Montana was a sex worker I met in when I lived in Brisbane. Montana wasn’t her real name; I don’t remember what her real name was. A few of the women working at 88 had names based on American states; Indiana, Arizona and Dakota, there wasn’t however an Arkansas. Names ending in A seemed to be the flavour there.
Montana was a sunny 40ish generous woman with a softly worn face, sparkling eyes and a bright, easy smile. Maybe like Montana the state is, I wouldn’t know I’ve never been there.
Montana was good to me when I first started working at 88.
88 on Logan is a brothel in Wollongabba, Brisbane. An old hippy friend of mine was a sex worker and told me they needed a receptionist and although this was the butt of many ‘yeah sure’ jokes and I’m sure a few judgmental comments, I didn’t often qualify that I was only on the desk, when people asked where I worked.
I enjoyed watching the conservative Brisbaneites squirm nonplussed as I simply carried on with the conversation, as if I said I was a waitress.
I also wasn’t adverse to the idea the idea of a little notoriety and being a woman of ill repute.
I love the words jezebel and harlot.
My muso boyfriend thought it was cool and dropped me off a few times in his beloved rusted Kingswood.
Years later he told me that when we broke up, he went back one night at 2am drunk and sad but wasn’t able to go through with anything.
Poor chap, he did take a long time to work out the difference between love and sex.
88 was the first legal brothel in QLD and even had a S’n’M room. Initially, I thought I could do that, you know, whip blokes wearing black latex, without having to have sex with them. After all, I’d been hit enough by a few men and I thought maybe I could get my own back a little.
The first night I worked there, I realised, I couldn’t be a sex worker, even taking my revenge on poor submissive men.
It was a very full on job and I was, and maybe still am, too lazy to commit to making others happy at the expense of my own comfort.
What if I got RSI from cracking a whip all day?
The women who did work there were my heroines; they still are, to be honest.
They would sit around watching DVD’s in chunky terry toweling robes over silk evening gowns and then the doorbell would ring and they would all look at the camera to see if they knew the gentleman caller.
Sometimes it might be someone they knew, Brisbane is still a big country town after all.
Then the door would open and the man/men would come and be greeted by me.
Strangely I never saw a woman come in, though i was told there were women who did.
I called myself Helen and I always wore glasses (this was before I wore them fulltime) and a white shirt.
My job was to welcome the guest, offer them a beverage (no booze just tea, coffee and softdrinks) and then explain the process.
88 was the first ‘legal’ brothel and had only been open a few months at this stage.
The men were usually really shy and awkward.
There was only once that I felt a man was really fucking dodgy and he left without staying, so that was a relief.
The women were professionals and knew how to deal with fucked up shit and they had panic bracelets to call security of need be.
After I had explained the prices and process, I’d call the girls down and they would descend in their heels, dresses and bathrobes, shrug the robe off, hang it up, looking tired then open the door and transform their faces into beatific smiles.
It was always amazing to watch the women I knew as mums, student and friends, change into professional sex workers.
It was Oscar worthy.
They would saunter like cats to meet the guests and then walk one at a time, back up the stairs till the punter had met all the workers and either choosen one or left.
They were so many varied types of women and often the most ‘beautiful’ or ‘youngest’ or ‘thinnest’ weren’t chosen.
Most consistently popular were, surprisingly, the plainer women who had curves.
Oh and Jade who was Thai. She was popular too.
Some of the customers, of course, had their favourites and would book them or come in when they were working.
The gauche neon pomp and ceremony of the parade wouldn’t happen then and even though it meant no booking, the other workers wouldn’t care that much, often they were ensconced in what movie was playing in the green room or they were asleep.
The ‘john’ always had the health check.
That was done by the workers.
It was called the stinky dick check. Or the sticky dick check, I never wanted to know too much about that.
Although it was a requirement to always wear a condom, disease can be all over, so the women would don gloves commence the check, after the obligatory shower.
I thought it was quite clever because if they booked in ½ an hour. That was at least 5 mins taken up with hygiene.
As a fan of cleanliness for bits, I liked this.
Then the workers worked and after I’d charge his card, the chap would leave, usually quite happy.
There were always funny stories and sometimes they’d run comps, like who could fake the loudest and you’d be trying not to laugh hearing a zoo of loud mad sounds emanating from the velvety rooms.
I also had to do laundry. I hated doing the laundry.
One very camp cleaner told me I could get herpes in my eye and from that point on I put the sheets in with my eyes closed.
I never did get herpes in my eye and to be honest I’ve never even googled it.
I will now. Um, yes you can. Thanks camp cleaner.
The regulars were all pretty cool, one was called The General who was quite deaf. He just liked women jumping naked on the bed and playing cards with him. He was spending all this money on credit cards because he was dying and he hated his kids.
He had a very proper English accent and I always teased him about how hard the Boer War must have been on him.
Another was this very handsome, young, well built doctor who kept his head down coming in and out and never smiled.
One bloke, who wasn't a regular, I remember well, was terribly shy, he was a truck driver and he was in his late 50’s, I reckon. I did the meet ‘n’ greet and went through the process and we started talking, I was trying to make him as comfortable as possible. I found out his wife had died a few years ago and he’d never been in a brothel before. He started crying and I said it was OK and that we were here to help. He said he was just really lonely and needed a chat. He left without seeing anyone but thanked me for the conversation.
I think about him sometimes, especially when I meet elderly men who are terribly isolated and lonely in aged care. I think about them being held by a women and how much that would make them feel human again.
I think about how if I ran the country I’d have prostitution on medicare for the disabled and those who are lonely.
I think about Montana and the other wonderful women who literally put their bodies on the line to fill such an important need in our communities.
These women are the healers, and care givers of a generation of men who were taught to not feel.
These women are the real goddesses.
Oh and I also see men who work in this industry as just as important.
And I’d fucking love to see this industry taken from the hidden brick suburban only taxi known brothels of the outer suburbs and low lit smut filled dens of the cities and be put where they should be, in hospitals and in aged cared facilities and homes for the disabled.
I’d like to see these sex workers honoured.
I’d like us all to not be so damn uptight about it all and see it for what it is.
It’s just sex!
And it’s a really important part of being human and alive.
As for Montana, I ran into her at a Japanese restaurant a few years after leaving Brisbane, she have me a huge hug and told me one of her customers now paid her to travel with him exclusively and they get along wonderfully. She looked happy and said, 'I never imagined I’d have the life I’m now having. Aren’t I lucky'.
I smiled and hugged her back for her good fortune and reminded her, ‘He’s lucky to have you’
‘Oh, he knows it.’ Then she giggled and said goodbye.
As for the other women, my hippy friend is a doctor now and doesn’t really talk about her past, the others I lost touch with.
I imagine some are still working, it’s easy money after all.
I don’t think all were as lucky as Montana.
It would be a tricky world to navigate being a sex worker in this judgmental and sex repressed world but I hope with all my heart they are happy.
As happy as Montana was when I last saw her.