Where did you grow up?
I was born in Ballarat, Australia. For the first few years of my life, my mother, father and I (and, eventually, my younger brother) lived in a little log cabin in the bush, near a tiny town called Raglan. Honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot about that time. Our first move was to Nimbin, another small town, and then to Toowoomba in Queensland. When my parents divorced, my mother, brother and I moved to Melbourne, which is where my mother was born and grew up. All of this happened by the time I was five, and Melbourne has been my home ever since.
Were you brought up religiously/secularly/other?
A little of both, I guess. I attended a Catholic primary school from Grade 4, and then a private, Catholic all-girls secondary school. I really enjoyed my time at the Catholic primary school, to be honest. I don’t think I ever bought into the idea of Jesus as the Son of God, or even that there was a singularly identified ‘God’ figure watching over us – I think what I liked about those years was the feeling of inclusion. Doing all of my sacraments, participating in Mass… I was part of something. I liked that. Eventually, I was expelled from my secondary school. Looking back, I’ve probably identified as Agnostic since the age of about 12.
Was there turbulence throughout your childhood/adolescence?
Short answer? Yes, loads. Long answer? My father had a very short fuse, and my mother didn’t take shit. They divorced when I was five, and my mother drove my brother and me all the way from Queensland to Melbourne to relocate. I remember both my parents smacking me as a form of discipline, but my mother started to hit out of anger when I was around five. That kept escalating until I was a teenager, at which point she was not only very physically abusive, but verbally and emotionally too.
My father died suddenly when I was 15. Unsurprisingly, that was also the year I was expelled from high school.
Were you ever embarrassed about your development/puberty? If so why?
I developed breasts a lot earlier than most of my peers. During my primary school years, I was very into sports. I still clearly remember being told in Grade 5 or 6 that I needed to swap from playing football in the interschool sports program to netball. Mind, the football was non-tackling, but my teachers expressed concerns that I might damage my breasts by playing even non-contact football, and that I’d be ‘safer’ playing netball. In hindsight, obviously, that was fucking ridiculous and nothing a sports bra couldn’t have fixed, but 11-year-old me just felt bad that my breasts had seemingly ruined something I really enjoyed.
Can you remember any key moments in your formative years that shaped you?
Key moments? I’m not sure. I remember certain emotional responses, like realising that my brother and I were always going to be treated very differently, and wondering whether this was because he was a boy and I was a girl. In fact, I spent most of my childhood wishing I could’ve been a boy, especially when I reached school age, because I was bullied a lot for being an uncool and ‘ugly’ girl. Then there’s the little things, like picnics under the trampoline on a warm summer’s day, the ice cream truck coming down our street, shopping trips to Woolworths. I think all those every day moments compounded were, in a way, more formative for me than any of the single larger events in my early life.
I think that the closest label I can identify with would be bisexual. I’m not entirely sure of the correct term, to be honest. All of my relationships have been with cis men, save one, which was with a gay guy when I was 16 or 17 who hadn’t come out to himself or anyone else at the time. I am sexually attracted to women, and when I was a child I had a lot of strong infatuations with female teachers that I didn’t quite understand at the time – now I realise they were my first proper crushes.
When did you become aware of your gender?
I don’t think there was ever one defining moment for me. I was born a cisgendered girl, and was raised as such. I think there was a good balance during my childhood; I adored Barbies and baby dolls but, at my core, I was a country kid, so playing in the dirt with cars and trucks, going bushwhacking and the like were also very normal to me. As I neared puberty, I found myself drawn towards more traditionally female activities and interests like fashion and makeup.
When did you become aware of your own sexuality? Were there any key moments?
I remember when I was very young, maybe four or five, and I was playing in bed with my Barbies and toys. I accidentally lay down on one, and I remember realising that it felt good. So from then on, I’d kind of lie awkwardly over toys to see how it would feel. Sometimes it felt nice, other times it hurt. That was a very early beginning of exploring what felt nice and what didn’t for me, both sexually and also in a very general, physical way.
What, if any, are the obstacles you’ve overcome on your path to womanhood?
