The new research by the Poppy Project, Big Brothel, a survey of the off-street sex industry in Lodon, has generated shock and headlines that sex can be purchased in London for as little as £15 and highlighted the fact that sex without
condoms is available.
However, closer inspection of the data reveals that only 2% of brothels contacted by phone by researchers offer sex without condoms. This leaves a very impressive 98% of establishments insisting on condom use. Many brothels charge for the amount
of time a customer spends with a sex worker and the £15 fee quoted does not specify whether or not this is for a 10- or 15-minute appointment. Certainly, according to the research, the average fee is more than £60, with some charging
up to £250 for sex. The survey found no concrete evidence of girls under 18 working in brothels – the average age was 21.
Evidence from the recent police and Home Office joint operation – Pentameter Two – a comprehensive and intelligence-led sweep of brothels across the land, netted only double figures of suspected trafficking victims. Denis MacShane has quoted a
figure of 25,000 trafficked women and children in this country. Where are the others? Either the police are doing a lousy job at flushing them out or more likely, they're not here in the numbers quoted.
The 'Big Brothel' report paints women in my industry as victims. Some may be – but to generalise is patronising and offensive.
I work from a flat on which I pay the mortgage – I do not have any landlord to worry about. I charge £150 per hour and I get enough enquiries to enable me to choose my own working hours. In a typical day I drop my children off at school at
9am, return home, shower and get changed into my alter-ego, Lara (we never use our own names). I then might have an hour's appointment at 11am and another at 1pm, leaving me with a break of an hour in between to shower and refresh myself. I then
fetch myself a late lunch and am at the school again to collect my children at 3:30pm. It works. I never see more than two clients a day; most days I see only one; on other days none at all. Yet in just three hours' work I can earn the same as I
used to earn in a week working at the office.
My clients are on the whole middle-aged businessmen. I have never been treated with anything less than respect by any one of them. I have not been physically or sexually abused by any of them. Of course I have my security systems in place should
anything go wrong, but so far nothing has. My children have their mother now, and not just on a part-time basis. I have time with them to enjoy their childhoods, without any of us suffering financially. I am not making big bucks – but I am
earning a little more money to boot.