Against the backdrop of social upheaval we’re seeing in the US, Australia and around the world, more and more people are recognising the need for systemic change in our societies. It’s forced many of us to re-evaluate the prejudices rampant in our culture – against people of colour, against LGBTQI communities, against the disabled, and against sex workers.
Sydney-based writer and escort Samantha X has vocally challenged popular misconceptions about the lives and roles sex workers play in our society for many years, as well as working to dispel myths about the kind of people that seek out her services.
Her latest revelation? Most men aren’t seeing escorts just for sex.
“Not once have I experienced a man who purely wanted sex,” she relates.
“Sex takes 5 minutes and if that was the case, I would have 5 minute appointments. Men who see escorts are seeking something deeper.”
Sam’s last few posts on Instagram reveal how many of her clients seek out her and other sex workers because they struggle with mental health concerns, are victims of domestic violence, or have had other traumatic experiences that they’re unwilling to share with their loved ones or a traditional counsellor or psychologist.
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To anyone who thinks this job is about swinging from chandeliers and drinking champagne, think again. This is the beautiful message Ken (previous post) sent me. Men need to be heard, they have a voice and they struggle just as much if not more than women. All they need is a safe space.
“I often hear from men how they don’t want to see a psychologist or counsellor of fear of being judged. When a man is with an escort, at some point clothes come off and when we are naked, we are vulnerable and raw. We are all on the same level. Believe it or not, men feel they can open up, they feel comfortable and they feel whatever they say won’t be judged.”
“For me personally, I have heard, seen and done pretty much everything so absolutely nothing could shock me. I’ve had big strong powerful men cry on my shoulder, or confide parliamentary secrets, or show me their most vulnerable side, and all I can do is support and be present for them… The thing [all] these men have in common is the need to connect on a physical and emotional level.”
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We hear about women in abusive marriages all the time. It happens a LOT to men too, they just don’t talk about it. Meet Ken. He’s 37, recently separated with two kids. His confidence is low, his self esteem lower. He left a 14 year abusive marriage where he was screamed at most days. “Imagine a pile of paper, and every year for 14 years, she would take one piece of paper out and chuck it in a fire. I was the paper and in the end, I had nothing left to give.” Then last year, a trip to the beach ended up in him almost drowning. “As I lay on the sand recovering, I could hear her yelling at me. I remember feeling bad I didn’t drown.” Ken blinked away tears as he spoke about his trauma. He has a solid build and works in a male dominated industry, where men don’t show emotion, let alone cry. “I’m incredibly lonely and it’s nice to be able to talk to someone.”
In many ways, Australian men’s mental health is an unseen pandemic. On average, one in eight men experience depression, one in five men experience anxiety, and around 75% of all suicides are men, Beyond Blue reports.
The reality is that our society still aggressively stigmatises mental health, particularly for men. Outdated ideas of machismo and stoicism force many men to ‘bottle up’ their feelings – which, in the long run, is negative for everyone: for partners, children and men themselves.
There’s also a strange modern mental health reality that’s somewhat unspoken. Millenials and Gen Z are more likely than previous generations to seek professional help, and are generally far more open about their mental health concerns. Younger generations have significantly shifted the needle around the polite acceptability of mental health.
Yet that rings true for women more than it does for men. Young women, to an extent, are judged less harshly for talking about their mental health situation than young men. For example, it would still be considered ‘weird’ if a guy was posting about being depressed on social media, whereas it’s almost in vogue for women to do so.
So even among the generation where there’s the least stigma around mental health, men experience more stigma. Not that it’s a competition – people of all generations and all gender identities struggle with expressing their mental health concerns. It’s not easy for anyone. But case in point: Men’s Mental Health Week just came and went, and we bet most of you didn’t even realise. People just don’t talk about men’s mental health.
It’s the fact I have asked two men about Men’s Mental Health week this week and niether of them knew about it. This says so much , men feeling like they can’t speak out about their mental health didn’t come out of nowhere. They do not receive equal attention. #MensMentalHealth
— aoife lawlor (@aoifelawlor8) June 22, 2020
Samantha has made a career out of challenging expectations, both as a journalist and escort. It’s perhaps no surprise then that she’s taken up the surprising mantle of men’s mental health advocate.
“[It’s] why I love my job… what keeps me there. The money is great, but money comes and goes. It’s the connection, the companionship and the authenticity of the relationships I have, because it is a relationship, albeit a brief one at times, that I am passionate about.”
“Once you’ve experienced people at their most vulnerable and real, it is very, very hard to deal with fakeness and inauthenticity. We live in a world of fake photos, fake news and fake happy lives on social media so getting to the nitty gritty of real people and real issues is something I loved as a journalist and now an escort and coach.”
Now more than ever, it’s important to shine a light on men’s mental health, and make sure men are getting the support they need – whether that’s from their loved ones, friends, a psychologist or an escort.