Interview with a Sex Worker from the United Kingdom

On International Women Day, I’ve discussed with Ivy, a young sex worker from the UK who went on strike today.

There is a consequence of sex work being illegal, and that involves violence against women and precarious work conditions because it has to stay hidden. This situation could change if we could just forget about judging and create a safe environment where both women and men can explore their sexuality if they want to.

Maybe it’s about time to see this stigmatized topic with opened eyes, so I’ve discussed with Ivy, a young sex worker that lives in the UK. I met Ivy in 2014, in the morning, we had worked together that day. I liked her within minutes, she was a vegan who moved to London from Eastern Europe, and she was good at her work. In the meantime, I’ve moved back to Bucharest. Although we’ve stayed in touch, I didn’t know about her doing sex work until later on. I could imagine her life just got more complicated because the way things are.

Let’s find more about her.

Sex worker

Hello Ivy, how was your day?

Hectic as always, I worked this morning (my other job), then did some volunteering. I’m enjoying a well-deserved pint in the sun and looking forward to the sex worker rights strike that’s going to happen a few hours from now on Dean Street. #Strike4Decrim

Why are you going to the strike?

I’m going to the strike to show my support, it’s great to see that we’re organized and united. They can be quite emotional, my friends will be giving their accounts of injustice, and we will also commemorate Laura Lee who sadly passed away but her legacy lives on. She gave strength and hope to all of us fighting for our rights. It’s great to see that we finally have a voice and I’m proud to be a part of that.

How did it all started?

I lost my job and the bills were piling up, I stumbled across an agency ad and as I’ve always been sexually liberated this was a no-brainer. I was planning to do it for a few months to pay off my debts, but I loved the freedom and creativity that come with the job. I don’t think I’ll ever quit.

What are your family and friends saying about what you do?

My mum pretends the subject doesn’t exist. It hurts because I’m proud of my achievements, both personal and on a sex worker rights front. I’m not out to my other family members. My friends had mixed reactions, some of them are no longer friends, the rest of them are fantastic and supportive.

What are the main dangers for sex workers?

Stigma and whorophobia. They lead to criminalization, marginalization, and violence. Earlier this year, Laura Lee, a sex worker rights activist has died suddenly at 39 years old.

Sex worker strike
Sex Workers Rights’ Strike, Dean Street, March 8th 2018

Have you experienced fears and anxiety while at work?

I’m struggling to recall such situations but I’m sure I have, I’ve always followed a strict health & safety protocol and always have someone on the outside who knows where I am. I also verify my clients to stay safe.

Did you ever experience a situation when a client has pushed your boundaries?

That’s not uncommon – sadly, but I found that most people will respect your boundaries if you are clear about them up front. It’s also not uncommon for people to ask about boundaries upfront so that they don’t cross them.

Is sex work the only way you earn your income?

Unfortunately, most employers are unaware how many transferable skills come with being a sex worker so I have a part-time job to keep my CV alive. It’s also helpful as a cover story when people ask me what I do for a living and I don’t feel like coming out that day.

What about sex workers rights activism? How’s the UK treating sex work?

Sex work is legal in the UK but there are limitations. More than one person per flat equals a brothel and those aren’t legal. That means a lot of us have to work alone which puts as at risk. The government takes our money (I pay my taxes) while making our job dangerous and uneasy.

Do you make a lot of money or it’s just a myth?

When my friends find out my hourly rate they assume I’m swimming in money but they forget that I don’t get holiday or sick pay, that I have to put money back into advertising, the location I’m renting, photoshoots, lingerie… That there are many hours of labor apart from the alone time with the client.

Sex worker interview

Do you feel empowered while doing sex work?

I would say so. I’m self-employed, I work when and where I want, it rescued me when I experienced depression and was too unwell to get up every day and go to a 9-5 job, it gives me enough time to pursue other interests and spend time with the people I love.

Would you encourage other girls to pursue this path?

First of all, it’s not just girls who do sex work, cisgender men and women, and trans people are part of this community and shouldn’t be forgotten.

Would I encourage anyone? No, not only because it’s illegal to encourage anyone to become a sex worker but also because I wouldn’t encourage anyone to become a firefighter or ballerina either. Everyone should make their own decisions.

What do you think of the Nordic model in which the demander is prosecuted and not the sex worker?

It pushes providers deeper into the underground, it means that clients refuse to provide their names and call from withheld numbers to avoid prosecution. Unverified client equals higher risk. It also implies that sex workers need saving. It claims to protect women from exploitation but we don’t want rescue, we want rights.

About Ioana Miron

Ioana grew up in Bucharest, Romania and recently finished her master’s degree in journalism, international cooperation and humanitarian aid from the National School of Political Science and Public Administration. She’s an extremely intelligent, motivated, self-reliant and creative young woman always on the prowl for injustice to expose. Ioana’s impressive thirst for knowledge is only surpassed by her kind and generous heart.

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