Meet the graduate sex workers
I found a pimp who wanted PR and chatted to university educated girls choosing to make money on the side as high class sex workers. (Appeared on TheDebrief, sadly defunct now)
“It’s weird because... in my personal life, I’ve never had a one night stand. I’ve never felt comfortable going home with a stranger I’ve met at a club or the SU. Escorting was my alter ego, my Sasha Fierce. It was exciting...it’s so different to that cheap and cheerful students lifestyle, it was a little peek into an exclusive world ...people do things in different ways, and it’s quite interesting to find out how they do things. Ha! I’m trying to think of a polite way of putting that!” - Amy 23, and a clinical science graduate from Britain and ex- high class escort. Here’s what else happened when I met some of the estimated 38% of British sex workers that have university degrees.
I wanted to talk to British girls in the sex industry who had choices. Who hadn’t had their passports nicked, but still chose to entertain men for cash on their Fridays instead of partying with their mates or gritting their teeth and getting a bar job.
After many an unreturned email I found Peter, the friendliest middle class suburban dad of a ‘pimp’ (well apart from the bit when he smilingly threatened to ruin my career if I printed anything he didn’t see first) - who obviously struggled being labelled the 'p' word.
We met at a members club along with his drop dead gorgeous assistant who said she was an advisor to the girls. Over champagne it transpired his company had shareholders, used SEO and charged an average of £400 an hour for the girls - he took 30%. He decided I was harmless / scared of him enough to let me meet some of them...
First I met Amy*, 22 - Peter’s babe of a sidekick from before. Turned out she was an ex-escort who now worked full-time in clinical science, a confidant for new recruits and advisor to Peter. Dressed in skinny jeans, mid heeled knee-high boots and a loose white shirt suggesting a tiny waist and ample chest she had pale dewy skin, minimal make-up and auburn hair hanging in waves - I’d expected Amy Childs but instead got a Karen Elson! Bar a northern twang (she wouldn’t tell me where she was from) I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d gone to school with Emma Watson. But prostitute? Never.
“Doing what I did was such a confidence boost. Especially when you have people that want to see you again... it’s like... they want you. I think its helped with my people skills as well, definitely. Plus I’ve made loads of contacts.”
She became an escort after the Student Loan Company transferred her too much at once and she learnt she wouldn’t have any more coming in to cover her standing orders. “I thought ok I have to make about three grand in 2 months. And I just thought... why not? I did watch Diary of a Call Girl before I started! I only thought I’d do it for about twelve weeks but ended up doing it for two years.”
So how did it work? “After my first time I realised - always carry heels in your bag. There’s nothing more nerve wracking than ‘clip-clop clip-clop’ through a hotel lobby. You want to be approachable, sweet, and someone you can sit and have a conversation with. I’d never dress like I was going to a club.”
“When it becomes regular, drinking champagne with interesting gentlemen from all over the world - it is somewhat intimate, but it’s more fun. Then 2 days later, it’s someone else. I think the fact you see so many different people keeps it so you don’t get too attached. It was my alter ego part of me, having this secret lifestyle but it wasn’t my everyday falling in love side.”
“I did hear about a girl in another agency who got married though. She’d been seeing this guy for 18 months exclusively beforehand. It always makes me look twice at men with younger women...”
“It was one heck of an experience but I’m not gonna brag about it. I’d never want my family to know.” Now in a serious relationship with a guy she met outside of work, she doesn’t plan on sharing her past exploits with him.
The next girl I meet is a shy Caitlyn.* A psychology graduate from Sussex university in her mid-twenties, she’s been working in the industry for a few years. A petite brunette, she had an suggestion of alternative about her (was that an old face piercing I spied?) and I sensed her black ensemble; leggings, ankle boots and blouse was a conservative choice. Unsure where a future career would take her she enjoyed the sex, the cash, and how her job gave her more time for reading, exercise and painting alongside her part-time admin job.
“I knew some people who did it, and I fancied something different...My first guy was such a long time ago I can’t even remember now! He was nice, I was nervous. I remember thinking this is gonna be difficult but I met him and he was a gent. It was easy, I remember thinking ‘why didn’t i do this sooner?!’ I found it was rewarding and fun to do. Most of the clients are nice normal guys, and it's something I feel comfortable doing.”
