Vice: Sex trade booms as prostitutes move upmarket

The sex industry is booming, with tens of thousands of men using prostitutes each week in London. Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent, examines a study with some startling findings.
Click to follow
More than 80,000 men pay for sex in London every week, spending about pounds 200m a year, a survey has discovered.

There are an estimated 5,255 women prostitutes operating in the capital with increasing numbers turning to more profitable work in massage parlours and saunas. An extra pounds 50m is being paid in entrance fees to clubs and establishments where sex is for sale. Meanwhile, the number of women working on the streets has dwindled dramatically, with only about 100 active each night.

The study of prostitutes, by Professor Roger Matthews, of Middlesex University, for London Weekend Television's London Programme tonight, estimates that massage parlours and saunas now account for over half of the sex market.

About one in 16 men in London aged between 20 and 40 are estimated to buy sex, according to the report "Prostitution in London - An Audit".

Researchers, who used information from the police, local authorities, British Telecom and prostitutes themselves, found an increasing number of foreign prostitutes were becoming involved.

Massage parlours and saunas represent the most lucrative sector, with about 2,200 prostitutes or "masseuses". There are about 185 premises in operation, of which all but about 10 per cent offer sex.

The 46,000 men who weekly visit the establishments pay an entrance fee of about pounds 12 and pounds 60 extra for full sex. Hand relief costs pounds 30 and oral sex is pounds 40. The women service an average of seven men a day earning about pounds 280.

The second biggest sector is women working from private flats or houses. There are believed to be about 320 such establishments employing about 640 women. Many use cards in telephone boxes to advertise and list numbers in magazines and newspapers. Full sex costs from pounds 40 to pounds 100 with the average woman seeing 25 men a week and earning about pounds 1,250.

Hostess bars and clubs are also thriving, with about 25 establishments in central London. Clients pay about pounds 10 entrance fee and then have to buy drinks at inflated prices, such as pounds 80 to pounds 400 for a bottle of champagne.

Some clubs also have back rooms for sex. Others have arrangements with hotels. Full sex costs from pounds 60 to pounds 200, hand relief is pounds 30 to pounds 60 and oral is pounds 40 to pounds 80. There are a growing number of women from the Far East, South America and Russia working in the clubs making at least pounds 500 a week.

There has been a decline in the number of street prostitutes, dropping to about 635, many of whom are "away day" girls coming from cities such as Birmingham, Nottingham, Wolverhampton and Bradford.

Street workers charge the lowest prices, with intercourse in a rough part of the capital costing as little as pounds 10 and in upmarket Mayfair pounds 100. On average they make pounds 300 a week.

Escort agencies were far more expensive with the 5,000 weekly clients paying on average pounds 150. Prostitutes earn about pounds 600 a week, but much of the money is kept by the agency.

The report concluded that paid sex in London was becoming increasingly "commercial" and that there was evidence of a growing demand for impersonal sexual encounters.

Oldest profession pays off

Number of people involved in prostitution in Greater London and annual revenue

Type of prostitution No. of active No. of clients Revenue from

prostitutes per week prostitution per


Street 635 7,620 pounds 9.5m.

Private premises 640 16,000 pounds 40m.

Massage/Sauna 2,220 46,620 pounds 93m.

Escort 1,260 5,000 pounds 37m.

Hostess clubs 500 5,000 pounds 15m.

Total 5,255 80,240 pounds 194m