[Photo Credit © G.Gilbert 2017. Used with permission]
"I was a pimp"
Jacqueline Gwynne wrote her own story.
I was a receptionist at a ‘high class’ brothel in Melbourne, Australia, for two years. My job title was ‘receptionist’. I had a brothel manager’s licence. But in reality I was actually a pimp. I had to sell women.
I suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for a few years afterwards and was really angry at the world because the job forced me to dwell in the dark, seedy underbelly of life. One of the main causes of PTSD for me was exposure to hard core porn that I could not escape. Shifts were 13 hours long, so that’s a lot of porn. Porn wasn’t just in the introductions area, it played on big screens in every room.
The whole building was lit with red lighting which made it even more eerie and unnerving. I was quite oblivious to what was in porn because I had never watched it before then. It was violence against women on film where the women are verbally abused, degraded, treated roughly, choked, and their hair pulled. There were never condoms.
The brothel had a ‘no drugs’ policy but the reality was most of the women took drugs and had addictions to either street or prescription drugs. Ice was common; others took heroin. I saw many girls start in the brothel who were perfectly healthy, fit, happy and then quickly deteriorated in a matter of weeks, becoming very thin, withdrawn, sick, depressed and addicted to drugs. Drug dealers would come in pretending to be clients and then supply drugs to the girls.
It is not a nice job, certainly not glamorous like you see on TV shows like Satisfaction or movies such as Pretty Woman. The women took drugs to survive the work, numb themselves and to forget what they did. I was studying at the time and needed work and couldn’t find anything sustainable. My background is Visual Arts which is a very difficult field to get work in. Some of the other receptionists also came from an arts background. There is generally always work in the sex industry because it is awful and not many people want to do it. The majority of sex work is night shift. You don’t socialise at the same time as people in the normal world.
Even though I was only a receptionist there is still stigma attached to it. My mother wouldn’t talk to me about it and if I did tell friends or family about things that happened at work they would shut down and did not want to hear about it. I keep in touch with a few of the receptionists that I have become really good friends with. It’s great to catch up because they are the only people I can talk to openly about what happened because no one else gets it. I haven’t been able to keep in touch with any of the sex workers – their work environment is so extreme, many of them come from backgrounds of abuse and dysfunction and have major trust issues.
It has taken me a long time to recover from PTSD. I’ve always thought of myself as open-minded, streetwise and no easily shocked. But each shift there would be something that would have you thinking: WHAT? You are exposed to the absolute depths of human depravity. Stuff that would truly make your skin crawl and being completely sober made it all the more excruciating. Every night there would be an incident of abuse or violence. Girls were spat at, bitten, verbally abused and treated roughly.
When I started, I was pro-porn and pro-sex work. At first I thought it was cool and exciting. I had read many books and watched films about the sex industry. It is glamourised in the media. But, in reality, the men are mostly fat, ugly, mad, old, creepy, have poor social skills, very few sexual skills and appalling personal hygiene. They generally can’t have normal relationships with women because of these reasons and they also have no respect for women. Any man that walks in to a brothel has no respect for women. I heard some revolting stories, one in particular of a guy with his pants filled with diarrhoea! I mean how on earth do you feel in the mood when your pants are filled with shit? The girl made him shower three times before she started the booking. Men who frequent prostitutes have a sense of entitlement. They feel entitled to abuse and use any woman, whenever they want.
To support these industries is to be in denial. The work chips away at you. At first I found it fascinating and exciting but it’s like tiny pinpricks over and over that become deflating. No woman should have to resort to prostitution. Although some tell themselves it’s a choice, it is more that they are in denial that is a survival strategy that gets you through the night. Another survival strategy is humour. Many of the women were hysterically funny and we’d get ourselves through the night by making jokes about it.
The main brothel that I worked at was just outside of the city centre. It was marketed and presented as a classy venue. The clients ranged from university students, international students, taxi drivers, business men, lawyers, tradesmen, retired men, drug dealers and musicians. The men came from different cultural backgrounds; there were a lot of Indian, African, Middle Eastern, Greek and Asian men. The majority of clients were white Australian men. There were religious men too, Catholics and Muslims. They came in dressed in plain clothes.
I would check their identification details from their drivers’ licences and you could see in their photos that they were religious men because of their head wear or a priest wearing a collar. I could tell that they looked really uncomfortable when I checked their details. The temporary marriage ceremonies that were annulled at the end of the booking were a practice of some Islamic men.
There were some men from certain cultures that the girls would refuse to be introduced to. They’d look at them through the security camera and I would have to tell the men that all the girls were busy. These men were considered to have no respect towards women and rough and aggressive, with ‘octopus hands’. The basic service was for sex, oral and massage. The way for the girls to make more money was from extras. Extras were services including anal sex – which no woman I met enjoyed – kissing, fantasies and perversions. Fantasies or perversions could include pissing, bondage and discipline, paedophile fantasies, lesbian double fantasies, stripping, lap dances, transvestites and any other weird request the client had. I had to explain the basic service to the clients and anything extra they would discuss with the girls. Paedophile fantasies were the worst. […]
Contributor: Jacqueline Gwynne, 2016
To read more, purchase the groundbreaking and progressive story compilation— edited by Dr. Caroline Norma and advocate for girls and women, Melissa Tankard Reist, Prostitution Narratives: stories of survival in the sex trade.