People I'm Thankful For: Talya De Fay
It’s been a rough election season, to say the least. With things so up in the air here at home, I’m casting my sights oversees for inspiration this Thanksgiving week. One of the things I’m most grateful for? Talya De Fay, Australian sex worker, Quora Expert, host of the Scarlett Academy website, and all-around inspiration.
I first encountered Talya’s expertise on Quora, where folks post questions for an open-source community of experts to answer. Talya, self-described “sex worker, adviser, activist, optimist, quirky, human nerd,” addresses the public’s curiosity about sex work and sexuality.
What struck me right away, beyond the sheer breadth of her knowledge (she’s answered 450+ questions and counting!!), was just how thoughtful, careful, and kind her answers are. It’s not uncommon for her answer to be much better than the question. Here’s an example. Someone posted: Do prostitutes ever feel tired at their job? What keeps them going?
Now, I have to be honest. I’d take one look at that and think to myself, What a freakin’ moron! What dummy doesn’t think a prostitute wouldn’t get tired at work just like every other person on the planet?! I’d be pissed because the underlying logic of this question is that somehow, prostitutes are so different from everyone else.
Talya, clearly the bigger person, is capable of a much bigger answer. Here’s how her response begins: Yes, we do. No one loves their job all of the time. I have good days, bad days and days that just pass. It can build up to work burnout if we are not careful. Although that can happen no matter the job, sex workers can be affected quicker. Self-care is paramount. She goes on to give a stellar explanation about pros and cons of sex work, and ways she keeps herself refreshed.
It’s when she turns to the second question, What keeps them going? when Talya’s true gift reveals itself: A lot of the time I can love my job but feel drained at the same time. I think most people may feel like this when it comes to work. I love going to work, seeing the girls and hanging out. There is a mystery of what the new day will bring. I enjoy having sex. Most people do. I find new people interesting. I also am able to help people, encourage them, inspire them and bring some calm into their busy day. I am passionate about that which ultimately keeps me going.
Also, I would not be true to myself if I did not add this: Learning how people in this industry get treated around the world has changed things for me. Seeing how easily people are willing to hurt or despise each other for no good reason makes my heart ache…. What keeps me going is that it is not in me to walk away after knowing and seeing this without standing up and saying something. Anything to help heal what we are doing to each other.
What started out as a careless question blossoms into a beautiful loving answer about helping one another as best we can in this crazy world, and that, as sex workers, we are just as much of the solution as anyone. As Talya told me, her goal in answering even the most basic questions on Quora about sex work is “to teach the public fact from fiction and what's actually going on.” We know how important demystifying and humanizing sex work is to reducing suspicion and stigma.
Talya doesn’t just educate the general public; she’s committed to helping other sex workers as well. The mission of her website, ScarlettAcademy.com,is to be a central resource hub and a gateway to accessing practical sex industry information on increasing the well being of sex workers. She started it because, as she says, “I really started to see how isolated people were around the world, often going into this without talking to someone or knowing what to do. So I just wanted to provide a place where hopefully anyone from anywhere could come and get some help on what to do, who to talk to... anything which could provide a better and safe space.”
The aims of Scarlett Academy include:
- To strengthen the global community connection through shared resources
- To create easier access to knowledge that supports safer work practices
- To provide support and information for partners of sex worker, by partners
- To increase the general public’s understanding and knowledge of sex work.
- To remind people to smile. It’s just another day at work.
While there’s plenty of information about sex work online, so much of it is scattered and chaotic. One of Scarlett Academy’s best features is its extensive catalogue of international sex worker organizations—it’s the most comprehensive list I’ve ever seen. I’m old enough to remember when C.O.Y.O.T.E. (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics, founded by Margo St. James, a sex worker), was just about the only sex worker rights organization on the planet. It’s absolutely inspiring to see how many sex worker organizations have now sprung up all over the globe. As Talya says, “The more I learnt about what was going on globally, the more I had to do something. The real question is how could I not to do something to help stop the harm that is being done to others.”
ScarlettAcademy.com has advice on all kinds of sex work-related issues, including health and safety, work/life balance, tips for post sex work careers, as well as the ABC’s of the job. It’s well worth checking out.
Finally, Talya is an activist, recently returned from a sex worker conference in South Australia where sex work remains illegal. Although Australia had a law reform removing all discrimination laws, sex work is governed at the state and territory level and so varies considerably throughout the country. Talya works in New South Wales which has full decriminalization.
Talya says, “If I am in a position to stand up and help, then there is no other choice. I am lucky to have full decriminalisation where I am so I know what the industry can be like when we have support of the law, where it is just a job.”
When I asked her what she’s like to see more of in the world, her answer was simple: empathy. “Social media and the like teach us that it’s ‘all about me.’ We are forgetting about each other and community. All of us are feeling more separated, more lonely. Depression and stress is up. People are looking for that connection with each other but then forget to put themselves in the others’ shoes.”
This season of thanksgiving, it’s people like Talya, working tirelessly to educate the public and fellow sex workers, as well as agitate for better working conditions for all, that make the world a better place.
You can find Talya on Quora: https://www.quora.com/profile/Talya-De-Fay
or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Talya_DeFay
The Scarlett Academy website is: www.scarlettacademy.com
Twitter account is @_ScarletAcademy