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.

freely working

People assume that a decriminalized system automatically floods the market with millions of girls who can’t wait to be hookers.

Not really.

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.

the clients

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.)

agencies

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.

male escorts

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.

14 thoughts on “work differences: london

  1. 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.

    Yeah, tell me about it! **pinched** But with school almost over, I can concentrate on more advertising and getting my name out there, etc. The phone thing and not having names is something that would definitely unnerve me. Although the “namelessness” more than the phone thing, which I can get over.

  2. Aspasia,

    So far, other than flakiness, my UK Internet clients all been just as sane and safe as US clients. In fact, they’re better-trained in one way and pay up front without being asked.

    Advertising is manadatory here due to the amount of girls. The US is catching up but the US’s emphasis still seems to be on personality — which is really to the girl’s advantage. Here looks are generally more ephasized than anything else (my impression) and so many of the girls seem interchangable (or everyone is using the same set of stock photos!).

    The phone issue is certainly a personality quirk. I’ve known plenty of US girls who loathe email and are great on the phone. You and I prefer the written word — not surprising given our personalities.

    I have noticed that higher-end escorts who seem established don’t post phone numbers. For a mid-range touring girl like me — phone is essential.

    XX

  3. Incredibly interesting comparison, Amanda.

    I hadn’t even thought about the inhibition of screening capabilities that might exist in the absence of criminalization. You have to wonder how much of a hit you’d take for continuing on with your original screeing tactics if decriminalization were to occur here.

    Keep up the great reporting and stay safe.

  4. Alexa,

    Some screening is recommended for hotel calls — full name so one can check with the front desk and verify the caller is indeed a guest.

    But since it’s been this way in the UK for a while, things have probably hit their natural levels. It would take a while in the US for girls to get over screening. And frankly, screening is still a good thing because it’s a safety net.

    Try convincing guys of that.

    On the other hand, since a girl won’t get arrested, none of her information will ever be subject to a search warrant (unlike the US).

    Good clients here might not give all their information, but they still do a personality-screen by emailing in advance, talking and letting the girl know what they’re like as a person. There is safety in that. Course, I’ve already learned that doesn’t mean they won’t no-call no-show — in which case I’d love to have their full information to submit to a bad-client list.

    XX

  5. I can relate to the lack of screening…

    In Canada, people who are willing to give the full info required by US escorts are a tiny minority. Most are okay with a board handle and references, or in lieu of board handle, just references, and a contact number – and very understanding about it. But any real info? Nope. Not happening.

  6. Thais,

    I can see that happening in decriminalized countries. Are there still the issues with problem clients? Or because it’s more likely she’ll report a real problem to the authorities means they’re more likely to behave? (Not counting street workers who I know still face danger in Canada.)

    XX

  7. Amanda,

    I don’t know how well and if the reporting to authorities really works. I have not heard of such cases. Because we really have legalization and not decrim, a lot of women seem to be wary of dealing with police unless a serious physical assault took place.

    I know the Black Lists are well spread, both at the escort and street level (handle, the name he gave, contact number, details of communication that took place, address if went to a residence for the former; car model and plate number for the latter). And that the reference system seems to be the best safety model at the moment.

  8. Thais,

    Still a shame that girls feel that can’t really go to the authorities. As a legal business, that should be a given right. Discussion for another day.

    The reference system….yes. That still works. Harder for a traveler to completely tap into though. Good for locally established girls.

    XX

  9. Regarding male escort in London. In reality there are only a few professional independent male escorts out there. London/UK seems to have more scam websites for male hopefuls, who are promissed business through advertising, but I doubt they get any return on their investment.

    The concept of male escort, although not new, it is still in developing stages at least in the UK. The trend in London is growing, but ultimately most of the business goes to just a few male escorts who have the right marketing power.

  10. Brian,

    Compared to the US, there are still way more professional male escorts (for women) in the UK. And of course those who know how to market themselves are going to get the attention! Naturally! Though the scam sites for newbie male escorts is deplorable. Scam sites for female escorts operate a bit differently.

    The US is starting to catch up with a new crop of male escorts — but the lag here is about women, not the men. That lag exists in both cultures. Time and media attention will change that.

    XX

  11. On wash cloths …

    I know you’re long-gone from Britain now, but I had to pop up with this. I learned it when I lived in Britain (for 4 years), a while ago.

    My local friends explained to me that they regarded their “flannels” as strictly personal items, as personal as a tooth brush they said (or — I’ll add — perhaps as personal as Linus’s security blanket). You don’t share your flannel any more than you would share your tooth brush; and you take your own flannel with you while traveling just as you would take your own tooth brush. Clean person A’s flannel, and then let person B use it? Unthinkable!

    Obviously, you no longer need to know where to buy them in Britain (fortunately for me, because I don’t remember buying or replacing my wash cloths — or towels — while I was there!). But I thought you might find this unexpected-by-Americans British viewpoint interesting, even now.

    RSRD

  12. RSRD,

    Yet somehow towels aren’t personal and it’s okay for a hotel to offer bath towels? Aren’t flannels exactly the same thing, but smaller? Cultural differences strike again. I’d still just prefer if flannels were offered at all hotels worldwide.

    I did find flannels in a drugstore and I bought one for me but no way could I buy enough for clients.

    XX

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