My developing breasts were, in a way, a huge obstacle for me. Not only did I get big, angry stretchmarks all over my breasts from their rapid growth, but I was made to feel ashamed and embarrassed about their size by my mother throughout my teenage years (and even to this day, as a 24-year-old mother of two). My mother body-shamed me often while my body was developing, and sometimes she still does now. It hurts me to think that my biggest obstacle on the path to womanhood hasn’t been my assaults, my depression, or the changes my body experienced during pregnancy and childbirth… it was my own mother’s comments and criticisms about my appearance. Being the mother of two daughters, I can’t think of anything more hurtful or damaging than constant negative commentary on their bodies, and it’s something I have vowed to never, ever do to them.
Have you ever been embarrassed, burdened or ashamed of your sexuality? If so, why?
I remember when I was about nine, I made a comment to my (female) teacher that I could see her black bra when she bent over to help me with some work. To me, it was a harmless comment; I wasn’t sure if she was aware that we could all see her bra or not, and mentioning it seemed innocent enough to me. I said I thought it was pretty and looked nice on her. This resulted in my mother being called in for a meeting with the principal and being asked if I had ever been sexually abused as, according to them, my behaviour was out of line. That was the first inkling for me that maybe I shouldn’t be openly complementary about other girls’ appearances.
I had crushes on both boys and girls throughout primary and secondary school. I had a very strong attraction to older men, which became fairly problematic during secondary school. I also formed a very strong attraction to a female teacher in high school. It became sort of a running joke amongst my classmates, which forced me to dismiss my feelings to instead join in on the joke. At that time, I often felt that attraction towards someone of the same sex was something we were allowed to laugh and joke about, but never something we could seriously entertain.
There’s so much strength to be gained from the loving support of other women.
What is the image you think you project every day?
Happy, bubbly, goofy.
How would you describe your personal experience, existing in the way you do, each day?
I’ve struggled with depression for most of my adolescent and adult life. I live by the mantra, ‘Fake it ’til you make it’. I try to project the attributes of myself that I want to shine through, even if I’m not feeling it at that given time.
What is the image you would like to project?
Confident, happy, self-assured.
What do you think the image other people perceive is?
Whichever image I choose to project, honestly. I don’t like to let my depression control who I am or who I appear to be to the rest of the world. Sometimes this works in my favour. Other times, it works to my detriment, because I then feel like I’m unable to ask for help when I really need it. I’m working on being more open with myself and the people I’m close to.
What is your political stance on women’s reproductive rights?
Your uterus, your choice. If you don’t have a uterus, you don’t get an opinion. Furthermore, if it isn’t *your* uterus, you don’t get an opinion on what happens with it. It’s simply nobody’s business bar the person whose choices it affects.
Are you pro-life or pro-choice?
Super pro-choice, 100%.
What are your feelings about contraceptives? Their availability, cost, stigma, usage?
I think that if men were the ones menstruating, bearing children, and seen as predominately responsible for contraception (the way women are), then all birth control and menstrual products would be free or heavily subsidised, and there would be no stigma surrounding any of it. Birth control is in this planet’s best interests; I don’t think people realise or care about how big an issue overpopulation is becoming. All forms of birth control should be free and readily available to anyone who needs access to them.
What are your feelings about casual sex?
Very positive? Haha. I think consensual, casual sex is a fantastic way to learn about sex, relationships, your body and your preferred sexual partners’ bodies in a fun and stress-free way. I truly believe there is a lot to be learned from having sex with a wide variety of people. Being a sex worker, this is something I’m obviously accustomed to. I’ve learned so much about *people* since becoming a sex worker, which might seem surprising. I’d say 60% or more of sex work is about being personable and able to relate to, and make feel comfortable, a vast range of people of different ages, races, religions, socioeconomic standings and genders. I always say in my work that sex is the real universal language, because it transcends all of those things, and brings everything back to the basics of two people connecting on an intimate level. So yes for casual sex, yay for casual sex!
Are you in a relationship(s)?
Yes. I’m married, in a (currently one-sided) open relationship. Over the years, and especially in the last 18 months, our partnership has become a lot more fluid and understanding, which has strengthened us immensely. I can only see us getting stronger, the more we experiment and grow together.
What are your feelings about marriage?
