Wellington sex workers share on stage what goes on behind-the-scenes

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Sex industry workers have collated stories in a theatre production that gives insight into their world

*Satine was asked to whip her customer as a punishment for voting for Donald Trump in  last year's US election.

It's one of the more creative stories the current sex worker has tucked up her sleeve and the kind of story she and four others will share live on stage during the second instalment of Paying For It.

Co-producers Satine and Blair, not their real names, are bringing more stories from a more diverse range of sex workers about the fascinating and mysterious world of sex work; from stripping to sugaring, brothels to BDSM, and everything in-between.

The two sex workers had never directed a play in their life, but it didn't really seem to matter. Paying For It was a sell-out two weeks before its premiere night in February and then, as a result of the demand, they put on a second show which also was a sell-out.

Paying For It co-producers *Blair and *Satine are back for round two with their very successful show that shares stories ...
ROBERT KITCHIN / STUFF

Paying For It co-producers *Blair and *Satine are back for round two with their very successful show that shares stories from the sex industry.

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It was then selected as the first recipient of the Parkin Development Grant – a grant gifted by art lovers and philanthropists Kathy and Chris Parkin to support a promising work that will be restaged as a high-quality show at BATS Theatre. 

This time around the show extends from 60 to 90 minutes, reveals stories from five sex workers, and includes an interview piece with a sex worker who worked the streets about 40 years ago.

This year is also the 30th birthday of the formation of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective
ROBERT KITCHIN

This year is also the 30th birthday of the formation of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective

"It's not really overly theatrical, its just us standing on stage in a very raw format," Blair says.

The pair keep their identity hidden. Some of Blair and Satine's family and friends are not aware of their profession. The audience is asked to refrain from taking photos not approach the sex workers in the public.

Misconceptions and stigmatisation are still rampant in the world of prostitution, Satine explains. Some jobs won't employ someone if they have a history of sex work – despite the work being legalised more than 13 years ago.

Theatre show Paying For It was the very first recipient of The Parkin Development Grant,
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Theatre show Paying For It was the very first recipient of The Parkin Development Grant,

It's for these reasons that the pair wanted to share their stories.

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"It's important because there are so many misconceptions out there about what it is to be a sex worker. It's so heavily stigmatised and it shouldn't be because it's decriminalised. It's a legalised profession and there shouldn't be that sense of shame and fear that comes with being a sex worker, because it should ideally be the same as being a lawyer or a baker or a construction worker – it's just a job," Satine says.

"But I guess because society has a moralistic view of sex that sort of clouds the general public's judgements and in the media all you're presented with is like: the drug-addicted hooker found dead in the river, or the high-class sugar baby paying her way through university and she's 18-years-old and full of life and earning $20,000 a week. Those are the only two stereotypes."

Paying For It hopes to remove the misconceptions held about sex workers.
ROBERT KITCHIN

Paying For It hopes to remove the misconceptions held about sex workers.

This was a chance, Blair adds, for people to see what sex workers look like – normal people that choose prostitution as a job.

Satine says many have asked her: "what's wrong with you that you feel you had to do this".

"There's a huge misconception that you're forced into it, but a lot of people have chosen this field by choice.

"There has to be a noble reason, a justification. I can't just be that it pays really well and fits in with your lifestyle and sex is fun – why wouldn't you want to get paid for it?"

While the show presents some funny stories such as Satine's client who has a fetish for being punished after voting for Trump, and Blair's guy who wanted him to dress up like Game of Throne's King Joffrey and punish Grand Maester Pycelle for not bringing him his whores, there are more serious stories.

Blair shares his experiences of being kidnapped twice, others share stories of rape, addiction, abuse and emotional manipulation.

"All of those things are experiences that us as sex workers have had," Satine says.

The experience of exposing themselves on stage is just as courageous.

"It's so raw and emotional and you're just giving everything to these people, like this is my entire being and you just walk away and you feel so free and relieved but also so drained," Blair says.

"It's a really hard thing to just go on a stage in front of a bunch of strangers who you don't know or how they're going to feel and say, 'This is me. Judge away. Do what you want'."

"We didn't know if we were going to walk out of there having lost all of our friends, if our family was going to find out, if we were going to lose our daytime 'straight' jobs. The consequences of it for all of our speakers were just crazy high," Satine adds.

The show coincides with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective

Members from the collective will be present during one of the performances to support their sex workers.

Paying For It – An Insider's’ Guide to the NZ Sex Industry Vol. II runs at BATS Theatre at 8pm from October 10 to 14. For more information, see bats.co.nz

 

 - Stuff

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