Meet the former sex worker calling for an end to the glamorisation of escorting and prostitution

'The more money that you charge, the more you are expected to do'

Rachel Hosie
Tuesday 30 January 2018 10:37
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A former sex worker says girls as young as 12 have asked her how to break into the industry – and blames the media for glamorising ‘high-end’ prostitution as a lucrative and rewarding career choice.

Gwyneth Montenegro hit the headlines last year when her book The Secret Taboo – The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Being a Financially Successful Escort was published and it was revealed the former sex worker had slept with over 10,000 men.

Now, however, Montenegro, who is currently an Intimacy Behaviourist based in Melbourne, Australia, has revealed that she believes that the portrayal of sex work is problematic.

(Gwyneth Montenegro

The glamorisation of the industry, she says, leads women to believe becoming a sex worker will afford them a life of luxury, when the reality is far from the truth.

Speaking to The Independent, Montenegro explains that more needs to be done to ensure women know the truth before embarking on a career as a sex worker.

What is the biggest problem with the portrayal of prostitution, sex work and escorting in the media?

“Media coverage of those within the sex industry seems to be quite polarising. At one extreme there is the sad, human face of the street walker, who is using it to pay the rent, feed a child or possibly save up for their next drug hit.

“Then the other extreme, the ‘high end’ escort. The reader is opened up to a world of high fashion, travel, huge amounts of money and copious amounts of sex. A world in which you can make thousands of dollars in a handful of hours, and all you need to do is look good and have a bit of sex on the side.

“The reality is quite the opposite. You don’t make the big dollars by simply dressing in your nicest clothes, climbing into bed and sleeping with a handful of men.

“To operate as a successful ‘high end’ or ‘elite’ escort you’ll frequently find yourself in a position in which you’ll need to consider offering services and taking risks that the legalised brothel industry would undoubtedly shun. No-one tells you this.

“Sure, you can earn the big bucks but, at what price? What are you prepared to sacrifice? Review forums tell the guys who’s prepared to do what and those who push the limits of safety are usually the ones who are financially rewarded at the expense of those who put safety first.

“Girls as young as 12 have been emailing me about how to become an ‘elite’ escort, contemplating prostitution as soon as they reach legal age.”

What do most people not know that they should know about the industry?

“The more money that you charge, the more you are expected to do. The same rules that apply to everyone else don’t necessarily apply at the high end. Most people think it is because you are attractive and have a good physique, they think that the men are lining up to give you money.

“But the reality is a little different. You are often expected to do what other escorts won’t do. To push the boundaries of taste. To push the boundaries of protection. To push the boundaries of personal security.”

(Gwyneth Montenegro

Is the problem that the industry seems too glamorous but actually it’s not, and it’s harder to make money than people think?

“Yes, the industry is portrayed as more glamourous than it is. The reality is that it is a very competitive and ruthless industry, especially nowadays. Support within the industry can be hard to find, it can be a very lonely journey.”

What are the main dangers?

“The first is the physical. There is always the threat of physical violence because people think they can get away with it. Men have paid good money to spend time with you and sometimes they think they own you. This can manifest in rougher than usual treatment to physical restraint and may even manifest in other forms of violence.

“The mental and the subconscious repercussions have a lot to do with what you feel about yourself. You know you are operating outside of the bounds of societal norms and there is a huge stigma attached to being a sex worker. You can feel ostracised, alone, unwanted and disposable.

“You’re often worried about the ramifications of the exposure to various STDs too.”

(Gwyneth Montenegro

Did you experience any of these or did you live the glamorous lifestyle we’re sold?

“To be honest I lived most of these. I think most escorts do at some point in their journey. The pressures affect people differently. Some, it will cripple and bring to their knees with devastating results and others will confidently breeze their way through declaring that they have never felt more empowered.

“I was trading as an elite escort seeing to the rich and the famous. I was asking a lot and I was making a lot. I was rubbing shoulders with influential people and I was having the time of my life.

“I was living the ‘empowered’ life however subconsciously those niggling fears were eating away at me.

“I’d been pushing the limits. I’d been doing things I wouldn’t usually do. I’d been foregoing all common sense. I, once a church-going country girl, was living a drug-induced life of excess and I had myself convinced that I was empowered.

“That all came to an end when, in a drug-induced haze, I had a serious car accident. Faced with a near death experience it was time to re-evaluate my life and I didn’t like what I saw.

“I will never forget that sickening feeling, deep in the pit of my stomach, as I waited the results from a series of STD tests. What had I done with my life? Why had I been so foolish?”

What would you say to the many people who frown upon sex work though? Those views certainly don’t encourage women into sex work.

“What people don’t realise is that they probably already know a person who is a prostitute or similar. It’s not something most will talk about. We really shouldn’t judge though.

“People smoke even though it’s frowned upon, people take drugs even though it’s often illegal and/or dangerous. People do all kinds of things because they convince themselves that the end justifies the means. Entering prostitution is no different.

“The allure of copious amounts of sex, money and perceived excitement can be hard to resist, regardless of what society dictates.”

(Gwyneth Montenegro

What do you think needs to change?

“In my opinion the digital era has opened a can of worms. Anyone can sleep with anyone without giving it much thought.

“A quick decision and a simple ad in the paper or an online site can turn the average girl into a fully fledged escort. No prior experience needed. No risk assessment, no STD training and little or no insight as to the pitfalls that lie ahead.

“It only takes one escort to push the limits too far, and all of a sudden, an STD can spread exponentially. With reports of sex workers numbered in the tens of thousands operating in most large cities, that’s a lot of potential for a sexual health related catastrophe.

“Each of those girls see multiple men most days, then in turn those men see another sex worker, it’s not hard to see how quickly a single mishap can have devastating consequences.

“I believe the media needs to consider an appropriate disclaimer to accompany articles that are primarily about elite escorts. Articles that focus on the earning potential and the privileged lifestyle of the subject. They should advise that the earnings discussed are not typical and that appropriate advice should be sought before entering the trade.”

(Gwyneth Montenegro

Would you discourage girls and women from entering the industry?

“Not necessarily. What I want for women and girls to consider is if they are the type of person who could handle the industry. I just want them to be one hundred percent aware of what they are really signing up for.”

Do you regret your time working as an escort?

“Regret is a very strong word and sets up a victim mentality which I don’t feel. To reframe, if I had my life over again, would I have done things differently? Absolutely yes.

“Ultimately, I ended up making the industry work for me and I was able to pay for my education and find a whole new level of empowerment I never knew I could have through my educational pursuits as a fully qualified commercial pilot and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner, teacher and trainer.

(Gwyneth Montenegro

“Did I do it the easy way? Absolutely not. There are easier ways to achieve one’s dreams.”

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