Sex Worker Lives – Touching Base

Today’s Sex Worker Lives interview is with Saul, President of Touching Base. Touching Base Inc is a charitable organisation, based in Sydney NSW Australia, that has been active since October 2000. Touching Base was developed out of the need to assist people with disability and sex workers to connect with each other, focusing on access, discrimination, human rights and legal issues and the attitudinal barriers that these two marginalised communities can face.

I asked Saul a few questions about what he does at Touching Base and what Touching Base does in the community.

1. Tell us about Touching Base and the role it plays in the sex industry?

The work of Touching Base – bringing together sex workers and people with disability – emerged under the umbrella of a decriminalised sex industry in New South Wales. Since we began in 2000 we have observed a remarkable change in the way many people now look at sex workers, especially those connected with the vast disability sector. Our involvement in the documentary Scarlet Road, featuring our inaugural member Rachel Wotton, has given Touching Base an international profile that brings awareness of this area of sex work to audiences around the world.

2. As President, how did you come to be involved with Touching Base?

Touching Base started from a small group of interested sex workers, people with disability and some allies in sexual health. We called a meeting to build bridges between sex workers and people with disability and to identify what each group needed from each other. As a sex worker my primary interest was to get training on how to better meet the needs of my clients with disability. Over the last 15 years volunteering with Touching Base has been a wonderful learning journey in many other ways, and as a sex worker activist I draw strength from working closely with a wide variety of awesome people who fully support the rights and aspirations of sex workers’.

3. Why is it so necessary for a service such as yours to exist?

In the past the sexuality of people with disability was invisible – unless it was raised as a problem. So Touching Base stands up for the rights of adults with disability to express their sexuality, including being supported to access to the services of sex workers if that is what they want to do. Because negative community attitudes towards sex workers can be a barrier we also address stigma and discrimination directed towards sex workers. Practical ways we do this is by producing information resources, delivering training, providing policy advice and engaging in research.

The most important ongoing service we provide is meeting the ever increasing demand from clients and support staff for referrals to disability-friendly sex workers and accessible brothels across Australia.

4. What does a sex worker have to do to be placed on the Touching Base Referral List?

Firstly a sex worker needs to apply for membership using the form available on our website and follow the instructions for sending it to our Secretary. Sex workers can choose to join up using their working name. Once membership is approved the annual fee is only $20 for 1 year or $50 for 3 years. Then the worker can provide details about themselves and their services via an online portal. A sex worker who helps maintain the referral list database will then call to welcome them as a new member and activate their listing on the database. Find more info about membership and our Referral List on our website.

5. What is some advice you can give to a sex worker who would like to work with men and/or women with a disability in this way?

Firstly, have a good look over the information available on our website – especially in the Sex Worker and Client sections. To increase your confidence come along to one of our Professional Disability Awareness Training workshops (PDAT). These workshops also offer a unique opportunity to network with other sex workers, to share tips and upskill together in a class that is strictly restricted to sex workers.

6. As a member of the sex industry, and as President of Touching Base, how would you define sexuality?

To my mind sexuality is a combination of: gender identity, sexual orientation and the expression of personal preferences – in relation to intimacy, and/or sensuality, and/or sexual activities; with one’s self and/or with others – within private or public arenas.

7. What advice would you give to someone in the disabled community who is a little apprehensive about using Touching Base’s services?

Many clients feel nervous before seeing a sex worker for the first time, for a range of reasons. Sex workers are used to helping new clients to relax in their company – it’s all part of the service. Curiosity is a great antidote to anxiety. On the Touching Base website you can read short stories from other men and women with disability telling their experiences of seeing a sex worker, and check out the Frequently Asked Questions pages.

8. As President of Touching Base, what would you say to the overall community about overcoming discrimination and the attitudinal barriers that exist about sex and disability?

One of the easiest ways to influence prejudiced minds is by sharing genuine insights and personal stories. If you want to become a part of the positive changes we are making why not join up as a member of Touching Base. You can create change within your ‘circles of influence’ by getting hold of a copy of the documentary Scarlet Road to share with friends, work colleagues and family members – and you’re sure to have an interesting chat about it afterwards.

9. Finish this sentence….”In a perfect world…. the sexual and relationship needs of people with disability would be given equal focus to their other personal support needs – and all sectors of the sex industry would be fully decriminalised in all jurisdictions across the planet”

You can learn more about Touching Base at http://www.touchingbase.org/.

Thanks to Saul for taking the time out to talk with me.

KVA

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The Life of a Sex Toy Reviewer – My Interview With Eva Sless

Today I interviewed Eva Sless, freelance writer and all around Australian sexpert who has written for a number of magazines such as Birdee and Australian People. She regularly provides us with reviews of the latest sex toys so I thought I would sit down with her and ask her some tough questions about her job as a sex toy reviewer. Here is what happened:

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KVA: Welcome Eva and thank you for participating in my blog interview!

