By Victoria Abraham
Lindsay is a sex worker who participated as a Book in the Human Library project put on by the Ottawa Public Library, the Canadian War Museum, and CBC Ottawa on Saturday, January 28. Lindsay is currently working on an undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies at the University of Ottawa and holds an undergraduate degree in archeology and the classics from Wilfrid Laurier University.
Why did you choose to be part of the Human Library project?
I am big on breaking stereotypes. Anything that I can do to change people’s minds [about stereotypes] is moving in the right direction.
How did you get into sex work?
I had been living in Ottawa for a year after I graduated. I didn’t speak French and I didn’t want to do archeology anymore. So I was working lame retail jobs and I didn’t like it. At the time I was seeing this guy and I did not have much time for him, so he offered to pay me to stay with him. So I said, sure if you want to start paying me for what I was previously doing for free. It just seemed right once I started doing it. Sex work is one of those jobs where you work as much or as little as you want to. It has provided me with a means to go back to school without having to take out too many student loans.
How long have you been doing sex work?
I just had my four year hooker anniversary in October.
There are different types of sex work. You do “indoor work.” Can you explain what that means?
In Canada, sex work is not illegal. But there are provisions to make sex work less dangerous. For example, I cannot do sex work from my apartment. To do indoor work legally means I do out calls, which means I go to the client’s house or hotel room.
You specialize in clients with disabilities. What does that entail?
I like to see clients with disabilities because they are a segment of the population that is largely overlooked, especially when it comes to sex. A lot of the time it is about intimacy and touch and not even about sex. It is abut building confidence.
People with disabilities are often seen as asexual. I had a client who told me that he hadn’t been touched in over five years, not even a handshake or a bump! I find it so appalling that that is even an issue. They are adults, they have needs too.
Sex workers can act as enablers for couples with disabilities, helping them get into position. People with spine injuries may not be able to reach certain parts that still have sensation, so a sex worker would massage those areas.
You mentioned you wanted to be part of the Human Library project in order to break down stereotypes about your line of work. What are some examples of misconceptions about sex work?
My clients are not gross, I am not addicted to drugs, I was not sexually abused as a child. I am educated and I’m not worried about clients raping and murdering me — though I wouldn’t put it past the police.
You’re a member of Prostitutes of Ottawa/Gatineau Work, Educate and Resist (POWER). What does this involve?
I am a public educator and media officer. I do a lot of the media stuff. I also do a lot of guest lectures at Carleton and the University of Ottawa in criminology classes.
What are some of the specific challenges of doing sex work in Ottawa?
Most of my challenges are related to doing sex work safely under the existing laws.
There are also the challenges of the work itself as it is emotional labour. You have to be able to have strong boundaries and a good sense of self worth.
Launched in Denmark in 2000, the Human Library project is a way to focus on anti-violence, encourage dialogue and build relations. It has grown in popularity with 27 countries taking part in 2008, including Brazil, China, Columbia, Cyprus, Malaysia, and South Africa. Read more about the history and development of the Human Library project around the world here.