Jon Millward – Blog

Life of a Call Girl: Fantasy vs. Reality

Life of a Call Girl: Fantasy vs. Reality

You make it fun and do a dance at the end when you count the money

In the final weeks of 2011, I delved once more into the secretive world of the UK sex industry.

This time my focus wasn’t on men who pay for sex, but the women who supply it. So I reached out to hundreds of British escorts with one request: tell me about your life. And—on the condition that their words remain anonymous—they did.

In October of last year, I launched this blog with Dirty Words: A Probing Analysis of 5000 Call Girl Reviews. The meat of the article came from a textual analysis I carried out on over a million words, which were extracted from masses of ‘field reports’—reviews of female escorts, written by the men who pay to have sex with them. My intention was to find out something about the mind of the average punter by pouring over the words he unconsciously chose to use in his recounting of paid-for sexual experiences. It turned out that while his individual word choices were interesting (slim, nice and blonde were most popular for describing the girls), they were nothing compared to the reviews as a whole. The punters’ field reports were amazingly detailed, often bizarre, never degrading, and—at times—surprisingly funny.

The response to Dirty Words and the infographic that accompanied it was great. A lot of people seemed to enjoy the excerpts from field reports that I included in the article, while others said they appreciated the fact that I didn’t overtly judge the punters for their actions. Of course, I was curious to find out how the piece would be received by the punters themselves, the men who had unwittingly supplied the words that formed the heart of the study. So I used Google Analytics to check the traffic sources for the article. About five separate discussions had started on punters’ forums—so naturally I signed up for them to take a look. One forum contained a particularly lively debate on the article, with several people impressed and complimentary about what I’d done and said:

Feedback to Dirty Words

But I got the impression from other comments that a few punters and girls weren’t such big fans.

Negative feedback to Dirty Words

Anyway, most people seemed to like the piece and I think it provided a small glimpse into the sex industry from a punter’s perspective. It wasn’t long after I posted the first article, however, that I was again thinking about the controversial world of the call girl, except this time it was the call girls’ point of view I wondered about, instead of the punters’. I’d seen how the men describe the women in their reviews, but, if asked, how would the average escort describe her paying customers?

A hundred questions about the escort way of life sprang to mind. How did they get into the business? Which are their favourite sex acts? Do they lie about their age, or to their friends and family about what they do? What is the craziest thing a client has requested? I wanted to strip fantasy from reality and find out what it’s really like to be a courtesan, an escort, a working girl, a prostitute…

Making Contact

There are roughly three kinds of ‘working girl’ in the UK. The first can be found on the street. She is the classic prostitute: a night-worker, selling sex to men who pass in cars and on foot. She has low prices and high risks. The next works in a parlour or brothel alongside other women and she does ‘incalls’—men visit her place of work and she provides them with a massage and a happy ending of one flavour or another. The last is the escort. She mostly does incalls but in her case the men flock to her apartment to indulge in pre-booked sessions of varying durations. The escort will either belong to an agency, which advertises her services, sends clients her way, and takes a cut of the money, or she’ll run everything herself—as an independent.

It was the independent UK escorts I decided I’d contact, for two reasons. My hunch was that I wouldn’t have much luck asking agencies to pass on my request to their catalogue of courtesans. I thought it would be better to bypass the middleman and reach out directly to the women I wanted to contact. The other reason was one of convenience. I knew that only a certain percentage of women I contacted would end up contributing to my research, so it was vital I get in touch with as many as possible—hundreds, in fact. I found three massive directories of independent UK escorts and set about harvesting their contact details. This is a good way of acquiring email addresses, but it isn’t strictly legal or respectable. In fact it’s tantamount to spamming, but I couldn’t think of any other option. I’d be as polite as possible in my email, make it clear that my intentions were strictly honourable, and hope for the best.

It was while collecting the details of thousands of women listed in the online directories that another idea occurred to me. Every one of these escorts had written a 100-word description of herself and her services for potential clients to peruse. There were 1,207 women. That equalled over 120,000 words I could analyze in the same way as the million I’d used in my first study, Dirty Words. I could therefore compare the words escorts use to describe themselves to the words punters use to describe them in their reviews, which I’d already discovered through my first investigation. Would the women emphasize the same traits men so often mention, like being slim and blonde? Would the women’s most mentioned height, bra size and dress size match the men’s? I decided I couldn’t pass up the chance to find out. I’d analyze the 1,207 self-written escort adverts while waiting for the responses to my spam email—I mean, my polite request for the ladies’ valuable input.

