BY BHESP TEAM, 27TH JULY 2021 – (……. Below is an excerpt taken from an interview with a sex worker who operates in an upmarket brothel in Nairobi. She tries to demystify some myths that are associated with sex work, not only in Kenya but almost everywhere globally………)
I’ve been working in a Nairobi brothel for almost a year and a half now. In this time, I’ve learned a lot about sexuality, psychology, and relationships. My job is a mix of customer service and fantasy fulfillment, and I love it. It suits my needs and allows me financial stability I never had access to before. However, what I’ve noticed since starting this career is that there is a lot that the general public doesn’t seem to get about sex work. Here are some of the biggest misconceptions.
- ‘SEX WORK IS LAZY – AND EASY’
I can describe my job in many ways, but never as easy. I work a 12 to 14-hour shift each day, and during this time I’m juggling my social media accounts, email addresses, posting on multiple industries WhatsApp groups, scheduling client appointments, and writing essays online.
I’m also meeting countless visitors of the brothel, taking them on tours, gauging their interest, pulling teeth to figure out exactly what they desire, then negotiating prices. That’s before the sex even starts, in which I’m generally doing most of the physical workload, putting emotional labor to make my clients feel at ease, listening to their deepest confessions, and trying to make sure they get their money’s worth.
Sex work is a physically intimate therapy session for most of our clients. Many workers who work independently also have to schedule hotel rooms, vet their clients to make sure they aren’t dangerous, run their own websites, and handle marketing.
- ‘SEX WORKERS SPREAD DISEASE’
There has never been a case of HIV reported in the brothel that I operate. We use condoms for all of our services – including condoms for blow jobs and dental dams for cunnilingus. We take our health seriously: just like a massage therapist or a labor contractor, if our bodies aren’t in top shape, we can’t pay our bills, feed ourselves, or support our families. To jeopardize our health and our clients’ health for one client’s desires could ruin our reputation and cost us our jobs. So we take many precautions to protect ourselves and our clients.
- ‘ONLY LOSERS AND DESPERATE GUYS SEEK SEX WORKERS’ SERVICES.
You’d be surprised at the range of people who walk through our doors. We entertain middle-aged couples looking to spice up their love life. Young military veterans visit struggling to transition back into civilian life and dating. Respectable businessmen, lawyers, doctors, and professionals who are overworked without time for dating. Men with low self-esteem find navigating traditional social relationships challenging and confusing. For many, seeing a sex worker is more than just the act of sex.
We provide a safe space to be comfortable with sexuality and physical intimacy. Clients are able to let their barriers down and have a connection with a near stranger and it is often highly therapeutic for them. We’re also teachers, guiding our virgin clients through sex and intimacy for the first time. Our clients treat us with respect and adoration and are as kind to us as we are to them. Shaming our clients demonizes their sexuality, which is repressive and judgmental.
- SEX WORKERS HATE THEIR JOB’
There’s a saying that goes “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Somehow that went out the window with sex work, at least in society’s eyes. We chose this job because it suits our needs financially and to some, a spiritual or sexual level, others, it’s simply an income source and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Our work is deeply personal and intimate. We see people at their most vulnerable, when they’re naked and expressing their innermost desires. These desires may have been hidden away for years, decades. The relationships I develop with my clients are genuine and I’m happy to see them leave basking in a glow, relaxed and relieved. Making people feel good about themselves brings me a profound sense of happiness.
I have heard on so many occasions “Thank you, I needed this.” “I’ve never felt more relaxed.” Being able to make my own schedule and be in control of my own small business allows me incredible freedoms. I can take off three months, six months, two years from work and know my employment will always be welcomed back. I don’t drink heavily and I don’t use drugs to get through a shift. I never dread going to work.
- ‘SEX WORKERS ARE SCHOOL DROPOUTS WITH NO OTHER OPTION’
The notion that my profession is the last resort for a broken, uneducated woman with a drug habit is a disservice to the range of people who choose to be sex workers. It’s dehumanizing and allows the continued violence and social stigma against sex workers to thrive.
Keeping our industry in the shadows keeps an unfair power balance in the hands of law enforcement and clients who mean us harm. We are human beings, who for many different reasons, but one main one – to provide for ourselves – have chosen sex work as our occupation. It is a valuable and desired service, and will always exist. So we need to bring sex work into the realm of decriminalization or legalization and provide safety, social services, and basic human rights to some of the most vulnerable in our society.