It is important to note, before we get into the nitty gritty, that escorting work at its core, is about companionship. It’s about spending time with a person, going for dinner, having a conversation, asking them questions and making them feel like they’re special, and not alone. There are escorts that do not cross the sexual line with their clients, and there are many that do. There is an assumption by most, that escorting services involve sexual favours explicitly, as though an escort is another word for prostitute. This is not the case at all, but since the escorting industry is closer to the sex working industry than say, banking, I feel able to discuss the legalisation of sex work freely.
Criminalization of sex work makes life dangerous for both workers and clients. It normalises violence and devalues the morality of the worker. There is data collected by researchers at the London school of hygiene and tropical medicine that show that sex workers are three times more likely to experience violence of either a sexual or physical nature at the hand of a client. Not only this but they are also twice as likely to have contracted sexually transmitted disease, including HIV.
Why does this happen? Well, think about it like this – let’s all imagine for a second that we are a street sex worker. We are stood on the corner of the street waiting for a potential client to swing by. If you’re at risk of being arrested, instead of your work being regulated for safety, you’re more likely to take a risk sooner than you would otherwise. For example – you’re less likely to take the time to converse with a client, giving you the crucial time that you need to have the ability to scope out whether or not he could be dangerous, or even engage in a verbal negotiation of terms for your trade. You’ve jumped the gun, to keep yourself and your client from arrest, you get straight in the car. Already, you’re vulnerable.
Sweden pioneered a system where by the sex worker could not be arrested, however the client could. The theory behind this was to reduce sex work whilst protecting sex workers from arrest by decriminalising them, but leaving the responsibility up to the client. This reportedly ended up making the work more dangerous for the worker. When the risk was only put on the men, it increased the amount they had more to lose in comparison to the worker. Due to there not being an equal level of risk, there was lack of trust between worker and client. This resulted in a power struggle in many cases, where workers reported that negotiation didn’t take place until after the exchange of trade, due to the client feeling like they were at risk of arrest.
What both of these systems do is essentially okay the fact that the client of a sex worker is up for trial. This means that the only sort of clients that sex workers can ever come across are those who are already comfortable with committing crimes. It is unsurprising, in this case, that sex workers are vulnerable to violent people.
We would do well to follow in the footsteps of New Zealand, who’s government decriminalized sex work back in 2003. It is reported that workers are more able to refuse clients, their use of condoms is higher (reducing risk of transmitting disease), and their relationship with authorities and police are better, which heightens their ability to report violence against them and be taken seriously. Given that the safety of our people should always come first, we should completely decriminalize sex work across the board here in the UK.