‘Lot of lonely people’: Virtual sex work booms amid virus
Peering through the estate agency windows at the advertised houses for sale, Jenna Love fantasises over the idyllic rambling rural property in the rugged west of Sydney's Blue Mountains.
The 31-year-old is saving with her husband and is only too aware that it is thanks to her profession - from which she can earn up to $12,000-a month - that she will soon afford their first home.
Jenna is an independent sex worker whose flame-coloured locks, soft physique and affable nature means she charge up to $500-a-hour selling sex virtually in NSW.
When the coronavirus struck, the landscape of sex work radically transformed with demand for in-person work drying up overnight.
She re-marketed herself offering a virtual girlfriend experience and to her own surprise solicited a 57 per cent hike in demand from men wanting to talk, seek companionship, or perform sex acts all while gamely adhering to social distancing etiquette.
"If you want to be intimate, you have to pay good money to be with me," she said from her home on the fringes of the Blue Mountains.
"With sex work you can get lonely clients but Covid has created a lot more sad, lonely people who have lost their support network. I've seen a lot of extreme sadness among clients on video calls.
"I've lost my in-person business completely, though it's slowly returning, but my virtual work has taken off.
"I'm not going to pretend we only talk, a lot now do, but I'm a sex worker, but if you're going to send me a dick pic, you have to pay me for it, let's face it, I've seen a lot and know how they measure up.
"I love my job, I've some lovely clients and because of Covid I'm working extra hard to make up for the loss of sex work.
"I get bigger bucks in other cities like Melbourne but coronavirus has worked out well for me in NSW."
The trained actress and theatre director earns ten times the average weekly wage and with sex work grossing $30 million in Australia annually, according to the Australian Federal Police, she is keen for a slice of the pie.
Before Covid pressed the pause button on sex work, she earned $3,000 a month performing virtual sex with clients and when demand is there she can now bank up to $7,000 selling the girlfriend experience and online services.
At the height of the pandemic between March 27 and June, she provided 64 separate services to 50 clients including video calls, sexting and offering dick pic ratings from $20 a time. Clients paying for access to her own porn clips and services around "just being mates" have soared.
"I was more nervous about offering online services than about having sex in real life with a person in the same room," she said.
"Being a virtual girlfriend is nerve wracking, it's harder work, you have to be on form, make sure the house is tidy, it's harder to pick up on body language signals from behind a screen, there's no cuddling.
"It turns out I must be okay at it, because they come back and their faces light up when you turn on the screen.
"I'm not your typical sex worker, I haven't travelled the world, I grew up in Western Sydney, I'm more the porn star girl next door.
"Right right now people want a human being they can relate to, a girlfriend, there's a lot of loneliness out there.
"The good thing for me is there's less wear and tear on the body and you don't get Covid because there's no touching or kissing... but the bad news is you can sometimes fall for the lovely ones."
Jenna, whose husband is a drummer, became a sex work eight years ago as a student when a sugar daddy paid her $600 just to be friends for one week.
It paid the bills and she realised when she went all the way, selling sex in the city proved lucrative thanks to word of mouth and advertising on forums and websites.
In sexually liberal Sydney, brothels, strip clubs and massage parlours abound but in fluctuating times, particularly during covid, Jenna earns enough to work the circuit from the privacy of her home or hotels.
Pre-covid, touring cities from Newcastle, Melbourne and Perth proved more lucrative for full service sex work compared with stripping or dominatrix work.
"Clients are friendlier in smaller towns and you feel more relaxed," she said.
"In my line of work, if you're sick, or put your back out, you can sometimes only make $1,000 a month, but in the last few months I've pushing quite hard because we want to buy a four bedder, my husband works in a warehouse and is a drummer, we need space for his kit.
"I'm working seven days a week, virtual sex work is exhausting, you can see the same client three times a day.
"I'm a hopeless romantic, I develop crushes easily.
"On line you get to know clients better, the tough part is trying not to fall in love."
Originally published as 'Lot of lonely people': Virtual sex work booms amid virus