“Looking for a show sir?”
It is an innocent enough question, almost as though coming from a concerned passer by; helpful advise to the lost or bemused.
“Come this way, sir, only £5 to get in, lots of sexy girls all the way sir.”
As most of London knows the penalties of following such guides down the
Soho fleshpots can be an arm and a leg. Drinks are sold at anything
from £5 to£500 each with unseen levies for membership, bonuses for the
hostesses and vague surcharges.
The first thing that strikes you about Berwick street or ‘porn alley’
as it’s more accurately known, is the fluorescent light dripping from
every shop, flashing at you and enticing you in. You’re suddenly cast
into a new world where bald men, men with raincoats, men walking slower
than normal and men who’ve got damp patches on their trousers shuffle
around and Eastern European women whisper saucy advances into your ear.
After a clean-up operation in the past few years, Soho red light area
is now a host to hostess bars. There are a number of prostitutes that
operate from apartments. These are indicated by a sign saying “model”
and are open from early evening. It is essential to have appointments
but on the other hand if you turn up ‘on spec’ it is highly possible
that the lady will not be available. Note to self: you pay for the time
you want to spend with the lady not the service you want. The prices
are all inclusive but it is customary to tip the maid.
Inside a phone box a card promises ‘beautiful women doing what you want
them to do best’, but I couldn’t see a single photo of a woman doing my
laundry. Phone sex ads are prevalent, the most useless and
expensive thing you can spend money on, but it’s graveyard is pure
genius. Lines like ‘screw us before you are too old’ (how long does it
take?), sexual experiences featuring midgets (would that be me or the
other person?) and for rural types ‘do me barnyard style’ (lots of cow
shit, then you get down by a combine harvester).
If you are not in central London, you should check the classifieds. You
will find advertisements for both escort and massage services. Most
will not go into description of their services over the phone and
pricing tends to be similar. Call girls working through reputable
agencies can earn £2000 a night but hand over a third of their earnings
to a Madam. In the 90s Madams reported regularly earning more than
£30,000 a week.
Britain’s sex industry generates £100 million a year about half from a
core of 50 brothels based in Soho. None of it is taxed because although
prostitution is not illegal making a profit from selling sex is. Most
activities surrounding the act of prostitution are
criminalised-rendering the lawful practice of harlotry a matter of
Soliciting for the purposes of prostitution in public place is
unlawful. In the case of women this is punishable only by the way of a
fine but in the case of men the offence carries upto 2 years
imprisonment. Allowing a pub to be used for prostitution-or even
allowing ‘known’ prostitutes to gather there-can get the pub owner into
trouble under the licensing laws. It is not an offence to work as a
prostitute or a maid in a brothel. It is however an offence to keep a
brothel. It is not illegal to advertise sexual services. It is illegal
to post adverts in telephone boxes, however.
In practice probably the way to practice prostitution lawfully would be
to pick someone up in a bar, get him home and then say ‘I was thinking
of charging for this actually’.