It’s not for everyone. It should be available to everyone, equally and indiscriminately, but at the same time it definitely should not be seen as the end goal in a relationship. A partnership with someone is an ever-changing, ever-developing thing. It doesn’t stop once you’re married, the growth and discovery is completely ongoing. The two people I’ve known on this earth who had the most beautiful, loving partnership imaginable were never married to each other. Marriage is and means what you make it.
What are your most positive relationships with other women?
Interestingly, some of the most positive relationships I currently have with women are the women I work with in the brothel! Never have I met funnier, smarter, more switched on and empowered women. Before entering into sex work, I had a very limited and narrow view of what I thought a working girl was, shaped mainly by media portrayals. How wrong was I?! Although many of the women I work with have experienced hardships in their lives, I’ve yet to meet a working girl who isn’t witty, lovely and kind. When I’m with them, I feel content. Being *with* women, in solidarity with them, in any capacity, not just necessarily being bonded by a common profession like sex work, is always an uplifting and empowering experience. I feel part of something significant when I’m with them, and I feel truly understood, and completely safe to be myself. How funny is that, that the time in my life when I feel completely okay to be my true self, is working in a parlour with a pseudonym?
What are your negative?
My relationship with my mother, which hurts me to say. But sometimes you need to accept a relationship with someone for what it is, love it for what it is, and then take a big ol’ step back, and leave it, as it is. That’s taken me a long time to realise with my mother, and I do love her very much. But I love me too, and I can’t invest more into any relationship than my heart and soul are willing to give.
What does the word ‘woman’ mean to you?
When I think of women, I think of power, like the power of Mother Nature. I think of a nurturing type of strength, and a glowing, internal beauty. I love women. I love it even more when women love other women, and not only that, but when women support other women. There’s so much strength to be gained from the loving support of other women. I found that to be especially true in both of my children’s births; my first birth was a planned homebirth turned hospital transfer. I had a beautiful birth, thanks to the loving support of my doula as well as the incredible knowledge and guidance of what I think must have been my guardian angel of a midwife, who was on shift at the time. My second birth was a homebirth with independent midwives, and again, the loving, tender, feminine support of those women during my labour was a gift I can never repay, and an experience I will always cherish.
What are your feelings on monogamy?
Similar to my thoughts on marriage: I don’t think it’s for everyone. I love the idea of monogamy, but I don’t think it is necessarily natural or even positive for a lot of relationships. When I was younger, and a lot more insecure, I was a staunch monogamist, right down to feeling as if porn was a tool for cheating on your partner. I was very sexually oppressed for a very long time. When I was able to work through that, I realised that monogamy wasn’t something I felt was 100% required for my marriage to be happy and fulfilling. I do believe that having multiple sexual experiences makes you a more confident and satisfied human being, and not just in the bedroom.
Having said that, I do not believing in going into a relationship with the understanding that it is monogamous, and then sleeping with people behind your partner’s back. I’m all about open, upfront honesty.
Fabulous! Free love, baby!
Do you feel your choice to participate or not participate in consensual sex is at all affected by societal influence?
It isn’t now, but it certainly was when I was a teenager. I had a lot of sex with a lot of people I didn’t want to, purely because I felt like I should be grateful somebody even wanted me at all. That’s so sad to think about now. I undervalued my own worth so often, and so harshly, that it was very easy for men to take advantage of that – and that happened a lot. But I thought that was the way it was: men chose who they wanted to fuck, and women went along with it, because there might not ever be another guy who finds you attractive enough to cum in. I was resigned to that way of thinking for a long time.
How do you feel about products marketed to women?
What, like a pen designed to fit the unique curve of a woman’s hand and all that jazz? Such fucking bullshit. Don’t even get me started. His and Her product marketing is damaging and stupid. End of story.
How do you feel about feminine hygiene products’ portrayal in the media?
I want to know what these women are on and get some for myself, STAT! Because I am never that happy to get my period, and I’m certainly never that active when I have it either. Give me an advert with a woman on the couch, eating cheese and binge-watching telly, with maybe a bit of leakage onto her tracksuit pants. RED leakage, too, not blue mysterious liquid. Give me that, or anything really, over the way the media is portraying it currently.
Were you always aware of what your body could do sexually & mechanically?
