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If you want to learn more about the sex industry, there are some incredible books out there. From Melissa Gira Grant to Juno Mac and Molly Easo Smith, our academics and activists have a lot to say that’s worth hearing. But when it comes to the lived experience of sex work, I love curling up under the sheets with a memoir. Where non-fiction gives us facts and philosophies, a well-written true story provides another type of perspective an immersive experience. Memoir isn’t a historical record. Names might be changed to protect privacy. Certain events may be included or excluded to aid the storyline. But a good memoir captures the nuances of one person’s experience what it’s like to see the world from their perspective. Sex work is such a foreign concept to most! When a sex worker shares their story, it helps us understand - not just intellectually, but also emotionally. This summer, I set out to read (or reread) a selection great books written by sex workers. From porn to stripping to escorting to sugaring, these authors offer us a wealth of experiences. I hope you find a story worth taking to bed with you. “This transaction may seem expensive, but if you think about the money and effort you might spend on a business trip, trying to court someone just to get to the possible stage of her naked and you coming in her mouth before it’s time to fly home, it’s not so pricey. And the result is guaranteed.” Let’s start with the classic - the sexy tell-all that is Belle de Jour’s bestselling book. Like most memoirs, she’s selected the best bits of her story to give us an entertaining journey through her life as London escort and her private life as a sexual adventurer. ‘Intimate Adventures’ is an explicit but sex-positive tale, told with Belle’s signature dry humour. It spares no detail of her client’s fantasies. She’s also incredibly open about her own sexual pleasures and (often dysfunctional) relationships. Her books (there’s also a sequel) were adapted for a successful TV series, but although I enjoyed the show I’ll always prefer the original for its honesty and introspection. Mia Walsch – ‘Money for Something Sex. Work. Drugs. Life. Need.’ 2020 “I know who I am now. I’m a fuck-up but I’m not a bad person. I’ma lovable disaster, a chaos whirlwind of a woman. And I’m kind of  there’s something waiting for me up ahead, and who knows It might even be good.” is perfect. It follows Walsch through her twenties as she struggles with mental health, drug addiction, and toxic relationships. Her hunger for both love and purpose collide with her erotic massage, escorting and BDSM work in unexpected ways...sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. I’m sometimes sorry that so many mainstream sex work stories focus on the ‘seedy’ stuff - drugs, crime, oppression - but this is not one of those stereotypical narratives. Although she doesn’t shy away from sex industry trauma, Walsch also finds purpose through her work. It’s a more complex tale than I’d expected. ‘Money for Something’ reminds me of my adolescence in Sydney - the drink and drug binges, the terrible boyfriends, the cliquey social dramas, and my own poor life choices. I just wish I’d discovered sex work then too. It might have helped me grow up a little faster. “I never thought I’d actually do porn. If anything, I thought I’d be a teen pregnancy case, divorced by twenty-one, second baby-daddy by twenty-three. Possible herpes. I never thought the day would come I’d be labelled ‘Anal Queen’ in every skin rag, or my asshole would win an award.” Uncompromising, opinionated, and bawdy as fuck - American pornstar Asa Akira really owns her sluthood. Her book ‘Insatiable’ is wild ride through her experiences in the sex industry - stripping, porn, and a fling with escorting. Along the way we learn about her tumultuous relationships with romantic partners, and her (rather wholesome) bond with her American-Japanese family. She’s an eccentric woman with an insecure streak...but she doesn’t apologise for her neuroticisms. Where she goes, drama follows - whether it’s in front of the camera or behind closed doors. There’s some stuff in the book that’s definitely not politically correct. Some triggering topics (such as abuse and sexual assault) are treated less seriously than I’m comfortable with. But the book is intended to be sexy and sensational, not an academic text. If you want a glimpse into life as a pornstar, it’s a very interesting read. “Walking around a group of strangers butt naked did wonders for my social anxiety. If you can manage to hold a charming, engaging conversation with your pussy hanging out, you can talk to anyone.” What is it about Aussie sex workers_ Where some American stories seem more concerned with glamour and drama, us Aussies aren’t afraid to rip the band-aid off and show our wounds in all their glory. In fact, I suspect we secretly enjoy it. In her book ‘Come’, Rita Therese not only rips off the band-aid, but possibly also rips us a few new orifices. The story begins with her job as a topless waitress and follows into later experiences as an escort and brothel worker. She probes the most intimate details of life as a sex professional - everything from bad clients to unexpected period sex. And her life experiences - some truly harrowing - are so raw that I cried more than once while reading. Her stories of sex work, abuse, and loss are heavy going. But ‘Come’ is also darkly hilarious. I’ve never read about sex in this way before - she’s able to go where other writers can’t and share the details that almost never find their way to the page. This is a very honest book. I think anyone who reads it will feel richer, like they’ve been given a rare gift by a stranger - which, in this case, they have. “I wanted to believe that confronting this fear would end the pain that was consuming me. I wanted to be the submissive that Daddy desired.” Madison Young is a famed American porn performer, BDSM practitioner and sex educator. In her memoir, she shares her experience of entering the sex industry and becoming a kink icon. It’s framed through the lens of her search for the perfect ‘Daddy’ - a partner of any gender who can provide the dominant submissive relationship she feels she needs to make her life complete. Of course, the reality of this dynamic is much more complicated. We watch her relationship with partner ‘Mr Mogul’ evolve from on-set peers, to intense BDSM relationship. Their story sits alongside her career progression in the sex scenes of San Francisco and Los Angeles. I adore the premise of this book - that there’s no such thing as a perfect love story. It reminds us that  the people we look up to inevitably fail us. These are universal themes in a unique setting. ‘Daddy’ offers a glimpse into a world most of us can only imagine. ‘Down the Rabbit Hole Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny’, Holly Madison, 2015 “That’s always how things were at the mansion you were constantly fighting just to stay afloat, to keep yourself from getting kicked out onto the street. Losing sight of what it was I had even wanted before moving in, I became obsessed with being the last one standing in this perverted elimination game…I was determined to win.” Let’s finish with another classic. ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ is Playboy model Holly Madison’s story - a firsthand account of life as one of Hugh Hefner’s celebrated girlfriends. Set in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, it’s a story about a small-town girl with Hollywood aspirations who finds fame and fortune via an extended stay at the Playboy Mansion. This book paints a dark picture of life at the mansion. Holly’s life is consumed with public appearances, shopping trips, and photo shoots. Then there’s the awkward group sex encounters with Hefner, his controlling and abusive behaviour, and the constant media attention that reduces her (and the other girlfriends) into homogenous objects for public consumption. Despite the money and celebrity, it’s easy to empathise with these women, who are told they’re only valuable when they confirm to someone else’s standards. Madison never explicitly identifies as a sex worker. She questions the commercial nature of her arrangement, but doesn’t come to grips with it. And there’s also a bit of whorephobia and whorearchy when some members of the mansion are caught doing escort work at, there’s a definite sense of disapproval. Despite this, it’s a fascinating story. Bizarre sugaring gig or misguided career move I’ll let you make up your own mind.

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