ES: No worries. Glad to be here!

KVA: So, I have it on good authority that you are Australia’s best sex toy reviewer. How on earth did this happen?

ES: Haha. Well to be honest I kind of fell into it. I was writing a sex column for Australian People magazine and, through that, met a whole bunch of contacts. One of them was the good folk at AMM and they asked if I would be interested in writing for them – which I was. And one of the first pieces they asked me to do was a sex toy review. It went down really well (pardon the pun) and so they asked me to do more. And suddenly I had a box of toys under my bed and a reputation growing….and from there i had all sorts of people sending me stuff and asking me to review it.

I think the reason people like what I have to say, is that I’m very, very, honest. I’m not necessarily rude… Haha… but I’m honest. I don’t do cash for comment. I never have.

It has been known to piss some people off… but I couldn’t be happy within myself if I just bullshitted good things about a product because I’m getting paid.

So people know if I give something a good review I truly believe it – because I’ve given some pretty shitty ones too.

KVA: Ah-ha! That leads me to my next point. I am very turned off by sex toy packaging. Is this common?

ES: Haha. Yes! I absolutely agree! Actually in a lot of my reviews I mention the packaging because I really think it’s important.

I think, especially if you’re spending a lot of money… and let’s face it, sex toys are not cheap, you want a nice box and a classy looking package. It’s definitely improving – but there are a few that still don’t seem to get it.

KVA: What are some of the hallmarks of a cheap toy, as opposed to that of a more expensive toy? Besides price obviously!

ES: Usually the functions and effectiveness of the motor and longevity of the toy’s life. But sometimes the el cheapo twist bottom single battery vibe is precisely what the user wants. Price doesn’t always necessarily mean quality unfortunately.

Some of the worst toys I’ve ever reviewed have been ones priced at over $200 and my most favourite toy ever, the one I go back to, is priced under $100.

KVA: How can you guarantee that what worked on you during your review will work on the purchaser, or do you put a disclaimer in your review?

ES: I can’t. And I never guarantee anything like that. Every woman, every vagina, every clitoris is different. There’s no way i could make a blanket statement like that and feel okay.

My reviews are very personalised. I talk about my body, my experience, my enjoyment or lack of.

I often will point out that this is my opinion. I cannot speak for others. That would be silly.

KVA: What should people know about looking after sex toys?

ES: (1) Only use cheap batteries. Anything too powerful like rechargeable or lithium will damage the motor and burn it out. Those little motors can only go as fast as they go. Putting too much power into them will burn it out and it won’t last.

(2) Never clean a toy with soap. Always use an antibacterial toy cleaner. Soap will damage toys and never fully washes off properly and can screw up your internal Ph balances and make your vagina sick with thrush and other imbalances.

(3) Never use silicone lubes with a toy that has silicone components. it will damage it and void any warranties etc.

KVA: Do you remember what your first sex toy was and how old were you when you bought it? Do you remember how much it cost you?

Hahaha. Oh I remember it all very, very, clearly.

I even have a blog on it I originally wrote for the Australian Sex Party blog on how much adult shops etc had changed over the years. Here’s the link: http://deliciouslybad.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/then-and-now-of-sex-shops.html?m=1

I was around 17 and it cost me about $30 I think. It was one of those penis looking twist bottom buzzers. A blue jelly type material.

It was pretty rad.

KVA: I’ve gone from a rickety old Doc Johnson motorised clitoral stimulator to an expensive Lelo. I’ve never looked back. Have you had the same experience? What is the most expensive sex toy you’ve purchased?

Well… That’s hard because I actually have not purchased a toy in years. I have thousands of dollars-worth in my house, but I have not paid for them. They get sent to me by various companies.

Probably the most expensive one would be this one called the Jopen Intensity which is actually more a medical device designed by doctors to help stimulate vaginal muscles in instances of prolapse etc but many users reported it as not only helping to stimulate the muscles but was stimulating intense orgasms too..

It runs an electrical charge through it. It’s becoming very popular as a pleasure toy.

Personally i couldn’t use it. I tried. I really really tried. But I’m not a huge fan of electro stim and i just couldn’t bring myself to try it. So there’s no Eva Review on that one unfortunately. The company who sent it to me were really good about it actually.

They totally got why i ended up not reviewing it.

I still have it. Maybe one day I’ll work up the courage!

KVA: Finally, what was the most ridiculous sex toy you’ve ever used?

Hahaha. It’s called the Lelo Ida and Ida just… Well… It does not do what it claims it will do. When i get a new toy i avoid everything I can about it. Other reviews and write ups etc so I can go in blind. Then, once I’ve finished testing and write up my stuff I go searching to see what others thought. we’re all (other reviewers) usually all pretty spot on.

