Working Alone in the Sex Industry

One of the strongest qualities that a consultant has is to provide a new perspective on an existing process. For over 10 years, I provided OHS advice to the Victorian sex industry. It started in response to a call for first aid advice from a dominatrix in Melbourne. I provided advice on the best treatment for scorch marks on nipples and how to best clean a leather paddle which may have had a small amount of the client’s blood in the seams.

My work culminated in drafting a book on OHS in the adult sex industry for CCH Australia. The company was restructured and my book was dropped. However much of the information in the 40,000 words already written is still valid and I was happy to allow part of it to be reproduced by RhED in the latest issue of their magazine for sex workers.

The strength of any OHS publication and guideline from the government is its applicability to those occupations on the fringes of society.  The sex industry inhabits that fringe but few governments have provided OHS advice for the sector, although I admit that Australia is a leading provider of sex industry safety information.

In Red magazine, I have interpreted the Western Australian OHS guidelines on working alone to the sex industry. The guidelines were surprising useful.

As with many health work sectors or fringe industries, workers and employers don’t often look beyond the advice that is available from their industry association or government department. As such information from OHS regulators doesn’t always get to the industries where it is best needed. More guidelines in the sex industry need to come from a coalition of government departments. For instance, in Victoria, safety in the sex industry overlaps the Department of Human Services, the Department of Justice and the WorkCover Authority.

Safety in the sex industry seems to rely on consultants like myself (and you could count them on one hand) or organisations like RhED, the Inner South Community Health Service, and the Scarlet Alliance, to pull together these disparate safety guidelines in to a suitable package.

(For those interested in the sex worker industry, $pread Magazine in the US sometimes has useful safety tips and case studies)

UPDATE – 6 October 2008

RhED has posted an interesting profile on sexworkers in Victorian brothels.  The statistics provide a very useful background to some of the information above.

UPDATE – 9 January 2008

The Red magazine article on working alone is now available online.

Kevin Jones

Independent okay for New Zealand’s sex industry

In 2000, sexworkers advocates in Australia published “A guide to best practice – Occupational health and safety in the Australian sex industry”. They tried for some time to have OHS authorities accept it as an industry-based code applicable to that particular State. As far as I know, they were unsuccessful but many of the elements of the guide have been picked up in various laws and licensing conditions since then. An updated soft version of the guide is available online, along with guidelines from other jurisdictions. (My edition of Safety At Work concerning the sex industry is still available as a free download)

I was reminded of this today when I saw a report from New Zealand about sexworker safety. It was reported that two Women’s Institute members from England have undertaken a world tour of brothel districts to determine the impact of local laws on prostitution. They were very impressed by New Zealand’s sex industry.

I am very impressed that an institution like the Women’s Institute undertook this activity. The realist approach to an activity that will never go away speaks volumes for how an organisation unfairly stereotyped is establishing a contemporary relevance.

Disclaimer: I treasure the WI Cookbook I purchased in the Lake District on my honeymoon over 20 years ago. It’s much better than some of the modern books that rely on manufactured ingredients.