The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the livelihoods of thousands of people across Australia. Hospitality workers, retail staff, musicians and live performers are among the hardest hit, but a group that is often forgotten is the sex work industry.
With lockdown measures providing obvious hurdles for face-to-face sex work, scores of industry professionals are turning to online-based subscription services like OnlyFans to supplement their income. PEDESTRIAN.TV spoke to sex worker Molly Blush*, who detailed her experience of how the spread of COVID-19 has impacted her job, and how we can support sex workers during this trying time (even if you’re not interested in purchasing their services yourself).
Prior to the pandemic, Molly told us that the majority of her income came from face-to-face services. However, self-isolation has forced her to adapt in recent weeks; employing online services and other more resourceful means (“selling webcam chats by the minute as well as items such as polaroids, toys and panties,” she says) of keeping the dollars coming in.
Like many people who are self-employed, Molly’s income largely depends on her “effort and activity,” but she asserts that the key to the business is actually consistency.
“When I first started offering online services about three years ago, my private snapchat crashed and burned because my clients expected daily and consistent content and I simply wasn’t providing that,” Molly stated. “OnlyFans has a queue option these days which helps but I still find myself accidentally not posting for sometimes three days at a time.”
“This always reflects in my income, as does my social media engagement. Being active is good for the algorithms so consistent posting means consistent subscriptions, and consistently posting on OnlyFans means they’re more likely to resubscribe, buy private content, tip me or request a custom video.”
But if it wasn’t already hard enough to find work when face-to-face clients are out of the question, Molly and others are now constantly faced with people either mocking their profession, or trying to make a quick buck on OnlyFans despite never having supported sex work previously.
When asked how she felt about people jumping in on the industry amid the coronavirus-fuelled unemployment crisis, Molly categorised it in two groups. Those who are making a joke of the industry, and those who are serious. “I have no qualms with an ally joining us,” Molly said, “but to see people who have never shown support, [or] people who have made whore-phobic jokes and comments sharing their OnlyFans link, I’m just disappointed. The industry flood is hurting us right now and half the people joining are cutting grass they never considered watering.”
Many people seem to think sex work, particularly selling nudes, is an easy way to make a quick buck. But to those people, Molly offers a simple, yet effective response: “Good luck.”
Molly also stated that one of the most overlooked aspects of sex work was, in fact, the amount of admin work that professionals have to put in. Effectively acting as a sole trader, Molly stated that she has to “keep an eye on the strength of the AUD, I have diaries to keep track of my posts and growth, I do all my own taxes, I have to keep my safety and privacy a high priority while still giving my clientele what they want in an industry that is forever more saturated and always demanding more.”
As part of her non-camera work, Molly said “I write scripts and edit videos, I network with photographers, porn stars, content creators and more. I have such a workload that I often outsource some of my work (mainly editing which is emotionally tolling for me) to trusted friends and colleagues.”
Despite the hard work, Molly asserts that sex work has been “hands down, without a doubt, the most empowering experience of my life.”
“It has taught me a love and respect for myself and other women that is unmatchable. It has enabled me to leave domestically violent situations and has given me the resources to help others in situations like that,” Molly says.
Even still, the mental health aspect of the job is a difficult one to reconcile, particularly for those viewing the industry from the outside. “I think the hardest thing for anyone to grasp, even myself, is that I can be empowered and sexy and confident and all that while still feeling like dog shit,” Molly said.
“I wake up some days and don’t even wanna look in the mirror due to my mental health but I somehow need to spend 3 hours editing a video of myself completely naked and exposed? That shit is very difficult.”
If you are genuinely considering entering the industry, we asked Molly has two crucial pieces of advice, ones that she wished she’d heard when she started.
The first is the stark warning that “There is no way to ensure your privacy.”
“If you don’t want a video of you fucking your own bum to be leaked,” she warned, “never sell one. Unfortunately that is just the reality.”
The second, much more uplifting piece of advice Molly has is to foster your community, particularly online. “Engaging with other sex workers helps you!” she stated. “Share their posts, build relationships, collaborate, help each other out! Call it karma or call it an algorithm, there is no money in solitude, only in solidarity.”
If you’re interested in learning more about sex work but aren’t quite comfortable asking someone, you can access some pretty handy resources on Scarlett Alliance. Alternatively, Molly encourages people to engage with sex workers on social media, and (respectfully) take part in their Q&A’s to educate yourself on the industry.
We’re going to be socially distancing for the foreseeable future, so why not take this time to educate yourself on the sex work industry? If women like Molly are feeling empowered by their career choice, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be supporting them.