Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine

from the editor

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In the 80s and 90s, the leggy, redheaded Jennifer Souness was stalking the catwalks of Milan. Now based in New Zealand, she has a different career – some call her a madam, she prefers the shock value of the expression ‘pimp’.

Both the industries Souness knows well – fashion and sex – commodify female beauty. “But one is revered,” she says, “and one is reviled.” No prizes for guessing which is which. But, she says, if you want respect, workplace ethics and control over your own body, you would be better off working at her upmarket brothel Bon Ton than modelling for an iconic fashion label. “The first time I did a show for Giorgio Armani he squeezed my breasts, said they were too big and I had to put a big elastic band around them.” She compares that to Bon Ton where, she says, the ‘courtesans’ are smart feminists in control, and the men are strictly informed of what is kosher and what is not. (Ask for sex without a condom and, though you’ll be declined, you will be billed another $50 – just for asking.)

Whatever your views on prostituti­on, we live in a country in which it’s legal. That’s been the case for almost 13 years but a huge social stigma around the transactio­n lingers. “Recently I ordered 60 pillow cases from a company. They then went on the internet and checked out my business andnd refused to send them… It’s this moral panic button that’s pushed every time,” says Souness. Bon Ton has also recently (and not for the first time) me) been evicted from its premises – an inner-city y apartment block – due to a landlord’s supposedse­d concerns about his other tenants being disturbed.urbed. This is ironic, she says, because if anyone is discreet it’s a man paying for sex and the woman man (often moonlighti­ng to supplement a straight-tlaced career) who services him. “I’m going to o cause a little storm about this, because I’m over ver it,” says Souness. “I can guarantee that nobodydy in that building has an apartment with furnituree as beautiful as ours.”

* Read more about the world-wide politics of prostituti­on on page 16.

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