“I think the misconception of this industry is that it’s peoples last option. It’s not that for me. I’m lucky to be able to do it, it gives me so much freedom and time. There’s a lot of people who couldn’t do this job but that doesn’t mean everyones driven to it for extreme reasons. If I didn’t do this job I’d be able to live in London, but I’d have to work a lot more hours.”
I felt sympathetic when she talked about keeping her life a secret from her mates - which include a ‘non-serious’ boyfriend of a few months: “it is difficult to accept, I’m normally just a bit vague. It would be nice if I could talk about what I do over dinner though...”
Caitlyn felt familiar, she was about my age and easily could’ve been a friend’s friend. I was surprised at how cool she said she was with the physical aspects of the job, she said her favourite part was “when you’ve finished and you feel like they’re satisfied.” Perhaps judgementally, I felt like rather than a victim of patriarchy she was a victim of a quarter life crisis. Degree educated and a bit flummoxed, it just happened her job while she was working it all out was having sex with rich men.
Finally I chatted with Ariana; an effervescent million-mile-a-minute 21 year old Canadian studying for her international relations degree online. She wore a smart blue shirt with a pearl necklace, skinny jeans and ballet pumps. She reminded me of an American exchange student from uni I used to have a laugh with in lectures - understatedly hot and friendly but a million miles from a sexed-up bedroom-freak or overly made up reality TV star. She escorted to fund her studies, and for the kicks: “you don’t know where you’re going to be the next day - I think it’s fun and exciting. I’m 21... might as well! This is being more responsible than I was at college and getting paid for it instead!”
She told me about living in Switzerland for a year after high school where she added German to her French and English vocabulary and her aspirations to work at the Canadian embassy or an NGO.
She had a couldn’t-make-it-up tale of finding inspiration watching Pretty Woman, and after some research found a travel website that hooked up holidaymakers with female companions: “I actually went on a date to Dubai with a Saudi Arabian guy for 5 days. I mean I’m not completely nuts, I checked him out online and made sure he was real and not a scary person first!”
“My first ever client just wanted a back massage, and to talk about the girl he was trying to date... He was like 60 and he had cupcakes! I would say you don’t do anything sexual with 40% of people... There was one client I’d always see for 2 hours at the same hotel on Friday nights, we’d just sit on the bed and watch TV together. And he’d always give me £200 extra! I don’t love the intimate stuff but I don’t hate it either. If I’m not comfortable with doing something I just say no.”
“The weirdest thing about the job is meeting someone and them touching me like minutes after, I mean I’m fine with it but you’re just programmed not to be.” Julia Roberts met her prince charming at work though, does she hope for the same? “That would be awesome but, it hasn’t happened! I don’t think it will. And I’m happy with my boyfriend.”
Her boyfriend Ryan is also an escort: “He gets it. He’s like the coolest boyfriend not to be bothered by it. I just don’t tell him about how much money they have!” And her parents? “Would KILL me if they knew I was doing this! I have more money than they expect though so I tell them I work at a gentlemen's club as a bartender.”
“I’ve actually been writing a little book about my escapades - you can’t make some of this stuff up.” Anecdotes include tissue paper stuck up the bum (“I was like oh my god, shall I tell him? I can’t handle his face when I tell him. And I just thought, did you feel the breeze? Did you find it later?!”) and clients backing out of orgies at the last minute.
“I’d call myself a feminist, I always feel empowered. But if I told my friends they’d be like ‘you’re disgusting, you should be ashamed of yourself.’”
Operating in surely one of the highest echelons in the prostitution industry across the world, the girls quashed my expectations of what I thought sex workers would be like. And they seemed aware of that. Peter sat in on our chats, and when he took a call or popped to the loo I pushed for the worst bits of the job. Their greatest concern seemed to be family and friends finding out, rather than troubles with the law or worries about future relationships.
“They always say: ‘these poor girls’” added Amy “but I’m telling you now these girls know exactly what they’re doing, it’s all about them.”