My conversation with the concierge of hotels I stay at during different travels to Europe lays threadbare the current socio-economic situation there. Franz in Amsterdam, Lorenzo in Milan, Birhakeim in London and Sebastian in Paris very candidly revealed to me that 20-year-old girls, even after finishing their studies at the university, prefer to engage in the escort sex worker’s job. On one side the recession and on the other, the high lifestyle costs have pushed young girls to realise that they need not waste time with a 9-6 job full of stress. Additionally, they have to fight male chauvinism at the workplace, then end up paying high bills at the end of the month.
So instead of suffering the plight that normal sex workers fall into, being an escort gives huge power to the girl. Escorts have privacy, choice and the liberty of time on their hands, according to my cross discussions with the concierges. Escorts screen customers on their handsets, choose to accept an offer or not, and make demands prior to engagement. European escorts can travel facilities without any frontier.
On average, they make 150 to 300 Euros per session, lasting anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes. If a session lingers, the charges also clock up faster than the taximeter. Serving 10 customers from 8 pm to 4 am, they easily earn 1000 to 2000 Euros per night after paying off the agent who takes care of their agenda and the customer finding process. It seems agents nowadays are ever vigilant on this mobile phone escort service system.
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They seriously assume responsibility for both sides, the security and proper payment of the escort girl — who’s their partner actually running their sex business — and ensuring the satisfaction of customers who want safe sex. In a county like Holland, where sex working is legal, Franz said this business is discreet, yet open, easy and makes nobody a loser.
Franz had alerted me about sex, art and torture being within walking distance in Amsterdam, which I wrote about last week. In fact it was his further observations on sex workers that made me touch this subject with the other concierges I met in three other cities. Franz told me that all his rich American or Arab clients are hallucinated with the best choice of girls they get in Amsterdam. As prostitution is totally legal and regulated in Holland, this country has attracted job-starved girls from 44 different countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa and even Asia.
About two-thirds of the 30,000 girls here are non-Dutch. Girls can easily start a lucrative sex business here. Her only investment is a mobile phone, an agent to procure clients, and a health certificate that proves she’s in perfect health. There are legal brothels too where the girls can find easy employment. In 2011, the Dutch authorities started asking sex workers to pay taxes on their earnings. In some Dutch cities, there are facilities called afwerkplek, a sex drive-in for cars for street prostitution. “So the government, girls, agents and customers are all safe, legal and happy,” says Franz.
Lorenzo was my Milan hotel’s emotional, happy-go-lucky and efficient concierge. He heartily commented, “We are complex macho men in Italy. You can call us perverted for revering the extremely old fashioned sexual prohibition of the Vatican, yet enjoying minor sex workers in bunga bunga parties!”.
He was of course referring to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was sentenced to seven years in jail for having paid a minor, Karima el-Mahroug (17 years old then), for sex, and trying to cover it up. In Italy, the exchange of sexual services for money is legal, but organised prostitution indoors in brothels or controlled by third parties is prohibited. Sex workers are called fireflies (lucciole), which is also the name of their website.
“Everything is permitted, but nothing allowed in our hypocritical society,” said my Parisian hotel concierge Sebastian. I can vouch for that as nothing is black and white in France. We enjoy the hues of the rainbow here.”
In the UK, concierge Birhakeim in my London hotel said the government was rather hypocritical in trying to introduce a system that will make it a criminal offense for men to buy sex, but absolutely legal for women to advertise and sell sex. “So unofficially everything is allowed, but how will the escort hide her man so he does not go to jail?” he wondered.
Escort girls, they all said, never expend any emotion over what the clients ask for. My concierge friends appear to believe four types of customers exist: (1) Just want the sex act, that’s it. This is a good customer. He takes 20 minutes, maximum 30 minutes. (2) Sentimental customers who want the escort to act like a companion. This takes time. The escort conveniently puts on the taximeter. (3) Entrepreneur-type customers want a submissive woman to dominate over. So she cannot disobey his desires. Of course, playing the super-submissive woman has its specific cost. (4) Accompany the customer on his travels, playing the role of his girlfriend.
This trip can last anywhere between two days and a week. Such a customer is of very high value. Escort girls have to be especially well-trained to perform in this job. The key is that nobody who meets her with her client should ever even get a hint of the fact that she is an escort. She has to fit like a glove into becoming his loving Isabel, Francia, Krystel or Deborah.
My intention is not to criticise the woman sex worker, but narrate how the business fructifies as a consequence of economic recession when an overdose of high cost lifestyle piles up huge monthly bills. Of course there’s the flip side of women being duped, trafficked and taken advantage of. But those who choose to enter this oldest profession make good money for 15-20 years. After that, the choice remains with them along with a handful of money. The World Health Organisation recommends that “countries move towards the decriminalisation of sex work and improve sex workers’ access to health services”.
Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at http://www.shiningconsulting.com