I found this toy was so bad, and yet i love Lelo so much, that I was super curious to see if maybe i was way off this time…

I wasn’t. I’ve never seen so many bad reviews on a product before.

It was a relief at the same time as it was a bit sad. Haha.I have discovered, though, that if you sell it as a solo anal toy, rather than a couples intercourse toy as designed, it’s amazing and people love it.

So sometimes it’s a matter of stepping outside the box to see if it has a positive side.

Oh. I don’t particularly like ones with animals on them. Dolphins and rabbits and critters.

I used to have a green worm one I’d call Cedric. He was cute and worked well…

But overall I’d prefer it not to have a face. Haha.

KVA: YES! LIKE THOSE DUCK VIBRATORS!!!!

ES: Hahaha. I see the point of them though in a way. They are easy to hide in plain sight…

KVA: Thank you so much for sitting down with me.

ES: No worries. Was my pleasure.

You can catch Eva at her blog on: http://deliciouslybad.blogspot.com.au/?m=1

And this:
http://www.adultmatchmaker.com.au/author/8/eva-sless

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These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things Part Two

Last week, I decided to get out amongst the sex and adult entertainment industry and ask them one question in relation to the work that they do. I asked them:

“What is the one thing you cannot live without/what is the most important work related item?”

Continuing with this series, I will bring you some of the answers that I received.

The important thing about this series is that there is no wrong answer!

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I spoke with Karly from Scarlet Blue, and it comes as no surprise that she gave me the following photo:

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Karly says that “A good coffee is one of the simple pleasures in life. Life wouldn’t be the same without it”

We can all agree on that, Karly!

You can follow ScarletBlue on @ScarletBlue or visit them at http://www.scarletblue.com.au.

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I then spoke with Mistress Penelope, who lists “bondage, disciple, sadism, masochism, fetish and fantasy” as some of her interests, hails from Sydney and gives us the following picture:

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Mistress Penelope explains: “I’ve attached a photo of the work items that I just can’t live without – lubes and gloves.

The right kind of lube can make all of the difference in a session, and My absolute favourite (water-based) is Wet Stuff Gold. With a thick and smooth consistency and long lasting moisture, it’s perfect for heavy play up to fisting and just about everything else ever!

Silicone lube keeps My latex looking pretty glossy and often helps Me get in without the white residue left by talc.

I also use My hands a lot and cannot stand the sensation of things under My nails so good quality latex and nitrile gloves form a core component of My arsenal.

I get to play with an incredible array of fun things as I commit horrible deeds to wonderful people, but at the end of the day, it comes down to imagination and what you can do with your hands 😉

You can find Mistress Penelope on @Mz_Penelope or visit her wesbite at http://www.mistresspenelope.com.au

________________________________________________________________________________________________Kimmy, Kimmy is a sex worker from Sydney, Australia, wrote in and told me that she cannot do without Karmasutra Lube. She says “its sooooo amazing and doesn’t have that wet sticky feeling like other lubes. Most guys can’t even tell I’m using lube at all.” She adds “this is my magic potion that enables me to take really big sizes anally, or if i am not naturally lubricated enough.”

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You can talk to Kimmy on Twitter at @misskimmyxoxo and you can visit her website at http://www.misskimmyxoxo.com.

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Paige Thomas, a sex worker from Melbourne, Australia gave us the following picture:

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She simply says ” Its my guarantee of an orgasm.” (I think many of us can relate!)

You can contact Paige at @PaigeThomasMelb or you can visit her website at http://www.paigethomas.com.au/.

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To finish up today, I asked Jordan Tyler, a male porn performer who hails from New Jersey, in the US what his most important item is and he gave me the following pic:

IMG_0731-1Now, this required some explanation – so Jordan was kind enough to write a blog entry for us, so here it is:

So Kate has asked me to write about one item I can’t live without as a sex worker. Most of my dealings with sex work are related to porn, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know a thing or two 🙂 Sex toys are mostly the domain of the women, and while it’s easy for me, as a male to say it’s my tongue or my penis, isn’t that a little tacky?? Besides, I would say it’s my hands that are more important than the others. If you want to get a woman in the mood, what is the first thing that’s going to touch her?? Maybe your lips if you kiss her?? Sure. But when you kiss, 99% of the time your hands are involved. Maybe you put them on her hips or waist…on her back…on her head/face…or maybe even her ass 🙂 But you are almost always putting them somewhere on her body. And I have yet to find a woman who doesn’t melt when my hands are running all over her body. It’s my way of getting her in the mood for my tongue, and yes, even my penis lol. It’s the foreplay and the seduction that is the key to open up everything else. And I find that my hands are the most important “tool” to make that happen.

Thanks for that, Jordan!

You can catch Jordan at @jordantylerxxx and you can catch some of his performance on Porn Hub at http://www.pornhub.com/users/jordantyler. He also has a Tumblr account at modeljordantyler.tumblr.com.

