Sample of Mattress Actress
When I started out selling sex in Queensland at the tender age of fifteen, I wanted to be an actress. I’d done a twelve-month acting course and belonged to a talent agency but I had no idea what a mattress actress was or how to be one. I was talented at being young, blonde and attractive, plus I had big boobs. I didn’t know you had to work for your money. I didn’t know about tricks or anything about the business of acting to please men in bed.
But I was a fast learner and pretty soon knew everything needed to make every client happy.
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.
What does selling sex mean? In reality, a sex worker is someone who doesn’t just sell sex, it’s someone who sells fantasy. My job was to work out what this client was doing in my house and on my bed. Only about forty per cent of the men I saw were just there for the sex. The other sixty per cent 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.
I constantly had to keep my wits about me to protect myself. You want them to fall in love with the fantasy but not in love with you. That can be dangerous. When I was young, I used to think how great it was that these men where in love with me. With the wisdom that comes with experience, I realised they were in love with the fantasy.
One heart-breaking incident taught me a lot. I fell madly in love with a guy who was smitten with me; he took me out to dinner and away on holidays. Later I found out he knew nothing about the real me, nor was he interested in my dreams and aspirations. He was in love with the nympho who gave him sex on demand; who always pandered to his ego with compliments; who always gave him what he wanted; who was always clean and healthy. The real me with a runny nose or a period—no, no, no—he wasn’t interested in that.
I learnt the lesson that clients are never going to be in love with the real you; it’s the Madonna–Whore complex: every guy wants to marry a saint but they want to fuck a nympho. They will never take you seriously because you sell sex. They love the idea of being with you, but to get to know you—forget it.
A woman who sells sex must understand that even though a client may think he’s in love, she knows it’s his fantasy; that way she never has to give away her real self because he won’t take it seriously and he is never going to remember whatever she tells him about herself out of the context of her work. He doesn’t want to know that; all he wants to know is that she’s available on Tuesday at two o’clock.
A professional knows that the best business is repeat business. And the best way to get that business is to know what to say and what not to say—even if it kills you! If he tells me he’s an engineer, I tell him that’s really fascinating and ask him to tell me all about it. Maybe he’s looking for a bit of a laugh. If they’re fat you tell them they’ve got lovely eyes. If they go to the trouble of waxing their chest, you compliment them on their great physique. You never tell a man he has bad breath or ask him to use a deodorant even though every fibre of your being is suffering under his armpit. A girlfriend or wife might tell them they stink or are crap lovers but a professional is not paid to be honest. That’s why clients come back.
Put a condom on a man with quite a large dick and after three minutes he says he can’t feel a thing and you’re not making him come. The usual response when you tell him that the condom is too tight will be that you’re just blowing smoke up his arse because he’s got a big dick. You say, ‘Mate, I’ve already got your money, I don’t need to lie to you; the condom is acting like a tourniquet. So let’s just do it between the boobs with no condom.’
Someone less professional—a hooker, as I’d call them—would tell him if he can’t come, that’s his problem: ‘Time’s up, now fuck off.’
You’re a mattress actress. You never say what you think, you say what they want to hear. You give Oscar-winning performances. If a guy said you looked like you were enjoying yourself, you’d say, ‘Yes!’ What else could you say?
Clients came in all shapes and sizes, but mostly they are married men. Being single is certainly no barrier to pursuing the company of sex workers. They are the single clients who choose to be single, often they may be bitter and burned or simply in a career that is not conducive to a healthy relationship. Finally there is the small percentage of clients who could never get a free shag—the guys with disabilities or social anxieties. Everybody deserves a stroke on the back and a bit of a cuddle, which was what most of my clients were chasing anyway.
There were the girls who worked to feed a drug habit but a professional worker had an accountant; give him a freebie once a year and he’d sort your tax out. Often you work on a barter system so you never had to pay for anything; you had a client who sold cars, a client who was a chemist, a client who was a butcher, a computer technician, lawyer, furniture manufacturer, restaurateurs, sometimes even artists.
It sounds like a cliché, but the pandering to men’s whims and the mindset of obeying a man’s command needed to be a sex worker often comes about from years of pre-adolescent training. I was five foot six with double-D boobs on a size six figure by the age of ten. I looked like a grown woman. I had a knack of arousing males of all ages, had been also drummed into me at home that my future was to be a good wife and look after my husband. My science teacher echoed my parents’ beliefs by telling me ‘with your looks and figure you will never need to work a day in your life outside the bedroom’.
After enduring two violent sexual attacks before I was twelve, I realised if a guy wanted to have sex with you, it was easier to just give it to him; if you didn’t, he’d take it anyway and hurt you. This experience reinforced my parents’ training to do as I was are told. I was afraid of men. All the men I knew hurt me or let me down in some way. Even those meant to protect me—police and school teachers—had failed to do so. So I learnt that all men were potential predators to be feared and revered.
Social grooming was an essential part of growing up in my family, etiquette, posture and conversation skills were more important than good grades. At fifteen I didn’t know my own value, all I knew was that I was fuckable. I knew I was good at pleasing men, and in my brain, this was the summation of my self-worth. It seemed to be the one commodity everybody wanted from me and the one thing I excelled at.
It wasn’t until I started working in top-end places when I was about seventeen and met girls who were a few years older that I learnt I had the power to say no to men. I could even have an opinion. Previously I’d thought my job was to be a starfish: lie there and take it. I didn’t know I could have a spine so I began to grow one.
Then, when I was working in a well-known brothel in Sydney, I realised the real power and value I had. I was the girl every guy wanted. I had massive boobs; I was tiny, blonde and looked very young, barely legal. From that moment I started to question my worthlessness. I was not worthless, I was highly sought after and had massive earning capacity. I began to empower myself—even though my power was based around my sexuality. But my value wasn’t just about the sex, it was about my appearance; it was the kindness with which I treated my clients, which made them come back for more. I used to think that these men were supporting me and 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.
Mattress Actress is the story of Annika Cleeve’s eighteen years as a sex worker.
Her troubled childhood in Queensland led to working in a brothel on the Sunshine Coast at the age of fifteen, and from there Annika worked her way up to the high-end parlours, agencies and private work in various parts of Australia and internationally.
In this book Annika reveals the truth of a sex worker’s life; the clients, the
girls, the parlour bosses, the rip-off merchants, the drug deaths, the white slavery, the discrimination, the corrupt police and politicians, the exotic travel and the money.
Mattress Actress is a revealing and gutsy look at someone practising the world’s oldest profession in the late twentieth century. From wide-eyed innocent to experienced and successful professional, Annika’s story is both shocking and highly entertaining.
“Annika Cleeve is not her real name but this is her real story: a raw and honest account of life in the raw as a new recruit to the oldest profession.” Andrew Rule
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