New sexual revolution in a digital city
T THE streetwalker has already y go gone from Sydney’s nocturnal la landscape — and it’s claimed br brothels will soon follow.
Social media, the digital re revolution and the smart phone ar are changing sex work in NSW ju just as radically as the latest inca cantation of feminism and the st state’s famously relaxed laws s go governing prostitution.
NSW was the first jurisdic- tio tion in the world to decriminal- is ise adult sex work, beginning in 1979 w when some laws against streetreet ba based sex workers were removed.
In 1995 further legislation saw m most aspects of the NSW sex industr try decriminalised.
Transparency, the protection of w women, and the fight against organi nised crime and police corruption, dr drove the world-famous laws.
But that was before the iPhone, re revealed by Apple in 2007, and the World Wide Web, which went live back in 1991.
Sydney male escort John Oh is a cl classic example of NSW’s changing se sex work — he’s one of a growing number of men who women pay to have sex with. “I think you can track th the increase (in women paying for s sex) to the uptake of phones and table lets,” he said.
“All of a sudden they allowed women to research in private rather than use the work or home computer and have that fear of being caught out.
“That’s just something they could never do before.”
Social media, the explosion in escort “shopping” sites and a widespread acceptance of sex work as a viable occupation, and those relaxed laws, has meant that Sydney is challenging cities like Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro for the title of the world’s sex capital, according to UNSW fellow and social researcher Hillary Caldwell.
“Sydney is really seen as the envy of the rest of the world,” said UNSW fellow and social researcher Caldwell, who has dedicated her thesis to the relatively new phenomenon of women paying for sex with escorts.
“It’s one of the few places where prostitution is mostly legal, though there are still small areas where restrictions apply.
“But is certainly seen as a place that, in the past few years, has really become one of the most progressive and as a result the industry has really evolved.”
In the past decade the Harbour City’s sex landscape has morphed from one based solely around men paying women for sex — sex-buyers globally remain 99 per cent male — to a diverse mix of young, old, male and female both buying and selling sex services in bigger numbers.
Women have become the fastestgrowing clientele in the sex market in NSW, their numbers increasing around 100 per cent year-on-year since around 2013.
As a result male escorts are on the rise, with about 50 men catering to women-only clients now registered in NSW.
As well as increased access to online escort sites, Ms Caldwell puts this relatively new phenomenon down to what is known as “the fourth wave of feminism” — a social shift which began around 2013 and saw women becoming more empowered via the internet.
“Some people refer to it as postfeminism … but basically it saw women becoming more and more empowered through shared experiences,” said Ms Caldwell, who has interviewed dozens of women who admit to now paying men for sex.
“But it’s not just the act of buying sex that is significant, but the fact that women now know they can initiate it, ask for what they want and know they don’t necessarily need to please anyone.”
Former escort and author Samantha X now runs an agency specialisi ising in female sex workers be between 30 and 60 and said that br brothels were “on the way out” th thanks to the smartphone.
It enables sex workers to operate either individually or in small gro groups from shared premises or ho hotels.
“There’s no need for street work an anymore, which I think is great,” sh she said.
“If you’re selling sex you can jus just arrange to meet someone eit either at their place, or a hotel or wh wherever.”
The alleged murder of Michae aela Dunn — who had been adverti vertising online and working out of an apartment on Clarence St in Sydney’s CBD, in August when she was attacked — reignited the topic of safety and independent sex work in the digital age.
Several escorts claimed at the time that Dunn’s violent death left them feeling “vulnerable” and the risks of sex work came under much media scrutiny.
There were claims brothels may in some cases actually provide a safer environment.
“Women obviously do have to be mindful all the time of their safety and a lot of that comes down to listening to their gut … because things do happen,” Samantha X said.
“Though far less than you would think. And I don’t think it is any worse than the risk associated with going on a Tinder date or having a tradie over to your house.”
Attacks on sex workers — while still a reality — are relatively uncommon, according to Cameron Cox, who runs the Sex Workers Outreach Project in NSW.
“Attacks by clients aren’t common at all,” Mr Cox said.
“But when it does happen it gets a lot of media attention and people assume it happens a lot.
“The problem is the amount of gendered violence that occurs in our society as a whole.
“The reality is women of all kinds face threats of violence in their lives and as it stands 80 per cent of all sex workers are women.
“So unfortunately they cop their fair share but that’s a male violence issue.”
The reality is women threats of all kinds face li ves of violence in their Pr oject Worker’s O utreach Cameron C ox, S ex
Michaela Dunn Dunn, 24 24, was stabbed to death in an apartment on Clarence St in Sydney’s CBD.