The email I sent out explained and linked to my original piece on the punters and outlined what I hoped to achieve with the follow-up. At the end I gave a link to the survey, which I hosted on my site and protected with a password, which was also supplied in the email (it was fidelio). The last thing I wanted was for the survey to be completed by anyone other than the escorts.

I spent a long time putting together the survey’s questions. I wanted to make sure I didn’t guide the respondents into answering in ways that might be pre-empted by my expectations or prejudices. To get around this, lots of totally open-ended questions were included. Others were multiple choice, but I think the most important ones provided a blank slate for the women’s answers. Here are the questions I asked.

The Survey QuestionsAnd here’s what happened with the email and survey over the next couple of weeks.

Result of the Escort Survey Email

The Results

While less than 5% of the women I emailed ended up completing the survey, the thirty who did do it gave more detailed, frank answers than I could ever have hoped for. Honesty was flooding into my inbox and it was illuminating.

I started by building up a basic profile of the women who responded.

The Respondents at a Glance

While the responses trickled in, I’d also entered into email conversations with a few of the women. A couple wanted to know how much they would be paid for completing the survey (and promptly bid me farewell when I told them nothing), and one—the first woman to email me back, in fact—had a complaint to make about my use of the word girl in the survey’s questions.

…using terms that individuals or groups use to self-describe when you do not belong to those groups is generally viewed as less than desirable behaviour (‘queer’ and ‘nigger’ being good examples). I suppose if many of us weren’t old enough to be your mother it would maybe be less jarring too…”

Indeed, several of the women who responded to the survey were old enough to be my mother, but there was also a small handful who could be my little sister—the youngest was 20, a student, and had only been in the business for 3 months. This was the first sign of many that amongst the escort population there is huge variation to be found, not just in age, but in every aspect of their lives, life stories and opinions.

My job as a writer is to find an interesting thread and tease is out. Uncover the ‘story’ and focus a light on it so that readers know what they’re looking at and maybe even what they should think. Admittedly some of the survey’s questions were included on the off chance that they’d produce such a juicy morsel for readers to chew on. For instance, the question of how old the respondent was when she lost her virginity. The average could go either way. If it came out as shockingly young, then perhaps women who are sexualised early in life are more likely to become call girls. If it was surprisingly old, maybe women who start their sex lives later feel more inclined to be sexually adventurous. The actual average from the survey results? 16.5 years old—just 6 months under the national average for women. A negligible difference. That became the running theme when I continued to sort through the responses. Where I expected to find controversy, there was none (29 of the 30 women entered into the job by choice), and where I anticipated a mundane answer I got shocked practically into silence (just wait until you see the list of ‘most bizarre sex acts requested’).

A full list of averages taken from the survey, as well as many of the women’s open-ended answers, can be seen in the (huge) infographic at the end of this article. Here, though, is a brief overview of what the women had to say on all of the most pertinent topics raised in the survey. I’ll also include some of the results from the analysis I ran on the escorts’ 1,207 adverts.

Personal stats

In Dirty Words, I found out that the average escort, according the things the punters most frequently made reference to in their field reports, was a size 8, 5’6”, blonde, with 34D breasts. The survey, however, changed the shape of that average a little—the average dress size given by the women was 12. Also, the majority had a variation of brown hair, not blonde. The height remained the same at 5’6” and the bra size was only one cup size smaller than ‘advertised’, at 34C. What’s quite interesting is that in their adverts, the average bra size mentioned is identical to what most men give in their reviews—both 34D. It seems like this might be a sort of ideal, in both the escorts’ minds and the men’s.

The majority (23/30) don’t use their real first names when they work, or advertise themselves using their actual ages—they shave off 3 years on average. 3.5 years was the average time a respondent has been in the business, while most plan to leave it in 2.5 years’ time.

Below is an image that shows the words the women used most often to describe themselves in their adverts alongside the words used by men to describe the escorts in their reviews.

Most Used Words Punters and Escorts

As you can see, the average escort as described by punters is a slim, nice blonde. The average escort as described by the average escort is a sexy, sensual lady. The men mentioned the women’s hair, breasts and eyes the most, whereas the women mentioned their eyes, hair and smile. One difference in word rank that I think is especially interesting is that the guys’ number one word, slim, ranks way down at number 11 on the escorts’ list. The women’s list also contains many more adjectives relating to personality and intellect, like genuine and intelligent. And unlike the men, they don’t use the word nice to describe their attributes, preferring perfect and great instead.

