Scoop Review of Books

Release: My Body, My Business

My Body Cover

‘MY BODY, My Business: New Zealand sex workers in an era of change’
by Caren Wilton: Otago University Press


I have often thought of the world of sex work as a world apart, a secret world that can only be entered by those who have been given the special key, or who know and utter a secret word. Then the walls dissolve, the curtains are pulled back, and the secret world is revealed as not so secret after all, as just another part of this world, just a breath or a step away. Ordinary, and yet not. A world that leaves its mark on those who have been there, so they recognise each other as fellow travellers in a place others don’t always understand.” Caren Wilton

In My Body, My Business: New Zealand sex workers in an era of change, 11 sex workers share their stories of their time in the industry. Wilton spent many, many hours with her subjects, drawing out their varied experiences, from being pelted with bottles and rotten eggs on the street to being entrapped by police to fulfilling people’s fantasies as a dominatrix. The stories are told in the first person and are at times sad, funny, inspiring and illuminating – but always compelling. They combine to unveil the ‘secret world’ of New Zealand’s sex industry.

My Body, My Business includes the stories of female, male and transgender workers; Māori and Pākehā; street workers, workers in massage parlours and upmarket brothels, escorts, strippers, private workers and dominatrices, spanning a period from the 1960s to today. Three of the 11 interviewees still work in the industry. Several have been involved with the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective, including long-time national co-ordinator Dame Catherine Healy.

Wilton describes the many political and social changes that have affected the New Zealand sex industry over time, the most profound of these being the decriminalisation of prostitution in 2003.

Wilton tells the remarkable story of the driving force that saw New Zealand become the first – and only – country to decriminalise its sex industry.

Caren WiltonCaren Wilton is a Wairarapa-based oral historian,  writer and editor. She won three New Zealand Oral History Awards for the interviews with sex workers My Body, My Business is based on. She co-ordinated an oral history project focusing on Upper Hutt in the 1960s for Upper Hutt City Library in 2015–16 and is the author of short-fiction collection The Heart Sutra (Otago University Press, 2003).

Award-winning photographer Madeleine Slavick’s 16 striking shots complement Wilton’s interviews. Madeleine has exhibited her work internationally and has written several photography, poetry and non-fiction books.

MY BODY, My Business: New Zealand sex workers in an era of change
by Caren Wilton: Otago University Press. Coming in November.