Amy’s choice

Oliver Milne

“Hey, I’m just going to start work but I’ll only be few hours so I’ll give you a call then.”

This is the first voicemail I receive from Amy after being introduced through a mutual friend. In the vast majority of cases this innocuous message would be a simple courtesy to a student journalist who is about to parachute into your world, ask a few question and leave. With Amy however things are different, because Amy’s job is a little bit different.

Amy is a 22 year old Arts student at the University of Aberdeen and like many students she works part time to fund her studies. Some of us work is bars. Some in shops. A growing number of students find work as sex workers to finance their education. Amy is one them.

Amy is a high class escort, selling sex – and occasionally short term companionship – to individuals who can meet her price tag.

“I’m expensive,” she laughs “a couple of hundred pounds an hour and much much more for overnight stays or longer trips away.”

We talk about how she found her way into sex work and her answers are frank and are devoid of tales of woe, money problems or quiet desperation you might first expect.

“I had a reasonably well paid job as a barmaid and while the pay wasn’t great, I wasn’t in a situation where I couldn’t pay my bills or afford to eat. I wasn’t a drug addict and I wasn’t some kind of jumped up nymphomaniac,” she laughs again – slightly more uncomfortably. She’s keen to stress it wasn’t circumstance that led her to her job, but choice.

“The idea was put to me by a friend, who had been working with an agency for a while, that this was a good way to make money –  if you could handle the work. I was introduced to some people who were incredibly upfront about the kind of work I would be doing. I spent a long time thinking about it. It’s difficult to make a choice like that when you can’t really approach family or loved ones for advice.”

Amy began working for the agency – which found her work and took a top slice of her fee –  and stayed there for nearly two years.  Six months ago she left and went ‘freelance’ finding her own clients and keeping all of the money she earned.

“It was a good group of people I worked with. They would ensure that the people you were going out to meet were who they said they were. They’d pick you up after the appointment ended. They made the whole process as safe as it could be for the girls.”

So why leave?

“I began to see several clients on a fairly regular basis and realised I could be making more money if I cut out the middleman. It’s difficult to get new clients who you know are safe but the money is better and I don’t need new clients that regularly.”

In an email a few days later she sends me some links to various adult dating sites where she maintains profiles to attract new clients. The descriptions are riddled with euphemism like ‘deep massage’ and ‘extended company’ accompanied by tasteful (read: fully clothed) photos of Amy and the links to the various ways you can get in contact with her.

I call back to ask about using this impersonal way to attract potential customers.

“I’m very selective and insist our first meeting is an entirely non-sexual meetup in a public place, like a Starbucks or Costa Coffee. To be honest I try not to think about this kind of safety too much. I’m paranoid about certain things – despite being on birth control and making clients wear condoms I always fear my time of the month or the wait to get tests back. I try not to worry about other things more than I have to.”

We talk safety in a roundabout way for awhile before moving the topic closer to home. Does she feel safe?

“Yes. Mostly. I mean you hear some horror stories and the media don’t generally help. When you read about a crime against an escort the subtext is that they deserved it. I’m scared of STDs, murderers and rapists, but what scares me more is my family finding out. I’m anonymous and losing that anonymity scares me.”

The conversation peeters out and a long silence descends on the phone line.

“So when are you going to ask what it’s like?”

What? I ask.

“Having sex for money.”

She’s right – the experience at the heart of Amy’s profession is something I’ve wanted to ask about but I’d thought it too indelicate to blurt the question out to a relative stranger over the phone. When I confess this to her she laughs for a good thirty seconds. “I sleep with people for money. I gave up on being coy about sex a while ago.”

We start to talk about the process. The vast majority of clients are ‘in-house’, meaning they come to her flat. Because of this Amy lives alone, and is incredibly hesitant to have friends or family arrive at her flat unannounced, “when the door bell rings and I’m not expecting someone a kind of blind panic takes over,” she tells me.

“The people are normally far more awkward about the whole arrangement than I am. Emotionally though its feels kind of empty. Sometimes the sex is great but there’s nothing else between you. Even one night stands have a kind of frenzied energy. This is work and it feels like work. Sometimes you can have a great day at work but that’s really all it is. Work.”

Amy’s name has been changed to preserve her anonymity.