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Annika Cleeve has an alphabet of qualifications behind her name, and during her studies she spent 18 years as a sex worker, plying her trade all over the world.

From Annika

 Prostitution is never the first choice for young ladies contemplating their future careers. It generally comes about from a lack of viable alternatives. Often there is a sense of worthlessness that builds over years leading up to this decision.

                In my case I feel that I had spent years being groomed to be a wife. To my parents, this meant being a ‘girl Friday’ – a woman who was continually attuned to the needs of her husband and lived to please him, a proper lady with little self-ambition who existed solely to satisfy men. I was forced to grow up as early as age nine. I was the eldest, and I had to help my parents run the family business, as well as raise my siblings and take care of the house.

                And in my case I was homeless by the time I had turned fourteen. I had no ID, no birth certificate, and I wasn’t old enough to get a job or even drive. I took to stripping, which didn’t ask for crazy things like tax file numbers or IDs. Besides, I was already convinced that I seemed to bring out ‘the horny’ in men—my parents believed this, too, and held me responsible for two violent sexual attacks I had been subjected to. Obviously, selling sex was my only available option.

                How naïve was I when I started out? Very. The job seemed pretty straight forward: get the money and provide the service listed. Only problem was that I assumed giving ‘French’ meant French-kissing a client. Little did I know that this was euphemism for oral sex. So I was basically giving every client free blowjobs. It took me four weeks for someone to slap some sense into me. Until then, quite unsurprisingly, I was the most popular girl in the brothel with all the clients.

                In the beginning, I had no idea what being a mattress actress entailed. I was young, blonde and attractive, and I had big boobs—that was it. I didn’t know I had to work for the money. I didn’t know about anything about the business of pleasing men in bed. But I learnt quickly.

                In reality, a sex worker isn’t someone who just sells sex. It’s someone who can sell fantasy. My job was to work out what a client was doing in my house and on my bed. Only about forty percent of the men I saw were just there for the sex. The other sixty percent needed ego stroking—they needed a compliment, affection and someone to talk to. My job was to figure out what it was they were craving so they’d return every other week with another wad of cash.

                A professional knows that the best business is repeat business. If the client told me he was an engineer, I told him that his job was really fascinating and asked him to tell me all about it. If a client was fat, I told him he’s got lovely eyes. If a client went to the trouble of waxing his chest for me, I complimented him on his great physique. I never told a man he had bad breath or asked him to use a deodorant. A girlfriend or wife might tell them they stink or are bad lovers, but a professional is not paid to be honest. That’s why clients come back to us.

                There were the girls who worked to feed a drug habit. But not me. I played it smart. For instance, I made sure I got myself an accountant while I was at it; I gave the client a freebie once a year and he sorted out my taxes. We clever ones often worked on a barter system so we never had to pay for anything; we had a client who sold us cars, a client who was a chemist, a client who was a butcher, a computer technician, and so on.


                 I was soon the girl every guy wanted. I was working in a well-known brothel in Sydney and was making a lot of money. I had massive boobs, was tiny, blonde and looked very young, barely legal. I was thus highly sought after and possessed massive earning capacity. I began to empower myself—even though my power was based around my sexuality. At first, I used to think that these men were supporting me, but then I realised that I was really supporting myself. I didn’t deserve to be treated like shit. I could say no; I could draw a line; I had something of value that people wanted. It was a big moment in time for me.

                I eventually became more than a prostitute—I became a professional sex worker. I moved to the high-end parlours and agencies. I ran my own business and travelled the world, selling my craft to politicians, businessmen, rock stars, professional sportsmen and rulers of small countries.

                However, after falling in love with a wonderful man and going back to school, I finally decided to put a stop to that life. For years I thought I knew men, but I realised that I had only known two kinds of men —the cheating husband and the freaky twisted pervert. I realised that they are not all like that. I finally found a good one. Now, with his support, I am an educated woman.

                        It wasn’t just the love of a man that changed me though, but the love I discovered in me for myself. I had been neglected, abused and rejected by those closest to me; I had been told that I was of little merit, and that my only value lay in my beauty and what I could offer a man. But life gradually taught me otherwise. I found that I had other merits, too: love, compassion, resilience, integrity. I realised that, much to my surprise, a good brain was worth twice as much as a vagina.      

                When I was growing up, I always wanted to be Mrs Brady from the Brady Bunch—she was sweet and pretty, had a doting husband, never got flustered, had a family of loving and obedient children, and she lived in a lovely home. 

                Like Mrs. Brady, I wanted to be admired and respected, and loved. I wanted to become someone I could be proud of. 

                I am happy that I have achieved this goal. I am proud of my life’s work. I made the most of a poor start. I survived and thrived in the face of adversity. Today I am a much loved mother and an adored wife. I am a highly successful professional who is respected by her peers and is working in an industry dedicated to improving the lives of the less fortunate. 

                My garter is long gone, so is my cynicism of men. I am at peace with my past, and so very proud of the person I was, and I have become.