— With additional reporting from Stephanie Bolton
Via a bogus account on social networking site Facebook, a local escort agency has been targeting students from the university, encouraging them to join their business.
The Linc’s reporter Stephanie Bolton tracked down one University of Lincoln student who signed up to an escort agency. A friend signed her up to the agency for a joke, but she was soon drawn in by the money. “When I got chatting to the woman in charge I couldn’t resist, getting paid to go for a night out seemed like quick and easy cash. I had spent way over my budget and didn’t want a job because I don’t have time with my studies,” she said.
Agencies entice young women by making assurances about the legitimacy of the work. The website clearly states what is expected of the escorts and sex is not in the job description. After talking to the student, who wishes to remain anonymous, the arrangement all sounded too good to be true: “All my job entailed was to accompany the client to events, meals, and things like that.”
For this service, the girl was told she would be paid £530 for four hours work, which seems like a lot of money just for innocent companionship. The Linc’s Alex Colman signed up to the agency, which operates across the Midlands, acting as a “minder” in order to investigate the truth behind this illustrious career.
The role of a minder is to protect the escort from harm. However, with girls often going into the homes of clients where there could be weapons or even several men inside, it is questionable how much protection one person can offer. The other alarming factor was the lack of training Alex received after being hired after a short phone conversation.
Escorting also fails to offer some of the securities of more conventional jobs, as the only contact Alex had was a false Facebook profile. Without ever meeting his employer in person, Alex awaited a text message with the addresses of the escort and client.
After an hours drive to Skegness, a well dressed, 25 year-old girl emerged from the house she shares with her mother. Dressed in a small black dress, tights and silver six inch heels, she appeared more provocative than the average girl dressed to go for a meal.
She appeared surprisingly shy and later disclosed this was her first job, although she had been a stripper for the last few years and wasn’t a student. On the drive to the client’s house in Cleethorpes the duo went over the plans.
Alex was to make his presence known to the client. Then text after ten minutes to confirm money had been exchanged and that all was ok and then play the waiting game until calling to say time was up.
After less than an hour the phone beeps: “Come to the door!!” Alex is forced to approach the house. Following a knock on the door, the silhouette of a man appears behind the glass panel, saying: “You can’t come in.” “I don’t need to come in just open the door,” says Alex, nervous about what is waiting behind the door. Luckily the bald, middle aged client is more scared than he is.
The client said: “I expect sex for £240, she isn’t leaving until I get my money back.”Alex replies: “That’s nothing to do with me but I need to leave right now with the girl and the money.”
The escort storms out and the man concedes defeat. A frantic fumble for the car keys and they are both safely away with the escort explaining what went wrong. “I was going to have sex with him but it was all happening too fast, I suggested a glass of wine but he downed his.” She said. The man, cigarette in hand, plunged his tobacco tainted tongue into her mouth. Feeling she was losing control of the situation she panicked.
Despite the commotion, the girl still left the house with £240 in hand after being inside for just over an hour. She took £130 in cash and the rest was left aside for the agency. The elusive agency boss later divulged that sex was in fact a grey area. “It would be illegal to advertise sex but it is up to the girls what they decide to do,” she said.
Further investigation revealed that the agency itself was, in fact, being run by a student at another Midlands university. With the business being run by a 20-year-old girl, there are further questions raised about the safety of the escorts.
Charity for vulnerable women, Eaves, warned about the risks of escorting. Anna Bowden, spokesperson for Eaves said: “Escorting is an entry-level job into the sex industry. It is outrageous that escort agencies are playing in this way on the economic vulnerability of students, who are more likely than other demographics to be strapped for cash.”
The student The Linc interviewed was unaware of this and had worryingly liberal views on escorting. “I can understand why people might see escorting as immoral, as it is portrayed to be dirty and wrong, but I think if the individual is OK with it and they are safe, then it is fine,” she said.
The appeal of the money was apparent as some of the girls’ friends were intrigued by the idea: “Some thought it was a great idea and even asked for the website to sign up.”
Ultimately it is the right of the individual to decide if they want to be an escort as it is in fact not currently illegal, although the client and the agency can be prosecuted. Despite this, women must be aware of the true extent of the dangers as well as the damage it could do to their reputation.
The National Union of Students expressed concern over the exploitation of students. Olivia Bailey, NUS Women’s Officer said: “Whilst where someone works is a matter of individual choice, the NUS would be deeply concerned if students were being pressured into working as escorts, either by particular organisations, or by the more general pressures of student debt. Anyone with any concerns should contact the Welfare Officer at their students’ union.”
This isn’t a new issue. In November last year Dr Brooke Magnanti admitted to being the author of the famous blog “Diary of a London Call Girl”. Whilst studying for her PHD at the University of Bristol, she worked as a prostitute between 2003 and 2004. She said: “Before graduating I couldn’t find a job in my chosen field.”
Aside from this students are exploited in other ways. They are targeted within medical testing, another area that can be potentially dangerous. This can only raise the question whether students receive enough funding to help them pay for their degree, as in many cases loans only cover tuition fees and accommodation, but not living costs.Tweet