Thursday 22 March 2018

The Irish middle class Mum who became an Escort

John Spain, Books Editor

WHAT is likely to be the most controversial book to be published in Ireland this year is appearing next week. In it a middle class Irish woman, a former office worker who lost her job, tells the true story of what happened when she decided to beat the recession by working as an escort.

Written under the pseudonym Scarlett O'Kelly, the author gives an eye-opening picture of what she experienced when she resorted to prostitution to maintain her comfortable home and family lifestyle in the face of the financial collapse.

It is significant that a serious publisher like Penguin Ireland is bringing out the book, which is titled Between The Sheets. “This is a detailed account of a real person's life,” says Penguin Ireland’s managing director, Michael McLoughlin. “We have checked this woman's story thoroughly and we are satisfied that it’s genuine. What her book reveals is going to shock a lot of people, but it's important that we all understand the impact the recession is having on our society at all levels."

The woman who became an escort is an average, respectable, middle-class person living in a nice home. A separated mother with three children, she has had a number of well paid office jobs. But when she lost her last job and could not get another, she was finding it difficult to make ends meet. So she began escort work.

“I am an ordinary mum getting on with life. I'm someone who you would comfortably chat to at the school gates - perhaps you have - or in the doctor's surgery or while queuing at the post office,” says Scarlett in the book. “I am basically anyone who looks like an attractive, educated woman hitting forty. How I pay my mortgage, fund the children's hobbies and put food on the table may make me unusual, but I hope it doesn't change who I am.”

The neighbours in her respectable neighbourhood had no idea how the author was earning her money in the year she spent working as an escort. Michael McLoughlin of Penguin confirms the author’s description of herself as being an ordinary mum next door, not people’s stereotypical image of an escort. She sees herself as a modern woman and does not feel guilty about what she did.

Indeed, in a claim that is likely to anger feminists and groups fighting prostitution, the book’s advance publicity says that she feels that she benefitted from the experience in ways that were more than financial. Although she set out to make money, the publicity says, “along the way she became sexually liberated herself. Her experience gave her a unique insight into how women can be happier and more fulfilled in their sex lives and have stronger relationships as a result."

Having said that, the author says that the work took its toll in other ways. Michael McLoughlin confirms that she no longer works in the field. "There were a couple of factors. As the time went on, she found that living a double life was really stressful. She just found she was on edge a lot of the time. Ireland is so small she lived in constant fear of somehow being discovered. Along with that, she found that fewer men were in a position to pay her high rates and also other women started doing the same thing, on a freelance basis like her, so she had more competition. So it really wasn't worth the stress she was putting herself through and she went about looking for more orthodox work again. And this time she got a job."

The publicity describes the book as "an insightful view of the toll the recession is taking on the intimate lives of Irish couples." It says that the author describes how, "in coming face to face with Irishmen's deepest fears and desires, she saw a side of them she never expected to, a side she believes remains hidden from most women."

The book claims to be "an illuminating and explicit account of a year spent working as an escort in middle Ireland, a gripping account of living a double life – and the high price it exacts."

As the leading publisher in Ireland in recent years -- with eight Number One bestsellers last year -- Penguin Ireland produces books across the spectrum from literary works to popular fiction and memoirs. “We thought long and hard about publishing this book," says Michael McLoughlin, who feels it is justified because it is dispels the myth that it is only foreign women who are involved in the escort business here. The recession means that some middle class Irish women are now deciding to try it.

"We feel it is a fascinating story and shows yet another aspect of how the downturn is forcing people into difficult choices," Mr McLoughlin says.

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