Saturday 18 November 2017

Call girls: How was it for you?

It's never been easier to get a call girl in Ireland.
It's never been easier to get a call girl in Ireland.

Claire Ryan

It’s never been easier to get a call girl in Ireland, you even have online ratings and reviews to help you choose one. And it’s not just lonely perverts who use them. A disgusted Claire Ryan talks to the ordinary men, single and married, who pay for sex, but she is not convinced by how they rationalise their sordid behaviour

Is your husband a john, or a punter? You may be horrified by the question, but don't fool yourself into thinking that only lonely perverts pay for sex. All a modern john needs is a wallet and a limited conscience. The men that keep the sex trade booming in Ireland are husbands, boyfriends, brothers, fathers and sons. A john may be the most ordinary guy in the world, but he is able to detach himself from his emotions and treat paying for sex as a transaction.

Johns operate in an anonymous world that, these days, is largely conducted online. Here they can access escorts on sites such as and coldly chat about their habit with like-minded people, while operating under various pseudonyms.

On the other side of the sex boom are the escorts who advertise on Escort Ireland and list sexual likes such as 'reverse oral' or 'waterworks' in their explicit profiles, as well as listing the dates when they are 'on tour' around the towns and cities of Ireland. In recent years there has been a big shift away from on-street prostitution and a move towards escorts or 'high-class whoring', as the site -- a kind of online rough guide to prostitution -- refers to it. In fact, the escort business has exploded in popularity and accessibility to such an extent that paying for sex in any town or city in Ireland can be organised faster than you can say "dial-up" or "broadband". And, unsurprisingly, a wedding ring or a happy family life does not guarantee a man isn't secretively paying for sex.

So how do married men, or attached men, square things with their consciences when seeking out the services of escorts behind the backs of their partners? None were willing to explain face-to-face. These interviews had to be done via email, or via forums where I put questions to the numerous punters chatting anonymously online. Many of them had a lot to lose by coming clean.

One man who regularly pays for sex, even though he has a long-term girlfriend, was willing to answer questions by email but would only give his online name, Anon163. "For me, it is the thrill of being able to view a beautiful lady, and for a small fee I can have casual sex with no commitments," he says. Anon163 explains that he doesn't visit escorts to escape "an ugly wife" -- a description which he apologises for using -- going on to say that he's very lucky with his partner, but that no matter how appealing and attractive that person is, you may still want to stray into paying for sex.

"I have a very attractive partner and a lot of the time the escort I visit is a lot less attractive than her," he says, "so I don't have to visit escorts to sleep with a beautiful woman." His cool, calm and polite manner in answering the questions seems totally at odds with his actions. It's difficult to get past the fact that he has a partner, yet totally normalises the fact that he pays for sex with other women and then sleeps with his unsuspecting girlfriend. He estimates that he visits an escort roughly three times every two months and that, if he's out of the country on business, he engages the services of an escort, possibly even different escorts, for every day of the trip.

He admits to feeling guilty on occasion. "To be honest, yes, occasionally I feel guilty," he says, "but, like most men, I can separate emotional commitment from a physical one. Yes, having sex with another woman is cheating, but paying for it with no emotional attachment is not half as bad as forming a relationship with another woman for the purpose of sex. That would involve an emotional betrayal."

He also claims to be a "no frills" kind of man who simply pays money for straight-up sex, so it doesn't put unrealistic demands on his partner in terms of expecting acrobatics or a fetish-driven sex life. Bet she would be relieved to hear that.

El Gordo, another masked frequenter of escort sites and forums, sent me a personal message. His worries mostly involve the financial implications of visiting an escort once a month. However, he regards paying for sex as a rescue remedy for his marriage. "In my case, it's mostly that my wife doesn't enjoy sex. It's something she's willing to put up with on occasion, but that's about it," he says. El Gordo claims that he visits escorts to lower his sexual demands on his wife, and he says he enjoys the company the escorts provide. "I like escorts," he concludes. "By this I don't mean that I like having sex with them, although I do. I actually like them as people, some more than others, of course."