No! I thought for the longest time that I just wasn’t able to orgasm; I actually thought that my clitoris was damaged or something. I had my sexual awakening at around 11 (thank you, Alan Rickman in Galaxy Quest, for that wonderful but slightly awkward lightbulb moment). I was definitely as horny as any other teen, but I just had no idea what to do. Every time I attempted to either insert something, or touch my clitoris, it hurt or felt too sensitive. I don’t know why I never looked on the Internet for answers, it really just never occurred to me. I felt like masturbation was more for boys; girls got pleasure from boys having sex with you, but that was about it. I had no one to ask or talk about it with, so I just sort of gave up on the idea altogether.
I lost my virginity to rape at 14, and from then until I was 18, I just accepted that sex was actually painful for women, and that the movies and porn just lied to make men feel better (and therefore I should too in my interactions with them). I bought a very simple vibrator shortly after I started dating my now husband, and bam. A whole new world opened up to me.
Do you feel your sexual education was sufficient?
Hahaha, see above. No, definitely not. Catholic education will generally do that to you, though.
If not, what would you have done to make it so?
I think it would probably have helped to have a family member or teacher who could have given me more information than: penis goes in vagina, woman becomes pregnant. More openness growing up too would have helped, I think. When I was a preteen and teenager, my mother used to regale people with the story of how, as a toddler, I’d sit on the couch touching and playing with my vulva, like it was the funniest and weirdest thing in the world. I was mortified and ashamed every time she mentioned it. Now, especially having two daughters myself, I understand the normality of discovering your body. My children are three-and-a-half and two years old, and both know what their clitoris, vulva and vagina are. I wasn’t aware of those terms until my teenage years.
Where do you feel unsafe as a woman?
Interestingly, and slightly paradoxically, I often feel unsafe on the Internet. Not unsafe in the way that I fear for my personal safety, or feel physically threatened, but unsafe in the sense that there is a lot of unbridled and very vicious misogyny on the www. Rape culture, body shaming and slut shaming slurs are nearly guaranteed to feature strongly in most comment sections of the Internet. Often I’m strong enough to laugh at those arseholes, and move on with my life. But, now and then, seeing how strong and rife misogyny still is in our society, in 2015, can really bring me down. So in that sense, I do feel unsafe emotionally and mentally on the Internet, especially when I am unprepared for it.
Where is somewhere you can exist without fear?
On the Internet. Just as there are people and places on the Internet that terrify me, there are also little pockets of such love, intelligence and support, that I just feel warm and fuzzy. I’ve made some great friends and amazing connections through the Internet, so it really is a double-edged sword.
Do women treat you differently than men?
Not particularly. I prefer to think of it as arseholes treat me differently than regular, normal people do. There are arsehole men and there are arsehole women; I prefer noting the differences in societal behaviour between arsehole people and non-arsehole people, rather than men vs. women.
In what ways does being a woman make you vulnerable or exposed?
When I’m in a situation where I’m forcefully reminded that I am physically smaller and weaker than a vast majority of men. Times when I’ve been assaulted or threatened, those times left me feeling incredibly vulnerable. I’ve also had mixed feelings about breastfeeding my children in public spaces… not so much when they were babies, but my youngest is two and still breastfeeding. Feeding a small baby and feeding a toddler are two very different kettles of fish, and I have felt, for the first time in my three-and-a-half combined years of breastfeeding, at times exposed and judged when I’m feeding my daughter in public. It certainly hasn’t deterred me, but I have noticed a definite shift in the feeling of how acceptable to others my feeding my daughter in public is.
Would you consider yourself a feminist?
How do you define feminism?
Feminism to me is about working towards bettering every person on this earth through educating, advocating, and raising awareness of women’s issues, rights and hardships, and how these are all very closely related to many of the bigger flaws in our societies. For example, family violence and intimate partner violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated against women. Feminism is about educating both men and women, but it’s also about giving women a loud, strong voice. It’s being with other women, working towards equality. Really, feminism is just fucking fantastic.
What do you think are positive ways the world views women?
I think that the world’s perception of women, on the whole, is changing every day, and I love that. Gender roles are being challenged and changed constantly as more progressive generations emerge.
What are negative?
That we’re sex objects, and when we’re not, we exist only to serve our husbands and raise our children. That we’re weak. That we need saving.