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If you want to send in your picture for the next edition of These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things, please contact me at kva@kvalegal.com.au or get in touch with me on Twitter. Thank you to all of the participants who have shared their favourite things so far!

KVA

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These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things Part One

This week, I decided to get out amongst the sex and adult entertainment industry and ask them one question in relation to the work that they do. I asked them:

“What is the one thing you cannot live without/what is the most important work related item?”

Over the next few blog posts of this series, I will bring you some of the answers that I received.

The important thing about this series is that there is no wrong answer!

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I spoke with Lexie Mannion, a sex worker from Adelaide, Australia who automatically said that she could not live without her family. When it comes to work, however, she couldn’t decide on one thing. She went with “having intimacy & closeness of a gent, passionate kissing, sex, orgasms & being paid”.

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You can follow Lexie Mannion on @LexieMannion or visit her on http://about.me/lexiemannion.

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I then spoken with Laura Lee, from Glasgow Scotland. Laura is a sex workers’ rights campaigner and recently launched a legal challenge to anti-sex work legislation in Northern Ireland. When asked what her most important work item was, her answer was “I can’t imagine life without my Filofax ‘cos I’m an old fashioned call girl, stuck in the 90’s. Not even sorry.”

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You can find Laura on @GlasgaeLauralee and you can visit her website at http://www.laura-lee.com. You can also read about her legal action at http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/mar/22/sex-worker-to-launch-legal-challenge-against-ni-prostitution-ban.

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Skylar, a sex worker from Melbourne, Australia, wrote in and told me that she cannot do without her stay up stockings. She says “I wear them to every booking.” She opts for stay ups because “suspenders and hold up stockings look the part but add considerable time in a) Getting ready for a booking b) getting dressed to leave a booking.”

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You can talk to Skylar on Twitter at @skylar_escort and you can visit her website at http://www.skylar-escort.com.

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I was delighted to speak to the next woman. Ms Naughty is one of Australia’s leading feminist porn creators and is up for a number of awards at the Feminist Porn Awards 2015 in Toronto, Canada. When I asked her what the one thing she cannot live without in her day, without hesitation, she said “I decided to take a pic of my mouse because, while the computer itself does the work, the mouse is what helps me to do my job. I need this ergonomic mouse and don’t work as well without it because I’ve had RSI for 16 years. It’s really old and grotty and I love it. Also not sure I can even replace it anymore. This mouse helps me to write erotic fiction, to edit my films, to contact performers, to promote my work.”

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If you want to wish Ms. Naughty luck in the Feminist Porn Awards, you can contact her at @MsNaughty, or you can visit her blog at http://msnaughty.com/blog/, or you can search for her content on http://brightdesire.com/.

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Dominique Diaz,from Randwick in Sydney, Australia was asked what the most important work item was to her and she said “my stripper heels”.

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You can visit Divine Dominique at @sublime_dom or visit her website at http://www.divinedominique.com

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When I approached Inga Nord a touring Australian escort, I asked her what the most important work related item is, she said “knowing the following quote”.

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You can have a chat with Inga Nord at @NordIngaLove.

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When I approached Corinne, a sex worker from down in Hobart, Tasmania, she provided me a picture of the following:

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Corrine said “I need the do not disturb setting on my phone. I am human. I like to sleep. And I have no idea why people think calling at 2am is going to get them anywhere.”

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To wrap up today’s edition of These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things, we have the fabulous Holly In Albury, from Griffith, New South Wales, who said “condoms”.

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You can meet Holly on Twitter at @HollyInAlbury or see her website at http://hollyingriffith.com.

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If you want to send in your picture for the next edition of These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things, please contact me at kva@kvalegal.com.au or get in touch with me on Twitter. Thank you to all of the participants who have shared their favourite things so far!

KVA

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X Rated – Canberra Museum and Gallery

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When I heard that Canberra was holding “X-Rated: The Sex Industry in the ACT” at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG), I thought I would head down – and take with me the best porn star to have originated from ACT itself…Lucie Bee.

The exhibition explores the history of the sex industry in the ACT. In an article about the exhibition, the ABC correctly stated that sex work was legalised in Canberra in 1992, “a move that was considered ground-breaking at the time because it focused on harm-minimisation instead of criminalisation.”

Here are some photos of Lucie Bee and I enjoying the exhibition.

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Pic 1: The unmistakable sign as you walk in the door.

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Pic 2: Lucie Bee watching a documentary about the work done by Touching Base.

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Pic 3: See above.

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Pic 5: The oft-used phrase by Scarlet Alliance – “No Bad Whores Just Bad Laws”

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Pic 6: Lucie Bee being cheeky in front of the very cheeky sign protesting sex laws in ACT.