Alechoran, a prolific poster on Escort Ireland, chose to answer my questions openly on the forum rather than by email or personal message, claiming to be among friends. His take on the popularity of escorts is that it's simply because men want sex -- "lots and lots of sex". And he backs this opinion up with the bizarre explanation that a gay man has far more sexual partners than a lesbian, therefore men want more sex than women. With escorts, he says, "We can also act out our more 'deviant' sexual interests -- the type you wouldn't attempt with a 'nice girl'." I wonder if he ever asked any of the 'nice girls'. It could be a cheaper option, considering he recently spent €6,000 on 48 hours with two escorts. Alechoran has his own rules and moral code about not using escorts while he has a girlfriend, and as a result he never feels guilty.

"If I was a drug pusher, an arms dealer, a banker or a corrupt politician I would feel tremendously guilty," he says. "But when I, as an adult, have sex with another consenting adult, I feel good."

Another john, codenamed GQ, seems like the typical boy next door and refers to himself as a "newcomer" to the escort world. He explains by way of a personal message that his Catholic guilt ate away at him the first few times he paid for sex, but it dissipated eventually.

And he wouldn't visit an escort while in a relationship because he would most definitely consider it cheating.

GQ now regards his penchant for call girls as a "harmless release" and he wouldn't expect a girl he was dating to behave the same way an escort does in the bedroom. According to GQ, "that kind of intimacy is based on love, respect and trust and is infinitely more satisfying".

But for the attached men, such as Anon163, who inhabit the secret world that involves the use of escorts, the stakes are so much higher.

Nicola, who moved to Cork from England, and whose marriage disintegrated due her husband's sex addiction, knows these high stakes only too well. "The presence of escorts and prostitutes has wrecked an otherwise happy family, complete with kids," she says angrily of her experience.

Nicola and her husband seemed to be perfectly suited and, from the outside looking in, they appeared to have it all.

"We were the young, happy, good-looking family," she says. "We loved our kids but we loved to have our wild nights out. We felt we had the best of both worlds."

But one day Nicola discovered texts on her husband's phone that indicated he had been trying to solicit escorts. She immediately threw him out of the family home.

Although Nicola had been aware of her husband's previous fascination with porn and prostitutes, she thought that he had "beaten his addiction". However, she quickly discovered that he had slipped back into old patterns of behaviour. The texts on his phone were in fact the last straw, so she called time on the marriage.

Nicola is particularly vocal about escort sites and chat rooms, which she feels encourage men to think that their behaviour is completely fine and perfectly acceptable. "It's a peer-supported group," she says. "They celebrate the fact that these women are theirs for the taking. Many of them are married and they make comments about their wives not putting out, not shaving their nether regions, or not wanting to have anal sex."

Through her own experience, Nicola has become very informed about the growing problem of addiction to escorts and the delusions that men who pay for sex are under. One of which is the much-held mantra that two consenting adults engaging in sex, and treating it as a transaction, is totally normal. "It's like paying people to be your friends," she says. "It is life-affirming being with someone you are attracted to and them being attracted to you. It's about making that connection. Not paying for it for 30 minutes and wondering whether the woman hated your guts or not."

Nicola's anger is palpable when she refers to the women, like herself, who have been through this scenario and who post stories on sites such as about discovering their husband's use of prostitutes and about their own terror at being exposed to STIs.

While these women are reeling from the pain of betrayal, they also have to deal with the horror of awaiting test results for diseases that they should never have been exposed to.

Nicola has little sympathy for the escorts and mocks the mentality known as the "happy hooker", where women claim to enjoy the job. She doesn't give any credence to the women who claim it's the best job in the world. "Who are they trying to kid?" she says. "My five-year-old daughter wants to be a princess when she grows up, not be pawed by lusty fat Irish men for money. I don't believe a word of what they say."

One woman who does understand the mentality of women who sell their bodies for sex is Patricia Albright, who established Escort Ireland in 1998.

A former street prostitute and then escort, Patricia is adamant that the majority of women who work as escorts are "strong independent women, doing this job because they believe it is the best job for them at this point in their life".

She decided to leave the profession when the time was right for her and she started the website. "I saw a new opportunity and felt it was time to hang my knickers up, anyway," she says. Patricia says she has never regretted her time as an escort and if she had to live her life all over again she says she would take exactly the same path.

But, she admits that there are women in the escort business who need help and who want to get out of the business because they are just not suited to it.

"We should be helping these women more," says Patricia. The majority of women who work as escorts in Ireland are foreign nationals. According to Patricia, this is the case because most Irish women want to protect their privacy. But it wasn't always the case. "Ten years ago there were more Irish escorts working in Ireland, but since the expansion of the EU in 2004, nearly all escorts in Ireland have been foreign nationals," Patricia says.