Do you think the world’s perception of women limits or benefits them?
On the whole, when you look at the broader picture, I think it’s incredibly limiting. I often need to remind myself that I am a privileged white woman living a comfortable life, and that even though things are getting better for women like me, there are places where women are just as devalued and abused as they were 100 years ago. On a world wide scale, we have a long way to go yet until we can say that women are valuable, irreplaceable and important assets to every society – not just the privileged ones.
What is your relationship to sex?
Very positive now. It wasn’t always, but I feel as though I’ve had a real awakening as I’ve entered my mid-twenties. My relationship to sex post-children is overwhelmingly better than it was before I had kids, even though my body has changed so much.
How do you define sex?
Physical/emotional/mental intimacy. For me, sex is so much more than penis in (x) or mouth over (y), or any other physical variation. If you feel what you’ve experienced with yourself, a partner, or multiple partners constitutes as sex, then it does.
What does a sexual relationship mean to you?
Ongoing sexual intimacy, I guess? I have sexual relationships with some clients at work. When you sleep with someone, if there’s that connection, on whatever level, and you continue to make that connection, then that to me is a sexual relationship. You sort of build up a knowledge of that person’s body and quirks, and build on it each time.
Do you feel comfortable communicating your sexual needs to a partner?
Absolutely. In my teen years, and even in the first few years of my marriage, not so much. But now I’m really starting to understand my body and how it works, and that in itself gives me a huge amount of confidence to continue to find out what I want and don’t want.
Have you found a balance of fulfillment with your partners?
Only with my husband. And it’s perfection.
Do you feel that YOUR desires are marginalized in the bedroom or are less important, if so why do you think that is?
Look, at work, they probably are a lot of the time. The industry has transformed a lot over the last 20 or so years, but there are always going to be clients who want one thing, and you’re just a means to an end. But more and more, a new type of client is coming in, who asks questions, wants to know what you like, who wants to make sure that *you* are comfortable and happy and pleased.
In my personal life, not at all. My sexual relationships as a teenager were though, definitely. I think the main culprit is a lack of education. Porn has a big role to play in giving unrealistic expectations about a woman’s role in sex. Pretty much every boy I fucked as a teenager thought that all a woman needed was a hard pumping, and they’d be in a puddle of desire.
Are you fearful of being openly sexual for fear of judgement?
Yes. I try not to be. I’ve always liked my breasts, despite my mother shaming me for them as a teenager. I like to wear clothes that enhance or complement them. Especially now that I have children, I do feel very aware of judgement from people whom I guess believe you can either be a mother or be sexy, but that both can’t exist together.
Have you ever been in a position where your sexuality was used against you?
Have you ever been physically or verbally threatened because of your appearance?
I don’t think I felt so much threatened as I did uncomfortable or awkward. I cannot stand my breasts being spoken to instead of my face.
When you imagine sex, what is the visual/feeling you associate with it?
I was sexually assaulted when I was 14. As a result of that, I became very dysfunctional sexually. I didn’t end up masturbating or having my first orgasm until I was 18 years old, once I had started dating my now husband. I was just so uncomfortable and grossed out by my body. As a result, for years, up until a few years into my relationship with my now husband, the words and images that came to mind when I thought about sex were consistently: blood, tearing, pain, gross, all for men, trauma.
Now, the things that come to mind include: powerful, connection, pleasure, empowering… and after two children, pregnancy!
Is sex empowering for you?
Is sex embarrassing for you to discuss?
Not at all! Even before I started working in the adult industry, I was always very open and willing to discuss sex with friends and acquaintances. Now… well really, my job is sex, and I’ve had the most fantastic discussions at work, from really informative and educational to outrageously hilarious.
Is there anyone in your world you undermine your principles for?
In which situations do you feel safe to speak your mind/stand up for yourself?
Most situations, honestly. The older I get, the stronger and more confident I am in my convictions.
What do you seek through sex?
Gratification, connection, money, validation, exercise, to express and feel love. It honestly depends on the situation – who I’m having sex with, what mood I’m in, and what my reasons are for having sex with that person.
How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of women?
