Sex work gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do

Sex work gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do

I grew up very close to my family. I live in a cottage on the family property now. We’ve had the property for decades and we’ve had the same neighbours from a family that has been living in that house also for decades. That’s how the community is.

Sometimes clients don’t want to have sex with you, they just want to chat. It’s important for people to understand that sex workers are healers, carers, psychologists, comforters.


A gentle transition into sex work
After school, I studied dance at the University of Cape Town for three years then went to dance school in Germany for over four years. Then I moved to the Netherlands and lived there for four years as a house husband. I was in a civil union with my Dutch partner. The relationship ended and a few days before my 30th birthday I got a visa to go work in the United Kingdom. I was a waiter but it wasn’t enough money to live on. I became a masseur, then an escort. Friends connected me with clients around the city. It was a gentle transition into sex work. I needed the money but I wasn’t forced into it. People have a very narrow idea of what sex work is. Actually sex work is an exchange of goods for reward. Sometimes clients don’t want to have sex with you, they just want to chat. It’s important for people to understand that sex workers are healers, carers, psychologists, comforters…


A freeing and liberating experience
Sex work gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do. It was a freeing and liberating experience. I came back to South Africa in my early thirties and started working in restaurants. I was working at Sizzler’ massage parlour shortly before the massacre happened. Nine of the masseurs, all men, were shot or had their throats slit. There was one survivor. I knew these people. I didn’t speak about it much. I continued the sex work and would find clients through friends, or on the beach or at bars. I had a lot of foreign clients. It wasn’t just about sex, it would involve showing people around the city. You’d spend the whole holiday with them.


A positive influence on people’s lives
I joined Sisonke in 2014. I’ve always been involved in social justice activism and it was nice to be able to expand my experience in advocacy around sex work. Hands Off has funded a lot of these lobbying activities. A lot. I have benefitted from it so much, I need to actually think which part I should speak about because there is so much! I’ve been part of a lot of training about human rights and have learned so much. We go to parliament, we go to a lot of meetings, we sensitise members of parliament, we go overseas. We contributed to the national strategic plan representing voices of sex workers. Did I think I would be going to parliament and lobbying politicians around sex work? No, but here I am.


This work has given me the opportunity to make a real change – a change that will last – and have a positive influence on people’s lives. This work helped people recognise their agency and speak for themselves. In 2016, then deputy president of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, said, “sex work is essentially work” at a conference in Durban. It felt like someone was finally listening to us and that change was going to come. We were given hope. 

 

Gavin, Cape Town

Gavin

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