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What Sex Work Taught Me About Money

I walked into my second booking with a large burly tradie and find him splayed on the bed, a thirty dollar tip wrapped around his erect dick.

It’s a good move on his part. I’ll give him that. He’s made me laugh – always a plus – and associated his cock directly with money like I wasn’t already preoccupied with it. It’s cute. But the tip really should have been bigger.

It meant that my shift started off well, but the next two hours left me bouncing on the balls of my feet and obsessively watching the CCTV, waiting for a client to come in. I always drink far too much coffee on the quiet days.

That’s the thing about this job. Nothing is ever guaranteed.

It’s Whore Lore – that the more desperate you are, the less bookings you’ll get. Take ‘em or leave em, and they’ll be begging at your feet. But need to pay rent? Bills on their way? It’s like they sense it. It’s like a wild look in the eye that drives them away. By the time I’d caught an Uber there and home, I’d spent over half of what I’d made.

“It’s Whore Lore…the more desperate you are, the less bookings you’ll get.”

When you don’t have sick leave, or taxes, or superannuation organised for you, you have to figure out how to do that stuff on your own. And being paid every day means you don’t have to plan the way you do with fortnightly or monthly payments. For people who are new to the industry that’s the trap. The excitement of having so much money so soon makes people silly. It’s easy to do when you’re holding more money than you’ve ever seen in real life.

But some days, the money’s shit. You’re never guaranteed an income when you work in sex work. Some days it might be two thousand. Some days it might be two hundred. Or fifty. Or nothing. And a sex worker has to be prepared for that. And plan for those days.

A trick I learned before I ever got into sex work was to spend your tens and save your hundreds. Say you get $157, you put $100 into your spending account for bills and rent, and use the $57 on groceries and spending. If the number is larger, you can add a “savings” portion.

I now estimate the amount I need to make for rent and bills at the end of the month, add in any other spending and pad it out with what I know I’ll spend on UberEats and skincare. I take that number and divide it by the amount of days I can work and that’s how much I need to earn per shift. Anything extra goes into my “Old Lady Fund” which is just my version of superannuation. Or I get my nails done. Depends on the day.

“Being a sex worker taught me more than just saving tricks. It taught me how to demand survival in a society that will do its best to destroy you.”

If you ask, I’ll always say it’s about the money. But being a sex worker taught me more than just saving money. It taught me how to demand survival in a society that will do its best to destroy you. It taught me to value myself and my labour – both physical and emotional. Really, there’s nothing sex work teaches you about money that you won’t learn elsewhere. But it does teach you about the value of your time.

When I worked in an office, trudging through the nine-to-five, I was fully aware of the way my managers and bosses took advantage of us. They’d demand we reach unachievable KPIs to make up for their planning mistakes. They’d give us more work than was possible to do and then not pay overtime. And I took it, not knowing better.

And then I got into sex work, and I learned how to stand up for myself the way my past managers would have despised.

I now know how to demand respect for myself. I know how to pitch my services and calculate the exact cost of my time. I know what each moment of each service is worth and I know how to communicate that. I know that my time and energy is not freely given, that I am not obligated to suffer fools, or continue relationships of any kind where I am not valued and respected.

I usually avoid giving money advice. I don’t like talking about it, and I certainly don’t feel as though I know enough about others’ situations to tell them how to spend what they have painstakingly earned. So instead, I tell them how sex work has helped me find value financially and within my interactions with others. In the end, it really only boils down to one thing.

Speak loudly, live a life you can be proud of, and never be ashamed of who you are and how you survive.

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