Vice: Dressing down to finance a degree course

A postgraduate student working in a `hostess bar' tells Jason Bennetto about the world of strippers and sex.
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The Independent Online
Three years ago Julia, 23, started a university degree. Desperate for money, she tried part-time acting, but after a visit to a club discovered that taking her clothes off was far more lucrative.

For the past three years she has been working in the "hostess" scene, earning a minimum of pounds 200 a night.

She is currently employed at a club in the Piccadilly area of central London.

"Gentlemen come into the club after paying pounds 10 entrance fee and we're encouraged to get them to buy us champagne.

"A glass costs pounds 10 and a bottle from pounds 40 to pounds 300. It's really very cheap champagne. Cigarettes cost pounds 10.

"There is dimmed lighting, booths, tables and a dance- floor. Mostly I've done table- dancing. Men pay me pounds 10 to dance a song or pounds 20 for topless dancing.

"Some will do a full strip for pounds 30. In clubs the girls often wear lingerie or cocktail dresses.

"Mostly middle-aged married businessmen go to the club. You often get Japanese men on overseas trips.

"Some clubs I've worked in have back rooms where girls can have sex with the customers; others do it outside the club or in nearby hotels.

"In the back rooms you pay pounds 30 for a hand job, pounds 100 for sex for about 15 minutes.

"If a guy wants to take a girl out of the club he must spend about pounds 200 to pounds 300.

"Some girls do sex for pounds 50 in a hotel, but usually it costs pounds 200 to pounds 300 for a couple of hours."

She said the hostesses were usually single mothers, students and illegal foreign workers often from Eastern Europe, aged from 17 to their late 30s.

"It's a dangerous world: quite a few girls have been raped and attacked.

"Men love seeing strippers and if they can get to sleep with them afterwards it's like a fantasy. Most of them are sad."

She said men often pay to talk to her in the club, including one well- known former Tory minister, whom she named.

"Men love to talk about themselves. They often talk about their families, jobs, why their wives don't understand them."

She said that some men pay to take the women out for dinner. "You get rich types trying to set up a relationship and paying for everything. They say they will look after you, but they just want a young mistress.

"They can take you shopping in Selfridges to buy designer clothes or put pounds 1,000 in your bank account."

She admits she led a double life with some of her friends, but her family knows how she earns her living.

"My nan thinks if she was 60 years younger she would do it."

She added: "I would consider myself a feminist; it's a shame women have to do this work to live."

Julia (not her real name) is currently doing a masters degree and hopes to get a job involving social work. "My work is a means to an end: I will give it up soon, but it's hard to go back to earning pounds 3 an hour behind a bar."