How sex for sale has become a home industry

The rise of the internet has added an alarming new dimension to vice and escorting in Yorkshire.

PAUL ROBINSON reports on a world far removed from the trade's usual territory of street corners and massage parlours.

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The offer is plain, the language startlingly explicit.

SexyDoreen is ready to earn some money and doesn't care who knows it.

In fact, just about the only fact SexyDenise isn't happy to tell all and sundry is her real name.

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The self-described 52-year-old bisexual is one of hundreds of women across Yorkshire touting for business via the new phenomenon of online escorting.

Her section on the most successful of the trade's websites can be accessed with no pre-registration, no up front payment.

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On it, she says she is 5ft 6in tall and a size 10, with green eyes, brown shoulder length hair and a 32E "enhanced" bust.

Some of the details Wakefield-based SexyDenise goes on to give about herself would sit happily on any mainstream dating site.

Her tipple of choice, for example, is red wine, her top holiday

destination Bermuda and her favourite celebrity Katie Price.

Other content, however, makes it abundantly clear that she is searching for much more than a getting-to-know-you evening out.

Her likes and dislikes page mixes the aforementioned snippets on drinks, foreign travel and showbiz with information too extreme to be published here.

A 'rates' panel reveals SexyDenise charges between 55 and 80 for half-an-hour of her time while an overnight liaison will set the buyer back between 400 and 440.

Potential clients wanting her to visit a hotel or their home - an arrangement known as an 'out call' - are told she will travel to Leeds, Dewsbury, Doncaster and Barnsley as well as Wakefield.

'In-calls', where an escort entertains at their own flat or house, are also possible.

Bookings can be made through the website's internal messaging system or by ringing an openly-listed mobile number direct.

Webcam sessions and phone chats are also available, as is - for a price - a private gallery of photos.

SexyDenise's face is clearly visible in a number of less explicit shots available for all to see.

Writing on her profile page, she says: "I am a short drive from M1 junction 41 and similarly close to M62 junction 30.

Nearest well known landmark to my address is Pinderfields Hospital. I own my house (so no Landlord issues), I am very discreet with no worries about another client of mine bumping into you on arrival. I never, never, overlap my escort bookings, in fact I usually allow two hours between them, in order to bathe and change to required attire!"

The Yorkshire Evening Post has been told an escort such as SexyDenise can expect to receive as many as eight bookings a day from her presence on the website.

That figure, however, is dwarfed by the sheer number of women - and men - making at least part of their living via the site, which the YEP has chosen not to name.

It carries details of nearly 1,500 escorts across Yorkshire and the Humber, with 730 or so working in West Yorkshire.

More than half of those with West Yorkshire-based entries are women

while around 230 are men. There are also dozens of people listed under headings for couples and transvestites/ transsexuals.

Site users can narrow down the numbers using a range of criteria,

including age, ethnicity and dress size.

Searches can also be carried out geographically. A check for women based within 10 miles of Leeds's LS1 postcode area, for example, brings up about 380 profiles.

Dr Teela Sanders, reader in sociology at the University of Leeds and an expert on the British sex industry, says there has been a "boom" in web-based prostitution over the last decade.

She told the YEP: "Two things have caused it. One, the internet becoming more accessible and, secondly, the very heavy policing of street prostitution and prostitution in general in this country.

"There was a movement (during the years of the Labour government] to a criminalisation approach with the objective of eradicating prostitution and with that all aspects of the industry have been heavily policed.

"People are therefore trying to do it any way they can and, with the internet being something that can't be regulated, it is being increasingly used as an option."

The rise of online escorting has, however, brought with it concerns about safety, as large numbers of women with no previous experience of sex work flock to easy-to-access sites, seeing them as a means of raking in extra cash during these tough economic times.

Addressing what she calls the trade's recent "deprofessionalisation", Dr Sanders said: "People can say 'oh, it's not that bad', but actually the intricacies of working safely through the internet are really complicated.

"I've done research with escorts in the past about their strategies - they've got drivers, they've got ways of checking e-mails - and a lot of people wouldn't know how they work.

"I think a lot of escorts who've been on the internet since it started off are really quite worried by the opening of the floodgates."

Many of the women on the sites work alone, an arrangement often driven by the intricacies of British laws on prostitution.

If more than one person is available in a premises for paid sex, then it is classed as a brothel.

Legal guidance set out by the Crown Prosecution Service, though, says that "a house occupied by one woman and used by her alone for prostitution, is not a brothel".

Labour revealed plans in 2006 to change the law so that up to three prostitutes could operate legally in the same premises.

Fiona Mactaggart, at the time a Home Office minister, said: "I think the evidence that women working on their own are putting themselves in danger is powerful."

However, negative media coverage raising the prospect of a mini-brothel on every street corner subsequently prompted a government U-turn.

When the laws on prostitution were revised with the introduction of the Policing and Crime Act 2009, the promised change in the legal definition of a brothel was noticeable by its absence.

Cari Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes campaign group, said: "The law is increasingly criminalising women in this industry for working together.

"It is really worrying because (working alone from home] obviously puts them at increased risk.

"The laws in this country only make the vulnerable more vulnerable."

Where to get help:

GENERAL

Samaritans

Provides confidential emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Telephone 08457 90 90 90

Website www.samaritans.org

Women's Counselling and Therapy Service

Supports the mental health and emotional well-being of women in Leeds.

Telephone 0113 245 5725

Website www.womenstherapyleeds.org.uk

Victim Support

Gives free and confidential help to victims of crime, witnesses, their family and friends.

Telephone 0845 30 30 900

Website www.victimsupport.org.uk

Shelter

Lends support to the homeless and other people struggling with housing problems.

Telephone 0808 800 4444

Website www.shelter.org.uk

Rights of Women

Works to provide women with information on their legal rights.

Telephone 020 7251 6577

Website www.rightsofwomen.org.uk

SEX WORK

Genesis Leeds

Aims to help women escape prostitution and also promotes a wider understanding of the issues facing those in the vice trade.

Telephone 0113 243 0036

Website www.genesisleeds.org.uk

English Collective of Prostitutes

Campaigns for the decriminalisation of prostitution and more rights for sex workers in areas such as pensions and unions.

Telephone 0207 482 2496

Website www.prostitutescollective.net

CROP (Coalition for the Removal of Pimping)

Supports sufferers of sexual exploitation and works to help those victimized by pimps break free of their control.

Telephone 0113 240 3040

Website www.cropuk.org.uk

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

National Debtline

Gives free, confidential and independent advice to people with money problems.

Telephone 0808 808 4000

Website www.nationaldebtline.co.uk

SEXUAL HEALTH

NHS Direct

Provides expert health advice and information.

Telephone 0845 4647

Website www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk

Yorkshire MESMAC

Promotes sexual health among gay and bisexual men.

Telephone 0113 244 4209

Website www.mesmac.co.uk

ends

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