From Poverty to Privilege: A Melbourne Escort's Note on Money
I remember a time, not so long ago. A time when, after rent, uni costs, and my diet of home-brand chicken nuggets, greek yoghurt and a rotating gourmet menu of 2 minute noodles and mi goreng flavours, I was left with about $50 per week to live my early 20s to their fullest. If you had told me then that I would have the modestly comfortable life I have since starting sex work, I wouldn't have believed you. That I would own all of this STUFF, and be able to afford a pet, hobbies, good food and wine, nice clothes, various cosmetic treatments and surgeries and have most of a house deposit behind me seemed like a pipe dream to me then.
It's a funny thing, because while I'm proud of my achievements and the level of financial comfort I have worked really fucking hard for, I still berate myself for enjoying it.
There are two types of financially dysfunctional "I grew up really poor" people. The ones that don't know how to hold on to money - it goes out as fast as it comes in - and those of us who hold on to it so tightly because we're so morbidly terrified of going back to the fiery chasm that feels like our insides are frying with stress every second of every day trying to figure out how we're going to afford anything.
Money is the closest thing to religion that I have. Each dollar I save gets me one step closer to the life I want. After every booking or shoot I sit down and I count each note and I rearrange them uniformly - always lady side up and separate new notes from old notes, greens from yellows - and I clip each $1k stack with a bobby pin and secure it, ready to be taken to the bank. This is the main reason why I ask for cash from my clients. Because cash, in my eyes, is king - it's the ritualistic physical manifestation of my goals. It's real, it's there, I can touch it, I can see it, I can smell it - and oh my god, does it feel, look and smell good?! Sometimes I keep my cash until I've collected 10 or 20 stacks and I take off the bobby-pins and throw it up in the air and lay on it for a while make money angels... then I collect it all up and arrange it all again - always lady side up and separate new notes from old notes, greens from yellows. I pray to the money gods, I repeat my mantras, work as much as I can and, I'll admit, far too often attach my sense of self-worth to the amount of money I'm making or spending. I'm self-aware enough and have been through enough therapy to manage my feelings of guilt and shame and frustration, and always manage to calm myself with the knowledge that I need to have some fun and rest or I'll go even more insane, but it's there and I see it, acknowledge it, accept it and have built a life and a future around it.
It's been a hard year, for everyone of course. I've had to rely on government support for most of it. Even though I was well-placed and privileged enough to ride it out and tightened my belt, I feel an essence of panic and insecurity around money that has been my constant companion even in the best of times. My return to work this month has been one of the most lucrative months of my career, and yet here I am punishing myself for spending a conservative portion of it on things I don't urgently NEED - EVEN though it was mostly work investments and completely tax deductible AND on sale. There is always the notion filling my head of "what if you make nothing next month?" "What if you make nothing for the next year?" "what if some kind of accident happens and you can never work again?". PANIC. SHAME. STRESS. AGGHHH.
You'll find that a lot of sex workers come from similar backgrounds and carry this similar kind of scarcity complex and became sex workers to make a less stressful life for themselves. Before you judge people for their rates, or being "all about the money", or pragmatically only wanting to marry people who are wealthy, think about what money could mean to a person. Instead of making it about your ego and entitlement - especially if you're already financially secure - give a little extra and don't ask for anything in return and see how much joy and relief and GENUINE respect and appreciation it can bring. Just because it's about money, doesn't make it dirty or shameful or any less real. I really love and respect my clients because they're fun and intelligent and they support and nurture me and my dreams and lifestyle - generosity even in small amounts is and always will be an irresistibly attractive trait - and they get the best and brightest version of me because they facilitate the ability for me to be that person in the first place. I can't be sexy and fun and open and sensual if I'm too stressed out to relax - simple.
Whenever a rich person - who often has just refused to pay me what I ask for (funny that) - tells me "money isn't everything" I want to slap them. To wake them up. To shout at them until they burst into tears at just the thought of how painful it is to go without all of the little things - minuscule things, things so basic they don't even realise they're paying for them - they take for granted. My step up in the financial class food-chain over the last 6 years has affirmed my understanding that money is, in and of itself, freedom. Money is freedom to explore, to create, to enjoy, to consume, to soothe, to love, to nurture, to help, to improve, to learn, to collect... Money is access and safety and shelter and health and well-being and all of those things. At the most basic level, money is everything. Without money in this capitalist society, you do not get to exist let alone meet the first tier of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
If money isn't everything to you and you don't want it, I will happily take it off your hands. I have no qualms about being "self-made", I have few options other than to appreciate and seize the blessings and opportunities that come to me. I have no dreams of being "rich", I will not be a dragon sitting on a pile of gold, the title of land-lord does not appeal to me. I want a secure house of my own to live in, on some land to cultivate fruit and vegetables, and a photography studio, a commercial sized kitchen so I can create my farm to table dining experience and host cooking classes and make jams and preserves and sauces, and have an outdoor enclosure for my cat so she can go outside and the native wild-life are safe, and an alpaca, and a cow, and some chickens, and a pizza oven, and a wine cellar, and solar panels, and a water reclamation system and eco friendly everything, and I'd like to be close to the beach in a temperate climate so I can be naked all the time. That's when I will be free of this burden of scarcity... so if you have a couple mil just laying around, send me an email and let's see what this money that isn't everything to you can do for a person who it means a lot to. After all, mo money, mo problems. I'll take the excess and help you out, boo.
I guess what I'm trying to say is - after all that - this "comfort" I have cultivated will always feel strange to me. I will always feel like a bit of an imposter. My old life will always have its place in the way that I approach my finances, but as my privilege grows, I find less reason to stress myself into an early grave over the issue. It's a simultaneously uncomfortable and yet relieving sensation to experience. I know I'll get there in the end through more hard work and sacrifice. To that idealised place of freedom I so yearn for. What I need to remember is that spending a few hundred dollars now is not going to ruin that for me. The world is abundant and I attract the opportunities to work for and achieve all that my heart desires.