By Raven Bowen
In Case You Missed It…Teela*
Q: So, What do you do?
A: I’m the Director of Research and so I look after other research agendas, I facilitate and encourage research activities. My job is increasingly admin related but I try to keep myself thinking that I’m a research full time and a teacher… but the reality of it is that it’s the other way around, which you don’t really expect. You expect time to do research and autonomy but you don’t get that. Totally disillusioned I guess, LOL!
Q: And your favourite colour?
A: Purple, purple flowers and the book “The Colour Purple” it was one of my first and favourite ever novels. Even though I don’t own anything purple at all. I used to have a purple car when I was younger.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: Being a vegetarian for most of my life. To carnivores that sounds ridiculous but since the age of 11 I became aware of animal rights and since that age it’s probably the only thing that I’ve done consistently well over my whole life.
Q: Why did you choose the sex industry as a topic for your intellectual pursuits?
A: Well I think it chose me. I’ve always been one for the underdog, I’ve always been one to shout if you’ve got a voice and I’ve always done that. I went out to New York and volunteered with an HIV/AIDS organization when I was at university and I met sex workers who were volunteers and they just totally blew me away. Their lives, the stigma… and I was just like this is a cool group of people and I came back to the UK at looked at things from an academic point of view and that passion for sex workers just stayed with me and opened up the whole debate for me around sexuality and sex work and why this group of people get so stigmatized and outlawed and are the targets of our angst around sexuality. I was also very interested in the contradictions in capitalism and sex work being part of that, so I think it grabbed me politically and personally as it relates to regulation, policy and you see the inequalities.
Q: The last thing you laughed about?
A: Well it’s my mum’s birthday today so I was laughing with her about her bucket list. She’s 69 today and we had a laugh as she’s writing her 10-year bucket list. She’s just got one thing on it at the moment and I thought that was pathetic. I want her to add a Caribbean cruise for the whole family so it becomes our bucket list!
Q: What’s your favourite food?
A: Oh Curry! Indian food is my favourite food.
Q: Your current project or pursuit?
A: I have another Wellcome Trust project on homicide and mental health which I’ve just started. My other pursuits as in lifetime pursuits is that I’m really into camping at the moment and getting living in the outdoors is part of my agenda. We’ve got our greenhouse and our chickens and I fire pit so we try to be in the outdoors as much as possible.
Q: What’s your biggest regret?
A: I’m one of those people who don’t really have regrets. Roll with the punches I’d say. Not to say my life has been all happy with flowers but I don’t dwell in the past. Things happen for a reason.
Q: So Facebook or Twitter?
A: Oh definitely Facebook for family and friends only, but Twitter is kind of the devil! I think that forcing complicated stuff into 140 characters… it’s the devil.
Q: What challenges you the most about your sex work related work?
A: Never having enough time and trying to make sense of something …so doing something decent within a finite amount of time. But in terms of sex work research has always been the challenge in trying to make changes and how academics are in a position to do that but are also very constrained, particularly in this area, so much time is taken up trying to quiet down the critics that the actual change can kind of get lost. So the challenge is getting past all of that and trying to make small steps and move things forward nationally, internationally and trying to be the critical voice. The challenge is the revolving door, sometimes you see 5 years later the same stuff comes up among a different set of politicians. I’ve seen the same issues about 2 or 3 times now and it’s the same stuff and in all that time you’re thinking where’s the change? It’s like flares, they’ll come back around again. Individually it can be a bit deflating but collectively we must take things forward with good evidence-based research.
Q: And the last time you cried?
A: I don’t know probably everyday over something, LOL! I definitely cried when George Michael died. That definitely made me sad and looking back on his videos and music from Wham! it’s really sad.
Q: Cat or dog person?
A: Oh dog! My partner’s got a cat that instantly took a dislike to me…it’s the rival meeeooowwww! They’re feral animals! If you fall over and had a stroke they would probably eat you! You can’t take them for a walk or anything, what’s the point of a cat? I do not get it!
Q: Who understands you?
A: Probably my dad and my partner.
Q: What’s the last book or article you read?
A: I read a philosophy book over the weekend called ‘Constellations of Philosophy’ by Alain Botton but to my son and I read the Famous Five series from the 1960s.
Q: Childhood Fear?
A: Snakes, massively! I’ve had one around my neck last year when I had animal parties for the kids and I didn’t want them to have my fear but as soon as the head started moving I had to get it off me!
Q: What did your last text say?
A: My last text was ‘Do you want me to make you a cup of tea?’
Q: One thing that your work is aimed to do for the sex industry?
A: Provide a space for alternative voices.
Q: The meaning of life in one word?
Q: The last thing you Googled?
A: The nine times table and the Mad Hatter for a costume for my son!
Q: What do/did you want to be when you grow/grew up?
A: I wanted to work with the law. I wanted to be a solicitor or a barrister when I was a teenager. It’s bizarre and I just thought it would be way to boring because I’m far too liberal to do that kind of stuff. It’s far too much of a serious profession for me.
*Original interview conducted February 13th, 2017
Next week: Alex Feis-Bryce, Founding CEO and Advisor to National Ugly Mugs, now Advisor to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.
Please Note: The Goal of the ’21 Questions’ series is to get to know sex industry professionals, other parties, and researchers in our network. The series will alternate profiling interesting people who support the human and labour rights, dignity and respect of those involved in sex industries.