Leeds' hidden sex trade: Online demand creating unhealthy competition

Increased competition fuelled by the popularity of online escorting is putting the sexual health of women at risk, it was claimed today.

Industry insiders and experts say the crowded marketplace means some prostitutes are agreeing to more extreme requests from their clients.

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One former online escort, who spoke to the YEP on condition of anonymity, said: "As a woman, I had to compete with so many others and you've got to stand firm.

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"The last time I was on (a major adult website that offers escorting ads], more and more clients were demanding various services that I felt were unsafe and wouldn't practice - but other girls were doing them.

"It was down to competition and demand but I had to stay strong.

"If other girls are doing it and clients are asking for it, then you

are in a situation where you've got to think about it, although I wouldn't be moved.

"There were times when I was working in Leeds when I thought 'oh my God, all the other girls are charging a hundred pounds an hour and minimum fee is two or two fifty'.

"I could have given in and dropped my price and I would have done more clients but only earned the same money. It's very, very competitive."

Teela Sanders, reader in sociology at the University of Leeds and an expert on the British sex industry, agreed that the changing nature of the vice trade was encouraging some prostitutes to take risks with their health.

Dr Sanders said: "As in any form of economy, as more people start to come in, the competition increases."

During recent research carried out by the Government, 71 per cent of female prostitutes interviewed said they had suffered a physical assault, with 63 per cent having been raped. Just under 70 per cent met

the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The report setting out those findings also said girls and women who had suffered physical or sexual violence or neglect were more likely to get

lured into vice in the first place.

It goes on: "This group (can have been] further marginalised by experiences which included running away from abusive situations, being in local authority care, being involved in crime, drug addiction and being excluded from education."

The report also says three-quarters of those selling their bodies in Britain have entered street prostitution before their 18th birthday.

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