Part of our mission when building Tryst.link was to bring sex workers stories into the spotlight. As the media speaks over them so frequently and dismisses their points of view, we think it's important that workers from all backgrounds have a voice on Tryst. Today we chat to Melbourne escort, Monica La Bella about boundaries, burn out and human connection.
Tell us your story, how did you get into the industry and what has your journey looked like thus far?
I’ve written a full story about this on my website if anyone is interested! But long story short, I’ve always been very very sexual from a young age so growing up I had a lot of fantasies I wanted to fulfil. One of those was to become a HiGh-ClAsS escort (Yes, I got sucked in by Belle de Jour, and actually pretty embarrassed now that I think about it). Then I just went for it. I applied for the license, took my own photos, wrote my own ad copy and popped it on the highest-ranked advertising website on Goggle at the time. I still remember I was so pumped in my first booking that the client had to tell me to calm down haha. It felt so easy and natural for me so I kept doing it. But it wasn’t until after several months into it that I fully comprehended the value of what I provide. Human connection is so important for our well-being but not everybody has access to it, for no faults of their own. I think it is sad that society doesn’t think that you can or should pay for it. But in reality, you can pay for someone’s time to have the privacy and space to foster a connection with them. With the right person, it can do amazing things for your health and happiness.
Monica has been a part of my life for 5 years and It’s been a great journey so far! I am loving what I do and making a good living out of it. I think the most important things I’ve learned from Monica are compassion and gratitude. If the world was more forgiving I’d certainly be Monica full time and be fully involved in the industry. However, sadly that is not the case so I’ve built a life where I could both exist as Monica and the woman behind her. Sometimes it’s a challenge but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of work?
Learning has always been one of my biggest joys in life! I love personal development books, especially the ones that focus on peace, purposes, love and relationships, that of sort thing. I think there are already too many books on how to be rich, think rich and do rich. Those are a bit boring now, don’t you think? I also enjoy dystopian fiction from time to time. The Handmaid Tales is one of my favourites! My other areas of interest that I read up on regularly include the history of art, neuroplasticity, cosmology, properties and investing, just to name a few. Also, as a lover of arts and history. Whenever I am exploring a new town: museums, art galleries, second-hand book shops, antique shops are where you will find me!
I like to keep a healthy habit. I do yoga daily and just started Pilates. I always look forward to my weekly sessions! I really enjoy going for a hike in the bush, or a walk anywhere really: the beach, the park, around the neighbourhood. It makes me feel great to get some air, take in the surroundings and just enjoy the moment. I think it’s important to make time to slow down for a while and don’t just let life rush you around.
I also really love to snorkel and it is something I do occasionally. I’ve snorkelled along Victoria beaches in summer, around the islands in Thailand and the Maldives. These trips are some of my best memories. Can you believe I haven’t been to the Great Barrie Reefs yet? That is next on my list)
As sex workers, we face several challenges in our line of work. What are some of the issues you care about, and how do you think your clients can help sex workers?
I am very very grateful for the privilege of being able to choose and keep only a few select clients that respect me as an accomplished businesswoman doing what I do as Monica. In my journey as Monica, however, I find that some clients (while lovely to spend time with) don’t fully comprehend that sex work is work. That result in subtle disregard for my time, boundary-pushing, entitlement and some rather offensive comments. These were the challenges I faced when I was fairly new to sex work before recognising how valuable it is for my own emotional well-being to only accept bookings from the best people. Luckily now I can see that this attitude among clients is improving over time with people like myself writing and talking about sex work and the advertising platforms like Tryst that give us a voice. To help us I think clients could start with acknowledging that sex work is our job because it takes emotional energy to be there with and for someone in the most intimate capacity. Most importantly, we give out our time, and time is anyone’s most valuable asset, to you. The least you could do is to respect it. I think that’s a good start!
Is there a book, tv show, or movie that has had a significant impact on your life? What was it, and what did it teach you?
