The good-girl-gone-bad narrative peddled by the Australian media following the stabbing murder of Sydney sex-worker Michaela Dunn last week — has been abhorrent.
I recently wrote a column for News Corp’s Rendezview site about sex-work and the shameful way Australian journalists report on it.
I didn’t think I would be writing a second column about the same issue so soon but after reading a piece by Helen Pitt at the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s important I raise my voice once again.
Pitt’s column introduces us to two Australian sex-workers. Their names are Alexis and Lali — wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
Alexis is a 27-year-old Sydney University student who has a double degree in arts and science. She grew up in the posh suburb of Vaucluse and attended a private girls school.
Lali is a 25-year-old tertiary student, also from Sydney, also working as a sex-worker. Blah, blah, blah, blah.
I’m assuming the point of Pitt’s column was to show that privileged, educated women whose families come from the upper echelon of Australian society also spread their legs for money?
Or perhaps the point was to show that these two women are somehow similar (on a superficial level at least) to murdered sex-worker Michaela Dunn?
Whatever the intention of Pitt’s piece — it failed.
Sex-work isn’t a homogenised occupation. It’s not a monolith of drug-addicted gutter-rats who specialise in fake orgasms as the stereotype suggests, but rather an occupation that has an eclectic mix of workers from various backgrounds.
This supposed enlightened media outlet preaches bodily autonomy for women yet it publishes articles such as this — defaulting to “fallen women” in its coverage of a murder with a possible terrorism aspect.
Let’s face it. As far as Aussie journos are concerned sex-work will always be to the detriment of women while discounting their sexual agency and erotic pleasure.
The “student sex worker” story is a cliché that gets regurgitated every time the sex industry hits the headlines. Apparently demonising sex workers who aren’t “students” or “privileged good-girls” is an effective way to evolve the conversation.
Vanessa de Largie is a freelance journalist, sex columnist and public speaker who divides her time between London and Melbourne. You can find more of her work on her website.
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