They say it’s the world’s oldest profession, and it’s coming to a campus near you.
We’re all familiar with the terms associated with women who work in the sex trade: whore, prostitute, call-girl, hooker, escort… student. With the rising cost of post-secondary education, some students are looking for alternative ways to finance their higher learning. Posters advertising jobs in the escort market indicate that our city’s sex trade is recruiting, and students, namely young women, are a hot commodity.
According to a recent report by CTV W-Five’s 21C, Canadian tuition fees have risen by a staggering 135 percent in the past decade and most students now graduate with debt-loads averaging $25,000.
“The chance to make big money, fast, can be very tempting,” wrote CTV reporter Dominic Patten. And he’s right.
When contacted for more information, New York escort service hiring at the U of C professed to pay hourly rates of up to $280.
“You could make as much as $600-$1,000 per encounter if [the client] likes you,” claimed a representative of the agency, who wouldn’t reveal the company’s name. “It’s very easy work. You’ll have a lot of fun.”
With that kind of earning potential, cash-strapped students can be easy recruits for the sex trade, despite the taboo associated with the industry. And as tuition and the cost of living continue to rise, more young women may be tempted to pursue an evening job as an escort.
For many people, the image conjured up by the word “escort” is likely one that involves exceptionally beautiful women who are paid to accompany wealthy men to lavish social events and expensive dinners–women whose charm and splendor are worth several hundred dollars an hour to, particularly affluent clients. But in reality, the Pretty Woman fantasy simply does not exist. The escort business, like all business, is about money, and it is driven by the same economic force that motivates the entire exotic industry–sex.
Shockingly, the NYC Escort agency currently prospecting for new blood on campus eagerly offered a very candid job description: “What you do is see men and spend about half an hour to an hour with them in their private place of residence,” revealed the agency’s delegate. “But to be honest, most of [the clients] will be expecting sex from you, which means you probably will have intercourse, with the use of a condom, of course.”
According to Acting Staff Sergeant Len Dafoe of the Calgary Police Service’s Vice Unit, the escort business is far less lucrative than it claims to be. The industry, he asserts, has an alarming dark side that many women don’t see until they’ve already become involved in the practice of exchanging sex for money.
“Escort services in Calgary must be licensed as an introductory service, meaning that an agency must pay a $50 fee for each introduction,” said Dafoe. “The problem is, many agencies exploit their employees not only by deducting [the introduction] fee from their hourly rate, but by charging them for advertising services, transportation, and other costs.”
Dafoe, a seven-year veteran of the squad, claimed that after all fees and expenses are paid to the agency, most escorts make less than the average street prostitute.
Putting aside the fiscal realities of the business, many women involved in the city’s sex trade find themselves dealing with an abundance of other physical and psychological difficulties. Dr. Lee Handy, a U of C associate professor of Applied Psychology, highlighted some common psychological effects of the sex industry on its workers.
“For a very significant number of [sex trade workers], this is not something that they see as positive in their lives,” he pointed out. “The business carries a significant amount of personal risk. For many women, it has a strong and potentially lasting impact on their sense of self-esteem.”
Although the industry is not damaging to all of its employees, it is harmful to many.
“For every woman who believes her experience in the trade to have been OK, there are significant numbers who thought it would be OK but discovered that it really wasn’t in many ways,” asserted Handy.
Behind the doors of the escort business, as with most other sex-related jobs, exists a world of temptation that can potentially jeopardize a student’s academic future, as well as their health and general well-being. Increased access to drugs and alcohol, which often become a means of coping with the callous reality of the industry, provides a heightened potential for addiction, among other more immediately dangerous drawbacks.
Dafoe also recognizes the probability of violence experienced by employees of the escort industry.
“People who pay money for sex are generally not well-adjusted, happy individuals,” he alleges. “Many of these men have various personality disorders. The potential for violence is huge.”
Furthermore, health concerns related to intercourse, with or without the use of a condom, are rampant among women in the trade. According to a report compiled by Calgary’s Communities for Awareness and Action on Prostitution Issues in conjunction with the Calgary Police Service’s Vice Unit, the most common sexually transmitted diseases among sex-trade workers include gonorrhea, syphilis, chancroid, chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, Hepatitis B, vaginitis and HIV/AIDS.
As for students contemplating a career in the escort business, the reality departs drastically from the fantasy. The potential rewards, in this case, do not outweigh the risk involved. As post-secondary education continues to become an increasing economic burden on young Canadians, the sex trade may seem to be a lucrative means of making fast cash. But the reality remains that, in general, a student who is financially desperate enough to sell their body for quick cash is likely to qualify for financial assistance from government student loan programs. Is the sex-trade an alternative means of making money? Yes. Is it a lucrative industry? Perhaps. But is it worth the risk? Definitely not.