Published in the Esperanto Magazine – Sex Edition 2015.
We’ve all heard different things about the sex industry—from exaggerated Hollywood interpretations to sensationalised spinning from the media, it’s a difficult task for outsiders to know fact from fiction.
Luckily for us, we got to chat with Dee*, who was kind enough to satisfy our horny curiosity by telling us what she saw through the eyes of a brothel madam.
For our readers out there, what is a brothel madam and what does the role entail?
My job mainly consisted of managing the girls in the brothel and meeting clients. I had to pretty much do everything—I had to make sure the girls were ready to go, that they looked presentable, and that they satisfied the client. If anything happened, for example if the client had an STD, I was the person they’d come running to. In some ways, it was like managing a retail store, but instead of clothes it was girls that brought in the money.
What was the process for the clients? Did all the girls have to congregate in a room when they arrived?
It’s a very different dynamic, working at a brothel. To what I understand, the process for other brothels is like picking from a catalogue, pointing and choosing this or that girl. There isn’t a lot of interaction there. But where I worked, we had a big lounge and the girls were wearing nothing but lingerie. They would sit around until a client walks in, and once I gather everyone in the one room, I encouraged the girls to introduce themselves to him and tell the client what they offer. Each girl offers different services.
What kind of services do the girls offer?
On the whole, it’s quite diverse and interpreted differently depending on the girl. Some of them have specific preferences, like what kind of clients they want to please. So for example, some girls might only sleep with particular nationalities while others are happy to have any client, regardless of nationality or gender.
The standard service in the brothel was a massage as well as oral and penetrative sex, both with a condom of course. But the standard service is interpreted differently depending on the girl. Some of them have told me they only offer missionary sex with no change of position, and if the client wants a different position, they can charge an extra $100 on top. It’s really up to the girl – sometimes they offer anal (code named ‘Greek’), and sometimes they even offer golden showers (urinating on the client).
The price also greatly varies—so for anal sex, the girl can charge from $300–$400 on top of the standard service fee, which is already $350 for one hour. The girls can charge however much they want for anything else that deviates from the standard service.
What kind of clients would you generally have? Was there a specific demographic?
A lot of buck’s nights go in, and unfortunately the main man who gets married the next day is the first one to go upstairs, which is very upsetting to know. In addition to them, a lot of Friday/Saturday night clients are from work meetings. I remember one night I had group of eight married men all in business suits come in, and when I greeted them they all told me they had just finished a work meeting and thought it might be a good idea to go to a brothel afterwards.
That’s the strangest thing ever—for a group of men to finish a work dinner and all agree to visit a brothel.
Especially considering that every single one of them were married. What made it even weirder was that these men were my regulars.
I can’t really give you a demographic of who regularly frequent brothels because we get all kinds of people. Brothels are a big strange world. Some days we would get stereotypical gamers who are still in their New Balance runners, wearing sweatpants and smell like they haven’t showered for weeks while on other days we would get taxi drivers, CEOs, bikies and gang members. We’ve had a few couples come in, but the girl usually freaks out when she realises how intense it can be.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you while working at the brothel?
Quite a few things actually.
One, a client asked me if anyone offered “Roman” once. I didn’t know what that was, but when I asked the girls they responded with a resounding “Ew! Who wants to get peed on?!” It was the funniest thing ever and I was taken aback by it all. Like I said, I learned everything the hard way as a brothel madam.
Two, one of our regular clients was a Jewish man, who always came with a portable iPhone dock. I told him that he was welcome to use one of our own but he insisted on his because it had “special” music. He would always book one girl in particular and after one night when they finished I asked her what was so special about that dock. To my shock, she told me he plays religious Jewish music every time they fucked. The music was all religious hymns, and I was so surprised I didn’t know what to say. It was definitely one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard.
Another strange thing that had happened was that one of the girls had been booked in for eight hours, and all the guy wanted to do was cuddle in a spa. They didn’t even have sex. They just cuddled in the spa and later cuddled in bed. She was literally paid to snuggle and sleep. She made a joke out of it, but it really got me thinking because what kind of sad, lonely man had to pay over $2500 just to be cuddled. He must have been so upset and lonely in his life, which is very sad to hear.
But the craziest thing that happened to me was when I first started there. My best friend of six years was dating this girl for a very long time, and he’d always say to me, “We’ve moved in together, but she spends at least four nights a week at her mum’s house, I don’t know why she even moved in with me.” And he kept telling me this for about a year. Soon after, I started working at the brothel. My first night there, she walks through the counter, under a different name. She saw me and I saw her and she ran downstairs, bawling her eyes out. I was like, “Oh my god, I don’t know what to do, this is my best friend’s girlfriend and she is a sex worker.” It was the strangest thing. After that experience, she and I became good friends because I talked to her about it. It became our little secret. They’ve broken up now, but to this day my best friend still doesn’t know. I don’t have to heart to tell him.
How did you encounter the job in the first place? Was it through general advertising? What aspects of the job originally piqued your interest?
