I start off with some light observation, then go into a discussion of working in a (mostly) decriminalized system.
the lighter bits
I thought I was doing well to pack a black cocktail dress. Instead they want a black skirt/white shirt. Or the schoolgirl look (guess that’s universal). Stockings and high heels are also universal (that request I packed for).
Wash cloths do not exist in this country. One client told me they were “flannels” but I still don’t see them around except in travel stores. This is one of the items I left at home but I’ve bought one for myself. Since I don’t have wash cloths for my clients, I use towelettes, which is weird and cheap but what else can I do?
I’m attracting American attention over here. Not what I expected. I’ve seen more than just Americans but they certainly call a lot. They also tend to leave their manners in America (I’m assuming they have manners in the first place — which might be stretching things in some cases).
In America, we’ve trained our clients to love email (that, and the need for discretion makes email an ideal choice). Over here, it’s all phone all the time. Something I have to get used to. Few people bother to leave voicemails either. Texts are great though. Some of this has to do with the legal status of escort work — which I’ll get into in a moment.
Haven’t gotten a couples request yet. Not sure if it’s as big a thing over here as in America. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve noticed any escorts who advertise couples availability.
Yes, there are business-photo card ads in phone booths. While tempting — placing these adverts is illegal (not the work itself). Not worth the risk to me. There is a published adult guide with plenty of ads. I’ve considered that venue but the Summer 2009 issue just came out so I won’t bother. Yes, i bought it and will be mailing it back home as a keepsake after I get through calling some places of interest.
I noticed some domination ads in the window of my local laundromat. Trying to figure out how best to inquire and what a reasonable rate might be — assuming they’ll allow an escort ad. I’m guessing I’m beyond the price range of the general passerby, but why not? I didn’t come all the way over here just to do the same shit, different country (SSDC for future reference).
Should I post a notecard ad in a shop window, I’ll control the impulse to advertise “pram.” I’m not sure everyone is that much of a Monty Python fan. (“I’d like a bit of pram, please”.)
a mostly decriminalized system
This is a chicken-and-egg debate: the frank approach to sex or the current legal status of sex work. I don’t know England well enough to have an answer.
Sex is treated rather frankly here. It’s not overly glorified (though there is certainly a comic appreciation of it), it doesn’t seem too demonized. Sexual health and education seem to be top concerns, treated with that same frankness. I’ve seen some very factual ads for sexual health services. It’s almost like taking care of the tires on your car for added safety. People on the street don’t show lots of flesh (I haven’t gone clubbing so I don’t know the answer to that); I feel utterly safe except when trying to figure out the crosswalks or dodging someone’s waving cigarette. I’m perfectly fine taking the Tube at night — the one time I was in NYC I wouldn’t even go on the subway during the day. Though pickpocketing is a concern throughout Europe, I don’t feel that my femininity makes me a particular target for assault like I do in America. This may just be the initial impression of a tourist who doesn’t live here, I don’t know.
Sex work is all around as well. My first living space was in Covent Garden, near SoHo, a notorious sex-work area. There were plenty of sex shops (full of books — remember?), phone booth ads, walk-ups, some massage parlors and Stringfellows. Presumably plenty of flats with independent working girls inside. Again, there seems to be a live-and-let-live attitude. While sex work can be vilified in England — I’ve certainly seen this online with bloggers and news columnists so I know the attitude exists — the everyday person seems to pass it by as a part of life.
From what I’ve gathered: street work (aka kerb-crawling) is illegal from either the provider or client role. Brothels are supposedly illegal, though they exist. Two independents girls cannot work out of the same flat on the same day (ideally they each see clients every other day). If you’re an indie working off the Internet or print advertising (not in a phone booth), you and your clients are safe. If you’re low-volume your neighbors probably won’t even notice your foot traffic. Agencies are perfectly legal as outcall-only establishments.
There is a great fuss around trafficked women, particularly Asian and Eastern European girls. We have that in America but since most sex work is forced underground it’s not as easy to spot. On the surface, lip service is given by the escort community that trafficking is not acceptable. There is even an annoymous tipline men can call if they suspect coercion. Unfortunately, the trafficking hysteria has resulted in Parliament attempting to pass a bill mimicking the Swedish model which totally criminalizes the client and decriminalizes the provider. Thanks to the efforts of the IUSW that bill has been modified to punish only those clients who have willfully engaged with trafficking victims — which requires quite a bit of proof before prosecution. One of the key players in this lobbying effort told me that England wanted to push for more US-style legislation. It hasn’t worked over here, why on earth would another country want to import our stupid prostitution laws?
Currently, the provider remains rather free from government intervention. That’s led to a number of effects.
People assume that a decriminalized system automatically floods the market with millions of girls who can’t wait to be hookers.
