entire world. I can’t think of another comparable environment that exists between women.

The lounge seats about 8 people, and is covered in towels that get swapped to wash regularly. The Madam told us once that when she was a working girl, the couch in the lounge was the same one she and the other women used to sleep on at 3 am between clients. We collectively imagined the likely contents of that couch foam. But still each of us have no trouble sinking into the blood, tears, sweat and discharge of whores past and present.

When the shift begins, the lounge is the site where the cover of casual day wear is swapped for body-con dresses, G-strings, push-up bras and fake eyelashes. The perfume is usually sweet and the hair straightened. Body hair is as diverse as body size. Everyone strips in front of each other, fishing ill-fitting G-strings out of their labias. As the night goes on, and you slump further down the couch, your dress riding up and your vag out, no one is fazed. Instead the girls you’re close with will cuddle up with you and the ones you don’t know too well still offer tea and lollies and advice. No matter what you choose to wear to market yourself that night, there is constant affirmation of how you dressed, how hot you are, how you sound, how you hold yourself.

Then there is after you push the door to the lounge open with your body, sex sheets and condom bag in hand, fringe matted to the sides of your face, lipstick and eyeliner bleeding, dress only half done up, drenched in the tell tale signs of a fuck. As you spin into the room, you kiss your client goodbye on the cheek and he leaves through the lobby. You dump the glass of water you had for him in the sink and put your sheets in the wash. Then you grab your make-up bag and flick your straightener on. Sometimes you’ll lift your leg to baby wipe yourself, even though you’ve showered. No one bats an eyelid. Sometimes they’ll ask how it was or swap a story about that same client. If the booking was weird or pushy, there is always space for commiseration – to share why and how you feel. Most of the time it’s laughing at how the guy sounded when he came or the strange little details of how he looked at you. Cumsqueak I think is my favourite word to come out of these interactions, and now we use it as an insult. You filthy little cumsqueak.

Hearing housemates fuck and receiving texts from a friend starting her poorly named ‘walk of shame’ home that morning, for example, are normative contexts in which we engage with others right after sex. When you’re the one having sex, it’s usually with a love interest or someone in a socially acceptable fuck-radius to your age, friends and circumstance. But in a brothel, sex and post-coital conversations are different than in “normal” life. The clientele are incredibly diverse and honestly not people I would normally have sexual contact with. If I were to engage in a sexual relationship with 90% of my clients in public spaces I would be chastised and my mental health and motives would come under rude examination. But when I’m back in the lounge with other workers, no one gives a fuck. There is no judgement when you say you enjoyed it, when you have a rash from his stubble or say you feel a little nauseous from deep-throating. There is no side eye to judge how damaged you are, because the rigid norms of attractiveness lend to fickle judgements about a person’s sexual currency and the strange interests of anyone who might be attracted to a person who deviates.

The workers I am around are reading and talking and living different versions of everything romantically and sexually. The dominant model given as a society just doesn’t seem to fit our human interest. If you’d like to blame sex workers for so-called deviance, let me tell you that 90% of my clients are married men. My work informs me so deeply about how people justify getting around society’s constraints while being able to maintain sanity and stability. I’ve had clients so unbelievably fucked and teary from heartbreak that they have forgotten how to like themselves enough for someone else to like them. Sex and intimacy with a sex worker is important because as a profession it implies a lack of judgment about issues surrounding intimacy. Sex work creates a space where people seek solace and validation with the warmth of my skin against theirs. Or by pissing in their mouth, whatever works for you.

The whore’s living room is a rare pearl in the world – there’s no another environment where  sexual autonomy is empirically explored with such candor and celebration. Between fucks and naps there’s dialogue around sex in our world and how it is infiltrated by shame and fear; the education and experience of sex workers assists in redefining what it means to be a slut and the beautiful power of the word. There is a safe space for the kind of debate integral to conversations about gender relations and feminist discourse. Then there’s the little things we do to take care of each other – recommending hairdressers who give discounts to sex workers and advocates to follow on Instagram. The people I work with are deeply connected to themselves and other people. Doing this work means being cast in whatever role someone needs you to play for that hour – a task that speaks to being grounded. I’d like to let the open and silent victims of trauma, abuse and mental health challenges in this industry know that the whores living room is a safe refuge. To assert yourself as company good enough to be paid for, is a form of self-love.




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