IMG_5884Pic 7: Reels from the adult film industry that ACT is well known for in this country. The X Rated Exhibition looks at this industry in great detail, with a lot of paraphernalia from the early days of the porn industry.

IMG_5882Pic 8: This is an example of the sex education posters from the ACT’s safe sex campaigns, using the Australian Parliament House as a phallus to put a condom on!

IMG_5872Pic 9: More safe sex information that was used in the ACT over the years.

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Pic 10: I love this. This is an old telephone book from the 1980’s when sex was advertised on paper and not on the internet. Remember those days?

IMG_5864Pic 11: This is a campaign that Fred Nile ran in the mid-80’s against the laws in ACT regarding the porn industry.

IMG_5860Pic 12: A campaign counteracting Fred Nile who fought so heavily against sex work and porn in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

         IMG_5854Pic 13: Prominent adult content providers, the AXIS Group, and an example of some of their work in the ACT in the 2000s.

    IMG_5842    Pic 14: Lucie Bee comparing the porn she shoots today to the porn shot “back in the day”

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The exhibition is curated by Rowan Henderson and is at CMAG until 20 September 2015. Its free of charge……

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But you might end up bringing someone home.

KVA

@KVALEGAL

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Sex Worker Lives Interview With Katie – Professional Submissive and Fetish Model

Welcome to this week’s Sex Worker Lives. Today I bring you Katie, all the way from London. I was interested in Katie when I spoke with her on Twitter at @subbykatie. She identified herself as a “Professional Submissive”, something which I had not come across before. So I asked her some questions….

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1. A month ago, I spoke with Mistress Jadis, a Professional Domme. I became instantly became attracted to your story because you categorise yourself as a Professional Submissive. How would you describe your “job description”?

Well, I think that, just like a Domme or, really, anyone in the sex work industry, I provide my clients with a safe, non-judgmental space in which they can be themselves as well as who they fantasize being. I also provide intimacy and affection. I think people hear “pro sub” and assume that it is all me being tied up, spanked, etc but it is so much more then that. I suppose it is a tricky question to answer as every client is different.

I think that men today are brought up thinking violence against women is wrong, and please don’t get me wrong, I think that that is a very good thing. The thing with that is some people, men and women, have a very Dominate side and don’t then know what to do with that and feel they can never express it as it might come off as them wanting to be abusive, which, anyone in the BDSM world will tell you, it isn’t. I suppose I allow my clients to freely express and act upon those desires. They know that not only are they enjoying it but, generally, so am I. BDSM might be more mainstream now but it still has a stigma, I think especially for Dominant men, and perhaps submissive women. I take that stigma away.

2. Were you a sex worker by profession who then chose to specialise as a Professional Submissive or did you enter the  profession with the intent of being a Professional Submissive?

I actually started working as a switch at a Dungeon in New York but I have always been extremely submissive by nature and the Domme role always felt forced. I  think that if you are uncomfortable doing something it comes across to the client and I don’t think that is fair to the worker or the client. I think enjoying what you do in this line of work is very important so I stopped switching and started doing strictly submissive sessions. Best decision ever.

3. How would you define sexuality?

Sexuality is being human. Whether we choose to admit it or not we all are driven, at least in some part by our own base desires. It is a part of all of us. Some of us decide that is evil, some of us embrace it, some are in between but it is there, always.

I suppose I find it fascinating as it is something different to everyone. For me it is life. I have always been (or I suppose since puberty) a very sexual person and I thankfullly grew up in a home where sex wasn’t thought of as evil or dirty so I was able to learn about and enjoy my own sexuality without shame. I am so thankful for that.

4. How do you assist your clients in developing their sexuality?

Well I suppose I touched on this in the first question. Most of my clients are very uncomfortable, if not with their sexuality, then with admitting to the Dom aspect of it. I allow them the chance to be comfortable with that. I have some clients who are very experienced yet have no outlet. I also have some that want to explore their Dom side but they want to do it safely and somewhere they know they can ask questions. I also have clients that want me to teach them the proper way to use certain items they are curious about like canes or floggers. I suppose I give my clients the opportunity to explore anything while staying safe. (well, almost anything. Everyone has their hard limits. hehehe)

5. If I asked you to pack ten items into a bag before a booking, what would those items be?

Only 10!? Oh goodness, let’s see…flogger, paddle, cane, rope or bondage tape, ball gag, condoms, lube, cleansing face wipes, make-up, brush.

6. If you could say one thing to fellow Professional Submissives, what would it be?

I would say, stand up!!!! Don’t be afraid or ashamed. I used to work in an all submissive…brothel, for lack of a better term, and none of those girls, outside of there, referred to themselves as “pro-sub”. I think there is a bit of a stigma to it, even in the sex work world and that needs to stop. We might not be a huge or outspoken group but we are here and we need to let our presence be known. Also, if you would allow me, I think there are two very important things I would like to say to people starting out.

