Illicit Career of an Adult Escort Offers the Allure of Big Money with the Risk of Violence and Disease
Monday, January 28, 2002
Kimberly began her career two years ago just after graduating from high school. Now, at an age where many still rely on their parents for financial support, she's a successful businesswoman, often making between $1,000 to $2,000 a day, usually seeing 15 clients per week.
Her clients come, as her advertisement says "for hot fun."
Kimberly, who declined to give her last name for security reasons, is a full-time professional freelance escort in the East Bay, spending her days making house calls for as much as $600 an hour.
Officially she offers companionship and massage, but what her clients typically want is sex, or what she calls "Greek Massage."
Although many may not see prostitution as a legitimate occupation, Kimberly does not take her job lightly.
"You're selling your body," she said. "Your body is precious-you never sell yourself cheap."
Fresh out of high school, Kimberly got her start working for a professional escort agency. A year later she went into business for herself, which she said is more "satisfying."
But this independence comes at a price.
Because her business is largely illegal, Kimberly said she cannot call the police if her safety is at risk. Instead she has "a couple of people" she can call if she encounters problems, but she has no pimp.
"I'm very careful," she said, adding that she has never had any problems with out-of-control clients or the law.
Kimberly's entrepreneurial spirit does not get the blessing of the police.
"I don't consider illegal activity an occupation," said Berkeley Police Lt. Cynthia Harris. "I would not encourage anyone do anything illegal."
Kimberly may be lucky, said former prostitute Carol Leigh, spokesperson for the Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network.
"Prostitutes have no protection from violence," Leigh said. "The fact that it's illegal makes prostitutes more vulnerable to rape."
Sexually transmitted disease also makes the job even riskier, she said.
Despite the hazards, Leigh said college students in particular are often attracted to the sex worker industry.
"A lot of college students become strippers or sex workers to fund their education," she said.
Leigh herself became a prostitute after graduating from Boston University over two decades ago.
But for her, the money was secondary.
"There aren't many wealthy prostitutes," Leigh said. "It's adventurous and fun."
As an independent contractor, Kimberly has several long-term clients with whom she has developed close friendships.
"It's fun get to know that person, Kimberly said, "You're still seeing them as a client, but you're also looking at them a friend."
For many, the job takes a toll on their personal lives.
"It's very difficult to find a partner who can deal with that," Leigh said. "It's a struggle."
Those in the sex industry must also consider financial planning, said Shoran Mitchell, administrator of Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation in Los Angeles.
Because the success of a prostitute is largely dependent of appearance, one cannot make a lifetime of the profession.
"Sex work doesn't last forever," she said. "But sex work follows you around your entire life."
Students looking to make fast money also run the risk of losing sight of their academics.
"What tends to happen is the money becomes so sweet, school loses priority," Mitchell said.
"You get used to this type of money and not exercising the brain-which is great if you can handle it."
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