It’s ironic that “the world’s oldest profession” is also usually known through negative stereotypes and anonymous professionals. For this double interview, I spoke with two sex workers who refute every possible cliché: first of all the anonymity, both with their own website, Seani Love and the Rosie Heart, as well as Facebook pages with their names Rosie and the Seani. Rosie Heart is Dutch and lives and works in the Netherlands, while Seani is Australian and lives and works in London. Seani was elected Sex Worker of the Year 2015 as part of the Sexual Freedom Awards in London.
Edgar Tijhuis (ET): Tell me where you came from and how you became a sex worker?
Seani Love (SL): I have always been an explorer of ritual and of sexuality, so when I left Byron Bay, the Hippy mecca of Australia, to come to England, I kept exploring more aspects of sexuality when I got here. Byron Bay is a small town full of spiritual types and London is a big city - a kind of massive buffet of erotic possibilities, compared to back home. I went to many workshops with many teachers, and kept learning how the erotic mind works. I wanted to find out Tantra and the different ways people explored. Australia was a fairly sex-negative culture, and I hardly had a chance to talk about or explore my sexuality there. I certainly didn't have any chances to consciously explore my kinks. But in London I found a home for this.
So there was Raven Kalderea, an author I was really taken by and who had never been to the UK. I organized his workshop in London, and this was really well-received. Some people flew over to the workshop from Prague and they invited me back to Prague to teach my own workshop. I did this and it was well-received. A woman at that workshop asked me for a private session and I did it. It was September 2010 when I did my first workshop and my first session and first got paid for sex work. It was a beautiful experience and made me realize that I wanted to do more of it.
ET: And you, Rosie?
Rosie Heart (RH): I started when I was a student. I was a quite active and proficient student, doing a Bachelor’s in both Arabic and Journalism, followed by a Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies, and graduating with honors. I started working part time as an escort at The Courtesan Club in Amsterdam. What started as a side-job became my full-time occupation when I discovered the gratification that comes with it. I can’t describe the feeling when customers show themselves completely vulnerable and share their desires. Since January I also give workshops that I organize and teach with Seani. We travel all over the world and work with groups of people in workshops from two to five days long. We teach something we call “Conscious Kink:” a combination of practices from both Tantra and BDSM that allows us to consciously work with those parts of ourselves and our sexuality that we normally keep hidden. We teach people to voice their desires and boundaries, even the ones they are ashamed of. This allows them to become more fully empowered in their sexuality: a beautiful process to be part of.
ET: What kind of clients do you have and what are their preferences?
SL: I travel a lot and so I get quite a variety of clients. Before I won the award of Sex Worker of the Year, more than half of my clients were sex workers. Afterwards, I received a big influx of clients and now the majority are other clients, spread between 25 and 55 years old and mostly would be of White European descent, though I have one lovely Indian woman who sees me semi-regularly for her Tantric Massage.
I offer quite a diverse set of services. Serving women erotically requires me to be highly emotionally engaged, capable of deep conversation, deep knowledge of my own sexuality and I have to know how to construct and maintain fantasy. Biologically speaking, a woman's arousal system is different to a man's and takes more time to tune into. Whether it be a kink journey, exploring love and intimacy, emotional coldness, surrender or my own lust, something exploratory, different women do have their different preferences. The younger ones are generally more about exploring, older ones more often know what they want and are less afraid of asking for it.
ET: And your clients, Rosie?
RH: My clients come from all kind of backgrounds and are mostly above 30 years old. They include men off course, but also women, transgenders and couples. They basically all look for intimacy. So many people are not really seen and touched in their daily life. They wear masks the whole day: the manager, the dad, the friend, etcetera. With me, they get to be just themselves for a while. They get to be loved, seen and touched without having to perform in any way. For many that is a truly profound experience. I often encounter people who have no idea what they like and dislike. One technique I use is simply making a map of their body with these clients: what kind of touch do they like on what part of their body? We try out all kinds of different things: sensual touch, scratching, pinching, grabbing, hair pulling, you name it. The client tells me what works for them, and together we slowly get to know their likes and dislikes. They are often very surprised about the results. Sometimes I have clients with sexual trauma, who I help to reconnect with their body and their erotic desires. That is beautiful work.
ET: What about the emancipation of sex workers and their rights?
