On a Saturday night, when my coursemates are headed to the pub, I’m often headed to the Randolph or Malmaison for a glass of wine with one of Oxford’s seemingly countless businessmen. Later, when other girls my age may end up going home with some slightly inebriated guy they met at the club, I am led upstairs to give my gentleman the night (or two hours) of his dreams. At the end of the evening, I go home with several hundred pounds and a smile on my face: mischief managed. Of course, it’s not all just about ‘easy’ money: I enjoy my work for its own sake. I like the variety, I like meeting interesting people and hearing their stories, I appreciate good food and drinks in nice places, and I delight in giving (and receiving) pleasure and satisfaction. So, for me, this is a win-win.
I started escorting during my undergraduate degree in Manchester: I needed a part-time job to fund my studies and had read about student escorts in a magazine. The first night I made £300 in two hours. After my first year I exchanged my tiny dorm room for a beautiful apartment close to the university. I never got greedy and only worked two evenings a week, even less in my final year in order to focus on my thesis. In meeting people from all walks of life I’ve had countless unforgettable and amusing experiences, and even made some real, lasting friends. Nevertheless, the job wasn’t as glamorous as I had hoped: living in a big city meant that quantity was more important than quality, and that applied to the clientele too. Sometimes I ended up in messy apartments that smelled of weed and dirty socks, or was dropped in a dodgy part of the city late at night by a concerned taxi driver.
Thankfully things changed when I moved to Oxford. As you would expect, clients are willing to pay premium rates for the company of an Oxford student. I did what every self-respecting escort should do when she gets to a certain age (24) and joined a smaller, more exclusive agency, Oxford Dodo Companions, which means a whole other level of clients. Most men appreciate more elegant and sophisticated company: the much-coveted combination of beauty and brains. Obviously even the rich and famous have their own character flaws, but (especially in Oxford) they are all trying to avoid trouble and maintain anonymity. So I can expect them to be respectful, and they can expect me to be professional and discreet.
As for the downsides of escorting, what comes to mind are mostly problems deriving from societal bias and negative stereotypes about adult workers. My close female friends all know about my job. Initially they were worried, but once they understood that I genuinely enjoyed it and was not being forced into anything, they were supportive. My male friends struggle more – they find it embarrassing that I sell my body. I can get very angry about this: the concept that a woman somehow loses value because she has sexual encounters with strangers, or because she accepts money for it, seems utterly archaic, and not a little hypocritical given the continuing glorification of sexual conquests among male students. For me, this is a job like any other. Having tried both, I can confirm that I enjoy cocktails and sex with my well-mannered clients much more than working on my feet behind a bar, getting shouted at by drunk customers for hours on end.
I’m far from the only one: in 2020, an estimated 7% of UK students turned to adult work to fund their studies, up from 4% in 2019. Naturally the pandemic played a role in this. It is widely known that online platforms like OnlyFans boomed during this period. Unfortunately, lockdown also meant most escort agencies had to close down, and many student escorts (including myself) were left without the financial support that people in other jobs received. This lack of government help is just one example of the discrimination that adult workers regularly face as a result of the persisting taboo on the industry. One reason behind this taboo is that most people do not distinguish illegal street prostitution and drug-infested brothels from highly regulated, tax-paying escort agencies. Not every prostitute is a junkie, and not every escort works for a pimp: some of us are ordinary students simply trying to pay our fees while focusing on our studies. The prudish attempts of the government and universities to sweep even safe and legal forms of adult work under the carpet makes it more difficult for student escorts to access the right healthcare, welfare and financial support. This is especially relevant in Oxford, where colleges are so deeply involved in all aspects of students’ lives that there is a constant fear of being ‘found out’ and reprimanded for making the university look bad. Colleges provide 18-year-olds with lube and the morning-after pill for their drunken escapades but they draw the line at consensual prostitution? Update your values, Oxford.
Although it would be generally kind of nice not to have to hide my job from my coursemates, the main reason for addressing stereotypes and acknowledging sex work as a valid income option is to be able to provide a safer, healthier and more stable environment for that 7% of us (and growing) that rely on adult work – work that can be rewarding, enjoyable and, yes, satisfying in its own right – to fund our degrees. The Oxford colleges like to pat themselves on the shoulder for all their efforts towards female empowerment, while at the same time recoiling at the idea that their virtuous female students might stoop to so ‘lowly’ a line of work as escorting.
Of course, no one is saying that colleges should go around recruiting their students into prostitution, but in the spirit of some favourite Oxford buzzwords such as ‘inclusivity’, ‘safe space’, and ‘progressive change’, some non-judgmental support is surely not too much to ask. Moreover, female empowerment surely includes female sexual agency: may we decide what we do with our own bodies, please? Thank you.