The Work and Clients

On the days she works, the average escort sees two clients, for two hours and makes £290. She works a 10-hour week, which puts her yearly salary at about £50,000 (which I’m happy to say matches the prediction I made in Dirty Words). The question of how the women first entered the industry produced some very interesting answers. Quite a few responded to an advert put out by an agency after mulling over the idea for a while. One woman started after being offered (and accepting) £1,500 for a night of sex by a guy in a bar. A couple of the woman had more depressing reasons, like needing to support a child during hard times, and being forced into prostitution whilst homeless as a kid. Billie Piper’s TV portrayal of ‘Belle de Jour’, the high-class escort-turned-author, was also mentioned as a direct inspiration for getting into the business. However, at least five of the women said in other answers that Piper’s depiction of life as an escort was wildly inaccurate.

Some people seem to think it’s something out of “Pretty Woman”, others expect us to have pimps and/or be coerced in some way. The complete clowns think we do it because we love sex.”

When asked if there is an average ‘type’ of client, certain trends emerged from the women’s answers (the men tend be white and in their mid 40s), whereas other common factors were downplayed. Instead, many of the women said the same thing: point to the guy in the street you’d least expect to be a punter—he probably punts.

They seem to come from all walks of life and are all ages. My youngest regular is 18 and the oldest is 78.”

In fact the ‘point out a punter’ game was something the second youngest respondent told me about by email. She said she sometimes plays it with her boyfriend. They point out guys in turn and guess if they pay for sex. When I read that she had a boyfriend, I immediately wondered how he felt about her job, so I sent her a list of questions about it. It turned out she couldn’t answer most of them, because he doesn’t know. She keeps it a secret from him.

The women described the average client’s attitude towards sex as primarily being respectful, nervous and eager. I got the impression from the way the escorts spoke about their clients that they do respect the men who pay them for sex, but it’s mostly a professional type of respect, much like the kind any seller would have for a buyer. This sentiment shone through in the women’s answers to two questions in particular: would you consider being friends with a client? Most would, but only select clients. And would you ever consider dating a client? 77% said no, they wouldn’t. Only 4 of the 30 had dated a punter. Whether this is because escorts tend to see their clients as being undesirable in some way is anyone’s guess. It could just be that, like in the rest of life, you don’t mix business with pleasure. Clients are clients.

When I asked why they think the men choose to pay to have sex with them, their responses were mixed but did contain one theme in particular: the men don’t get the sex and intimacy they desire elsewhere, or simply prefer it without the other ‘baggage’ of a relationship.

Who was it who said ‘they pay us to go away’? We’re their parallel universe, providing a bit of escapism.”

One respondent had an exceptionally succinct summary of her clients’ motivations for using her services.

Because they require an uncomplicated emotionally detached sexual service as opposed to an affair. This allows them to cognitively justify the act of adultery and therefore alleviates feelings of guilt and betrayal.”

The Sex

When analyzing the 5000 field reports for Dirty Words it became obvious that there are three main things a punter considers when deciding whether or not an escort is worth recommending and returning to: her looks, her sexual skills, and her attitude. The last of those three, her attitude, is the rope that binds the other two together. The more enthusiastic and ‘into it’ the woman appears to be, the better. This makes complete sense when you consider that the most popular type of sex men buy from escorts is the ‘girlfriend experience’, which includes a sense of sexual closeness and intimacy you’d more expect from a girlfriend than a pornstar or hooker. So, in reality, how do the women really feel about the act that defines their jobs? Is their enthusiasm a charade? Are their orgasms faked? And do their favourite sex acts match their clients’?

The answer to that last question is ‘sort of, but not entirely’. The majority of the escorts like vaginal sex and fellatio without a condom, which match the clients’ top two favourite sex acts. The clients’ 8th favourite act out of 16 was anal sex, which ranked as the escorts’ number one least favourite. I asked the women what factors they consider when certain sex acts, like anal sex and ‘cum on face’ are listed on their sites as being at their ‘discretion’. The main response was the clients’ hygiene, followed by how turned on they feel at the time.

