How city’s sex workers are working from home
WITH government restrictions banning them from coming face to face with clients during COVID-19, working from home has presented Brisbane's sex workers with some challenges.
Lucie moved to Brisbane from Sydney late last year, and was only just establishing her business locally when the threat of COVID-19 emerged.
"My partner and I were keeping an eye on it closely because we both have elderly parents," she said.
"When a lot of things started shutting down, we decided pretty early - prior to the public health order coming in - that I would step back from any in-person meetings. That was for my health and also just in case we had to go and help our family. We didn't want to take any risks."
When the in-person sex ban was introduced as part of sweeping restrictions to stop the spread of the virus, Lucie said it still rocked her industry.
"It's upsetting in the sense that it's my work, it's my livelihood, and I love the industry. I love what I do,' she said.
"It was difficult, but I'd had a bit of time to sit with it compared to friends of mine who just had to stop immediately. There was a lot of panic."
Lucie said she turned her focus to online work to try and sustain an income until the restrictions are lifted and the threat of the virus has passed.
"I already had a little bit of an online personality and had been using the internet for different services or content, so I had to build on that," she said.
"I was very upfront saying 'you can't come and see me in person - that's not happening right now'."
"When this was all kicking off, the government said that if you were a sole trader, the expectation was that you would continue to develop and stay in your business," Lucie said.
"So we are trying to do exactly what has been put forward and to adapt, so that when all this is over we've got the platform on which to get back to work."
Lucie said while she has been building the online side of her business, competition was tough.
"It can be a hard market to break into and there are a lot of people doing it," she said.
"I've been offering photos, web calls, that kind of thing. Anything that I can do at home with a camera or my voice, that anyone else would be doing with their partner."
Queensland's organisation for sex workers Respect Inc said many sex workers either stopped working or took steps to offer low or no contact services before they had to.
Respect's state co-ordinator Elena Jeffreys said the organisation had been inundated with inquiries about transmission and risk to workers in early March.
"After so many requests, we started online workshops on COVID-19 including a guest health professional to answer technical questions," she said.
"As more information became available, sex workers have moved to online and phone services. The Respect Sex Working Online skillshare was very well attended with experienced sex workers offering other sex workers practical tips."
Despite that, Ms Jeffreys said the financial impact of the virus on workers had been extreme, and even worse for workers who are ineligible for government support.
"Respect is collaborating with Scarlet Alliance on a fundraiser for emergency relief for sex workers who cannot access support. It is the only option for some sex workers but is limited - it is only able to provide a small sum to about 25% of applicants."
Ms Jeffreys added the adjustment to working online is not easy for some workers.
"It actually includes a higher privacy risk of sex workers being non-consensually 'outed'. It's less money for many and there are significant barriers to the transition for some members of the sex work community," she said.
Lucie added not all her bookings were always about sex.
"I have a lot of clients I see for companionship. That's a big part of what we do and our time together, and I worry about them," she said.
"I'm not just in it for the money. I earn a living, but I also worry about the people who spend time with me and being able to offer those online options means we can stay in touch and it can be a little bit naughty or just having a chat."
"Especially now when everyone is isolated, it's more important than ever."
Originally published as How Brisbane's sex workers are working from home