WEIGHT: 53 kg
Sex services: Strap On, Role playing, Toys, Role Play & Fantasy, Hand Relief
The bars on Ponsonby Rd are pumping when I turn up at the Auckland office of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective, behind an unassuming frosted-glass window at the western end of Karangahape Rd. It's scrubbed up a bit now, this part of town, but it was long one of the city's main red-light districts, a synonym for sin. But when I arrived in Auckland, wide-eyed and wet-behind-the-ears, in the s, I had the impression that it was regarded almost fondly, as a place more saucy than seriously seedy.
If that was ever true, it isn't now. A decade after the decriminalisation of prostitution made police raids and instant arrest a memory, the city's sex trade is less about its customers' naughty pleasure than its workers' desperation. The highest concentration of street workers is to be found far to the south, around Hunters Corner in Papatoetoe and in the middle of Manurewa. The trade in the area prompted George Hawkins, then an MP, now on the Local Board, to introduce a bill which would allow the city council to ban sex workers from specific places.
The bill is still before a select committee as groups representing community and sex workers negotiate the details - a proposal to shunt the workers a kilometre away from their stamping ground doesn't look like it's going to fly. A lot of the workers live in the area. They don't want to come into K Rd because it's too far to go. In partnership with Charlotte Ama, from the Auckland City Mission's Outreach programme, Pickering works a night or two each week, keeping track of how the workers are doing, spotting new arrivals, inquiring after old hands.
They hand out "street safe" packs - small zip-lock bags of condoms and lubricants, which include pamphlets explaining how to work safely, and how to deal with an attacker the high heel raking down the shin is a wince-worthy image.
Society looks on them as outcasts but they are the most vulnerable people in our community and we need to look after them. At first glance, Alexis - a transgender worker I meet near the steps of a single-storey office building - doesn't exactly look vulnerable.