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Ask An Escort; Rachael is a 19-year-old teen escort in Birmingham:

As a teenage girl, what made you become an escort in Birmingham? I got into it by accident really, after I left school I had a few dead-end jobs, working in factories and then a spell as a cocktail waitress, one of the girls there left and got a job as a pole dancer in Spearmint Rhino club, she told me how generous some of the men were and how they offered her lots of money to spend the night with her. She left and started her own massage flat and asked me if I wanted to do a few punters to see if I liked it. I still work a couple of days a week in my friends flat, but I also advertise myself in escort directories as an independent escort.

Do you visit men in their hotel rooms? We get lots of businessmen coming to Birmingham, going to the NEC and there are lots of business conferences and exhibitions, so the hotels in Birmingham are always full of men away from home for a few days and after their meetings, during the day they tend to want to spend the evening with an escort. My favourite part of being a Birmingham escort is walking into a 5-star hotel wearing my Jimmy Choo shoes and visiting a generous mature businessman to keep him company and to have sex with him, it gives me a tremendous feeling of power that these men are married and can’t wait to pay me for my sexual services.

How much can a teen escort in Birmingham make in a week? Obviously depending on how dedicated a girl is to put in the hours, I know some girls who make just enough to buy their clothes and party all week. But for me, I treat this as a business and on most days I would see 2 or 3 clients and make around £600.00 a day, on a good week I can easily earn three thousand pounds. Tell me where a teenage girl, with no formal qualifications, in Birmingham, can make that kind of money.

Do your friends know you work as an escort in Birmingham? Most girls prefer the term escort than a prostitute, but essentially it’s the same thing under a different name. Most of the friends I grew up with don’t know what I do, which doesn’t really matter because I rarely see my old school friends these days. When you work in the sex business you tend to make friends with girls who are in the business, in fact when I do have a night off the girls I go out with are all Birmingham prostitutes; lol. Well, as you can imagine having a regular, normal boyfriend is pretty much out of the question while working as an escort in Birmingham. If the question is referring to a pimp the answer is categorically no, I have met some teen prostitutes who have ‘boyfriends’ that live off their girlfriends but for me, that is simply stupid, I’m in this business to make money for myself.

Do you enjoy having sex with lots of different middle-aged men? It’s not something I think about anymore, It’s just part of being an escort, having sex with clients in different hotel rooms gives me quite a buzz and some of the men I see have become regulars, whenever they are on a business trip in Birmingham they take me out to dinner, buy me Champagne and then pay hundreds of pounds for me to suck them off, what’s not to like?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I haven’t really thought that far ahead yet, at the moment I’m learning to drive and when I pass my test I’m going to buy an expensive Mercedes, I’m going to the Caribbean for a holiday with one of my friends. So at the moment, I’m just loving life…

Do escorts in Birmingham perform a valuable service in society? Following a 2017 study published in the ​Review of Economic Studies, ​The Oxford University Press released an article titled ‘Decriminalizing prostitution could reduce sexual violence and STD transmission.’ Of course, the point of this article was that, if regulated, prostitution could be hailed as a solution to these problems. By this definition then, escorting becomes a ‘valuable service’, no longer a part of the ‘seedy underbelly’ of society but serving as a tool for its improvement. I would like to step back for a second, and look at this conclusion from two angles: the implication it has on the women performing said ‘valuable service’, and what it suggests about the perpetrators of sexual violence. I do not wish to demonise sex workers but to deconstruct the fundamental incompatibility of equating sex work with a decrease in sexual violence.

To see prostitution as a solution to sexual assault (regardless of any facts or figures, and let me be clear there are no ​reliable​facts or figures to suggest it is) is inherently damaging. It perpetuates the attitude that men are entitled to sex, and that lack of it is the prime motivator for sexual violence. It victimizes the perpetrator and places him in the role of a consumer faced with a gap in the market, while simultaneously suggesting that sex workers cannot be assaulted in the same way that other women can.

If there weren't escorts in Birmingham would married men seek affairs? The conception that there are different rules for sex workers in regards to sexual violence has continued to rear its head in recent years, most worryingly at the height of the Me Too movement. Snippets across social media, primarily Twitter, suggesting that men would not rape if they had an outlet, or at least such assaults would not same than if they occurred to ‘non-working’ women, can be easily found: These quips often poke fun at abusers and ask why they did not think to see a prostitute. As if it is was laughable that these men did not, as soon as they felt the impulse to assault or rape, check themselves and hire a woman that would take it. It is as if they were unaware, or failed to access ‘the service’ designed not to quell their desire, but to satisfy it. The implied wrong then is not their want to abuse, but their failure to direct it to the right channel, and if they had managed to do this, there would not have been a problem.

