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Here is a guest post from Bibi an Independent Escort working in Leeds. Here she tells her own story of how she entered into sex work, her attitudes to sex-work, clients, life opportunities, stigma and violence. She finishes of with what she believes could be done to improve her life. This is part of the Escorting Lives series of guest blog posts. If you have any contributions then please contact the editor.
My name is Bibi and I am 35. I work as an independent escort in Leeds. I began my escorting journey around 3 years ago, it had certainly never been an ambition of mine and I really had no opinion on the sex industry, my sum total experience of prostitution was from tv shows like ‘Band of Gold’ and ‘Secret diary of a call girl’. It really did not feature in my life in the slightest. However sometimes life takes rather huge leaps and twists and turns and after a spectacularly bad relationship where I was up to my eyeballs in debt and where my fulltime job wage barely touched the sides I decided to do something about it.
What to do? Well getting a traditional second job didn’t seem a likely option as I worked shifts and we had just started down the long road of recession. At the time I had a friend who did glamour modelling and she suggested I give it a go… I laughed to begin with as I am a larger lady however I do have a fine big pair of bazookas and an adventurous side so I gave it a whirl. I was making a bit of money this way when someone suggested I do webcamming or directchat or phone services. I went down the directchat side of things and pretty soon I had gentlemen asking if I would do paid meets.
I thought about it for a while, could I should I? At the time I was doing some online dating and to be quite honest many of my ‘dates’ really were after abit of leg over and not much else…. you know the one…a couple of dinners out and drinks, back to his, back to mine and maybe another date but probably not. When I sat and thought about it, there seemed something much more honest about just being upfront and saying ‘Here’s some money lets go to bed’ and none of this ‘I’ll call you’ malarkey.
So I agreed to meet a gentleman from a well-known escorting website, he had lots of good feedback and seemed polite and respectful. We met for an hour and I presumed like probably many do, when they know nothing of this industry and the people involved in it, that he would be a grubby mac wearing type and he would expect me to pleasure him. WRONG!
He was a smartly dressed, clean, mature gentleman who wanted to spend most of his hour pleasing me… Yes I had an hour of unexpected and surprising orgasms and £100 to show for it. Afterwards I waited for the fear and shame to kick in. It never did, I was excited and exhilarated!
The same day I changed my services to escort and set my stall up as it were. Now 3 years on I am fulltime, I don’t want anyone to think prostitution is a total bed of roses, no Pretty woman here, I was ‘outed’ from my main job and I felt too upset and worried to fight for my right to stay employed. It felt the best thing to do would be to resign and pray that I could escort fulltime. So far I seem to be ok. I pay my bills and I pay my tax (yes tax payer here)!
The best things about my job are the hours. I can work when I like. I can do as many or as few meets as I want. The money is quite good and some of the people I have met along the way, clients and wgs alike are some of the nicest, intelligent and interesting people I have ever met. Its given me opportunities I never had before, being taken to lovely restaurants and hotels and concerts etc. It has also given me the opportunity to run my very own business with ‘Bibi’ as my brand. I have learned new skills (aside from tricks in the bedroom that would make a prostitute blush ;)) I can now manage most aspects of a website, I have learned how to manage a diary and how to deal with enquiries from emails and the phone. I have learned more people skills (its not always about sex, you sometimes have to be almost like a counsellor and adviser). I have learned how to keep accounts and fill in a tax form, all transferable skills!
However at the moment I have no plans to do anything else, I enjoy what I do. Its as simple as that and I feel proud that I have done something alternative from the rat-race.
Ok the downsides. The biggest problem with being an escort/prostitute (insert your own word here) is the stigma. It is not something I can shout from the rooftops, certain friends and family I think just wouldn’t get it, Maybe they would and I am doing them a disservice but it’s not something I feel ready to test out.
When you see yet another lady being ‘outed’ in the press and it has happened to a friend of mine. It smacks you straight in the face that we seem to live in a world where sex sells in more ways than one. A woman chooses to charge money for sex which is legal, but because its a slow news day and she works in another job seemingly its ok for the media to essentially try and ruin her life by naming and shaming and using such words as sordid and seedy (the lady in question worked from a perfectly nice, normal home, nothing sordid or seedy with it!).
Joe public reads these things and those words used are what they associate with what we do. I suppose doing an article saying ‘Went to a nice part of town to a clean, smart apartment where I was offered a glass of water and we chatted amicably for a while before I asked what services this lady offered’ doesn’t have the same ability to sell that days rag. And people from the media wonder why we don’t want to have interviews with them???
I am lucky that I haven’t personally had a violent client but I know plenty of ladies that have. So its always in the back of your mind. I also know alot of ladies who have been robbed or targeted because of being in the sex industry and some fear talking to the police because of the way they work and because they fear the police won’t be sympathetic.
I have spoken to a few ladies I know about what we feel would make life easier all round. The first thing that is immediately apparent is that we wish we could work together. The way the law is, currently it is illegal to have more than one girl working in a premises, it can be classed as a brothel. Yet we crave the feeling of safety, knowing our friend is just a room away, should things go wrong. We want to be company and support for one another yet we can’t. Why is this? It must surely be logical to the police and the law makers that two ladies looking out for each other would reduce risk and reduce police time being put into investigating attacks/murders/robberies.
The issue of trafficking seems intertwined with the question of prostitution, yet we see very little evidence of it. If some were to be believed then we are all coerced or forced into selling ourselves. Yet all the ladies I know choose this and work for themselves. I find the idea of trafficking abhorrent and it will exist somewhere, but it is a separate thing to the many women who want to do this work and do it to the best of their ability.
I personally would have no problem with being on a register like say nurses and having my passport checked now and then (or for ladies who come here from abroad to work a work visa).I guess this could cause its own problems though. I don’t claim to have all the answers.
I would like to see more services for escorts such as GENESIS in Leeds. This is a service where working girls can access advice, an ugly mugs scheme, free condoms and STI screening. They can also access advice regarding exiting, benefits and arrange to see a counsellor. In an ideal world groups like this would be national.
I would also like to see crimes where working girls are targeted categorised as hate crimes like racism and homophobia.
You cannot change how some people feel about prostitution but collectively we have to see it is not going away and the harder the law makes it for us to do our job the more it drives it underground. Some people say when a girl gets attacked ‘Ah well she was a prostitute’ do they honestly think guys who attack us aren’t going to end up attacking non-working girls? We are all some-ones mother, sister, daughter and friend.
I want to be able one day to say openly and proudly ‘I am Bibi and I am a prostitute.’