The first would be don’t do it if you don’t enjoy being submissive, I saw so many girls think that because they did escort work they could do pro-sub work and they were miserable. One can act in role-play or even in bondage but when you’re bent over taking a caning or even a hard spanking the pain is very real and if you don’t want or like that please don’t put yourself in that siguation. It certainly isn’t good for you nor is it fair to your clients. The clients never want to cause pain to someone who isn’t enjoying it.

The second would be to trust your instincts. This job does, at times, mean you are tied up, means you are very vulnerable, basically you are allowing yourself, obviously, to be dominated. Meet your clients ahead of time, even if just 30 minutes before your session actually starts for coffee or a glass of wine. Get a feel for them, if something feels off, even if it is just a gut feeling, say you’re sorry and leave.

7. If you, on behalf of Professional Submissives, could say one thing to the greater sex work industry, what would it be?

I guess this sort of goes back to the last question. I think because we are few or, at least, not outspoken, we are sort of overlooked. I also have personally experienced a kind of, how would you say, contempt, well that might be to strong a word, amongst other sex workers. I was actually asked once, by a fellow sex worker, if I didn’t think that what I did made her job riskier as clients would assume everyone would be willing to be tied up and have clamps put on their nipples.  So I guess to answer your question, I would say, please, give us just as much respect as you would give anyone in the industry. I promise you that professional submissives are strong women. Please never overlook or underestimate us.

8. Who are you outside of your Professional Submissive “persona”? How would you describe yourself when outside of your professional role?

It’s an odd question to answer I suppose as my professional life blends into my personal life. I am very much into the BDSM/fetish scene in my personal life as well, as are a large group of my friends. I go out to a lot of fetish clubs, some of which I occasionally perform at, and crunches/munches (silly drunken meet ups for people in the fetish community).

I guess outside of that I am just….me. I’m an artist so I spend a lot of time sketching and drawing. I spend a lot of time with friends. I have healthy and happy relationships, which many people not in the sex work industry find hard to believe but it is a very true and real thing. I’m a massive geek so I spend a lot of time reading graphic novels, obsessing about Dr. Who, playing video games and figuring out great cosplay outfits.

I am in the process of starting my own business and am thinking of buying a flat in the next few years. Neither of which I could ever think of doing if it wasn’t for my job.

I think that I am very lucky in that almost all of my friends and family know what I do and are very supportive which means I can blend the two worlds a bit. I can meet a friend after seeing a client and tell them about my day (keeping names and such out of it, of course), or call my mom in the states and tell her about how my life is going, not having to lie about my job.

9. What would you say to a person if a person would like to explore their “dominant” sexuality but don’t know how to begin?

Can I say “hire me.”? lol No but seriously, I suppose I would tell them to embrace it, don’t ever be ashamed of it. We live in a fabulous time where the internet can give us anything so watch vidoes, research, but more then anything find like minded people or a like minded person, talking about it with others removes any stigma and let’s people be more open. There are great sites out there, such as fetlife.com that are basically Facebook for kinky people. Join (most can be joined anonymously), have fun, get comfortable and then when you feel like you want to explore it physically, make sure to do it with someone you trust (or a professional). Make sure, if you’re doing anything that involves any item that could cause serious damage (ropes, canes, floggers, clamps, the list goes on and on) you are playing with someone who knows how to handle these things. Many places give classes as well. For that type of thing I would say that the Internet can’t show you how, it needs to be physically taught.

I guess more then anything I would say that every Dom/me needs to respect their sub. We may be the submissives but we are allowing you to dominate us. We are giving ourselves to you and that is a massive thing and something that should always be respected. What would Dom/mes be without subs allowing themselves to be dominated?

10. Finish this sentence – “in a perfect world….”

Well that has a billion and one answers but I suppose I shall answer it in the context of this interview. hehehe

I guess in a perfect world the sex work industry would be looked at as any other service industry job so no one ever had to hide or be ashamed of what they do. In a perfect world the women, men and transgender people that work in the industry would never have to fear for their lives or be afraid. In a perfect world all humans no matter their sexual preferences, their job, their beliefs or their ways of seeing the world or living within the world would  not be judged or persecuted. I don’t want to get all hippie or anything but I suppose in a prefect world, no matter what, there would be respect for all.

Thank you to Katie for participating in this interview – you can chat to Katie at @subbykatie.

KVA

@KVA

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Interview with Australia’s Premier Adult Retailer Max Black – #SexWorkerLives

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When thinking about who I wanted to interview for my second interview in the #SexWorkerLives series, I immediately wanted to speak to Max Black, Australia’s award winning adult retailer. The reason being is because the store was actually quite pivotal in my own development of my sexuality. As a “sexually shy” person even up until my early 30’s, I was very afraid of going into adult stores. Then one day, I saw the sign to Max Black in Newtown and I was alone and I figured that if I could get up the stairs without anyone seeing me, I’d be relatively safe. Now, five years on, I waltz into Max Black like its my second home. This inteview really shows just WHY it had such an impact in my own personal life and that is why I am so thrilled to be able to present to you the interview that I did with the people behind the Max Black name.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed giving the interview!

