Words by: Simone Kealy Art by: Callum Johnson
With all the stigma and judgement that surrounds the sex industry, sex workers around the globe are fighting to dispel those myths and stereotypes. Ilina Joy, a 27-year-old escort and nutrition student is one of them. Ilina is a proud sex worker, and doesn’t think that her line of work, or any other job for that matter, defines her worth. Read more for an insight into the sex industry and one woman’s experience as a sex worker.
There are a lot of misconceptions about why people go into the sex industry. What drew you to becoming a sex worker?
Being able to work for myself, the flexibility of choosing when I work, and of course, the money. It does pay extremely well. It allows me to work minimal hours, in comparison to someone who works the standard 40-hour week. I could make someone’s fortnightly wage in a couple of hours.
When I was in the corporate industry, it was high pressure, long hours, long days and highly stressful. To then working in the [sex] industry, and not having that amount of stress was a very big thing for me.
I’m not saying that this work doesn’t come with stress or things like that, because it is actually really difficult work and it’s not for everyone.
With all the judgement and stigma surrounding sex work, how do you feel about being a sex worker?
I’m extremely proud about being a sex worker and I’m pretty open and vocal about it with most people. If someone asked me what I do, I generally will tell them. With my family, I’m a bit more hesitant about telling them because I know the judgment and stigma that comes with it and sometimes it’s just not worth the energy to have to deal with a conversation like that. I find all my friends, and the younger generation, are extremely open to it and it’s a lot more common than what it used to be, or I guess it’s just more out there. I also think perhaps it’s just because it’s my world,so that’s just what I see all the time, hence it might be different to someone who’s not in the industry. I actually really like being able to talk about it, and have that conversation with people and say, I’m an escort, because it’s not that common. If I can reduce the stigma one conversation at a time with anyone or everyone that I meet, I’m happy to do so.
Many people would assume that friends and family wouldn’t be supportive of sex work, but is that really true? Are your friends and family supportive of you being a sex worker?
All my friends are very supportive. Some of them say that they would love to do it themselves, but they just don’t think that they could. My brother and my mum are supportive too. Although, they do worry that I am safe, so I think that’s more just their concern. I don’t go into details with them about bookings and things like that, as I would my best friends, but they accept that that’s what I do, so there’s no issues there.
In your experience, what are some of the challenges you have faced as a sex worker?
When you’re having a shitty week or a shitty couple of days, you’re just not in a good mental space or you really can’t be bothered dealing with people, if you were in an office job, you can just go to work, sit at your desk and continue along. But when you’re doing this work, you can’t do that. You have to show up to the client’s house or wherever you’re going. Most sex workers have got an alias too, or a different name that they use, so you have to walk in as that person and put on an act. It does take a lot of energy.
The easiest thing about the job though, is when I can actually have conversations with my clients. Then you vibe, and you really get along, it just makes the time you spend with them actually nice, and you can actually meet some really interesting people. But if they are a bit awkward and they struggle to have conversations, because obviously, there’s plenty of men out there who are like that, it can make it a bit difficult. You just want to be human with that person, but they really can’t give you anything back. That’s really annoying.
We know society has a lot to say about sex work and as it stands, and there is quite a stigma surrounding the occupation. How does this make you feel?
It is frustrating, because at the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter what you’re doing. You’re using your body to get up and go to your job, whether you’re making coffee, you’re working corporate, or you’re a stripper, you’re still working. How we choose to make our money shouldn’t really impact anyone else.
Ultimately, what someone does for work doesn’t define their worth. It doesn’t make them any less worthy than someone who isn’t in the sex industry. You should never judge someone by what they do for work.
We’ve talked a lot about the challenges sex workers face, but what about the positives and the things that you enjoy about being a sex worker?
It’s a big confidence boost, especially because I feel it’s actually really good, and healing for people who maybe have suffered from body issues, or eating disorders or body dysmorphia, because it actually helps you become more confident in your skin, and helps you love yourself a lot more. A really big part about being a sex worker is that you’re a lot more open and confident and accepting of others. I find that all my sex worker friends are probably the least judgmental people that I know.