The woman identified only as Jessica cares a lot about her clients. Her eyes glowed behind the mask she wore when she talked about them.
Two are in their 80s. “One of them, I have been seeing him for five years,” Jessica told the Georgia Straight after a news conference regarding the passage of a new prostitution law. “I started seeing him once a month or one every two months. Now I see him every two weeks.
“He’s single,” she continued. “His wife died many years ago. He had a second marriage. It didn’t work out. He lives alone. I’m his only kind of source of companionship. I see him for an hour-and-a-half once every two weeks.”
Jessica has been providing sexual services for almost 15 years. She is now over 50 years old.
“Every time he comes to see me, he tells me that he loves me about five times,” Jessica said of the aforementioned client. “We do massage, you know, whatever an 85-year-old man can do. He’s mostly there for hugs, companionship, friendship, and he talks. Sometimes he stays, and talks for an extra half an hour.”
There are also much younger men, in their 20s.
“The 25-year-olds, some of them are interested in…the older woman…and some of them…they have no clue what to do with a woman, so they come because they need to figure it out,” Jessica said with a giggle.
Some are husbands who are caring for a sick wife. In some case, their wives are sick with cancer.
Couples also avail themselves of her services. “They come because they want to do something to fix their marriage, and they don’t want to break up,” she said.
In some cases involving couples, Jessica brings along a male worker for the job.
“So they come as a couple either to see me alone or to see me with another man, and we both massage. He massages the woman. I massage the man in the same room, so they’re having a joint experience. I have a few people like that,” Jessica related.
She’s got all sorts of clients, from businessmen to plumbers to waiters.
“I have two clients that are also sex workers that come because they need some, you know, compassionate touch,” Jessica said.
In all her time as a sex worker, Jessica said that she has never been hurt or harmed.
“I have never had any violence,” she said.
Clients all seek warmth. “They just need some affection,” Jessica said. “And of course for men, usually the affection will include a sexual release.”
The mask and her use of the name Jessica are symbolic.
As Kerry Porth, chair of Pivot Legal Society, explained in a press conference, Canada’s new prostitution law has rendered sex workers “invisible and anonymous”.
Bill C-36, also known as the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, received royal assent today (November 6).
The new law criminalizes the purchase of sex, rendering as criminals the clients of Jessica and the other masked sex workers who appeared and spoke using first names only at the media event held at the Downtown Eastside office of Pivot.
Reading from a statement, Porth, a former sex worker, said: “They have told us over and over again that this bill is intended to protect sex workers but let me read you a quote from Conservative senator Donald Plett from this summer’s pre-hearings on the bill: ‘Of course, we don’t want to make life safe for prostitutes; we want to do away with prostitution. That’s the intent of the bill.’”
The new law also criminalizes the advertisement of sexual services. “Advertising is a critical form of communication for sex workers where they can set boundaries with potential clients...they will no longer be able to do so,” Porth said.
After the news conference, Jessica spoke to the Straight about Bill C-36.
“Isn’t that absurd?” Jessica asked. “I said to a friend of mine that automatically one million men in Canada will be considered criminals. And he said, ‘Oh no. It’s more like three million.’ I said, ‘Oh okay, maybe you know men better than I do.’”