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Meet Melanie And Chayse: The Disabled Woman And Her Sex Worker

May 10, 2023

    While Melanie was in social isolation in her Australian home due to Covid-19, she made a promise to herself. Once she was allowed out again she was going to hire a sex worker, lose her virginity and put a halt to those anxieties she had developed around love and intimacy as a disabled person. Chayse was the man she booked.

    It was Melanie’s support worker who first suggested it. While they were isolating together, Tracey gave Melanie a massage.

    No one had touched Melanie before in a non-medical way and, at 43 years old, she realised she wanted more.

    Tracey, not her real name, revealed to Melanie she had once been a sex worker and thought that personal services could be an option for her to explore.

    “It just opened my eyes to the fact that maybe I could experience this,” Melanie told BBC Access All.

    She found an escort agency online, where a profile for a man called Chayse caught her eye.

    Excited, she arranged a booking and travelled to his apartment for the first session.

    “When I got out of my powerchair and my support worker left, it was just the two of us. I had no idea what I was in for.”

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    Melanie has used a wheelchair since the age of three having been diagnosed with inflammation of the spinal cord – a condition known as transverse myelitis. It has given her paralysis in her legs and limited movement in her arms. As an adult, she uses support workers to help with daily tasks.

    She has lived and worked in Japan and is now a video editor, but romance never seemed to be on the cards. “I just thought if it happens, it happens.”

    Dating and opening yourself up to others can feel intimidating and the world doesn’t always acknowledge disabled people as sexual beings.

    According to the UK Disability Survey, published by the government in 2021, just 56% of the general population said they would feel comfortable in an intimate relationship with a disabled person.

    Melanie, herself, had never been sure how to approach it, so had left it to chance.

    After emailing an inquiry to Chayse, he arranged several videocalls so they could get to know each other and discuss any potential challenges.

    “I asked a million questions,” Melanie says: “Have you ever used a hoist before? Is your apartment wheelchair accessible? How often does the lift in your place break down?”

    “About once every six months,” Chayse replied.

    For Melanie, Chayse’s answers were good enough to book a session at his apartment. And far from nervous, she brought the appointment forward, too excited to wait as he had been so warm and reassuring.

    Legally, the arrangement between Melanie and Chayse was above board.

    In Western Australia, under the Prostitution Act 2000, while it is illegal to carry out street-based sex work or run a brothel, the act of prostitution is not against the law and escort agencies are legal. This differs across Australia’s states with Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory having decriminalised sex work.

    It is similar in the UK. While the exchange of sexual services for money is legal in the UK, apart from in Northern Ireland, related activities such as soliciting or running a brothel are not.

    When Melanie arrived at Chayse’s property, the enormity of the situation began to sink in.

    “I knew I was out of my depth with sexual knowledge and I felt completely overwhelmed with the expert that was standing in front of me.”

    But as the appointment tentatively got under way, Melanie had a revelation.

    “I am an expert with disability and Chayse had no idea. We ended up laughing at each other’s ignorance and naivety. Two hours later we were the best of buddies.”

    Chayse, who has worked in the industry for six years, says “sexpectations” are the biggest problem when it comes to new clients – people put too much pressure on guaranteeing “the big O”.

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    LISTEN: You can hear more from Melanie and Chayse on the BBC Access All podcast with Nikki Fox and Emma Tracey.

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    “You’ve got to figure out what is going to work,” just like any intimate relationship, he says.

    Before hiring Chayse, Melanie had no idea how her body might respond in an intimate setting, whether she would be able to get into a conducive position or whether fatigue would obliterate any enjoyment.

    “That was the whole reason I booked Chayse,” she says. “I didn’t want to go home with a guy from a bar and find out these things and be awkward, vulnerable and unsafe.”

    As it happens, she found she could achieve plenty of enjoyment with Chayse and didn’t have to limit herself.

    Another thing she discovered was that her legs can be unpredictable and “fling off the bed” and she often needs a physio session afterwards to refresh her limbs.

    “I’ve worked out that my legs need to be fastened to the bed beforehand and then there’s no worry,” she says.

    This raises questions about power and control.

    As a disabled woman in an unfamiliar house, Melanie is more vulnerable than most.

    “It was the first time I’d been naked in front of a man, outside of a hospital,” she says.

    Chayse, who has previously worked with those who have experienced trauma, says “creating a safe welcoming space where she’s in control,” is his top priority.

    But it’s not just the physical power imbalance where the vulnerability lies. Disability can sometimes infantilise people and make them feel unworthy of certain experiences that other people think of as just normal – some disabled people call this internalised ableism.

    These recent intimate encounters have gone on to give Melanie greater power in every aspect of her life.

    “I knew that by booking Chayse, and paying for a service, that I was in control. I knew that if Chayse treated me differently or did something I didn’t like he would stop.”

    She said if that did happen she knew she wouldn’t have booked with him again.

    But it does come at a financial cost.

    “It’s in the thousands,” Chayse says wryly of his 48-hour price. His hourly rate is about 400 Australian dollars (£211).

    Justifying the cost, he says: “What a lot of people don’t understand is when you’re seeing someone for 48 hours, as rewarding as it can be, you’re not doing anything else you want to do in your life.”

    But he adds that he does get a huge amount of satisfaction from his work.

    “Who doesn’t want to help people explore different things? Why can’t I be there for other people that need that and want and deserve to feel beautiful?”

    “It’s hard not to fall in love with Chayse,” Melanie admits. “But I have to remind myself that it is a professional relationship.”

    Melanie and Chayse have been seeing each other since January, but it’s not just about a quick fix and sex.

    As well as providing his skills as a sex worker, Chayse has also been talking with a dating coach to see how he can support Melanie navigate the “tango of dating” and help her build future romantic partnerships with other people.

    “I’m looking for a Chayse replacement. Somebody who loves me and loves what I like and does everything for free,” she says.

    “I never thought I would go on dating apps and talk to men online and now I’m doing it pretty much daily. My only regret is not doing it sooner.”

    For Melanie, the experience is more than just sexual liberation and she has got so much out of this ongoing experience she believes governments should pay and support disabled people in accessing sexual services.

    “My confidence has grown heaps, I’m happier than I’ve ever been and you can’t put a price on that life-changing experience.”

    And she has been excited to share her new experiences with friends and family.

    “I was a bit embarrassed to say anything at first, but it made such a huge difference in my life. I just couldn’t stop telling people and they’re really happy for me. I can’t wipe the smile off my face.”

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