Friday, 1 May 2015

Skepticab's Brush With The Sex Industry

Photo of random escort girls, as chosen by Google
In my role as a Harlow cabbie I took a job today taking a woman to a nearby hotel.  I assumed she was a hotel employee and that she would be changing into her work uniform when she got there.  Having asked her what time she started work, she said that she worked for herself.  "What do you do?"  "I'm an escort"  "Oh, okay!"

I imagine the name she gave to my cab company may not match the one on her birth certificate, but customer confidentiality is important so I'll add an extra layer of protection and shall refer to her as, er, Candide.

The subject of her work interested me as it's something I have no experience of and only a limited understanding.  I am not judgemental and am very interested in what people do and the choices they make to get through life.  This set up a very intriguing conversation.

We chatted for half an hour or so, during which I learnt a number of things, such as the difference between a prostitute and an escort.  As I understand it, you enter into an agreement with a prostitute for sex and you get some of her/his time as part of the deal.  With an escort you pay for time, which may or may not include sex, subject to mutual consent.  This makes it a legal trade apparently, unlike prostitution.  I can certainly see that there is a fundamental difference in the position it puts the sex worker re vulnerability, given that there is no guarantee of sex.  However, I would have thought a frustrated male expecting sex might be a particularly dangerous creature, but having a hotel security guard in the building is a bonus.  An escort working from home doesn't get this support.

The area of security for the women and men working in the industry is my biggest area of concern (given that I know sod all about it).  My main interest here though is about the safety of the people in the profession, not about what they do.  I suspect there are horrible things going on, but I can only judge on what I see for myself.

So, Candide works in a hotel and pays for a room at the standard(ish) daily rate.  The hotel is aware of what is going on.  Some of the staff are clients, the most senior one gets a discount.  Candide doesn't buy drugs, although if a client gives her some she might partake.  Apparently some escorts do rely on drugs, which is apparently a highly dangerous road to go down and results in just chasing money to buy more drugs.  It sounds like Candide has her head screwed on (pun intended).

Now of course, whenever I take someone to or from a hotel I'll be wondering whether they are a sex worker or not.  You can't really ask outright but I don't want to be thinking that about people, not because it's dirty, but I wouldn't really want people thinking that about me.  Definitely a subject of conversation to broach carefully!

Although it sounds like a lucrative profession I felt awkward about asking Candide how much she charges, possibly because I didn't want to sound as though I was interested in using her services.  I'm definitely not a potential customer of anyone in the the industry, by the way.  It might have just been my British awkwardness about asking someone how much they earn, which seems bizarre given how she was telling me what she does for certain customers.  Apparently on the days she works she's happy to come away with between £400 and £1400.  I don't know how many days she works though.

Candide raised a very good point that, although she doesn't tell her family what she does for a living, she does tell some of her friends.  The standard reaction is of moral indignation.  However, when she tells them how much she can earn, their objections on moral grounds often disappear.  We agreed it smacks of hypocrisy.

The subject of age came up.  She is in her late twenties and has had other careers, including as a dancer.  She has a client in his 70s who she just spends time with now, as she only has sexual relations with men aged 17 to 57.  It hit me that I am only five or so years away from reaching this threshold.  Luckily it's not the slightest bit of an issue, other than to my self esteem.  But it still made me feel old (I'm 52!)

I appreciate that I am very naive when it comes to this line of work, however I really appreciated having the opportunity to have this conversation.  Being in my own space definitely helped; there's something about a cab environment that lets people open up about themselves in a non-threatening way and I appreciate Candide's candid approach and not looking for custom from me.  I wish Candide well in her career; not a route I would want to go down myself but I can see why some people choose it as a short-term profession.  Candide's long-term partner is a former client, who accepts her chosen career although she said he would like her to do something different, but recognises it would be hypocritical to insist, given how they met.  That's for them to work out though, not for me to judge.

I really enjoyed our chat during the journey.  She made the very good point that her job is mostly talking to people, with other things thrown in for free if she chooses.  It dawned on me that I chose driving a cab as a profession for the same reason.  I love it because I get paid for driving round talking to people.  The main difference is that I don't offer anything else.

Paul 30/4/15

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