Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Credit Crunch Hits Sex Workers, Too

Naturally, having more time on my hands, I've been popping in to chat-rooms for sex workers and their clients on the internet. It's been good to chat to a couple of friends from a few years ago when most of my social contact was with drug-addicted, body-building sex workers. We had a very interesting chat about how the market is for male escorts in the changing economic climate.

There's been articles in the news about how many city workers have lost their jobs and how many families have been forced to abandon their pets, but won't someone please think of the hustlers?

When my friend complained that it was getting harder to find work at the moment, I assumed immediately that the problem was that fewer people had the disposable income necessary to spend on escorts but I was very quickly put in my place. Apparently the client base is largely the same - lonely, frustrated or busy men will always want sex, just like they'll always want food, but what's changed is that the lay-offs in the city and the general sense of anxiety about finances has meant there's been a rise in the number of sex workers on the scene, which - as any economist can tell you - means that it's a buyer's market.

London's never been the best city for earning megabucks for escorting - for equivalent work, you can get double in New York (not allowing for the weak dollar - which has hit travelling client numbers) or more in Paris. London's a very accommodating city for sex workers. We have largely tolerant legislation that's mainly in place to prevent the exploitation of sex workers and we have a tax system that's willing to not ask too many questions so long as you declare at least a realistic proportion of your earnings (although many still don't), so the problem isn't that it's hard to be a prostitute here, quite the opposite, in fact.

London's relatively liberal attitude to homosexuality and immigration has meant that it's a great haven for sex workers from abroad to come here, earn some decent money for a few years and then head home, set up for life. The same general factors draw escorts here as other professions - English being the dominant language, this being a city adapted for people in transit, its status as a transport hub meaning there's a lot of travelling businessmen looking for reliable hookups while they're in town. All of which means competition is quite fierce.

If you're a sex worker, you don't get an annual pay award. In fact, you stand to make the most money most easily if you're young and new to the game, when clients will happily be ripped off because either they like em young or because they want to help you out. As you pass your mid-twenties it seems the trend is that you should advertise yourself as muscular, toned, healthy and look and seem every bit the porn star. After your mid-thirties it seems that you'll do best if you're burly and a bit beary and after your mid-forties, your best bet is to specialise in BDSM or fetish stuff where experience really does count for something. If you don't fit those niches, finding work will be a challenge when there's always someone leaner and more muscled and with whiter teeth, a better tan and a bigger dick available for the same or less money than you're asking.

Interestingly, though, this guy was explaining that he thought there might actually be a swing the other way soon. With the exodous of many Eastern European migrant workers heading home after their stint in London, it might take some of the heat out of the competition for sex work in the city.

I'm not really sure I'd rate that very highly as a pension plan. I don't see myself becoming an escort any time soon. If nothing else, wanking off old men in hotel rooms would probably give me RSI pretty darned badly, given the current state of my poor paws. Nor am I terribly sure I could say it's a career choice I'd recommend for anyone, particularly not as a primary source of income, but in times of financial uncertainty it seems that guys who wouldn't otherwise think of fucking strangers for cash will give it a go, which takes work away from the men for whom this is their career.

They'll weather it, I'm sure - like interpreting, once you've spent a few years in the business, it's hard to find a way into other industries! Still, next time you're feeling the squeeze, spare a thought for London's sex workers, will you?

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