A few years ago, one of my friends and I ran a SOOB (small owner-operated brothel) in what I guess would be considered an upmarket Auckland suburb. It was just her and I working there (hence the term “owner-operated”, eh), but we were pretty busy.
Then one day between clients, our neighbour showed up at the door. She was holding some letterbox numbers and she said, with arched eyebrow, that she was getting a bit tired of all the men knocking on her door and could we please put the numbers on our gate. My dear friend and colleague tried to spit out a little white lie, but our neighbour said, “I’m not stupid. I know what’s happening here. And I don’t care, but I don’t want these men knocking on my door.”
We were, of course, mortified. We had numbers on our gate – not huge neon numbers, but we couldn’t believe that our clients hadn’t been more careful when coming to a brothel to be sure they were knocking on the right door.
Anyway, we apologised profusely to our neighbour. We put the numbers she gave us on our gate and were sure to be very specific when giving clients directions from then on. The next week, we took our neighbour over a pot plant and some chocolates to say thanks and sorry. She didn’t start inviting us over for Sunday roasts, but she was good natured about it, and she didn’t start a crusade against us or call up the Herald or publish our clients’ licence plates on the internet or circulate flyers with our landlord’s name and phone number. She got on with her life and we got on with our business.
Because it’s no big deal. Truly. If there is a brothel in the house next door to you, it is no big deal. You know your neighbours are almost certainly having sex mere metres away from you anyway, right? Does whether it’s for money or not really make any real difference? Clients generally don’t wish to announce their presence and intentions to the world. They are not interested in you and they are certainly not interested in your children. Sex workers are not going to go door-knocking to drum up business if it’s a bit quiet. Sex work does not create a fog of iniquity which will send your dog mad and sour your milk. A brothel is just another business in your neighbourhood.
And if for some reason the brothel is having an impact on your life, here’s a novel idea – go have a chat to them. It might come as a surprise to you, but sex workers are people just like you.