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1. In our discussions, you spoke of the Max Black philosophy – what is this philosophy?

At the core of all we do – from purchasing and retail to our partners in business and our relationships with professionals, organisations and communities – we first believe that sex at it’s best is a gift. Sex is fun, intimate, for most it is essential and for many it is healing.

We believe that happiness and a healthy expression of our sexualities are intrinsically linked – they are essential components of a balanced person and of a balanced society.

By exploring, developing and expressing our sexuality we are offering the best of our most intimate selves to others and this in turn shapes more evolved relationships and, by extension, communities.

It can sound quite serious when written down but we believe we’re dealing with something that is fundamental for many so yes, we take it seriously – but we always have fun with it.

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1B. What is the purpose of Max Black?

Max Black is about giving people permission to be their best and to be happy. It might sound condescending however after almost a decade of business we’ve learnt that just by saying ‘yes, you can do more, be more, have more – of yourself’ that sexual development can flow naturally.

So to achieve this we work hard to source the best products from around the world that can support this goal. We carefully curate the collection and then house it in a beautiful store that creates an air of sex positivity and openness.

We staff the store with people who are intelligent, caring, informed, creative and have a healing spirit.

When we open the doors we give people the option to come in and explore information and products which may link to an aspect of their evolving sexuality, whether that be individually or within the context of their intimate relationships.

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2. How does Max Black perceive sexuality and the explorationof such?

Sexuality at its best is about attraction, chemistry and intimacy. What we’ve come to understand is that the characteristics within the people we are attracted to evolves and changes throughout our lives. We can surprise ourselves when we discover we are attracted to new characteristics which we were previously not attracted to, or when what used to be important to us falls away for something new.

Max Black seeks to remind and guide people to the understanding that sex and our sexuality is one of the true delights of adulthood. In an unencumbered and natural state, sex between consenting adults is delightfully bonding, adventurous and fun.

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3. How does Max Black assist the general public in understanding their sexuality?

One of the first steps to understanding your sexuality is to accept it and see it as normal and OK.

When people come into our store one of the first things that strikes them is the physical space itself – “Wow this is a really beautiful store” is the most common thing heard when folks get to the top of our stairs.

The next thing that frequently strikes people is that these is a wide variety of adult intimacy products which are of a high quality. It is perhaps the spectrum and the quality in store that demonstrates how diverse, exciting and interesting sexualities can be. The fact that there is a beautifully crafted product for almost every proclivity reinforces the idea that what excites them is not abnormal and by extension that it is not something which is shameful.

What we understand is that the products we sell are quite incidental and are, at the end of the day, merely things. However it is frequently the discussion about, and use of, these things which can lead people to a greater degree of understanding of themselves and their partners.

At the helm of this is of course our team, who frequently wear different ‘hats’ to help our guests. At times they may need to wear the listener hat, or the teacher hat, sometimes it’s purely sales and yet at other times they must wear the hat of the healer. What all of our staff members have in common is a strong sense of self confidence and a genuine desire to see people in a happier place within themselves and their relationships.

It is this confidence that comes with greater knowledge (and therefore greater intimacy) which is our goal.

Beyond the store we aim to serve as a point of connection to communities, interest groups and health professionals. Max Black is often the first port of call for people experiencing sexual difficulties and we frequently are in the position of acting as a hub directing people to more specifically qualified professionals.

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4. I expect that many Max Black employees have different views of what constitutes sexuality. How do they each add to the client’s experience when they walk through the door?

One of the interesting features of working at Max Black is that over the months and years it becomes quite clear that human sexuality is as diverse as it is personal.

Each person that walks up the stairs has their own desires, fears and dreams. As people share these with you it quickly becomes clear that many of these differ from your own. It also becomes clear that these fears and dreams are very real to the person that is standing in front of you. Because this may be the first time that someone has talked with someone else about these, it can be quite confronting for them. As a consequence, because you are dealing with fears and fantasies it does not take long to realise judgement is both redundant and useless.

Take this example. A woman comes into the store in her mid 50’s. She is nervous. You can feel the tension the minute she walks in. One of our staff will likely approach her, tuning into her body language, offer a greeting and gauging her response.

Through the course of the conversation it comes to light that the woman has never had an orgasm before. The staff member may start to talk about various relaxation techniques or products that can help with this.

Two hours after the woman has left the store the telephone rings and it is her. The voice is different, she says “thank you”. There is a very real change. There is relief (at mid 50’s … that is an understatement).

This kind of experience is something we get to enjoy on a very regular basis.

