The £200-an-hour escort 'stuck' selling sex in Birmingham Airbnbs – Birmingham Live

‘High-class’ escort – in the industry since she was just 17 – says: ‘People don’t see it but we’re humans with families too’
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"Cocaine and partying, it's everywhere, everyone's doing it – it's massive in sex work," admits Sophie*, an escort since she was just 17. She's battled spiralling drug addiction, struggled through homelessness and says she is often 'dehumanised'.
Now 24, she's 'stuck' in an industry where she fears she makes more than she would from other jobs. Last month, she took home £2,000-a-week as she sells sex to – often married – men behind the closed doors of Airbnbs and hotels across Birmingham.
Charging £200-an-hour, and £130 for half-an-hour, the young woman sees herself as "high-class". But people "don't even think you're human" and don't realise how lonely her work is, she says.
READ MORE: Birmingham's 'longest-standing' massage parlour on reality of sex industry in cost of living crisis
It is not illegal to sell sex, but it is a crime in the UK to run or control a brothel – or to exploit women into prostitution. Sophie, who lives in Worcestershire and travels into the city for work, spoke to BirminghamLive about the stigma around sex work, how she fell into the industry – and the isolation, despite seeing up to five men a day.
"People dehumanise us. It's the wording, I hate the word prostitute, it's such a degrading term, people say 'oh it's just a prossie, or it's just a hooker,'" she explains. "People don't even think you're a human.
"There's so many different reasons people do sex work, some do it to put food on the table for their kids, some to pay education, debt. They're all humans, they've all got families, they've all got a life."
She knows mums working in the industry, either stripping or doing "cam work", to support their children, she stresses. "Whatever form, it's to go towards something. People don't just do it for a f***ing laugh."
Asked if this is what she wants to do in the future, she sighs audibly, adding: "Honestly, this is the problem with sex work, it's quick money, I'm not going to be able to – probably – make this much money in any other job.
"You get stuck, and it's really hard to come out of it. Every time I've tried to come away from it, I've ended up going back because I know what I'm doing, I'm good at what I do, I make a lot of money from what I do.
"I don't know what I want to do in terms of work," Mulling it over, she huffs. "I don't know, this is what I'm trying to work out now, what I want to do with my life but I haven't got a f***ing clue."
Sophie started selling sex illegally when she was a teenager. Having gone through" trauma" when she was younger, she said she was seeking "control" back when she looked into so-called Sugar Daddies online.
"It's exploitive, they want something for nothing. I didn't know about any of it, I was completely fresh, new," she explains. "I only met two people, I remember doing an overnight stay with one of them, for like £300 which is such a rip-off. As a 17-year-old you're like '£300 that's amazing.'
"When I look back, these were grown men, they were in their 40s. It was the adrenaline of it, I was so excited to be feeling like I was getting some control and some financial stability in my life."
For a couple of years, she dabbled in agency work "on and off". She would see clients from an apartment used by all the girls, but dangerous habits began to emerge.
"I'd started developing drug and alcohol problems – I started then working to fund my habit," she admits. "I was in the party scene. It's hard out here, it's hard.
"I was progressively getting worse, I was just in a spiral. I was spending the majority of my money on partying. I used to just get offered it (drugs), I'd have it off people then I progressed to buy it myself, then you're doing it on your own.
"Before you know it, you're in debt, you're escorting and not even getting anywhere with it, all your money's going on drugs."
Then homeless, she began living in a £20-a-night hostel, living "hand to mouth", she recalls. "It was really desperate. They were dark days. I'd get a little bit of money under my belt then just blow it." She was making anything between £200 and £300-a-week, but every penny would soon disappear.
She eventually checked into rehab after she began using crack cocaine. Life stabilised and she moved to Birmingham for a fresh start. "My life became really stable, I stopped escorting," she says. But the day after she came to Birmingham, she listed herself on an adult site and the cycle continued.
Now, she works for herself from apartments across the city, using popular booking sites Airbnb and Booking.com. Though she says they have a number of measures in place to try to prevent sex work.
She tells us: "It's a really lonely job, that's one thing people don't realise. Yeah, you see four, five men a day, but you're just sat on your own the majority of the day, watching Netflix. That's where I find it hard, I think, I'm bored, I'll have a drink, and then before I know it, I'm in a right mess.
Beyond the Streets works with women involved in the UK sex industry. They work to see women safe from coercion, violence and abuse. They collaborate to ensure women are not compelled to sell sex and to create routes out of prostitution by working with others including those with lived experience.
Women working on the streets, in parlours, escorting and online can access support by calling 0800 133 7870 or emailing support@beyondthestreets.org.uk.
"I move around for safety reasons, I don't stay in the same place for too long because people get robbed. You've got to be careful, you don't know who's watching you, obviously you've got a lot of cash on you.
Do many of her clients have wives? She laughs out loud at the question, quickly adding: "Yeah, they're all married." January has been a "really slow" month, she says, explaining she's 'only' making £700-a-week.
"Christmas was really busy. I was ill so I couldn't really work but November and December I was making anything from £1,000 to £2,000 a week," she says.
"I'm in a lot better place than I was, I've got savings, I'm at the peak of my game; I know what I'm doing in terms of keeping myself safe, in terms of advertising myself. I've been doing it so long, it's my bread and butter."
Do you work in the sex industry? Do you have a story to tell? You can contact us by emailing stephanie.balloo@reachplc.com
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