Sex workers shattered as industry shuts down
HOBART's sex workers and exotic dancers have left financially devastated by the coronavirus crisis as lockdown rules and dwindling client numbers shatter their industry.
Men's Gallery dancer Lana Evol, who typically works four nights a week at the Barrack St venue, is jobless now that strip clubs have closed nationwide.
"I figured this was coming," she said.
"As it is, I'm probably in a better position than most [dancers] because I've got a supportive parent who can send me money if I need it. I don't know how the others are going to cope, I really don't."
She said customers to the club - rare because it offers paid private "touching" dances, albeit with strict rules - had already started "dwindling" amid public health fears.
But Ms Evol said it wasn't just clients who were worried about infection - as a dancer, she had already been plagued by anxiety about her health and safety over recent weeks.
"It's bad enough when men push the boundaries and try to touch, but it's worse now when they're putting you at risk," she said
The dancer will try to build a following at subscription-based website OnlyFans, but said it was tricky to make a living online without a large, pre-existing fan base.
She's also worried about the regulars who visited the club for human contact.
"We are therapists in a way. We're not just entertainers, we provide an important service and it's a really important industry," she said.
"This will be really detrimental to people who come along a few times a week, because they can't get that attention anywhere else. I do worry about their mental health."
Hobart sex worker Kristen said she was still seeing clients - although using even stricter hygiene controls than usual - but she had been left with "a steep drop in my income as clients drop off".
"This crisis has already seriously impacted my livelihood. I've gone from being able to see several clients a week to virtually none," she said.
"I have minimal savings, and I know other sex workers who don't have any savings.
"I really hope that there is a rent freeze in Tasmania, because at this rate I won't be able to pay rent for more than a month."
A former "high class escort" who specialised in fetish and BDSM said she was concerned about the health and safety of workers and clients in the unregulated areas of Tasmania's sex industry - such as those who advertised their services as "massages" or brothels run by crime groups.
"A lot of men don't really care about their health - I was constantly being asked if I did services without a condom - so a bit of COVID-19 isn't going to stop them," she said.
Lisa Schmidt, who co-ordinates the Scarlet Alliance Tasmanian sex worker project, said the advocacy group was calling on governments to support the "severely affected" industry.
"Sex workers already experience a high level of stigma and discrimination," she said.
"I hope that the kindness epidemic will embrace sex workers as members of our community who are doing it tough."
Originally published as Sex workers shattered as industry shuts down