Virginia Ironside: Dilemmas

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Dear Virginia, I'm a single, professional woman. I rarely socialise, as I work so hard, but I've got a small circle of friends I meet at weekends. I'm not desperate for a boyfriend, having had an unhappy (childless) marriage – but I do miss sex! A friend told me she rang up an escort agency and paid for sex with an escort. She said he was perfectly pleasant – he had a girlfriend – and it was great. I'm tempted to try, though maybe it's rather a "sad" thing to do. Would it be a mistake?

Yours sincerely, Naomi

I have to say that, in theory, I can't see anything wrong with this idea at all. And one part of me rather longs for you to give it a go, just because it seems rather a brave and – though I'm not mad about the word – empowering thing to do.

But it's worth considering some of the problems before you go ahead. First, what are your views about men who use prostitutes? If you think they're creepy predators who are taking advantage of wretched women who have no other way to earn their money except by selling sex, then have another think. Because after you've had sex with an escort, you'll feel just like one of those men yourself. If, however, you regard men paying for sex as a perfectly human thing to do, and the men who do it as simply entering a bargain with women who find selling themselves for sex is, far from demeaning, an easy way of getting by, then you've got self-criticism out of the way. (Though I'm worried about your sneaking the word "sad" into your letter. Do you see yourself as "sad" having to pay for sex? Try, rather, to think of it as the move of an independent woman in control.)

Then, obviously, there's the problem of disease. You'll be having sex with a man who has sex with a lot of other women, and perhaps, even, some men, remember. So make sure you're well protected.

You might find it best, if you're going to go ahead, to have sex in a hotel that you pay for. Never let a complete stranger into your house. After you've had sex, your escort could easily just sum up the valuables, the lie of the land and hand on information about vulnerable access points to a friend in the nicking trade.

Then, if other people found out, would it upset you? If so, you could always be open to blackmail. It might be best not to give your real name. If you couldn't care less, then of course, it wouldn't matter a bit.

Finally, if he were an absolutely wonderful lover, and flattering and charming, is there any possible chance of your becoming hooked on him? Sex can be pretty addictive – are you sure you can handle it?

Having outlined all the horrible possibilities, I'm rather surprised at myself, now I read this back, for suggesting you go ahead at all. Why don't you try out some gadgets from a sex shop first? You never know, like computers and phones, it could be that sex toys have come a long way since you last looked at them. And if they're just nothing like the real thing, and you've checked off the points of possible doom on my list of dire warnings, then... OK, why not?

How will you feel?

I certainly don't think you are "sad". But I don't think anyone will be able to tell you whether paying for sex will be a mistake or not. The only way to find out would be to try it. Hopefully, the worst that could happen would be that it would be a disappointment and a waste of money.

However, I do think that there are real differences between the sexuality of men and women. Sex, for many women, isn't just a physical thing, but involves a huge emotional content for satisfaction. I'm not saying this is universal, and you may be able to enjoy a nice no-strings romp. But if you go ahead, you could find this brings in its wake a train of emotional angst.

Susan Wood


It's an adventure

You obviously find the idea intriguing, and your friend clearly enjoyed the experience. Do you regard your friend as "sad" or as quite daring? If nothing else, it will be an interesting encounter if you go ahead. The real "sadness" is in people who won't try new things for fear that some imaginary "other" may disapprove. People tend to have far greater regrets about what they didn't do than what they did. Don't let the "moral majority" invisibly control you.

Mike Hockney

Newcastle upon Tyne

Make it pay

I think you may be missing a trick here. If, as you imply, there is no moral objection to money changing hands for sex, it strikes me that you may be coming at this from the wrong angle. Why, after all, pay the escort, rather than receiving payment yourself? As my local phone booth attests, there is a lively market out there and it enables you to "scratch your itch", as it were, while establishing a nice tax-free income on the side. And, as your friend's escort demonstrates, it ought not stop you, once "Mr Right" comes along, from settling into a "steady" relationship. Of course the morality of it all might feel a little suspect while you adjust to it perhaps, but is paying for it so very different from being paid?

Philip Turton

By email

Balance your life

Your expression "not desperate for a boyfriend" might be restated as "boyfriend not wholly unacceptable". You have already identified a leading cause of your predicament: "I rarely socialise". You also hint at your likely reaction to using an escort: "sad". Is "pleasant" a sufficient recompense for feeling "sad"?

If, on reflection, you want only penetration and orgasm, then these can be had in several other ways. The least socially active woman can find a partner online or from among friends.

Are you looking for encouragement/ "permission" to try a regular relationship again? It does seem the least problematic option and could be had by achieving what everyone is seeking – an improved work/life balance – or in your case an improved work/sex balance. Don't delay – re-prioritise today.

Name and address supplied

Next week's dilemma...

Dear Virginia,

My daughter's only 13 and I'm worried she's too preoccupied with her looks. She spends so long getting ready for school that she's often late, and her teachers say she spends most break times discussing hairstyles, make-up and so on with her friends. She spends all her money on beauty magazines, and I'm worried it's becoming an obsession. I know her work is suffering. She's not stupid. But how can I persuade her that she's got to work hard to get on in life?

Yours sincerely, Erica

What would you advise Erica to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to, or go to Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Naked Wines(