Sex Workers in Australia
Jane Taylor* has a lot of things to worry about when her husband is deployed. Will he come home alive? Will her kids see their dad again? But until last month, “Will he slip up and sleep with a taxpayer-funded sex worker?” wasn’t one of them.
Like many military wives, Brisbane, Australia, resident Jane was horrified to read Australian army Capt. Sally Williamson recommending prostitutes be sent to the front line to help “relieve stress” in serving troops.
In an essay titled “Sex and War – A Conversation Army Has To Have” published on an official Australian Defence Force website last month, Williamson suggested the army “contract Australian male and female sex workers to service troops in forward operating bases and air bases.”
Williamson said sex on deployment could help ease the stress of “loneliness or prolonged absence from family, friends, partners and spouses” as well as make it easier to cope with living and working in a war zone.
“Improved intimacy and sexual interaction can help combat veterans with PTSD recovery,” wrote Williamson, who is currently serving in the Middle East.
In Australia, it should be noted, sex work is legal, although each state in the country regulates it differently.
The controversial comments spread through the defense community with lightning speed. The post was deleted from the army’s Land Power site after just 10 days, but it was too late — word had gotten out.
“I’ve never felt like I was worth less than I did when I read that essay,” Jane, who has two children and another on the way, tells Whimn. “For Defence to condone something like that, to post it on an official army website, that is frankly disgusting.”
Jane says loneliness is a massive problem for serving men and women. Suicide rates in the military are high, with servicemen and -women more than twice as likely to commit suicide than those in the general population. Divorce rates are similarly high, so it’s understandable that people are looking for answers and ways to improve the lives of armed forces personnel.
But Jane says providing sex workers will only make both problems worse.
“If you’ve got prostitutes prancing around the front line, the boys are going to be coming home to nothing,” she says. “Because I can tell you now that the wives aren’t going to sit around waiting to see if their husband is going to do something.”
“Every single day they’re away you worry. You worry about whether they’re coming home alive, about whether your kids are going to see their dad again. Every second you’re wondering if they’re alive.”
“The last thing we need is the added worry that your husband might get drunk one night and make a terrible mistake because they’re lonely and there’s easy sex nearby.”
“Then what? They come home, tell their wives about it and get kicked out? Or keep their secret until it eats them up inside? It’s more stress they don’t need. Suicide rates will go up. Divorce rates will go up because we aren’t going to put up with this.”
So, what should happen?
Instead, Jane thinks the Department of Defence should let serving troops spend more time with their families. As it stands, most servicemen and -women are allowed one to two weeks of leave in the middle of a deployment, when they can fly to any destination for a holiday with their partner.
But deployments can last up to a year, and a week or two is just not long enough for the majority of families, with a recent survey finding 65 percent of defense partners do not feel supported.
“Sometimes you can go five or six weeks without even hearing from your partner,” Jane says. “Maybe they should invest in helping families stay in touch, and letting us see our partners more often. I can take care of my man’s needs — maybe instead of flying in sex workers, they should fly us in.”
“Defence needs to stop talking the talk about being family-friendly and actually follow through with some policies that bond families together instead of pushing them to breaking point.”
The Department of Defense has been trying to make over its image since the 2011 Skype sex scandal, where an Australian Defense Force Academy cadet filmed himself having sex with a female cadet and broadcast the footage to their colleagues.
A defense spokesperson said Williamson’s essay had been published in error and didn’t represent the department’s policies on workplace conduct.
“The article was published on the Land Power Forum blog on 6 November 2017,” the spokesperson said. “It was removed on 15 November 2017 as it was not intended for the Land Power Forum and does not reflect Defence policy.”
“The Land Power Forum provides a discussion space for appropriately informed analysis, commentary, thoughts, and ideas among military practitioners, interested stakeholders and subject matter experts. Defence policy on conduct in the workplace has not changed.”