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  • Writer's pictureLayla

Another Note On Approaching Sex Workers In Public

Sometimes I get sick of Layla.

There’s a lot of myself in Layla - I guess I’ve always thought of her as the more polished version of me. She’s fun; more outgoing and engaging than me. She puts more effort into appearance than me and is more seductive than I’ve ever bothered to be. She swears less and is more mindful of her manners. Being this desired beauty with quick wit can be very enjoyable, but sometimes I want to switch off and just be me.

I want to wear my baggy, comfy clothes and not care if my hair is a bit greasy or if there’s a coffee stain on my jeans. I want to go to a pub & eat ribs with my hands and get BBQ sauce everywhere. I want to go to clubs and be loud and dance badly. I want to exist without worrying if that man looking at me is staring because he sees a cute girl, or if he’s looking and seeing Layla; disappointed that in that moment I’m not embodying her.

At the airport, as I was waiting for my flight home from Melbourne, I knew Layla had been spotted. While I was waiting to order my drink, he walked past me and flashed a massive ‘I know you’ smile. I ignored it, it happens, and I can’t blame them for recognising me - after all, I’ve worked so hard to build this brand. He lined up behind me, and after a minute or two he just couldn’t help himself...

“Excuse me?”

I look at him, praying he’s going to ask if he’s at the right terminal or if I know the time. But of course not.

“I’ve seen your website a few times and...”

I was not in the mood. I hadn’t been sleeping properly all week, and hadn’t been eating right either. I was at the airport, weighed down with bags and clearly not enjoying it. I snapped.

“This is really fucking inappropriate.” Made sure to say it loud enough so the two ladies in front of us spun around and glared at him.

“Oh! Oh... I didn’t know. Oh.”

And he moved back into the line behind me. Now to make the decision; do I just leave the queue and go to my gate now? No, I don’t want him to know how shaken I’m feeling. Do I order my tea and sit down? No, I didn’t want to risk him trying to talk to me while at the cafe. So I just asked for a bottled water when I got to the counter, paid, and quickly walked off feeling awful.

But even after I walked away from the cafe, I couldn’t relax. Was he going to follow me and try to strike up a conversation again? What if he just decided to hang around my gate in the hopes of hearing a flight attendant use my real name? The rest of my time at the airport, I internally panicked when I made eye contact with a man. Did he know I was Layla? Was he going to try and talk to me? Is he showing his mate sitting with him my ads and they’re both there secretly sniggering at me? It was the last thing I needed.

I see sex workers constantly reminding fans to leave them alone in public - what if they’re with friends or family? What if your interaction outs them to someone? Or what if, like me, your interaction impacts their day and makes them feel unnecessarily anxious and wary - makes them feel like they can't be themselves for even a minute?

Writing this has made me feel better about the incident. I’m sure some people think I’m overreacting, but I’m being honest about how I felt in that moment. I’ve had this happen once before - again at an airport. Having lunch, minding my own business, when a man walks up to me and compliments me on my website then walks off before I respond. That time, it just made me a bit angry but I forgot about it within 10 minutes. This time, it affected me a lot more.

You don’t know what the sex worker is going through when you approach them. You might think it’s harmless to complement their website. You just want to say hi to someone you’ve followed online for a while, but you don’t think of them. And that’s the main problem I have with being approached in public. You’ve made it about you, and your wants at that moment; no time was taken to think about what I might want or need. Sex workers are people too; leading mostly boring, normal lives. So when you see them out in public, just let them be. Let them live life. We don’t need a constant reminder that we’re sex workers, we know what our job is. Sometimes we'd just like to be ourselves.

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