So then, if escorts provide this service that prevents women from being assaulted, are we suggesting that escorts are not women? Or are we suggesting that escorts themselves cannot be assaulted? Or is it both? Even the finite language of this model of understanding, that ‘escorts provide a valuable service in society to decrease sexual assaults among women’, places the two groups as completely separate.

Should sex workers be decriminalised? This must be debunked if we can ever hope to actually decrease sexual violence in a meaningful way, just as it must be recognised that prostitutes and young Birmingham escorts can be assaulted too. This is fundamental. It is incredibly difficult to obtain statistics that highlight the occurrences of sexual violence against sex workers, partly because it goes highly unreported in areas where a Birmingham escort is criminalized and there is a legitimate fear that involving the police would result in either disbelief or arrest for soliciting, which of course in itself is part of the problem. However, it is undeniable that the risk is high: a 2013 review of research found that globally, sex workers have a 45% to 75% chance of experiencing sexual violence on the job. I mention this in an attempt to encapsulate the gravity of risk escorts are exposed to when supposedly delivering the aforementioned ‘valuable service’. However, in some ways, I do not think statistics are wholly relevant here. Also, while I believe there is a certain amount of good decriminalisation could offer, I do not think it would be by any means, a viable solution to the sexual violence that women, sex workers or otherwise, are subjected to.

The core of the problem, and what the paradigm of ‘hired sex = less sexual violence’ fatally misunderstands is that abusers do not abuse for sexual pleasure, they abuse for power. So the assumption that if an abuser simply paid for a prostitute and had some nice consensual sex, is fantastically naive, because they were at first willing to take it without consent. In fact, it could be read straight out of the incel manifesto: that these poor, wronged men would be fine if women could just give them what they need. It is crucially, an argument that largely undermines the integrity of consent, and consent within paid sex with an escort in Edgebaston is just as important as consent outside of it. If a transaction is occurring, clear boundaries must be established and understood because money is involved, and both parties must be explicitly clear about what is going to happen. So to put it simply, ​if a client violates these consented boundaries, it becomes a sexual assault. We must ask (unless we are ready to admit that we see sex workers as ‘less than’), who exactly is going to act as a ‘valuable service’ to absorb ​these​assaults?

Do all Birmingham escorts offer sexual services? There is often a thought that all sex workers are, by definition of the work they do, victims. Anthropologist, Laura Agustín, argues that this is the rhetoric of ‘the rescue industry’, a term used to describe those who believe that all sex workers are in need of saving. I want to be clear that this is another attitude I do not seek to perpetuate. I want to highlight that sex workers are people, and as people, they ​can​be victims too. Sex workers are not cannon fodder for abusers, they are women, and abusers do not abuse because they have been denied their ‘right to sex’ because this right does not exist. Jessie Patella-Rey argues in her article in ​The Washington Post that discusses consent within sex work, that the transactions that occur in this world are ‘fertile ground for productive consent work’. She suggests that from her own experience, sex workers can walk away from interactions where clients fail to value consent, to the extent that clients must practice ‘negotiating consent in order for the transaction to continue’, and that this skill can then be transferred into their other relationships. Her approach certainly highlights that the issue is perhaps not as black and white as it might at first appear to be. However, while I can acknowledge the productivity in her assertion, I cannot help but feel that it does not acknowledge the conditions in which many women are forced to work in, and crucially, continues to place women as soldiers in the ongoing crusade against the inadequacy of men. A battle that has been raging for far too long.

It is, of course, a complex issue, but we need to be working towards a world where women’s behaviour no longer has to be part of the narrative in reducing sexual violence against them: from being told what to wear, how much to drink, or where to go; to bear the brunt of abusive behaviour, even if this takes its form in coaching men how not to abuse. While establishing a comprehensive understanding and respect for consent needs to be a conversation between all genders, this needs to take place in a space where the primary goal is not for a man to find a way to have sex where it otherwise would have been nonconsensual. Perpetrators are the problem, and this must be shouted from the rooftops before a productive discussion can be had.