Unfortunately in Australia, it’s actually illegal to promote anything in the sex trade, so there weren’t any advertisements about it in the newspapers or on seek.com.au. But because I do have a lot of friends who are escorts and strippers, they let me know which places were looking and so I just randomly called each one of them asking if they had any receptionist jobs available. Luckily one of them did, but the interpretation of a receptionist in a brothel is a madam. I didn’t know this at the time, so when I got the position I was thrown in the deep end. I had no idea what it was to be a madam.
What were your initial feelings towards the job position when you realised your duties weren’t that of a normal receptionist role? What was your first day like?
It was very stressful at the start because I had no idea what I was doing. I learned early on that it’s a very touchy feely environment. Most of the clients that walk through the door are very secretive, and more often than not they ask me if I’m one of the girls on offer. Sometimes it would get frustrating especially if they asked if they could book me for the night, but I always made sure to explain to them that I am simply the host that makes sure everything goes smoothly. And I dressed for the part as well—I always wore a black shirt buttoned up to the top, black pants and nice boots, making sure I looked presentable enough to keep both my girls and my clients happy.
My first day was a lot to handle as it’s a very quick environment. There were a lot of rules to understand—we had to count the cash twice and make sure all the rooms were clean. When we had 50 clients walking in through the door and only 15 girls available, I would have to call more girls to come to work.
“Hey honey, are we catching up tonight?” is what you would say in a text message or call. We could never directly say “can you come into work?”
All of our communication was done via code. There is a lot of secrecy involved in this, because unfortunately to this day prostitution is still frowned upon and it’s sad because a lot of these girls fall into prostitution because they can’t do anything else.
What were your girls like? Did they have other jobs as well?
A lot of the girls study during the day and enter this industry because they need to pay for student loans. I never really asked them if they had other jobs as well because my boss discouraged us from talking about our personal lives.
In the actual brothel setting though, we were all very friendly with each other because at the end of day it is a very stressful job. Some girls might come out of a two hour booking, be booked again straight away and have to look perfect for the next client. The sad thing is that it’s a very exhausting job, selling your body like that—these girls would work eight-hour shifts and they might get eight clients in a row, so one hour each person. That’s tough. They have to take their emotions out of what they are doing physically, which is a very difficult thing to master.
Did you find you were empowered by your job? If so, how?
I feel as if I kind of belittled men a bit, like they were wrapped around my finger because I was the one who said yes or no. I’m only 20 years old, and the clients pretty much had to ask me to do anything. So for men to come up to me and ask, “Can I book X?” or “Can I do this with X?” and for me to have the power to deny them was a very strange feeling because it’s rare. It was definitely empowering but that much power comes with a lot of responsibility.
I was in a situation where I was stuck in the middle. It’s a stressful environment, especially when we have clients who aren’t exactly presentable or hygienic. Of course, no girl wants to be intimate with someone who hasn’t showered, or shaved, or look like they are homeless. And when every girl says no to this one client, I then have to make excuses to them as to why all the girls were unavailable.
Now the major problem I had with this was that we charged $20 to even see the girls, and if all girls rejected him, he would have wasted that $20. Many guys would put up a fight over this, and the whole situation would be caught on tape for my boss to see. And he does not sleep—we even had to text him every two hours stating how much money we’ve made, how many clients have walked out without booking, and how many walk-ins there were. So on the other hand, my job wasn’t very empowering when I had to deal with difficult clients and explain things to my boss.
Other than being a madam, were their other areas of the sex industry that you dabbled in?
Shortly after being a madam, I actually become a camgirl for a while. When you’re working in the sex industry and you see how much money the girls make, it’s very tempting to join. But I could never be an escort, so I thought I’ll try the halfway point between being an escort and a madam, which is a camgirl.
Like anything in the sex industry, the camgirl gig was very tiring. I’d charge about $40 per ten minutes, but after every session I would have to get changed, put on fresh make up and make sure I looked perfect for the next client. It came to a point where I began to despise men because every time they were being nice to me, my initial thought was that he had an ulterior motive other than just being nice to me. It definitely took a toll on me, and it took me a while to get out of this mindset.
To clarify, is an escort the same as a prostitute?
Nowadays, escort is the nicer name for a sex worker. Or we call them a service provider, so SP for short. We don’t call them sex workers or prostitutes because they actually get really offended by that. And escorts are a nicer way of saying service provider. So whenever someone says they are an escort, it means they are a prostitute.
The media has a tendency to demonise people working in the sex industry and cast them in a negative light. What are your feelings towards that, and what do you think Australia should be doing to support sex workers?
It’s upsetting that Australia doesn’t treat sex workers the way they deserve to be treated, and the laws do not help our sex workers. While the sex industry is constantly growing, it’s still something that is frowned upon and something no one wants to talk about. It’s very underground at the moment.
People need to have more exposure to this, and they need to familiarise themselves with the fact that the sex industry exists and whether they like it or not, it’s going to stay. I encourage people to read what they write because sex workers are really intelligent people. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings and we have a voice—just because they are doing something you wouldn’t do, doesn’t mean you should judge them for it. It’s their prerogative and they can do whatever they want with their body.
*name changed for privacy.