It’s getting better. There are some fantastically strong female characters in film and television currently. We had our first female Prime Minister in Australia a few years back, who, despite being absolutely torn apart in the most misogynistic way in our media, always conducted herself in a dignified way. Obviously there are still ridiculous advertising campaigns and objectification of women in the media every day. I sort of hope, as the generation in power continues to change, that will all start to slide more and more towards the side of equality and respectful portrayal in the media, and in society as a whole.
Are you satisfied with the women you see depicted in film, television & advertising?
Yes and no. I mean, I’d really like to see MANY more women of colour, as well as more representation and acknowledgement of other minorities of women, including less abled and trans women. I want more variety, I want to see a reflection of what I see in my real life, which is a huge mix of real, beautiful women.
How do you think the world at large views women?
That’s too hard for me too answer. The world at large is made up of so many cultures with conflicting views on women. At large, I’d say women are still hugely undervalued, abused and oppressed.
How do you maintain a sense of self?
I make sure I take time for me, to do things I enjoy. I make sure I make time to be Lily, not just Mum or a wife. I like to write, I read, and I like being involved in activism.
What is something you deeply love about yourself?
My ability to see the humour in things. I probably have quite a dark and irreverent type of humour, but I really enjoy making people laugh and smile.
Who are/what are your biggest motivators?
My children. I see myself in them every single day, and I see how much my actions are shaping them. They are constantly motivating me to be better and to do better. They’re the best.
Do you have people you look up to?
Sure. Certain celebrities and well-known people, historical figures, activists. People at work. People in the news. I look up to people whom I feel represent things I aspire to and people I admire.
Do you ever feel overlooked in the workplace because of your gender?
No, but only because my previous jobs were in industries like fast food, where pretty much everyone is treated in the same, shitty way.
Because of your appearance?
No. I’m now in a profession where being pretty and sexy at work is not a setback.
Do you find entering the work force as a woman has any bearing on how people will treat you?
Absolutely. We still have to contend with being subjected to lower pay, struggling to secure adequate maternity leave, even being told we’re too emotional or irrational. It’s ridiculous.
Have you ever experienced sexism or sexual harassment within a workplace?
Once, when I dropped out of school, I wanted to get a bricklaying apprenticeship. I like hard manual labour, and I liked the idea of learning a trade. I went to an interview on a build site, and the boss led me down into the basement into a little office. He asked a few normal questions, then asked if I was a virgin. I was 16 at the time. I froze up and then answered. I felt numb. He groped me a little, told me he’d pay me extra if I allowed this on a day-to-day basis, and I left, feeling sick, cheap and dirty. So I wasn’t so much overlooked, as singled out and taken advantage of.
How have you dealt with conflict?
I used to freeze up and go numb. Now, it depends on the situation. Sometimes with sarcasm and humour. Sometimes with anger. Every now and then I get it right and deal with conflict in an even, dignified way. But not all that often ;)
What are you feelings on motherhood?
I love being a mother. It has changed me for the better in more ways than I can list here. It has humbled and mellowed me. It has made me stronger, more passionate, and more able to live fearlessly and fiercely. It’s made me the strongest and most vulnerable I’ve ever been, and I love that.
What are you biggest fears?
Losing my children. Losing people I love. Death scares me. I don’t want to be without my family, and I don’t want them to be without me.
Your biggest regrets?
Too many to recall, but I try to learn from them and not dwell on things that I can’t change.
Your greatest accomplishments?
Believing that I’m better and stronger than my abuse, than my assaults. Growing and birthing two amazing human beings on my own steam, one of whom was born at home in water. I think just realising that I’m actually pretty okay with being me, scars, chub, past and all, is a pretty great accomplishment.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I realise that coming out and identifying as a sex worker is going to be incredibly confronting to the people I know in my personal life. I only ask that for those of you who feel like you disapprove, or feel that you now think less of me, please remember: I’m still me. I’m still Lily. I’m still a mother, and a wife, and a crazy Stargate and Harry Potter fan. I also work in a brothel. I’m not ashamed of that, and if you want to, I’d strongly encourage you to educate yourself about legal sex work in Australia, and try to broaden your mind to the idea that it really is just a job, like any other. I’d also encourage anyone with questions to contact me. I want to thank Caitlin from the bottom of my heart for this opportunity; the interview has been challenging and deeply moving for me, and it’s something I will always be grateful that I participated in :)