A moonlighting sex worker with a white-collar day job in finance, April Winters shares insight into the fraught social and financial standing most sex industry workers live with.
Pleasers and pennies: Making bank online as a sex worker
April Winters is savvy.
Before she puts on fishnets for her hour-long “sexy house cleaner” job, where she’ll pocket $160 for lightly dusting a john’s house in her underwear, April has calculated whether her two properties lost or made money over the financial year.
“It’s my first year of having this property with the rental, so I’m sort of trying to work out how it’s making me sit,” she says.
“At the moment it’s positive gearing me, which is not good.”
April straddles two worlds. She’s a full-time employee of a large Australian financial institution from nine to five, and a sex worker outside those hours.
Both these worlds have been affected by the coronavirus: the Australian economy has ground to a halt and our cultural fabric has been woven in new ways due to social distancing measures.
When CityMag caught up with April a month ago, before the effects of COVID-19 changed the world, she was gearing up for a night of work in her clandestine career.
Dabbing highlighter to her cheekbones, April explains her white-collar job roughly earns her $1500 a week, and that it is its maths-heavy nature she enjoys most.
But over the last four years, she’s also worked as a cam girl, naked waitress, escort, and stripper, because she likes the extra money and the excitement.
“It’s fun,” April says, now applying mauve eyeshadow.
“And an extra little bit of cash in there is fine because most of the money from my day job goes back into my mortgages.”
Currently April works through an agency, where, as a naked waitress, she can pocket up to $110 an hour. But mostly she and her boyfriend produce porn on adult entertainment subscription website, OnlyFans.
They recently earned $1500 for one month of work from 128 subscribers.
April has travelled overseas, renovated a bathroom and implemented a solar system on one of her property’s roofs with the pay cheques from her sex industry work.
Despite the monetary benefits and perks, she’s conscious of when the work won’t financially serve her. April has made the decision to take a hiatus from stripping in South Australia, because it’s not a “lucrative market”.
Unlike the Northern Territory, there are no base wages in SA for strippers.
“It’s not worth me going in there to make non-guaranteed money, whereas the agency work is what I want to do more because I’m walking into guaranteed money,” April says.
“As much as I love doing it, if I ever have to had to rely on it, it puts you in a shitty position.”
While lacing up red leather ‘pleasers’ – large platform shoes exotic dancers consider to be their bread and butter – April explains why unstable income for sex workers presents a “shitty” situation, from a financial planning standpoint.
Loans can be difficult to secure for a sex worker, she says, due to the cash-in-hand nature of the job, or an individual’s unregistered business status. This, plus the instability of average earnings, makes for a potentially tumultuous financial future.
With a steady white-collar day job, April understands her position in the industry comes with a level of privilege not extended to most other sex workers. For her industry colleagues who don’t have an above-board day job, the government’s JobKeeper program is likely to offer little comfort.
April’s biggest worry is being found out.
“I’m sure if my worlds clashed, I’d lose my job,” she says.
“If I was a waitress on the weekends, a normal waitress, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But because I’m a waitress with my boobs out it’s a completely different thing.”
South Australian Sex Industry Network (SIN) general manager Kat Morrison told CityMag workers remain vulnerable because the state has repeatedly failed to decriminalise sex work – last year saw the 13th attempt – and the industry maintains an ‘othered’ status in society.
“When viewed through a lens free from stigma and discrimination, sex work can be defined as skilled, legitimate, humanitarian labour,” Kat says.
“The provision of industrial rights and responsibilities is a key issue for sex industry law reform proponents”.
April expects to climb the company ladder in her white-collar job, and the sex work world, only so long as it’s financially sustainable.
But she looks forward to the day when all sex work is decriminalised, when the general population might respect her side hustle as much as her corporate one.
“I don’t think it should be something that really has to be behind closed doors. For me it’s a legitimate form of work.”