I was really interested to see what the responses would be for ‘How often do you genuinely feel turned on?’ and ‘How often do you fake orgasm?’, but they turned out to be anything but clear cut. 13 of the 30 women ‘sometimes’ genuinely climax and a similar number reported ‘sometimes’ feeling turned on. The rest of the women’s answers were spread across the other options pretty equally. It seems, as in standard sexual relationships, variation abounds.

Another pair of questions I relished the chance to hear answered was:

- What is the most unusual sex act a client has requested that you’ve performed?
- What is the most unusual requested sex act that you’ve declined?

Billie Piper’s portrayal of Belle de Jour in Secret Diary of a Call Girl shows her indulging a host of bizarre and baffling sexual fetishes on behalf of her paying clients, but some of the things the escorts listed in their answers to the above two questions blew the script writers’ ideas out of the water. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you all of the most shocking (check the infographic for those), but here are a few of the more ‘colourful’ ones.

“Squashing his unsuspecting wife.” ✖ Declined.

“A client wanted me to lick his nipples for an hour.” ✔ Accepted.

“Put live frogs in my underwear and squash them.” ✖ Declined.

“Anal fisting.” “Ball bashing.” “Licking a guy’s anus.” ✔ All Accepted.

“Babysitting him while he pretended to be my child.” ✖ Declined.

“I had a client that used to hire a ballet studio, bring his own tutu, ballet shoes etc and I was the ballet mistress putting him through his positions and paces to the ‘Flight of the bumble bee’.” ✔ Accepted.

In Summary

The survey contained a lot of ‘how’ questions: How much? How many? How often? But it’s the ‘why’ questions that arguably stir up the most discussion. Why do some men pay for sex and why do some women sell it to them? In Dirty Words I made a summary of the male motivation for punting that, after speaking to the escorts, turned out to be too reductive. I presumed punters just want to indulge the most clichéd of all male driving forces: the whims of their dicks. As Sebastian Horsley (a man who slept with over a thousand escorts in his time) put it, they want ‘the sensation of sex without the boredom of its conveyance’ and while this is surely true to a very large extent, it still fails to account for the full range of reasons a man might pay for sex. There’s a world of difference between, say, a disabled man hiring an escort because it’s his only chance of sexual intimacy, and a businessman arranging an incall out of sexual boredom in between corporate functions. The only constant is the courtesan; the woman who supplies the valued service (or acts as the disposable product).

When I asked the 30 escorts what the benefits of the job are, the main one (27 mentions) was money, followed by being their own boss (22) and the working hours (20). The sex ranked dead last with only 8 women including it as a positive. Of course, there’s no reason that should come as a shock to anyone. How many people, after all, could say that they do their job first and foremost because of what it is and not what it pays? A minority, I think. 4 out of the 30 women said that their dream job—the profession they’d most like to work in if they could do it with no chance of failure—was that of an escort. The others listed jobs that anyone, of either gender and any background, might choose: writer, teacher, DJ, chef, vet, midwife, wife a billionaire.

The last question I asked the women was if they had any closing remarks about themselves or the industry. One escort said she hates everything about the job and fears that her stalker, who is blackmailing her, will tell her teenage kids about what she does. Most others, though, summed up their jobs as being wholly positive, if not as mundane as any other. They stressed the benefits of being paid so highly for doing so few hours of work, but also expressed a wish that their industry could be legalized and regulated like any other, or at the very least freed from the shackles of societal prejudice that seem to have surrounded it since the first time sex was offered for cash.

The Infographic

I’ve tried to summarize as much of what the women had to say about their lives and jobs as possible, whilst also including some of the results from my analysis of their adverts. However, practically every answer and average is included in the infographic I’ve created to accompany this article. The full version is massive, but worth reading through if you want more of the results than the above article provided. There are also a couple of versions showing just the illustration.

Please give the images a few seconds to load.

Life of a Call Girl InfographicLife of a Call Girl Illustration

• Or SUPERSIZE full version (recommended for big monitors)
• Or SUPERSIZE illustration with text (recommended for big monitors)
• Or SUPERSIZE illustration WITHOUT text (recommended for big monitors)

Acknowledgements

Thank you to all of the women who kindly spent an average of 52 minutes of their time completing the survey (and apologies to the several hundred others who got the email but weren’t interested).

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9 Comments

  1. Trinity-Belle
    January 8, 2012

    I work as an escort and I recognise a lot of what you have written here as reflecting fairly accurately my own experience. Although the sample is both limited and voluntary, which of course makes it bias, you seem to have extracted some important points regarding the reality of working as an escort.

