Lily Allen appears on The Project 4 September 2018. Picture: The Project
Lily Allen appears on The Project 4 September 2018. Picture: The Project

Why women have sex with female escorts

WHEN I heard last week that recording artist Lily Allen had admitted to sleeping with female escorts during her 2014 Sheezus tour, I have to confess that I barely batted an eyelid.

After all, paying a beautiful woman to warm your bed is surely a standard in the canon of rock star behaviour, along with trashing hotel rooms and demanding only red M & Ms on your tour rider.

But in an interview on The Project, she elaborated, saying, "It's more about a period of time when I was feeling incredibly lonely, and sort of at my wits' end, and I was looking for anything - looking for an outlet. So it's not really, like, a salacious sex story.

"It's more about [being in] hotel rooms like the one we are sitting in, and being on my own and being very far away from my kids and my husband."

Allen might've joined the countless other musicians - and people from all walks of life - who've called upon a sex worker in an hour of need.

But she had also done something few others have: she had admitted to being lonely.

And while on the road, far away from her family and presumably far away from her friends, she turned to sex workers for comfort, company, and compassion.

There are people who look down on the adult industry as being little more than a conveyor belt of disposable women providing mechanical, unenjoyable sex to groups of braying punters; and I believe firmly that they couldn't be missing the point more.

Lily Allen said she slept with sex workers on tour. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Lily Allen said she slept with sex workers on tour. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

When I wrote about why I believe some men cheat with sex workers, I said that I've seen many men visit brothels to have their emotional needs met in ways they don't feel they are in their primary relationships.

Regardless of the gender of the client, or the gender of the worker, I believe this dynamic is common: people visit sex workers for more than just sex.

People visit sex workers to feel desired, to feel excited; to be held, caressed, and cuddled. People visit sex workers to talk, to ask advice, to confess things, and to feel heard.

People visit sex workers because - like Lily Allen - they're lonely.

We are all lonely sometimes.

And perhaps outside of a confessional, a therapist's office, and a particularly deep late-night conversation with a bartender; there are few opportunities we have in life to experience no-strings-attached intimacy with another human being.

Maybe people find sex workers easy to confide in because they imagine that we exist only on the fringes of society, never edging closer to the centre where we could accidentally encounter our clients in their everyday lives.

Maybe it's because they imagine brothels to be places where so many bizarre, kinky things happen that their confessions and feelings - no matter how strange they perceive them to be - would pale in comparison to whatever is happening in the next room.

Or maybe it's just ease of access: in Australia at least, where brothels exist in most cities and many towns, and where private workers can advertise in online directories, it can be easier to make a booking with a sex worker than it can be to make an appointment with a mental health professional.

Where doctors have waiting lists, brothels have introduction lounges for potential clients to meet every available worker.

And when seeking help for mental health still carries a heavy stigma, visiting a sex worker can earn you cheers and high-fives from your mates.

Sex workers make important contributions to the mental health of their clients; and while this is enormously rewarding and valuable work, it can also be incredibly taxing.

Every worker I know has stories about witnessing (or having) an emotional moment in the dressing room of a brothel or backstage area of a club, counselling another worker after a particularly intense or stressful booking with a client or receiving counselling from another worker themselves.

It can be exhausting to keep yourself open to receiving other people's energies, and hearing their stories, night after night; I know that when I've had clients confess to me that they felt lonely or isolated, I've been able to say that I've often felt the same way.

There's no doubt that Lily Allen's confession was seen as scandalous in part because she spoke about visiting female escorts.

In an Instagram post, she wrote, "I'm not proud, but I'm not ashamed. I don't do it anymore". ("I'm not proud because I was married at the time," she clarified in the comments).

While female clients certainly exist, they're a rarity compared to male clients: for the most part, the adult industry is set up to cater towards men who are attracted to women, or men who are attracted to men, rather than women who want to explore their attractions and desires.

I can say I've only ever had a handful of female clients in my life - three, maybe four at most.

One in particular stands out in my mind: an older woman who visited the brothel I was working in during a quiet night, and who told me that despite knowing for most of her life that she was attracted to women and women only, she had never been with another woman. She was from a small town, the kind of town where women are expected to become wives and then mothers as soon as they're old enough to marry, and the fact that she had lived alone for most of her adult life was already enough to raise eyebrows among her neighbours.

She booked me that night; and I felt honoured to have spent that time with her.

As the hour drew to a close, I asked her if she had ever considered moving to the city: away from the little town where she felt like she couldn't be herself, and to a larger and more diverse area where - surely - she could meet other women her age, and maybe have a chance at finding love.

She said no. She felt settled, she had put down roots, and for better or worse she didn't see herself leaving any time soon.

I walked her to the door and saw her off in to the night. I would never see her again.

When I went back in to the room we had used, to re-make the bed and tidy the space for the next worker; I shut the door behind me and cried.


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