Having lost her job, mother Scarlett O’Kelly – not her real name – spent a year working as an escort in Ireland to pay her bills. After writing a new book about those 12 months, she told TheJournal.ie about her experiences.IT WAS FOR financial reasons. I’d lost my job, and I’m separated and my husband’s hours were slashed as well so he couldn’t contribute. This is a very expensive country to break up in. And it was a case of nothing coming in, bills mounting up, and three kids to feed and raise. Initially I said I’d do it just as a once-off.
It wasn’t a decision I made with a click of my fingers. It was something I’d thought about. It was actually something I’d discussed with a friend jokingly – you know, ‘I’m so desperate I’ll need to sell my body, ha ha.’ And then I suppose because I wasn’t working I had loads of time to look up things, and out of curiosity I started looking into it.
I was looking things up online, and I was looking at what was available, and the normal rate, and what was expected on the client’s side and all this sort of information. And I thought I wonder could I do that. It’d be easy enough to manage around school times, and any of the guys online sounded normal enough. So I kind of just arranged my first appointment. That was probably my worst in terms of nerves. But it was just ordinary, boring – nice enough guy, not scary or freaky or anything. And I just kind of thought, well, I’ve done it once now.
And I think the kids were asking for something – I think the boys were asking about getting football boots or something, and I was saying we’ll have to leave that for now. Because I was just saying no to everything at that stage. But then I just thought, I’m going to do this again, because really saying no to everything is just horrible. And it’s not fair on children nowadays. They didn’t ask to wreck the economy, and to grow up without basic things. I thought, this is your childhood, this is my life, we’ve been scrimping for some time and there’s no sign of a change.
‘I found that a lot of men in Ireland are familiar with this industry’
So I put an ad up online. And it was very scanty the details, but it was enough to rope in some of the guys who were looking for a causal encounter. I got a response within a few minutes.
There were two friends who I told when I started. But I didn’t say it to anyone else, because I knew what their reaction would be. So it was mostly around school time, or when the kids were with their dad, or at weekends when the kids were away with their dad. I kind of worked it around that way.
I found that a lot of men in Ireland are quite familiar with this industry, with the lingo and how it works and how it operates. That was quite surprising to me. It’s like there’s another world going on there, with the sex industry in Ireland. And unless you’ve had a reason to go into it, or to dip your toe into it, you will be completely blissfully unaware that it exists. But the minute you dip your toe into it you realise that it is so pervasive, and it really is in every corner of Ireland. Normal, regular guys. If you look around your office, or wherever you are – it’s guys who are your colleagues, whatever.
It was various different things with the clients. Sometimes it was just that there was nothing happening at home, that they would just say their partner wasn’t interested, or was busy, tired, busy with children, or was working way geographically – like people who go to the city for the week and then come home for the weekend. Sometimes it was because the marriage had broken down but they couldn’t afford to split up. Other times it was just people who wanted something extra. The only common thread that I would see is a lack of communication with their partner, about what they wanted in the bedroom or what they thought was lacking in the relationship.
For that 12-month period, I paid my mortgage. I kept a roof over my head, and fed and put clothes on my kids. I didn’t make a ton of money – it was nothing but basics; my kids don’t do private school, there’s no ski trips or whatever. But I still had all those things at the end of the year, as opposed to not doing what I did and perhaps losing my home.
‘Would my conscience have been annoying me more if I let my kids go to bed hungry at night?’
It’s not a case of will you go and work for a good organisation in a permanent pensionable job for 40 grand, or will you go and sell your body. That’s not the choice. Would my conscience have been annoying me more if I let my kids go to bed hungry at night? Yeah, it would. That’s what you balance. So it was just a case of which was the better scenario.
I know I had no other options. You don’t go and take the risks it entails – even though it was different to what I had seen portrayed in the media – without being desperate. I know I went through absolutely everything. I’d applied for everything, I’d applied for those work-from-home things… Even that phone sex stuff, I thought well that’s something I can do. But actually you can’t, it’s tied up in legislation with the bloody communication regulator in Ireland.
In some respects I guess I was lucky. I was lucky enough about the people I saw. I made sure that they knew there’d be CCTV there wherever I was meeting them. And told them from the outset what I would and wouldn’t do. But obviously, the longer I did it, the more I was likely to run into somebody dodgy.
Now, I do it if I’m stuck for money. I do it if there’s a big expense that your normal salary woudln’t cover. It’s only a couple of times every few months really. I work part time now, at what would have been my previous professional occupation, so that suits me fine. I’m hoping to continue on working. Raise my kids, hopefully put them through college. Normal boring stuff like that.