In My Skin — an excerpt

From the prologue…

WHAT DO I REMEMBER of being a prostitute? I remember tenderness, boredom, the ice-creams we would eat at 3 a.m. in front of the television; the smell of cocks, shy men with silky skin, laughter; dark streets gleaming; boys in baseball caps slouching in the introduction lounge, heavy bellies pressing on me; conversations, sneaking cigarettes while fixing my make-up. I remember the other girls being like sisters, and knowing that to tell them my real name was dangerous. I remember opening my heart to strange men and stroking their faces, smiling. I remember being pounded so hard my face was white with pain. I remember being a prostitute, and being proud of it, liking it.

But what I did is not normal. No? I was naked, I touched people’s bodies, they touched mine, we were alone in a room. Like a masseur, like a dentist, like a beauty therapist. Yes, but I opened my body, they touched me there. Like a doctor. Yes, but inside.


I sometimes wondered, with my legs spread over the face of some eager man, if I felt regret for the invasion of my most secret places. A man whom I’ve never met before is staring at my vagina. But what does this mean? It is just skin. Am I ashamed to have the crook of my knee examined? My ear? The inside of my mouth? Eyes leave no scar, I am not reduced by someone’s gaze. My body is beautiful, and desired; I feel beautiful and desirable. Someone is looking at me. At the outside, at the membrane of flesh that veils me. I am still mine.

I do not like to judge others. I know now that everyone has their secrets. I write mine down. I carry them lightly inside me. They are almost invisible.

I walked dark and dirty footpaths in the middle of the night. I got into strangers’ cars and got out swearing or smiling. I drove with men to grotty alleys and put stained tissues in my bag afterwards. I took their money and wiped my mouth and went to a small flat and pumped chemical relief into my vein, and returned to the rainy street. I slept on a dirty mattress in an empty room and shivered and woke every grey twilight wishing I could sleep forever. I lived on chocolate bars and bought a single cup of coffee for an afternoon, sheltering in warm cafés for comfort. I watched people in supermar¬kets and couldn’t remember what it felt like to take ordinary things from the shelves. I stood in the dark on the footpath and gazed in on bright living rooms. I held down so much sorrow I couldn’t feel anything anymore. The sadness and anger corroded all my feelings. The only thing I knew I wanted was heroin, and rest.

I made money I’d never imagined and I wore velvet dresses and shone in lamplight. I walked tall in crowds, knowing myself to be desired. I received luxurious gifts. I was a princess in my realm and men couldn’t get enough of me. They waited hours for my company and I couldn’t even remember their names. I had a house with a spa and hardwood floors; I lost track of fifty dollar notes, and found them adrift in pockets, inside books. I was everyone’s favourite. I told people I was a prostitute, and smiled as I said it, and dared them to turn their gaze.

The smile that I give when I talk about it now is, I can feel, nostalgic, provocative. A brightness comes into my eyes. And, I’m told, a hard look too.

8 Responses to In My Skin — an excerpt

  1. Brucie says:


    I watched you last night with Jennifer Byrne. I admire you so much, and respect you so much for your bravery, and honesty.

    I saw the “Australian Story” and am reafding your book. I hope life brings you all you wish of it.

    • kate says:

      Hi Brucie,

      Thanks so much — I confess I was a bit startled to see myself on the screen wearing so much makeup (I don’t usually wear a lot and was just hoping that on screen it would be less obvious) and wasn’t sure I did so well, but I feel better now, and people have said nice things. Thanks for watching, and remembering Australian Story, and for reading the book. You are lovely to be so interested. My life is wonderful now so I probably can’t write any more sad memoirs!

      xxx Kate

  2. Dugald says:

    Thanks for responding, I did mean to mention too that I consider you to be an extremely brave woman to bare all in the way you have, it is a credit to your strength as an individual, I’d also mention that I enjoy your articles in the National Times, it is refreshing to see intelligent opinions & observations put forward in such an articulate manner (the art of eloquent writing thankfully lives on). I will be reading the romantic soon & would certainly be delighted to read any future publications you may pen.

  3. Dugald says:

    I read your book and it helped me to no end on a personal level as the subject matter was very close to home for me. It helped me to understand, rationalise & reconcile events that took place in the life of someone very close to me, who went through similar experiences as you did albeit for different resaons, the chances are that you may have even crossed paths as you were both in the same industry in Melbourne at the time. It had been difficult for me to deal with in so far as I wanted to know more but was reluctant to ask as it was too close to home and I know she doesn’t always like to discuss it. I myself had never had any dealings with the industry or anyone who had worked in it and had quite a lot of preconceived notions about it. What your book and discussions with this person in my life has taught me is that life will steer you down many paths and whether the choices you make are right, worng or indifferent, you make those choices as best you can at the time. You can’t change the past, nor can you always changes the opinion of others but above all else you are still the same person inside. She like you found that the industry was no longer something that fit with what she wanted out of life and whislt she may have made different choices if she had her time over, she does acknowledge that it is a unique experience that few people have had. I was rather amazed by how similar your experiences and the manner in which you coped with them were. Thanks again.

    • kate says:

      Hi Dugald,

      Thank you so much! That’s almost exactly the kind of response I wanted to get from writing my book — to explain to people who don’t know much about that world what it’s like, and that it’s possibly not what they imagine. And that people just like me and your friend have been there, it’s not some alternative universe.

      I like what you say about choice. That’s it exactly: the line between remorse, or regret, and acceptance and forgiveness. We usually do what seems the best idea at the time, I think. And even if it takes you to hard places, perhaps there’s something to be gained nonetheless.

      Thank you for taking the time to leave me a message and let me know. I really appreciate it. And happy reading with whatever you turn to next!

      xxxxx Kate

  4. Peter Holles says:

    Dear Kate,
    Many thanks for answering my email , all the best for the future , please give my regards to your truely wonderful parents , as the father of handicapped adult who my wife and I manage on a regular basis I can with some certainty say parenthood is the biggest of all gigs we ever take on and we did it ( the original deed) with a mixture of lust and love …all the best for the future and hope there are more books left in your fertile mind .
    Cheers Peter

  5. Peter Holles says:

    Well done for managing to go down a very dangerous path and coming out the other side……..I don’t know if you get to read this or answer this ………..but did you ever feel detached from your body while doing heroin and the required sex to pay for it thinking I can’t believe I here in this place or was heroin an all consuming desire and you had no other view other than your next hit , well done on your two books and all the best for the future.
    Yours Sincerely , Peter Holles

    • kate says:

      Hi Peter, and thanks for visiting my site and your kind words. I did feel detached from my body, it’s a necessary part of sex work — not always a bad thing, but one that takes concentration. Heroin has that effect too. Other times during the job I was quite sensate, sometimes happily, sometimes unhappily. The whole thing felt like a dream most of the time, and seems more and more dreamlike the further in time I get from it. I learned a lot, though.

      Thanks again and happy reading to you


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