For our team keeping it real is very important – being phoney, especially with a nervous person, won’t cut it.

While each of the staff members has a different view about sexuality, they are each able to add to a guests’ experience because they are themselves confident, they care, they understand we work in very real contexts and through the course of their work they have lost their judgement regarding sexualities.

Our staff tell us that they find working at Max satisfying because what they do is important and because they are important. As a consequence we have a very low rate of staff loss. This in turn, has the benefits that our average staff member is very experienced and knowledgeable, which has obvious benefits for the customer experience.

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5. How can Max Black assist a sex worker, who may be aware of his/her sexuality but wishes to expand on their services offered or equipment used?

As a Sex Worker continues in their profession typically they will increasingly define what they do want and they do not want to do. As they develop professionally many choose to specialise or diversify they’re ‘tool box’ and Max Black can assist them in their goals.

With experienced Sex Workers Max Black usually adopts more of a listening role. Hearing what it is the person is wanting to achieve or purchase, then offering suggestions which best fits those objectives. We have access to many wonderful brands, products and resources and we can help put sex workers in touch with what they require.

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6. Why did Max Black develop the Rubber Room? This is a very original concept in Sydney. What gave rise to this?

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The Rubber room as we call it is a room filled with latex clothing, accessories and costume. It is frequently worn at dance and fetish parties and has a strong and loyal customer following. Some customers like it for its unique and distinctively edgy look. Because of this, it is gaining popularity with photographers and stylists and of late is regularly seen on celebrities with a strong fashion focus.

Others love it because the feel of latex – it is like having a second layer of protective, slinky and shiny skin on. This can be simultaneously protective and erotic in its feel.

On our team during the room’s inception were latex enthusiasts who understood the unique nature of the material and also its appeal. We were in the process of carving a new space out of what had been a DVD library which was part of a broader goal to distance ourselves from the sleaze of the ‘old’ adult retail industry as we recreated our store for a more sex positive focus.

We had always stocked ranges of costuming and fetish accessories but with the knowledge and passion on board to bring latex to Sydney with a dedicated collection it seemed a natural fit.

We sourced our first collection from both bespoke latex designers and latex makers with a more mainstream feel. Over time we’ve attracted partnerships with some of the world’s most respected latex fashion producers. We find the department very exciting and dynamic and for many of our customers it is an inspiring and original space.

Latex fashion and accessories are sexy. They suited the direction that the store was heading in. So in came the Rubber room and we’ve never looked back.

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7. What are three (3) factors that are pertinent to Max Black’s success?

1. Listening to and being responsive to customers – and knowing that the reason we are here is for them.

2. Not accepting mediocrity as good enough.

3. Creating a workspace bubble where we all have fun together and look after each other and treat each other with respect and as family.

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8. What is your highest selling piece of equipment/accessory/clothing and why do you think this is the case?

Our highest selling product is the Astroglide Natural Lubricant. It is very popular because of its silky smooth texture, it does not dry-out quickly and therefore is more fun to play with. Most importantly all of its ingredients are natural so it is perfect for anybody with skin sensitivities or prone to allergies.

Once Astroglide has been tried, it is very difficult to return to more main stream personal lubricants.

It is also proof that the simplest things are often the best.

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9. What is the greatest misconception people have about adult stores?

The greatest misconception about adult stores is that we are sleazy, dirty or shameful.

This, at least in part, comes from the owners of most adult stores. The industry has been in a state of flux for some time now and there is a great number of stores that are in the old tradition of ‘sex shops’ whilst retailers like ourselves have been developing new models and spaces for intimate shopping.

The lingering misconception by the old school retailers is that sleazy equals sexy and that this is what most people want. As a consequence of this equation, many adult store owners have directed their attention towards the sleazy.

In addition, as the majority of product for adult stores is imported, retailers without a strong brand or market focus find themselves repeating the marketing messages of manufacturers from markets that are similar, but oh so different, to Australia.

We believe that sex at its best is actually sexy. We’re not the quickie in the back of the ute (though this can be fun). We’re driving down the coast with the roof down, wind in your hair, with a person you love beside you.

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10. If you could tell your sector of the industry one thing, what would it be?

Your customer response and feedback is the most precious, and free, resource you have. Make your business how you would best want it to be as a customer.

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11. Finally, finish this sentence…”In a perfect world….”

In a perfect world we would be at peace with ourselves and relaxed about sex. We’d be enjoying sex more and complaining about life less.

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With thanks to Bruce, Owner and Robbi, Media Manager from Max Black for giving me their time.

Disclaimer: The writer of this blog did not obtain ANY payment or incentive from providing this interview, nor was Max Black paid by the writer for this interview. All images were provided by Max Black and used with permission.

If you would like to know more about Max Black, please see http://www.maxblack.com.au/ or do what I do and proudly strut into their store in Sydney.

KVA

@KVALEGAL

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