New Zealand sex workers open up about careers on social media

Stripping, escorting and sex work have long been kept in the dark, but there's a growing trend for the workers to open up about their chosen careers on social media.

That's caused concern because some of the platforms on which they're sharing their saucy work stories, like TikTok, are also popular with kids.

It's a growing trend - sex workers, sugar babies, escorts and strippers proudly outing themselves online. The movement has hit New Zealand, and one of those involved is exotic dancer Rose Davis.

The professionally-trained dancer works at Calendar Girls in Auckland, and is proudly sharing her unique world with her thousands of followers on social media.

"It's just cool too for a group of women who have maybe been shamed or looked at in a bad light," Davis says.

"It's cool to be the voice, to be the person who says 'actually we're making a lot of money, we're enjoying ourselves, we live a pretty cool lifestyle'."

But sharing an R-18 world on PG platforms comes with some concerns.

"I think with all social media that you understand that we all present our best selves on social media, and as do people on Instagram and people who make their business on social media," says Cherida Fraser, from the Aotearoa New Zealand Sex Workers Collective.

"So it's always important to understand what gets presented on social media isn't necessarily the mundane reality of people's sex work lives."

Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker says the trend is a good example of the "opportunity and challenge that comes with platforms that enable you to produce and share video content".

"On the one hand it's great people can present their lives and you can see worlds that you otherwise might not see, but on the other hand those lives are exposed to people who are a little bit too young to understand them or are not ready for it."

The behind-the-scenes access is being welcomed by some academics, who say it's further removing the taboo around the sex industry.

"I think it's great. I think that it is important to challenge stereotypes... Why can't women take joy in their sexuality?" University of Canterbury Professor Dr María Perez-y-Perez asks.

"And if they want to be overtly sexual, and if they want to dress in a particular way and if they want to do certain jobs - those jobs are needed by the way, you just need to look on OnlyFans and you know people make a lot of money because that kind of material is needed."

Davis hopes her decision to press record on her life as a dancer helps bring change.

"I'm here to maybe light a little light in someone's head that 'oh she's not a bad person, she enjoys what she does, it's not a last resort'," she says.

"I live a happy life. Maybe just think more before you judge someone about their career."

It's a career she is proud to share.