awash

…much too much      

There are fourteen thousand prostitutes on our city streets. They balance on their high heels in what these prostitutes have themselves designated “red light districts”. However, most of these “women of the night” start a working day just like you and me, getting to the “office” around nine or ten, having a coffee, pouring over the last days receipts and exchanging interesting titbits on their clients.

And they ply their trade much closer to home – your home. There isn’t a family home less than two miles from a “den of iniquity”. The density of dens of iniquity has been rising for some time now, the density reaching what some have termed “saturation point”. There are also many peripatetic prostitutes, who call to your door at a prearranged time or on demand, some even bringing your shopping or picking up your dry-cleaning.

“This is a service industry after all,” a self-proclaimed prostitute told me. “We can’t expect our clients to travel half way across the world to drop in.” And dropping in, they have been – by the thousand. “Business has never been better,” I am regularly informed.

Imelda, who has been a prostitute for thirty-four years now, talks of the “good old days” with a wistful look in her eyes. “It were (sic) different then,” she says repeatedly. She couldn’t elucidate on that comment; however, that the business is now even more lucrative, cannot be denied.

And well might it have been different then, in the nineteen-seventies. It was “five quid” for a “blow” and twenty for an “all in”. Today, though prices vary dramatically, depending on the affluence of the area, the quality of accommodation, the education levels of the sex workers, and the relative youth and expertise of the ladies; it isn’t asking too much to demand “fifty quid straight down”.

Charging fifty pounds for a ten to twenty minute service is actually seen as standard throughout the industry, and with ladies expecting to turn over on average twenty “tricks” a day, or even more on the night shift, we’re talking serious money. Imelda, who claims her better years are behind her, can still pull in around four thousand a week – and that’s tax-free.

With such earning power, there is little wonder that these women are being courted by the underworld. But a lack of an organised approach has meant that “pimps” and other underworld figures have missed the boat. Whereas “every whore had a pimp” in the seventies, Imelda claims that “pimps are now a dying breed.” Their death is not being lamented.

Average earnings are at around one hundred and fifty thousand pounds a year. They would be significantly higher if the prostitutes were more motivated and had a stricter work ethic. However, owing to the fact that their earnings are entirely in the black market, they have difficulty in spending them. This leads to large sums of cash being stuffed under mattresses, in wall cavities and beneath floorboards. Having more money than they know what to do with, the prostitutes of our city have been effectively robbed of the profit motive upon which our capitalist society is based.

There is estimated to be between £500 million and £1 billion in small used notes stashed away throughout our city. With such reserves of cash, our city’s prostitutes have acquired a significant amount of influence in a number of areas. The recent shortage of five-pound notes has been attributed to this stockpiling of the profits of prostitution, but there is only anecdotal evidence to back this up. Most of the cash reserves are in “twenties and tens”, an unnamed source has said.

As much as possible of the cash is laundered or made legitimate through various small businesses throughout the city. Prostitutes have a preference for businesses such as laundrettes, nail bars and hardware stores. There is even a well known name on the high street involved in wholesale laundering of these ill-gotten gains; half the turnover of this business is down to the laundering of this dirty cash.

Of the estimated £5 billion pounds of wealth amassed by the prostitutes, at least four-fifths has been made legitimate and is now invested in such enterprises as banking, utilities and oil exploration. There is a marked preference for security. Hardly any of the “prostitution profits” are invested in the more volatile areas of the market, such as internet stocks, the emerging markets or commodities.

“What could this glut of equity mean?” I asked an unnamed source in an unnamed equity firm. “If these prostitutes are organised, if their equity flows are orchestrated, there isn’t enough to destabilise the more robust businesses, but they still would be wielding considerable financial clout.”

Apart from financial clout, these prostitutes are now entering areas of society considered to be outside of their normal remit: politics, private education, charity, social research and the arts. No one really knows, but there could be several productions being staged in our city at the moment, wholly financed by one or other “prostitute ring”.

But is it really this bad? “Yes it is,” replies a member of the city council. “How do you feel about this city’s prostitutes deciding what gets staged and what doesn’t? Why should whores be the ultimate arbiter of literary merit? What do prostitutes know about Shakespeare and Ibsen?”

“Quite a lot,” is the short answer according to the social sciences department of one of the city’s universities. “Prostitution is now attracting quite a few of our region’s top graduates, as well as graduates from as far a field as India and Moldova. The pay structure may not be transparent and the hours can be antisocial, but the starting salaries are competitive in comparison to most of the other routes that are open to graduates.”

According to the university’s research, a prostitute, who graduated with a good degree in nineteen-ninety, would be well ahead, in terms of earnings, secure equity and social security than a similar graduate who started in a career in banking, education or the civil service. It is only in terms of earnings potential over a fifty year career that our graduate prostitute would be at a disadvantage, but there is no limit to the money that could be accumulated by a well motivated prostitute with a keen business sense and an eye for detail.

When asked if the university would publicise its findings in careers conventions, no comment was offered, over and above the general comment that all institutions should use the findings of their research, either social or scientific, with an eye on the wider ramifications. However, the university did point out that prostitutes with good degrees did tend to do better than prostitutes with low honours degrees, pass degrees, or no degree at all. There are no statistics on prostitutes without the five good GCSEs necessary to proceed on towards third level education. But there could be no comparison, it was claimed, between the earnings of graduate prostitutes and those of prostitutes from the lower socio-economic bracket.

A leading administrator in the city’s serious crime unit, when questioned about the exponential growth in prostitution in our city, offered, by way of an explanation: “It is, after all, the world’s oldest profession.”

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