By Mehroz Siraj
Amidst all the gloom and doom in the agrarian economy of northern New South Wales (NSW), the popularity of the commercial sex industry is growing, according to Professor John Scott of the University of New England (UNE).
Professor Scott is a researcher at the UNE and an expert on the NSW sex industry.
The state’s stagnating economy and the growing diversification of the sex industry are major factors contributing to the growth of this industry, Scott said.
“Sex workers don’t just provide a sexual service in terms of the physical contact side of things,” he told ABC Radio.
“Many workers describe what they do as a social welfare type service where they often counsel clients,” he added.
Undercutting known stereotypes, he said that young men are turning towards commercial sex work in numbers larger than at any time before.
According to him, most of these young men had taken up work in the sex industry as a source of earning a secondary income.
New studies suggested that women were staying in the sex industry for longer periods of time and for many, this industry is their only source of employment, he said.
Scott further added that available research from northern NSW suggested that a vast majority of sex workers had taken up the profession as a matter of choice.
“The bulk of sex workers in Australia say that they have chosen to work in this industry,” he said.
“To them, it is a rational career decision that they have made,” he added.
Scott spoke at length about the changing face of the commercial sex industry of northern NSW.
He said that due to growing demand of sex workers in the New England region, the industry was also attracting people from places as far as Sydney and Newcastle.
He further added that sex workers were actively moving away from commercial brothels and were providing inter-personal services to their clients at the latter’s homes or in private hotel rooms.
Because of this structural change in the way the industry is working, gaining expertise at advertising themselves by using modern age technology is becoming a necessity for sex workers, Scott said.
“Promoting their services online has become very important in terms of the current sex industry,” he said, adding that advertising in local community newspapers is the best way through which these sex workers could get new clients.
However, according to Scott, the growth in the sex industry business in northern NSW has brought with it many new challenges for the law enforcement agencies as well.
Controlling the proliferation of drugs is one of the major issues, he said.
Scott remarked that available research shows that the risk of transferring drugs during male-to-male sexual encounters is growing across NSW.
As the commercial sex industry of regional NSW is not well regulated, curtailing the proliferation of drugs would be tough for the authorities, Scott remarked.
As an expert undertaking research into the NSW sex industry, Scott said that commercial sex workers should be treated normally, just like every other person in the community.
He said that the wider society in regional NSW still had a stereotypical view of the sex industry business and he called for more research and a greater community debate that addressed the issues of this industry and its employees in an open and neutral manner.