A different light on a dim view

George Binning

What is escorting if it is not prostitution? If 99% of escorting work involves sex the difference is surely a legal technicality. Scotland’s escort websites are packed with semi-nude images and graphic descriptions of ‘services’ each escort will perform (if she so chooses). It is an industry laughing brazenly in the face of the law. The suggestion that these websites are not necessarily peddling sex just seems surreal.

Our survey asked the question: “For £2000 a week, would you consider becoming an escort?” Respondents were offered a ‘yes’, a ‘no’ and a ‘maybe’ option. While 13 out of a hundred said ‘yes’, there were also 12 ‘maybe’s. Although it is not included in the final statistics the ‘maybe’ serves its purpose in validating the ‘yes’. Many students who replied ‘maybe’ changed their minds having been shown the advert in question. Even that sordid scrap of paper was a step too close to the reality of escorting.

The illusion that all that was required of an escort was to be taken out to supper by some man (“Who might even be quite good looking.”) and beyond that its up to them, was quickly shattered by the amateurish recruitment advert. On the other hand, those who said yes were mostly unfazed by the advert.

Linda Thompson, of the Women’s Support Project, argued that our “increasingly sexualised society” was to blame for the normalisation of the sex industry; furthermore, it was surprising how blasé some students were on the subject. Perhaps working in the sex industry is becoming more accepted, but this trend has many positive aspects: improved working conditions for those in the trade, especially with regard to sexual health and personal safety; the stigma of working in the sex industry will also be lessened.

Whilst working in the industry seems to be becoming a viable job option for students in need of cash, consumers of the sex industry are more widely stigmatised. ‘Whoring’ is no longer the rakish pursuit of the young cad, and hasn’t been for decades.

The stereotypical perception of a man who pays an escort, even just for their company, is not kind. Soon the customers of prostitutes will be criminalised and curb crawling is already an offence. The shame that is increasingly attached to resorting to paying for sex goes some way to counterbalancing the acceptance of sex trade workers.

This evolution of attitudes shows that we, as a society, are not just sinking into depravity, but are developing a greater awareness and understanding of both sides of the coin.


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