Outing myself as a sex worker and former drug addict during a pandemic was a great idea. I’m not being sarcastic. It really was.
See, I’ve got a book coming out in July. It’s a memoir. It’s coming out under a pseudonym because of that whole thing about how I accidentally wrote a YA series, and this memoir is definitely R-rated. Of course I was worried about stigma, moral police, etc etc etc. But everyone was too busy worrying about COVID-19, lockdown, their friends, their kids, and the sorry state of the local supermarket to care about my news. (And by the time the book comes out, it’ll be old news… hopefully.)
The memoir is a hectic story of life and sex and drugs and need and professional handjobbing. It is called Money for Something and my fake name is Mia Walsch. You can pre-order it here if you’re in Australia.
It’s set at the dawn of the new millennium when I left school and decided to careen about the massage parlours and dungeons of Sydney for a few years. The book is full of lingerie and the lingering scent of perfume in the air. Corsets, cups of tea, and ketamine; lipstick and loaded syringes. There is a lot of crying, loving, fucking, and crisp fifty-dollar bills.
I’d been meaning to write this for a long time. The story begins in 2001 and wraps up around 2004 (don’t worry – there’s so much more that happens after that, but I’m not going to blow my wad on one memoir, not when I’ve got YEARS of this shit I can dredge up for more books.) Before I lost it all to time, I had to write it – my memory is terrible at the best of times.
Sex work memoirs are a glimpse into a world that a lot of folx are fascinated by. Readers love ‘salacious’ shit. Plus, I could use that to my advantage, slipping in messages about how shitty the stereotypes about sex workers are. I knew it would sell, and I was right. A week after getting my agent to submit it, I had two reasonable offers.
To write the book I split myself open and scooped everything out. I wrote it as if no one would ever read it, that way I could be as honest and revealing as I needed to be. And once it was all out, it seemed less frightening. All I really needed was a promise from my mother that she would never, ever read it, and I was ready to send it into the world.
I mean, this is no well-kept secret. I have told so many people – I consider what my gut tells me they can handle. I don’t lie – I just tell my story to different degrees. I never thought anything I was doing was wrong, but you know how people can be.
The part I am most scared of revealing is not that I was a drug addict. It’s not that I did (and sometimes still do!) sexual acts for money. A lot of people do those things. A vindictive family member outed me to my grandma a few years ago, so the worst has already happened. The one thing I’m actually most scared about is having everyone know how truly batshit nuts I am.
I wrote it in a fury, spending three months inhabiting my late teens and early twenties, a time of my life where I saw no future for myself except a gnarly descent to the bottom. I’ve worked really fucking hard to haul myself back up from that, so it was no easy task to immerse myself back in it. Why would I do that to myself?
One reason is for the money. I’m an Australian author after all. I’ve squeezed a bit more $ out of the experience by regurgitating it at you.
Another reason is that this point of my life has a specific narrative arc. I mean, it’s so three-part-structure that I almost HAD to write.
And finally: I like to talk about myself. Now I’m gonna make you listen to all my stories. Ha, tricked you! Really, it’s considered shameful to seek attention by telling our stories, but why? What’s so awful about wanting attention? Does that make me a bad person?
Everybody looks when we walk into the club, and it sends a gleeful spike of satisfaction through me. I immediately take my top off, garnering all the attention I need, and more. The night tumbles into a dream, a movie, as the drugs churn through my system. The club is small and packed, people pressing into me, hot like fever. Our sweat mingles… [they] press in around, watching us, their eyes all glimmer and lust.
I’ve never loved anything like I love attention.
I’ve got a good story and I know how to write it well, so why wouldn’t I do it?
Well, for lots of reasons. People are jerks, especially online. Yes, I am afraid of that, maybe more than I want to admit. I’m afraid of the loss of my privacy - the book is only under a pseudonym to differentiate it from my SF work, but I’m still doing publicity as me. I knew to try to keep it anonymous would be too hard, and this way I get to control the narrative. And yeah, it’s one thing to know that your friend/partner/daughter/whatever is a sex worker, mentally ill, was a drug addict. It’s another to know in minute detail about what that means and to know that everyone who reads the book will too. I want to embody this attitude of ‘I don’t give a shit what you think of me,’ because when the book comes out, people might look at me differently, especially in the context of my existing YA series. (Oh yes, that whole thing of: I accidentally wrote a YA series, oops, gee whiz, hope no one finds out I’m also a Pro Domme, fuck.)
So let’s just say I’m scared but also trying to be brave and tough.
No matter what happens, though, I’m fucking proud of this book. I worked my ass off to write it. And hopefully, when the release is over, folx are gonna think less about what I’ve done and more about how I’ve told it.
Every time I think of this book, one scene pops out the most.
Soon we’re all in that sparkly place as we feel the first tendrils of the drug start to wrap around and warp us. We’ve got towels laid out on the floor and everyone lies down, clad in lingerie and grinning like motherfuckers. I come back from the bathroom and dive headlong into the pile of women, kicking my legs and squashing my face into their boobs and bellies as they giggle.
‘I fucking love youse girls,’ I say, the drug starting to peak, as I wriggle in between them. It’s not just the drugs; I think I do love them. I think I love almost all the women I’ve met in parlours. There’s just something about the intimacy of being around fellow sex workers that I’ve never found anywhere else. Now that I’ve got the sweet song of MDMA playing through my veins, I just have to tell them. ‘Nah, I’m serious. Youse are some of the best girls I’ve ever met. I fucking love you.’
The thing about this scene is that it’s painted perfect in my mind because I actually have a picture of this exact moment. It’s what kept the feeling of it so fresh.
No matter what happens, I’ll always have that moment when I just felt so much pure love and kinship, and the evidence that yes, it did happen.
It’s not just words on a page, it happened.
Oh yeah, why coming out in the first twirly days of the pandemic was a good idea? Because no one had time for stigma. There’s bigger things to deal with right now than worrying about what someone does or doesn’t do for work.