RH: In Holland we have a union for sex workers called PROUD. They are doing great work, and fight against injustices. An example they care about was the city of Groningen, where sex workers were forced to stop working when they filed charges of situations of abuse. This is unbelievable. More in general, the situation that sex workers are not allowed to work independently from home, and de facto forced to work with a pimp/agent, is unacceptable. It shows that they have not the same rights as any other entrepreneur, though this will hopefully be changed with the new prostitution law that is almost enacted.
ET: Any very special experiences?
RH: I once had a couple that hired me for their 25th marriage anniversary, which was very special. But generally what makes my work so special is that in almost every session I do there is a moment where the client just lets go, and opens up. To be allowed to witness and hold that is a privilege beyond compare.
ET: And you, Seani?
SL: Some of my more amazing experiences revolve around trauma healing. Recently, a woman wanted to reclaim her virginity. Most humans these days lose their virginity in quite a drunk and clumsy way, and it's emotionally messy and over way too quickly. The client and I constructed a special ritual where her virginity was imagined intact, and we went to that place where every touch, every moment of connection was felt as if for the first time. But here we are doing it consciously and with intention. The beautiful awkwardness of not knowing how her body works combined with detailed implicit communication about what felt good in each moment brought out a very beautiful, empowering and healing scene.
ET: What does poetry mean for you?
RH: It means a lot to me! I read a lot of poetry, mainly from Arab, Persian and Turkish poets. Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008), the famous Palestinian poet and writer, is among my favorites. Saadi (Abū Muṣliḥ bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī) is another favorite. He is a Persian poet from the thirteenth century, known for example from his masterpiece Gulistan (Rose Garden), where prose and poetry alternate. I have travelled quite a lot in Iran, and the way his work is still such an important part of daily life is very inspiring. I have been reading a lot of Rumi in recent months, he was one of the founders of the mystical branch of Islam, and writes things like:
“The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,
they’re in each other all along.”
Beautiful, right? That notion that the love we feel for another belongs to ourselves. The other might be a catalyst for it, but the love was inside us all along.
ET: In a recent interview you, Seani, read a poem by William Blake, “A Poison Tree,” that seems to capture both your own philosophy in life and a central theme in your workshops. And how do workshops change the attitudes of people outside the sexual realm?
SL: Yes, this is a really powerful poem in my life. It tells me I need to speak the truth, to spill my beans, and if something bugs me, I need to tell it. If I lock up the secrets it becomes poison. As for the workshops, the biggest change after coming to a workshop is that people are able to express their needs. The biggest change after a private session is that someone's actual needs are met - often for the first time. As a culture, we are generally not socialized to express our needs in any way. We don't have very good communication around sexuality, emotion or relationship. These are the biggest personal challenges of our time. People leave the workshops able to express their needs and desires and able to express their boundaries and stay stop, etc... often for the first time in their lives. This easily translates into needs outside the workshop space - in relationships, with families, in the workplace. Generally, people who come to a sexuality workshop such as mine are more empowered in the rest of their lives.
ET: And books that you have read recently and you recommend?
SL: There's a new book due out soon called The Tryst by a wonderful author named Monique Roffey. I was lucky enough to get a preview copy of it and I thought it was outstanding. It's a contemporary tale of love, sex, relationships, betrayal and has all the usual levels of intrigue, but this takes it a step further and actively explores things more mysteries and perfectly overlaps the worlds of the erotic thriller with the joy of magical realism. Check it out when it's released.
ET: Tell me one thing you would love to do in the future that you have never done before?
RH: I want to reconnect more and more people with their body, their desires, their sexuality. Teach people how to communicate about boundaries and consent. Wash away more and more shame around sexuality. Show people how truly and gloriously beautiful they are. Hopefully I can one day run some workshops in the West Bank with some of my friends there. I have spent a lot of time there for my master's thesis research, and still visit the area quite often. I would love to find a way to bring parts of this work to that beautiful community I am welcomed into in such beautiful ways.
SL: For now, I will continue down this path of spreading the joys and wonders of conscious sexuality. There is so much for people to learn about their own sexuality, so many wounds to heal, so many ecstatic moments to create and share. I see myself moving more and more into the role of training other professionals who also want to learn how to take people on these powerful erotic journeys. I also see myself in an activist role for decriminalization of consensual sex work. I don't feel the governments have any rights deciding what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms and so I hope to be able to help educate more people around this issue too.