By Raven Bowen
Q: So, what do you do?
A: I have sex with people for money. And this allows me to do many other things for free, with sex workers - mostly organising meetings and events.
Q: And your favorite color?
A: I love colour in general, I don't have a favourite one. My preference lies with yellow, red and orange, but ideally I would like my life to be filled with as many colours as possible.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: Myself. I am proud of myself. The older I get, the more I have to look back at, and looking back at everything I have done and achieved, I am really proud of how far I've come.
Q: What drew you to sex industry related work?
A: I wanted to eat and I didn't have access to other sources of money. Q: You’ve built a community through fun events. What motivated it all? A: I think it was isolation. Within the group that we have at the moment I seem to have been working the longest. The first 5 years were fine. I made friends in the brothels where I worked, so I was never alone. Then I started working independently and moved to Scotland, and that was much further than I’d ever been from my non sex working friends, and I lost contact with most of the sex workers I knew in London; I was in a new place completely alone. I realised that as a sex worker, it is very difficult to make friends because the question of ‘what do you do for a living’ comes up right after ‘what is your name.’ And if you’re hoping to make friends with people, you don’t want to start by lying to them first. Then through SCOT-PEP I met a woman who told me about sex workers' breakfasts in London in a community space, and we thought, maybe we could do something like that in Scotland! That’s how the group started. But I don't think I built a community. It takes a village to build a community, it's not something you can do on your own. There was a moment when I realised that if I want something to happen, I'll have to take the lead, because nobody else was planning to. And I wanted many things to happen, I wanted to make friends, I wanted to be around people. Q: You also talked about organising self-defense workshops for sex workers. A: Yes, this is something that we’ve been talking about for years now, but somehow we never really went forward with it. Now I've been in touch with a sex worker who can do a 3-day workshop and she tailors the course to the specific environment that we work in.
Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A: I laughed at it twice, actually! Last week we had a pyjama party. We had the idea for it when me and another sex worker went to a film night. It was a lot of people in a church, sitting around, watching films, so we thought we could organise something like that for sex workers – but, you know, not in a church. Bring a projector to someone’s home, sit around in pyjamas, eat popcorn and watch films all night. There were 13 of us. We decided we would watch films about sex workers, whether it’s trafficking in South Africa, or Pretty Woman, there will always be something that we all can relate to in those films. So, that night, there was a moment when we had to decide who was going to sleep with whom. There were so many of us, we had to share the sleeping space. Some good conversations took place on that subject! That's what I laughed at. And today at the clinic I told a sex worker who couldn't come to the party about this, and we had a good laugh - again.
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: Pomegranates. And mangos.
Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A: I have too many at the moment. Some are personal, some are work or community related. As I said, one of the things I'm excited about right now is organising a self-defence workshop for sex workers in Scotland. Also, we all want another pyjama party – the first one was a roaring success! And after that it'll be time for our Ho liday. We had one in November: we rented a house in the Highlands and spent a couple of days there. Best time ever! We need to do this again. So no, there is no end of things to do in sight!
Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A: I don't think I have any. There are things that I would on occasion say I wish I had done, like I should have started sex work sooner than I did, but when I look at the circumstances, I see that everything happened at the right time. So, no regrets, none I can think of.
Q: Facebook or Twitter?
A: Twitter. This is how I find all the wonderful people!
Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work or related work?
A: My lack of patience. I don't suffer fools easily, which makes sex work challenging for me, because there are so many right plonkers out there contacting sex workers! Some people never become clients because I just don’t have the patience to deal with them. When I started, I would listen to a lot of people because I was new, I really wanted to become established. Now, now life is too short for that shit!
My lack of patience also means that once I'm excited about something, I want it to happen now, and things usually take a long time to develop, especially in sex work activism. And as a member of the support group, one of the challenges I have is with the circumstances of sex work. It's irregular, and trying to organise a meeting, literally every sex worker has a different work schedule which is fixed around their children, or around their studies - it’s really difficult to find a time that works for everyone. It’s the nature of sex work, this flexibility is how so many people benefit from it, but it also makes it hard to bring people together.
Q: Favorite Movie?
A: Moonrise Kingdom. I very rarely watch films, and I’m very picky about what I’m going to waste my life on. Also, I’m sensitive to violence: I went to watch Moonlight and I had to leave because of the scenes of childhood abuse there that the main character suffered. So I don’t have a favorite film, as in, something I would re-watch now and then, but Moonrise Kingdom is sweet and funny and light, it has some magic to it, it captured my heart.
Q: And the last time you cried?
A: Five minutes ago, when I was thinking of question three, about what I’m proud of. I’m not often proud of myself. I don't give myself enough credit and praise for the work that I do. I want to learn to think and talk about it more often. Q: You probably don’t realize the impact you have on other people and who lies back thinking how great they are, but you need to acknowledge who you are and what you bring which is why I’ve included that question. A: True. Often nobody gives you the feeling of value as a person, and so I want to do better here, to learn to feel more proud of myself, my talents and my skills.
Q: Cat or dog person?
A: Neither. If I had to deal with an animal, I'd choose a small fluffy rodent.
Q: Who understands you?
A: I feel like different parts of my life are supported by different people or groups of people, but I am yet to find one person who would understand the whole of me. A big part of my life is being a sex worker but that’s not all of my life. So I share much of who I am with the sex workers in the group, but even within the sex work experience, not many people in the group have experiences of violence and police raids, for example. The negative experiences of sex work, I don't always have the feeling that everyone understand them, if they haven't been through the same thing. Also, there is much more to me than sex work, there are other things that I am engaged in, or want to do. It's like my life consists of separate pockets of activities and feelings that I can share with some people but not others. Q: We are so complicated. A: Yeah, and I don’t think there should, or could ever be one person that can understand you. I don’t think I could be that person for somebody. It’s a hard job!
Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A: Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. I haven’t finished it yet. It’s rather scientific, but an easy read, not like one of those academic papers where you have to look up every 3rd word in the dictionary. This book made me question some of my ideas about myself, and being brought up as a woman. Q: That’s important, because other people decide what’s possible for us as children. Our worlds can be made small because we’re not supported in exploring all that we can be. A: Exactly! I never thought that I could be a surgeon, I was raised all girly and squeamish. But now I wonder if the way my parents thought women should be, has more to do with it than my actual abilities.
Q: Childhood Fear?
A: Being abandoned.
Q: What did your last text message say?
A: “Thank you, I appreciate the time you take to do this.” That's the majority of my texts these days, thanking people for their help.
Q: One thing that your work or existence is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A: I want to make sure that every sex worker has sex working friends that they can meet in person with. These connections are powerful.
Q: The meaning of life in one word?
A: Experience. Life is a collection of experiences, big or small, good or less so, and all of them teach us something. I would like to try as many of them as possible!
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A: I am not planning to grow up!
Q: Three portable items that you would want with you while stranded on a desert island?
A: Assuming it's not one of the Scottish offshore islands, I will need 1. my favourite shampoo, 2. a pair of sunglasses and 3. a good sunblock. And because I'm limited to only three, I'll have to do without a bikini!
If you are a sex worker based in Scotland, and if you’re interested in meeting people, please be in touch and I’ll pass you on to Jewel.