This audio comes from an interview between Sekoetlane Phamodi and is a feminist migrant sex worker in South Africa who coordinates sex worker rights advocacy and provides sex worker support services through Sisonke National Sex Workers Movement in South Africa and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT). Sekoetlane Phamodi is a South African activist who works at the intersections of social justice, strategic communications and the law. Below is an edited transcription.
I once had a client who was disabled. He was from Australia. I met him through someone who worked in the sex worker movement. When he moved from Australia to South Africa, he wanted a Black sex worker with big boobs. I fell under that criteria, but no-one gave me a full description of this guy. The offer was great, and I couldn’t refuse, so I took him on.
I managed to get in touch with the sex worker that had worked with him in Australia via email. She dropped me an email and explained to me that he was disabled – he couldn’t move, and had difficulty speaking – and how she had worked with him, before. She explained to me that this is how we interact: this is how I had worked with him, and this is how you can work with him. It was difficult at first at first, seeing as I had not worked with disabled clients before, and the “middleman” was his mum.
She sent me his mum’s contact number, and we talked over WhatsApp and SMS to arrange a day when we could meet. It was such a useful medium of communication. His mum gave me a brief of his medical condition, how the other sex worker was able to work with him, and how he really liked boobs (which was why he wanted a Black woman), and I was, like, okay cool.
Disabled people are really cool clients. If I could choose, I would only work with disabled clients. They can be such gentle people…and, you know, everyone needs to have a release of some sort, and they are not different. We had to build a trust relationship…we get in very slowly and not just rush into things because he wasn’t very comfortable with me compared to the other person. It was a beautiful eye-opening experience where you learn how to connect with someone, and not just “hit-and-run.” It took him some time to get used to the flow of events, as we call it in our business, and that’s where I learned that we just all have needs, and they are satisfied in different ways.
I wish that the South Africans and Africans would understand that disable people need a sexual service like any other person. And they are much more comfortable to have a sex worker because it’s not a relationship like “you are my girlfriend,” but “you are my connection,” in some way…and you actually build a bond of some sort.
Because of circumstance beyond my control I had go back home since I’m a migrant sex worker. When I came back I was not able to continue to work with him...I would have really loved to keep that connection, and hope that in the future, or whenever in my life, that I meet more people like him, a much more gentle client…because you are not afraid that you will be raped, you’ll be robbed, you’ll be harassed. It’s not like that…it’s a very smooth transfer of power.