From sex worker to Cambridge graduate - former Norfolk escorts lift lid on the industry

Dalia, 25, entered sex work when she was 17 and after quitting has completed a degree at Cambridge U

Dalia, 25, entered sex work when she was 17 and after quitting has completed a degree at Cambridge University. Photo: Victoria Pertusa - Credit: Archant

Dalia and Olivia entered the sex industry as teenagers. After years of working, both have now quit the trade and give rarely heard insights into life as a sex worker.

•Dalia*, 25

I first became aware of the sex industry around the age of 14 when me and some friends found an escorting website while we were messing around on the internet.

A couple of years later, when I was about 17 I decided I wanted to save up for a holiday with my friends.

I thought I would try web-camming as a way of making money from home.

Around 85pc of sex work now takes place through adult websites. Photo: Getty

Around 85pc of sex work now takes place through adult websites. Photo: Getty - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We found someone online who owned a webcam site and said they would hook us up with people who wanted to pay us to cam.

We later discovered it was a scam and never got any money from it.

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After that we worked for ourselves, using a free webcam platform to sift through people for men who were willing to pay.

I was studying at sixth form at the time.

My parents didn't know and still to this day don't know anything. It was easier than you'd think to hide it.

I started selling sex a few years later.

My web-camming partner, who was the same age, was already working as a sex worker through an agency so I decided to go for it too.

The guy who owned the agency was a priest with a doctorate in theology.

He drove a massive gold truck. He would collect the money and drive us about.

I worked from 6pm until 2am and saw about 10 people back to back with 15 minute breaks.

The agency provided a flat for me to see clients in and I paid them £30 for the day's rent.

I was on such a high the whole time.

I remember getting dropped off at home by the agency driver afterwards, getting a McDonald's on the way and sitting there with a handful of cash.

The houses and apartments we worked in were rented from a dodgy landlord the agency knew.

We complained about some of the buildings they gave us because they weren't very clean and one place didn't even have lamps.

At another stage we were in a really nice penthouse apartment with a view over the city so the quality varied.

In terms of security, the agency didn't provide us any or vet the clients.

I would open the door and not know who would be on the other side. For me that was one of the thrills of doing the job.

As we went on we realised the guys in charge of the agency weren't very professional.

They made comments about wanting to sleep with us and although we refused I know a lot of the girls went there.

In terms of money, the payment system was simple.

Everything was paid for in cash and the agency charged us 30pc on all our bookings.

After a while we started to wonder why we were paying an agency when we could organise clients ourselves.

We signed up to a website where we could solicit online. You create a profile and people email you to organise a meeting.

I saw young people, older people, married and single but they were always men, except for one transgender client.

There were some that would come in just for sex and not want to chat, but that was definitely the minority,

In the end it was a relationship that ended my time in the sex industry,

I developed feelings for someone and it was putting a massive strain on our relationship.

I did a lot of different jobs after I quit.

I applied to do masters at Cambridge, which was successful.

I used my experience to frame the topics I studied whilst I was doing my masters and am still interested in researching the sex industry further.

•Olivia*, 24

The first time I sold sex was in my last year at uni.

I couldn't afford my rent that month and didn't want to ask my parents for the money.

It didn't seem like that big a step from performing for guys on a webcam so I sent my photos to an escort agency I found online.

I used a flat owned by the agency, because I lived with other students – and even though it was in a nice part of Norwich, around Newmarket Road, the inside was really grim.

Looking back it was obscene, but the cash is intoxicating.

It's hard to explain how it feels holding £1,000 in

£20 notes after one day's work.

For the first few months earning was a real driver and I worked 12-hour shifts to earn as much as possible.

Those days were hard work and definitely took their toll on me physically, and I found it emotionally draining sleeping with that many strangers.

The man that was in charge of agency protection would let himself into the apartment unannounced and while I was undressed he pushed me down on the bed and forced himself on top of me.

Most escorts will tell you the hardest part is living a double life.

Hardly any of us tell our families, and even though I told my uni friends they were always weird about it.

I was worried every guy I spoke to was looking at me the way punters did and that it was obvious I was a sex worker.

It became really normal to use substances to switch off, and I used to meet up with a couple of other escorts every week for a party and take cocaine from 10am until midnight.

After trying and failing to quit the industry for two years, eventually I went and saw a counsellor for support, and haven't worked for a year now.

I recently qualified as a teacher and feel really protective over the young girls I work with, because I know there are people out there that see them in ways they don't understand yet.

*Names have been changed

*See tomorrow's newspaper and website for more on this topic

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