Today is International Women’s Day! It is a day on which we commemorate the movement of rights for women and see how far we have come. It also gives us a chance to address just how much work we still have to do and celebrate the amazing women out there in the world.
Each year has a theme, and the theme for this year is #PressforProgress. They tell us that “individually, we’re one drop but together we’re an ocean”, and that we need to “collaborate to accelerate gender parity”. While it is a theme for the day, we are reminded that the theme will also continue all year. Everyone plays a part in the press for progress, and in areas such as sex workers’ rights, it is more important than ever to come together and make a difference.
This is the perfect time to look at one of the incredible women out there talking about sex work. Jayde Fleming, a Canadian escort, did an interview on The Night Side with Jon Pole back in August last year. On the show she talked about her life as an escort and a parent, being very open and honest about it. In the interview she answered a number of questions from Jon Pole and from listeners, addressing the stigma people have about the industry. So what can we learn from her and how does it tie in to International Women’s Day?
Getting into sex work
Most people tend to have their assumptions about the sex industry and how you might get into it. To a lot of people, when they imagine an escort, they picture someone young and incredibly attractive. They might think of Billie Piper in ‘Secret Diary of a Call Girl’. On his show, Jon Pole immediately tells us that the career of being an escort has fascinated him “from watching movies like ‘Pretty Woman'”. He states that this film “obviously gave you one viewpoint”, and who better to talk to about another viewpoint than an escort!
We’ve all heard the kinds of stories the media likes to put out about sex work, and Jon Pole seemed eager to get to the truth of the matter. So he spoke to Jayde Fleming. Jayde Fleming is a Toronto-based luxury companion in her 40s, and was more than happy to answer some of the burning questions Jon Pole and his listeners had about the sex industry.
To many, the general perception is that you start in the industry young, when you feel you have no other options. However, Jayde’s situation was different, as she tells in the interview. She shows that actually, for many it is a choice. She wasn’t happy with where she was in life and so took steps to make herself happy. She had options, and this was the one she wanted to take. She wanted to explore and find excitement, ending her relationship. After ending her relationship, she met people and built connections, which lead to her becoming an escort.
Being an escort and a mother
A large number of escorts are also parents, and so many were intrigued to know how Jayde balanced this. This career isn’t something many people plan. As Jayde says, it is something you often fall into by accident. When you are going through education you might think “I want to train to be a lawyer”. Being a sex worker is never on the list. However, it can bring you the kind of flexibility and freedom you weren’t expecting from any other job.
Finances were also a big reason for it, as she was able to sort her finances would “within a few days of starting to become completely successful”. It involves, in her words, juggling to try and separate her life as a mother from her life as a sex worker.
Flexibility is a big part of the appeal. Take a look at the profile of any escort. You’ll see that they list their working hours and availability, and that this will change if they take time off to go on holiday. How many of you out there can say that your job gives you this kind of freedom?
Addressing the stigma
Of course, a number of the questions asked by listeners looked directly at the stigma surrounding escorting. We already know about some of the questions escorts are tired of hearing, but Jayde Fleming worked hard to answer each of them in an honest way. The first addressed the dangers of the industry, but what was interesting is that Jon Pole himself stated that she had screened him before agreeing to the interview to ensure everything was okay.
By now you are probably familiar with the Nordic model. This is where the client is criminalised for seeing sex workers. In theory, this will make clients less inclined to go and see their favourite escort. The demand will go, and so the supply will follow. However, this isn’t the case. Instead, it pushes the industry underground, making it more challenging for sex workers to stay safe.
Jayde points out how important screening is, and how the community of sex workers can help. When you feel as though the law isn’t on your side and making it dangerous to work, you have to stick together to stay safe.
Another big factor for many is sexual health. We know that health is incredibly important to those in the industry, but the general public doesn’t always understand this. The general assumption is that sex workers are more likely to spread STIs and STDs. However, they take their health seriously, and you are more likely to pick something up from a one night stand. Jayde addressed this in her interview and hopefully her honest answer will highlight how vital it is to sex workers.
Relationships outside of work can also be a big deal. With all of the stigma and misconceptions about the sex industry and escorting, it can be difficult to pursue one. Many wait until retirement before pursuing it, as they would rather not deal with the challenges this might present of finding someone willing to listen to what the industry is actually like.
Like Jayde, many have plans for their retirement. They know what age they want to leave the industry and have some ideas about what they will do afterwards. Of course, the stigma around sex work can make it difficult to get an ordinary nine-to-five job. As a result, many stay in the industry longer, or have another job they work at the same time. The stigma is one of the most challenging things about the sex industry, and until people pay attention to what the industry is actually like, it isn’t going to change.
International Women’s Day
The full interview is fascinating to listen to, especially because Jon Pole seems interested in getting what it is actually like. At the end he even states that he wishes he had more time because he has more questions, and honestly, we’d love to hear more from her in the future. But what does this have to do with the press for progress theme of International Women’s Day?
There is a great deal of stigma surrounding the sex industry, as we can see from some of the questions Jayde Fleming was asked by listeners. The general public’s understanding of sex work comes from the media, and so now is the time to press forward and show what it is really like. Yes, you can be a feminist and a sex worker. Look at the amazing Laura Lee! She constantly showed us that you can be both, and that we should be paying attention to the women in the industry if we want to make the right changes.
Hopefully you’ll find a great way to get involved for International Women’s Day. We really hope to hear more from Jayde Fleming in the future. If you’d like to check her out on social media, you can find her on Twitter @JaydeFX.