    Above all, I think you have extracted two very important and significant features of the UK escort scene.

    First off, from what I have seen of the industry, by far the vast majority of women who work as independent escorts are mature, educated, and do this work of their own free will and entered the profession without any coercion, which is contrary to the popular conception.

    Secondly, you have rightly (in my experience) described the average client as being a very ordinary middle aged businessman who simply wants a kind of intimacy which, for one reason or another (and the reasons are many and varied) he does not find elsewhere. This too is contrary to the popular view of the “kind” of guy who pays for sex.

    Thanks for a well thought out and thoughtfully considered portrayal of the UK independent escort scene. x

    Oh… and by the way… I’m 36 years old, 5’7″ and my hair is medium brown and I’m a size 8 with my bust measuring in at 34A :o )

    • JonGoddy
      January 8, 2012

      Hi Trinity,

      Thanks for your reply — glad you liked the article. The sample size for the survey was small, as you say, but 30 is generally okay for a non-representative sample. Qualitative research, really.

      I’m happy that I’ve identified a couple of things that you think accurately sum up aspects of the escort scene. I suppose the natural and fair final step (I’ve looked at punters based on their reviews, escorts based on their adverts and opinions) would be to talk to a lot of punters — survey them too. Could be tricky finding willing participants though…

      • JonGoddy
        January 8, 2012

        Oh and thanks for following me on Twitter. :)

        • Trinity-Belle
          January 11, 2012

          That’s okay honey :o )

          Perhaps you should follow @CapitalPunter?

  2. Icicle
    January 13, 2012

    I loved Tutu Guy! Wish I had him :)

    The weirdest one I ever got was on webcam, Asked me to call HIM ‘Mummy’.

    You know, there is a huge different in what girls will admit in a private survey, and how they talk about guys among themselves. Back in the days before t’internet, most would pretend they didn’t like men very much — almost a point of pride I think. The best a girl would say of any customer was ‘he’s no trouble’. But secretly, we had our favourites. The little old guy who’d always bring you chocolate, someone who never really wanted much and came in five minutes yet pay for the hour — and you’d always try to get him to stay and chill out with you.

    And you do become real friends with them. I’d do as much for a good client in trouble as any friend — because they *are* friends. Your arousal might be faked, but my affection is always genuine.

    Respectful, nervous, eager and GRATEFUL. Is there any better sort of man? :)

    Actually I also have a fondness for those who don’t get that far. The timewasters, lunatics and pathological optimists. They make for an amusing inbox.

  3. Natatattat
    July 20, 2012

    Very interesting article, I wish more ladies participated. It would also be interesting to conduct something similar in the USA. Unfortunately, the women who are being managed and who may have more interesting stories (ie forced into it, threatened, in debt, homeless, etc.) may not receive an email survey because they don’t have access. Lack of technology or access segregates “street walkers” from escorts who use online advertising and web pages daily and you can’t get a good idea as a whole population because of this barrier.

    And you do become real friends with them. I’d do as much for a good client in trouble as any friend — because they *are* friends. Your arousal might be faked, but my affection is always genuine.” — Icicle

    I agree with this as well, and I have heard many interviews with girls where the girls claim they act the whole time and don’t care about their clients. I have to disagree with that because after a gent sees you so many times you get familiar with him and become interested in his life and how things are… I wonder from time to time how so and so is, because I haven’t seen them for a while. Its is in no means love, or anything like it, and I keep things strictly business, but you have to have some sort of personal connection in order to retain regulars.

  4. Atlanta Escorts
    December 11, 2012

    I think that life of an Escort is complicated at a moment, and can be considered a life that many would not be able to have it. Life has so many faces, fantasy and reality. Few have the chances to get into the fantasy one and live there ( perhaps because of the financial ), but most of us live on the reality one where nothing to much is going on. As Escort i think you can easily do a fantasy and reality simulation.

    That’s an escort..

  5. escorts
    January 29, 2013

    This article is very interesting,yes the life of an escort is very difficult. But it is true for earning money many female starts this business. I also see many of the escorts & i also had spent time with him. In that time i would absorb that any of the escort giving us enjoyment but they take much of the pressure.

  6. Timothy
    February 7, 2013

    Sex work should be legalized.
    Obtaining casual sex is very difficult for most men.

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