When it comes to trafficking in the sex trade, she admits that she cannot prevent women who have been trafficked from advertising on Escort Ireland, but she claims that the site reports any suspicious activity to the police and encourages the website users to do so as well.

So if prostitution is illegal in Ireland how does Escort Ireland get to operate?

Well, as with many things in this country, there is a legal loophole. The business is UK-based and operates under the umbrella of a company called E Designers, so it does not come under the jurisdiction of Irish law. Escort Ireland also makes claims that the escort is, "paid for her time and companionship, only. Anything else that occurs is a matter of coincidence and choice between consenting adults."

Patricia also defends the review system on the website. This is a charming facility where punters rate their experience with the escort in lurid detail. They rate the escort's performance, appearance and hygiene as if filling out a hotel comment card. For example: "Attractive", "Unattractive" or, for those who wish to sit on the fence, "Neither Attractive or Unattractive."

Patricia claims that the escorts can opt out of the review system, or request "clean reviews" that don't give explicit sexual details, but she says the majority of the women use the reviews to publicise their services. The reviews are also important, says Patricia, for "clients deciding which ladies they'd like to see".

The reviews are possibly the most unnerving facet of Escort Ireland and the online sex trade, due to the cold, detached and almost inhumane manner of rating the women. It is grisly, sad and vile. A kind of disturbed-boys club and a place where men like Scankman, a prolific reviewer who has posted 114 reviews of women to date, can recommend escorts who are "a good punt" and "not a clock watcher" to peers logging onto the site.

Another busy reviewer is Zobaanzoo who has written 86 reviews and often includes some self-deprecating comments on his 50in waist, advancing age and erectile length. He also laments, in his reviews, that his wife isn't as good natured as the escorts, and brags about sleeping with women from 18 to 65 years old, with body shapes that run the gauntlet from gymnastic "Latvian girls" to "120-kilo heavyweights". He's quite the haggler on price, which is an obvious source of pride for him, and he occasionally leaves his socks on.

The escorts have the opportunity to answer an unfavourable review by posting a reply, which somehow makes it all the more grim. Reading posts by women defending their oral technique, personal hygiene, breast size, vaginal width and unwillingness to indulge every messed-up whim of a punter, takes you to a dark place. Nonetheless, some women, according to Anon163, request a review in a bid to get more business.

"I have been asked to leave a review without me bringing the subject up," he says. "I have also been asked not to leave a negative review when the encounter was obviously not great, for whatever reason. In that case I don't leave a review at all because anyone can have an off day".

The normality of the tone used by these men when discussing escorts and paying for sex is pretty astounding, and Eoin Stephens, a psychotherapist and founder of the Centre for Sexual Addictions, has found this detachment to be typical when it comes to sexual addictions. "Mutual normalisation helps, just like it does with a drinking problem," he explains.

Eoin has witnessed a huge surge in people seeking help for addiction to cybersex, porn and escorts. Clearly not everyone who indulges in this activity has an addiction, but for some it can escalate to a detrimental extent. This is also enabled by the low requirement for personal involvement and accessibility to it on the web.

According to Eoin, when someone becomes addicted to sex their behaviour changes considerably. "Thinking will become distorted," he says, "It becomes disinhibited, desensitised, short on empathy, high in expectation of instant gratification, and will need to be gradually challenged and then restructured.

"In the longer term, the recovering addict needs to learn about how to have more satisfying intimate relationships," he says.

The problem of sex addiction is growing at such a rate that Eoin holds workshops for family and relationship counsellors who are beginning to encounter these kinds of issues on a regular basis. Sex addiction is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland but a burgeoning one.

And so, the married johns go to work, help with the kids and make love to their wives, all the while paying for sex with escorts and passing them to online buddies like a worn jersey. It's kind of a "try her out for size," mentality that's extremely depressing. While there's no doubt that many of the escorts make a lucrative living, are fine with what they do and have chosen their path, there have to be some women who have had little choice and have been trafficked or forced into this line of work.

What is obvious, however, in terms of the booming online sex trade, is the unequivocal lack of respect for all women. From the escorts to the unsuspecting wives and girlfriends, they are all verbally victimised in some way or another. Johns should spare the delusions and flimsy defence. There's always a cost when sex is on sale, and the wallet is the least of it.

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