Kate Iselin is a writer, provocateur, sex worker, and sex-worker-rights activist whose work you should have read in The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, The Age, and other publications too numerous to name here. Google her. She’s prolific. She’s also one of the most entertaining dinner companions you could ever hope to have, so when she recently came over for dinner, she was kind enough to sit for a portrait and agreed to answer a barrage of my questions.

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Portrait of Kate Iselin by Ross Floate

When are mechanical typewriters going to come back into fashion?

I’m surprised they already haven’t. They absolutely seem like something that should be available for purchase in Millennial Pink and Traditional Wood Grain at Typo for $24.99.

Ever notice how Matt Damon needs to be saved all the time in Hollywood films? What is it about him that make people care enough to put in so much effort?

He’s a white man and white men are statistically the demographic of person that the world seems to care the most about. Also, he’s a blank slate on to which men can project their own fantasies of being rescued.

You have a love/hate relationship with social media. Can you explain what’s to love about it these days?

I don’t use a lot of social media at the moment, but I do like Instagram. Instagram allows me to look at beautiful things and see snapshots of my friend’s lives without having to also read people’s stupid opinions or expose myself to interactions with strangers.

What would it take to get you to run for political office?

Complete erasure of my personal, financial, and internet history along with Australia’s government and society being totally dismantled.

What’s been the most pleasantly surprising thing about being an “out” sex worker?

Getting to hear from other workers who can relate to my experiences of working, or hearing from people who are friends, family, or clients of workers and who have learnt a bit more about sex work from reading my work. Probably one of the nicest messages I’ve ever received was from someone who had an older family member who was a worker, but had passed away some time ago, and the person who wrote to me said that my writing had helped them understand more about the industry and what might have motivated their relative to start work. It made me feel like my writing had a greater purpose and meaning beyond just being entertaining, which I suppose is a goal for any writer or communicator. Also, being an out sex worker means that if I ever have a client who pesters me with dumb questions about whether or not my family knows I work, I can respond with, ‘Yes, they do know. And so does EVERYONE ELSE WHO BUYS THE NEWSPAPER.’

Also, being an out sex worker means that if I ever have a client who pesters me with dumb questions about whether or not my family knows I work, I can respond with, ‘Yes, they do know. And so does EVERYONE ELSE WHO BUYS THE NEWSPAPER.’

You’ve written extensively about dating, and a great deal about online dating. What one feature could we add, change, or remove from online dating to make it not suck so damned much?

I’m a big fan of online dating, but what I will say is that no app or website wants you to succeed in finding love because then you will stop using the service. Apps are generally designed to keep us using them for as long as possible, so success in online dating is also dependent on the user realizing their goals are totally at odds with the service they’re using. When you think about it, that’s kind of our experience with a lot of technology.

When are you most at peace?

I have never known peace.

Zombies: Fast or slow?

Fast if we’re talking about zombie films, but slow if we’re talking about a real-life zombie apocalypse situation that I need to survive.

Do you ever think about how simple an invention the nail is but how fucked we’d be as a civilisation if we forgot how to make them any more?

Well, there are heaps of older buildings in Japan made without any nails whatsoever, so there’s a chance we would still be okay if there was somehow a worldwide nail shortage. Or we could just destroy all the buildings we already have and live naked in the woods, which would really only be an improvement to our current way of life.

What is the biggest misconception about sex-work held by the general public?

There are some really hideous and untrue misconceptions about sex work held by some feminists and Christians, but I don’t believe those extremist views are representative of the general public (or indeed, all feminists or all Christians). I think the general public is mostly just surprised to meet sex workers or see media we produce – the biggest misconception for a lot of people is that we don’t really exist as real people in the world, outside of brothels and hotel rooms and strip clubs. That doesn’t necessarily come from hatred, either, I think people just don’t expect that a sex worker might be sitting next to them on the bus, or be in their class at uni, or be interacting with them at another job we might have.

Which public intellectual alive today would you most like to see vanish without a trace?

Myself.

Questionnaires like this always have a thing in them about dinner parties. What the fuck is up with that?

I believe that we take on the qualities of the five people we spend the most time with, so maybe questions about who we’d invite to a dinner party reveal what kind of qualities we’d wish to have, or where we aspire to see ourselves sitting in society. For what it’s worth, my five dream dinner party guests are Divine, Quentin Crisp, RuPaul, Terrence McKenna, and Monica Lewinsky.

My dog is categorically the best dog. How much do you agree?

I completely agree. Having been scared of dogs my entire life, your dog is one of about three in the entire world I feel comfortable around due to his overall smallness, his friendly nature, and very high cuteness factor.


Like I said, Kate’s work appears regularly in publications both online and on dead trees. Keep an eye out!

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