F**k You Pay Me

Joana Nastari
Assembly Rooms
to

The placards Joana Nastari briefly holds at the end of her one-hour performance are explicit. Two of them say “My body My business” and “No Shame”.

Her monologue opens provocatively with Jo Jo (Joana) our host asking us to join in a chant and then to raise our hands if we had ever been a consumer of sex in any of its forms. Her object is not to embarrass us but to celebrate sex workers.

Something of the experience of a pole dancer’s day is explored through the character of Bea whose work name is Holly.

In some ways, it is like other jobs where you get on with co-workers and wish your employers wouldn’t take most of the money earned and then fine you heavily for such trivial offences as chewing gum while working.

Cynically, Holly comments on the men who pay twenty pounds to see her dance and of being sacked for punching a client who broke the no-touch rule.

The men may be predictable stereotypes, but she is no passive victim.

It’s a day when she worries a good deal about what her Brazilian mother would say if she knew how she works, but, in a surprising conversation, her mother admits she would “be more disappointed if you lacked empathy.”

And that’s how the writer wants us to respond. We hear her speak a reverential letter she has penned to strippers, which adds to her depiction of their almost mystical power.

But the vision is narrow. Missing is the society that seems determined to make money from even the most intimate aspects of our relationships, and in the case of sex work this does mostly mean that women are paid to be consumed by men in situations that can be insecure, and even dangerous.

Sex work is a concentrated version of the relentless sexualisation of women that encourages people to unfairly judge women primarily in terms of their sexual appearance and availability.

Yes, what women do with their bodies should be their business, but it will take a lot more than the celebration of sex workers to achieve that.

Keith Mckenna