Why Alexis took up sex work during her university studies

Alexis (not pictured): "There is not a huge difference between what we do and people who use Tinder."
Alexis (not pictured): "There is not a huge difference between what we do and people who use Tinder."

Alexis began working in the sex industry while she was a Sydney university student studying for a double arts and science degree.

The 27-year-old grew up in the elite Sydney suburb of Vaucluse, raised by a father who was a general manager of an ASX100 company and a stay-at-home mother, and attended an eastern suburbs private school.

She took up sex work while she was at university because she was working in a retail job with long hours and poor pay.

"When I found out I could leave a poorly paid stressful retail job for much more money in a job I could work around my uni schedule and in uni holidays, I jumped at it," she says.

Now she has graduated in both degrees, she works part time, 24 hours a week, in administration for a non-profit and continues to do private sex work via the internet and long-term clients. S

ex work now makes up only about 10 to 20 per cent of her income but it can be lucrative, ranging from $300 to $1000 per hour. Alexis charges $400 an hour.

Her mother and sister know she has done sex work, her father died when she was in her early 20s and she rarely sees her extended family.

"I like working in admin, I find it really rewarding to be working in a community organisation, while doing sex work on the side as it is not stressful and I don't have to wear corporate clothes to work," she says.

"Sex work gives me a lot of flexibility and earning potential, and really there is not a huge difference between what we do and people who use Tinder," she says.

She initially advertised in the personals section of Backpage, which was a classified advertising website that had become the largest marketplace for buying and selling sex but it closed last year. She now works from home, in an inner-city house she shares with a friend and fellow sex worker. They use the third bedroom as a work space and work with mainly repeat clients. While working as a student she would often visit clients in hotels.

The arrangement is similar to that of Michaela Dunn, who allegedly shared her Clarence Street apartment with another sex worker, making it meet the City of Sydney Council regulations for home-based sex services. P

roviding there are no more than two workers, no signage and it does not interfere with the amenity of neighbours, this is perfectly legal. In Dunn's case, there had been no complaints from neighbours at her Clarence Street address, the City of Sydney confirms.

"I've found sex work perfectly safe, and it's given me ways to assert myself and set boundaries with men," Alexis says. "Of course, there are instances where the digital world increases the vulnerability in our lives but I just go on gut instinct with men now and you can usually tell by texting or email if someone will be a problem," she says.

Lali, a 25-year-old Sydney tertiary student is also working part-time as a sex worker, after starting four years ago at the age of 21. Raised in suburban Sydney, she moved into a share house in the inner city and started working in a brothel.

"I was always curious about it and I've found it great since I've left home to pay the rent," she says. "It is flexible and gives me enough money to get through the week as well as save for other things, like travel."

She says she has never feared for her safety as there is security in the brothel, a strict etiquette and clients are "pretty clear this is a service."

"If they breach the terms of that service arrangement, they will be kicked out," she says.

"There's really no way of knowing how many students like me are working as sex workers. But I do know a lot of friends are using it to save money to study, make art or work on music projects," she says.

Several sex workers gathered on Friday in candlelight vigil laying flowers and writing tributes outside Clarence House, where Dunn lived, in memory of their co-worker.

(Only first names have been used)

This story Why Alexis took up sex work during her university studies first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.