Students from the University of Sydney’s Wesley College have apologised to sex workers after a massage parlour was infiltrated during an initiation activity by students who threatened the privacy of staff by taking unsolicited photographs.
It is the second scandal to hit the 99-year-old college this week after reports that a journal was distributed to students that labelled female residents as “bitches” and “hoes” and named students who had allegedly slept with the most men.
First-year residents were instructed by the college’s orientation week organisers to get a massage at Kings Court Massage on Broadway in Sydney’s inner west and provide organisers with photographic proof they had entered the establishment.
In February, a group of eight students wearing Wesley shirts arrived at the reception of the venue as part of a college “scavenger hunt” and began shouting over each other and demanding staff attention, King’s Court management claims.
When informed that photography was prohibited to protect the anonymity of workers, administration staff and customers, a male student allegedly offered $10 for a worker to put a hand on his shoulder while a photograph was taken. When told this kind of “degrading request” was inappropriate, he signed a business card, had a photograph taken and left.
Another group also attempted to take a photograph in the foyer despite being told to pay for a massage or leave.
Bianca*, a general manager at Kings Court, said it was appalling her workplace was treated as a “novelty for the amusement of privileged adolescents” as the “threat their ignorance poses to the protection of our workers’ anonymity is a real one”.
“The behaviour of both these groups was ignorant and thoughtless, but it’s not entirely their fault: it’s the fault of the people who organised the event; people who ought to be more mature and more educated than first year students in their first week of university.”
Chelsea*, a 20-year-old sex worker and student at the University of Sydney who has been working at Kings Court for a year and half, said discretion is paramount in her job.
She said she hides if a client even pulls out their phone in the Girls Club Area, as she is fearful of fellow students finding out what she does for work and “outing” her.
“Those pictures could be circulated. They could destroy someone’s life … we get to a point where you feel safe and then something like this comes along and shakes that safety a little,” she said.
A Media Etiquette and Protocol document distributed to first year students warned residents who “tarnish the reputation of the college body as a whole” by speaking to media that they would be reprimanded by the College Master. Students also revealed that during the first week of university, female students were encouraged to stand and “make out” with the men they had “hooked up” with the night before in front of their peers, and sing chants with lyrics including: “Sancta [Sophia College] lies on the floor, and Women’s [College] just play with their titties all day.”
Another student said she was terrified of a male the senior students had labelled “the rapist” during her first week of university, only to be told after that it was a “joke”.
“It’s not normal and should never be normalised,” an ex-student said. “It’s all about tradition in all colleges but when you move past that fact and open your eyes, it’s just insanity.”
Lisa Sutherland, Master of Wesley College, said she was taking the complaints seriously and that student leaders had met with management from Kings Court to understand the effects of their actions upon the sex workers. An apology letter to Kings Court by students from the Wesley College Students Club reads: “As a college which seeks to create a safe and enjoyable living environment for its many female residents, we of course would like to engage in any process of education which would result in greater respect and understanding.” A spokeswoman for Kings Court said they are willing to take the apology in good faith and would be open to collaborate on sex-positive events in the future.