Oh there are many actually! I’m constantly learning and evolving from reflecting on things that I’ve been exposed to: books, TV shows or even a cartoon series. If I had to choose one it would be the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. In the book, she explains that two different mindsets determine how we look at challenges and what we do to overcome them. As someone who spent their early childhood surrounded by parents and teachers who value talent and perfection, I have missed countless opportunities to make a better, happier life for myself because imperfection scared me. Fast forward to my adult years, some of life’s challenges and this book had taught me resilience and compassion for myself and others. I’m giving myself some credit for the internal work that I’ve done to become the person that I am proud of today but I also have to say that this book was the start of it all!
Why do you think it is important for sex work to be decriminalised?
First of all, I’m really happy to hear Victoria will move to decriminalise sex work soon, yay! It is important to regulate sex work through standard business industry laws because sex work IS standard business! It is a legitimate form of work and we sex workers should be entitled to a safe work environment and all the protection of the law. It doesn’t make sense otherwise really, so I am very glad that the government is starting to see things the way we do. Although stigma and discrimination against sex workers by society is so ingrained that it might take a few generations to get rid of (but I sincerely hope it won't take that long), a formal legitimisation of sex work by the government through decriminalisation is a great start to get the ball rolling!
Is there anyone in the industry you consider a role model or someone you looked up to when you first started your journey?
There were a few! Before I posted my very first ad, I’d looked at the advertising websites to see how much women who were most similar to me were charging to get some ideas for my own rates. I remember feeling blown away by the women I see that are of similar age and background to me but they seem to be fearless in demanding what they wanted and making their own rules. That was something I’ve never done at the time so I really admired them and looked up to them for being the strong women they were. Luckily for me, I had the opportunities to get to know some of them through duo bookings and social catch-ups and found that they were supportive women, strong and business savvy. Some are still in the industry and still my friends. A few have left but I will never forget how they inspired me when I first started (although they don’t realise it haha)
What do you think the public should know about the sex industry and sex workers?
I wish the public knew that sex work is sometimes just about sex, but more often it is so much more than sex. Humanly connection, feeling loved and cared for is something that sex workers provide. Society says we should get these from our partner and only our partner. But we are so busy these days. No one has the energy to be emotionally available for one another anymore and that’s where we come in. Sex workers are paid to be there. We are compensated for our time and our emotional labour, so we could fully be there mentally and physically. I think “Sex workers sell their bodies” is such a dated misconception in this day and age!
What are your top three pieces of advice for workers just starting out?
Sex work is a legitimate career choice, no matter what other people say! It can bring you income and a sense of achievement like any other job. It is what you make of it. You can make it a career or a side hustle. It can work either way
Don’t be afraid to be very selective of who you take as clients. It is your choice who you give your time and energy to. After all, we only have 24 hours in a day! Some people are worth your time and some aren’t.
Be strong and stick to your boundaries. Enforce your rules and don’t waste any time on those who don’t comply. It’s their loss, not yours.
When you're feeling burnt out, what do you do to make yourself feel better?
As a massive introvert, I have to be really careful with my energy and the number of bookings I take. Occasionally I over-commit and burn myself out, so when that happens I make time to be alone for long baths, long walks, big meals, shopping, massages, sauna or spa – anything that I can do by myself without requiring any mental energy or talking to anyone! Depending on how burnt out I am, I can take a few days or a week to recover. When I was really busy (which I don’t intend to be again), I had to take a 6 months hiatus to fully recover. Oh, the joy of being an introvert!
What would your dream date look like?
It is so hard to describe what my dream date would look like because it would largely depend on who I am with! I do love to explore new experiences so anything “firsts” that we can do together would be awesome. I don’t have to be treated to a 5-star experience. Many of the joys in my life are not 5-star. I appreciate the beauty of nature, art & architecture, all the sensory pleasures, and mental stimulation so anything that involves these sounds amazing to me!
My favorite scent is: caramel and peach
My favorite restaurant is: Too many to count
If you were to buy me a drink at a bar, you should buy me: Amaretto Sour please
My favorite thing to be gifted is: Jewellery and perfumes
A social cause I care about is: Men’s mental health