At uni there was a girl on my course who had a part-time job in some sort of phone sex call centre. One day, during a particularly dry group work session, she regaled us with tales of the regulars that would phone the premium rate number. Some men had to be given a '24-hour cooling off period' because they'd spent over £600 in a single day which was kind of worrying and others had a tendency to achieve sexual gratification through the, um, interesting act of sending in pictures depicting themselves pissing in their own mouths. The anecdotes were even more astonishing than the fact that these places even exist given the kaleidoscope of free porn available on the web.
About a year later a mate of mine started dating a lady of the night. She confided in him (and he told his mates, naturally) about some of the downright bizarre things clients would ask her to do - feed them used condoms, stamp on their balls with stilettos and so on. It got me thinking about some of the stuff that goes on behind closed doors when peculiar kinks are exchanged for cash.
"We've all got that one little thing that we'd never admit to wanking to," Sarah*, a 21-year-old escort stressed to me. "I think how openly people are willing to explore that within themselves will be how far they are going to push it.
"One of my friends once admitted that he fancied Ann Widdecombe and would wank over her when she was on the news - that was the strangest thing I'd heard until I became a prostitute," she explained. Let's face it, for all its perils, and there are a lot of them, it's not your average nine to five, casual procrastination around the water cooler, type of job. So if the salacious mistress Ann Widdecombe was the oddest kink she had heard about before she took up her line of work, what about after?
Red Power Ranger
"I used to have to dress up as the Red Power Ranger to go and see this guy in a hotel. The reason I had to do it is because he was a single parent and he used to put his kids in front of the television if he needed a little bit of 'private time'. He worked from home so he'd put them in front of Power Rangers and his bedroom was directly next door to the living room. So, like one of Pavlov's dogs, he eventually needed the Power Ranger's theme tune to cum.
"So, not only was I dressed in a red helmet and costume, but I would have to strip very sexually to reveal my red underwear...to the theme tune. He always had a CD player with him to plug in with it on. There were a few people that would bring props with them; if they turned up with a backpack you'd always be like 'oh, fuck'."
Lord of the Rings Fetish
"One of the strangest things was a guy who hired me to come to his house -an outcall - where he paid me to sit there in lingerie and read passages from Lord of the Rings. He used to masturbate in front of me - which was quite off-putting when I was trying to perfect my Frodo accent.
"He used to buy me really expensive lingerie and keep it at his house so he could select what I would wear on the day. I read the first two Lord of the Rings books cover to cover. It was funny in a way because he never explained it to me. I never knew why he liked that. It was such an odd request I thought I'd just never bother asking. But there's lots of money in that, you should try it if you're ever hard on the old cash."
"It's quite often that you get someone that's like 'ok, I've got something weird' and it's not weird at all it's like, 'I like doggy' or 'do you do anal'- really simple things.
"This guy came in and he was like 'I'd really like it if you could smoke cigarettes and ash it on me'. I've done dominatrix stuff before, it's something that I, um, have experience doing. It's not something I'm averted to; I quite like it really, ha! But this guy was like 'I really want you to push it [the cigarette end] in [his skin]'. He wanted me to actually scar him."
Paid to party
"I was in a flat with a girl called Sally* and we used to do duos together because we are both bisexual. Literally every escort you will ever meet will say 'oh yes, I'm bisexual' and, bless them, they do their best to kiss a girl and make it look like they don't want to throw up. But it can be difficult to hide that expression if your feelings aren't genuine.
"As I picked up the intercom phone it was these two guys and they'd booked us but they said they wanted to choose who they wanted to get with when they came into the apartment. That often happened because you don't know who you're going to want to sleep with until you see them. And, if you go with your friend it could be awkward.
"So they came in and they were on MDMA, really, really loved up and started saying things like, 'you are sooo pretty'. Then they said 'we really need some water', so we were feeding them water. We put MTV on and started having really casual sex with them and it was almost like we were getting paid to have a party. That was part of the job as well. It's quite often that this job is viewed as always being a really harrowing experience but some of the time it was quite fun, some of the time.
"Me and Sally were really good mates, we used to get really, really high at work - we did your fair share of drugs, it's part and parcel of the job. The owners of the agency would leave bags of whatever we wanted in the microwave which was where we would leave our commission. We'd take it and leave more money in the microwave to get picked up later."
Whether you are a realist who believes that the sex trade should be legalised and regulated, or a hyperactive prohibitionist who thinks it should be treated in the most draconian way possible, I think you can all agree that 'the oldest profession in the world' isn't going anywhere. So if two consenting adults want to dress up as Power Rangers and use cigarettes to burn holes in each other's paperback copies of LOTR, that's ok with me. As long they let me write about it.
Want to hear more about Sarah's sexploits? Check out her blog.