It makes it easier to sample and then leave the work, but those who are drawn to it are and those who have no taste for it don’t bother.
There are a lot of escorts and escort agencies in London (whom I view just as skeptically as in the US), but there are still plenty of clients to go around. If anything, Kimberlee said that the economy has had more of an effect on flooding the market (based on her last couple trips) than the legal status. This has driven rates slightly down. However, most girls are still charging mid-range rates (except on CraigsList and AdultWork). So the legal status gives great benefits to the worker without some of the drawbacks some people worry about. The economy has done more to beat up the business than anything else.
In the US, girls are in the same economic boat but with the added burden of fearing arrest and having their lives ruined. We see the same thing in the US — more girls who often charge lower-end rates (instead of mid-range rates) due to the recent economy. Established girls aren’t feeling the pinch as much as the newbies. I think this is true for almost any business.
One of the nicest things about this system is that it allows for easier networking. Girls aren’t so paranoid about meeting each other. Organizations can form to help sex workers without having their hands tied for fear of being charged with felonies. I’ll point out one of the big benefits of this: it reduces harm just by freely allowing community to happen.
It is a buyers’ market though, no mistake about that. Due to the legal status of seeing an escort, clients have no fear of picking and choosing who they want to see. Naturally, the best clients are those who actually read your site and like you as a person, as opposed to impulse shoppers.
There are a lot of abrupt and rather rude questions on the phone. I’ve got to get over my squeamishness and paranoia over discussing sex on the phone (after spending my entire adult life trying not to discuss sex and money). The same principles hold true over here too — guys who call and ask detailed questions about anal sex aren’t good clients and really aren’t who I want to see anyway. Of course, some of these calls lead into the land of phone-sex-for-free which is another issue as well.
As someone who has always hated talking on the phone, this takes getting used to. As does the lack of advance scheduling. If you want to work on a given day, you’re pretty much stuck by the damn phone.
There is virtually no screening. Many guys don’t even want to give a name. They know more about me than I know about them. I don’t like this imbalance for one big reason: should something bad happen, I have no way of reporting him. So far, the worst has been no-calls, no-shows — which apparently is a common occurrence. Since I have little information on them, it’s difficult to put them on a bad-client list. It’s certainly the big downside of the decriminalized system. The worker still needs protection, even if from time-wasters who block out time I could’ve been seeing actual paying clients. (A no-call no-show is one of the best ways to piss off an escort.)
I’m looking forward to trying out an agency. I’ve applied to a few agencies in London who seemed reputable. Two responded and I went on one interview. I have a feeling that not only was I too “old” (since when is 33 cougar territory?) but that girl had already interviewed 10 other girls that day. It’s a buyer’s market with agencies too.
She did ask if I wanted to go to “parties” with cocaine. Hell no. Sex is included in my time-fee (if mutually desired), putting drugs in my body is not. Two drinks is my absolute limit and that’s as substance-abusing as it gets. It was disturbing but a good eye-opener. “Party” in the UK and the US mean quite the same thing, good to know.
On the other hand, she (representing the agency) was very careful to make sure I knew I would not be required to engage in any particular sexual act and that I had full client-refusal at any time. She wanted me to know the agency was representing me and I paid them a fee for that, but they were not profiting off my work or my body. Before you scoff at that, she was making clear that they weren’t in the business of coercion — only in the business of making money. Party or no party, I can handle that.
Whether or not this was all lip service is hard to say since I was not hired.
But I am going to work with an agency in Newcastle who seems to be my speed. I (and they) sell time and prefer women who have outside interests. They’re also very flexible with their scheduling, actually have days where they’re closed and aren’t open beyond 10pm. Sounds very good to me. I should be there in another couple of weeks.
One thing London does seem to have is male escorts for women (more than just Cole Carter). Maybe this is because of the frank approach to sex, I don’t know. But I do know this is a chance for me to find out what it’s like to be a client. (Gotta see if one of those construction workers does a little moonlighting!)
Understand when I say “male escorts” I mean professional male escorts. In the US there are very few professional male escorts — either very old men who are swingers or very young guys who seem likely to steal the stereo on the way out the door. Not what I’m looking for. (There are a couple in the US that I really want, but they’re currently beyond my discretionary income, sadly.)
My eyes were opened to this because of meeting Andrew Rosetta, a former male escort. Though he saw men as well (professionally gay), he did have a lot of female clients. Yes boys, he lived the ultimate male fantasy. I’ll discuss him and his book later at greater length, but it’s a great read and gives a good look at sex work in London from both male and female perspectives.
Again, I have no idea how much of this might be London as opposed to the rest of England. Nor am I saying this is paradise. It is, however, a much nicer and easier way to work than what one experiences in the US. The only real stress right now is whether or not the guy will actually show up.