Part-memoir, part-autobiography and a big part titillating and gossipy (and I mean that in a positive way), Laid Bare recounts Rachel Francis’ two decades in the New Zealand prostitution scene and covering one of the biggest social changes to happen in New Zealand in recent times – the decriminalisation of prostitution. No, this isn’t a work of high literature, but it’s highly readable and often a lot of fun.
The book’s biggest asset is Francis’ enthusiasm for her life and her former line of work. She obviously had no compunctions entering prostitution and her honesty and zeal for the work clearly paid dividends with the respect of family and acquaintances, as well as with clients and in the business. There is lots of nuggety information here about the prostitution business in New Zealand, its history throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and the ins and outs…errr…nuts and bolts… oh hell, puns are unavoidable in this review really… the day to day of conducting your business as a sex worker. Francis clearly believes in the rights of a woman to choose what they do with their own bodies – whether that involves selling it, or not, but this is no glorified account of sex work. She seems to have been smart enough to avoid the worst side of the life and to know exactly why to stay away from the temptations of other vices, such as drugs (as an example).
There’s also a side of New Zealand celebrity here that is somewhat amusing (amongst being somewhat off-putting!) – no naming of names but the predilections of several interesting characters are described, sometimes in rather more detail than one really wants to know (you’ll never look at worms the same, believe me), and other times in detail that will probably have you laughing hysterically (Mr Moo, I’m talking to you).
One thing there definitely is here is detail. If graphic sexual detail is really off-putting to you then this is not your gig. One has to assume though that if it isn’t, you probably wouldn’t be picking this book up in the first place. Aside from that I really have to mention the illustrations of vintage erotic postcards. They are simply awesome.
You can buy Laid Bare directly from Rachel Francis via (a gentle caution that the site may be considered not safe for work, discussion of prostitution, etc).