Interview: Daina, A Former Escort Preamble I’ve known Daina for a while. We met while playing a certain MMORPG and quickly hit it off after I recruited her for my guild. A charming conversationalist with opinions on a great deal of things, she would keep me up most nights, and we would just gab on about anything and everything until sunrise. It came as some surprise to me that she formerly worked as an escort. I’ve known sex workers in the past, but none were from eastern Europe. We started talking about sex work, both her background as an escort, and my fall-back plans of pornography and prostitution. It’s something a lot of unemployed and underemployed women consider, especially when money is tight, so it’s often a very engaging topic. Almost immediately after meeting her I proposed the idea of an interview and she agreed. The following is a modified transcript of that interview. Hopefully, you find it as engaging as I find her and it sheds light onto the experience of being an escort, the economics of sex work in Ukraine, and remains respectful to both the profession and its clients. Because I never asked for the basic information in the interview, I’ll write the basics out here. Daina worked for a large escort company based in her home city of Kharkiv. She’s 27, cis, and holds an advanced University degree. She worked as a call centre employee after she stopped working as an escort. The interview was conducted over the course of 2 hours on January 14th, 2016 via text. There were a few cuts made for information that was shared in confidence and not to be shared in the article. There were also readability changes made by the editor with the interviewee’s consent. The raw transcript will not be made available. Interview Elizabeth: How long were you an escort? Daina: Around 4 years. To be precise: 3 years, 10 months. Elizabeth: I didn’t know it was that long. Did you work for yourself at all in that period or was the work strictly done with a company? Daina: Strictly with a company. I was afraid to start my own business of it. [I’d] rather have protection and a secure environment. Elizabeth: Being a big company, they must have offered a good amount of protection. Was that the case? Daina: Yes it is. Three to four security [members] at each apartment and a personal driver if client requests to come over or go somewhere. Personal driver waits for you outside at the place ur going into if it is by hour. If it is paid for day or night you can ask him to wait or let him go. Elizabeth: That sounds like really tight security. Knowing that there was always muscle around, did it make you feel safer working as an escort? Daina: Yes, especially in the first months. Elizabeth: Did you ever have to rely on them? Was your safety ever threatened while working? Daina: I can recall four or five times they had step in, but only one was a really serious case. Elizabeth: Ah. I can understand if you don’t want me to prod, but may I ask what happened? Daina: Client on xhimia (Bath Salts) which wouldn’t leave after his time was up. Started screaming, saying he didn’t even cum, that it was 20 minutes not a full hour. When I tried leave room and call for lady in charge grabbed me and tried force me into having sex. I recall my attitude wasn’t quite nice too. I simply hate xhimia and what it does to people. Lady in charge came check just few seconds later to remind me the hour was up and noticed client and called for security. Elizabeth: That sounds like a dreadful experience. Daina: Partially my fault as well. My attitude wasn’t professional at all. Kept nagging and stuff. He refused take a shower before we started. Kinda deserved what came to me Elizabeth: I wouldn’t say that. In my opinion a client should be as professional as the escort. If he didn’t clean up before hand, that’s on him, but I digress. Daina: There’s a certain way to talk. Lets just say I was in a grouchy mood and it was 5am. Just got woken up by the lady in charge. Elizabeth: Apart from the dangerous, drug using clients, how was the work? What were you responsibilities to the company and the client? Daina: Depends on the client choice and how much you can bend rules. Some clients just wanted company or drinking partners, some looking for sex only, and some rare people were looking for love or the rubbish “blah blah” they see in movies. Elizabeth: The 80s movie cliché of the sex worker with a heart of gold? Daina: Yea or a girl to save from escorting or “blah blah” which made me pretty sick. Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s such a strange narrative to have. What precious metal would you say your heart is? Daina: I can’t be objective for that, you’d have to ask people around me, but I’m pretty sure it would be something close to gold. Elizabeth: Having known you I’d probably agree, maybe Platinum. How much were you paid? Daina: Depends. At first, when I was still new, 45% less than the last time I worked. Also depends on how many clients. Elizabeth: That’s fair. Would you be able to guesstimate monthly income? Like on an average month how much would you be taking home? Daina: On good months up to $350 – $400, which is really a lot in my country. Elizabeth: That’s interesting. How much was your rent/food per month? Daina: Spent around $140 – $180 a month and saved the rest. Well first I was a VIP (above average) because of my short height and my Arabic ethnicity. Elizabeth: That’s actually a fairly really nice chunk of savings. In general what were the demographics of the clientèle? (age, ethnicity, poor/rich, etc.) Daina: Most client either were either rich or foreigners. Foreigners were mostly young, around early 20s. Since Ukraine is mostly known being a huge university [destination] for foreigners, some cities stack up 28k foreign students. Elizabeth: Was it easy dealing with clients, given the nature of the business? Daina: Most of time yes, but it was harder with client who were looking for BDSM and extreme stuff Elizabeth: Ah. I could imagine. That’s more of a speciality thing, isn’t it? Daina: Yes i did my share of extreme BDSM, but i found my most comfortable space in swingers/couples. Elizabeth: So you were often employed by couples? Daina: Not a lot. Most of time I was escorting people to parties or foreign student sex. Foreign students for sure made 70% of my clients during all my escorting days. To them $50-80 a hour is a joke and the most expensive are $80-120 an hour. The cheapest were $15-30 an hour. Elizabeth: Wow, ordering a pizza costs more over here. Does it ever get boring? Daina: Boring? How? Elizabeth: I mean, the sex. There’s this narrative that a lot of people have that sex as work could make sex boring. Daina: Yes it does. Standard sex, regular foreplay, at a certain point you’re just like laying down on your back, letting him stick his penis and faking joy. Elizabeth: Did the boring-ness of standard sex make the fetish work more appealing? Enjoyable? Daina: Yes it did. Elizabeth: What tips would you have for other women considering sex work? Daina: Know your employer and its reputation. Have clients shower before sex even if he said he did, condoms at all times, have that water that make dick slip in easily (Don’t know name in English), be creative and most of all do not agree with every type of sex. Set your limits. Elizabeth: Moving forward, how do we (as a society) promote safe sex work? How do we make sex work sustainable? Change societal opinions? Daina: Unfortunately we can’t, but safer sex work comes when people realize we are not simply whores. Just like them we need money to live on and that some of us have already received university degrees. Personally I majored in economics, I’m a pro accountant which is equivalent to Economic Engineer. Five years of university. And I know others who had same or better degrees. Elizabeth: Some of my friends over here have similar qualifications. But yes, I fully agree with you, it must be treated as a valid profession. That was my last question, thank you. Daina: Hahaha you didn’t even bother ask what I learned from escorting or how it changed my personality. Elizabeth: I had intended to ask: How did you experience working as an escort change your personality, your opinions, and your character? We were running a bit long on time. Daina: It ain’t all bad, you know, it forged my personality and made me discover aspects of my self to be true and honest with my soul. Never make me believe in a mist and that some things just happen good or bad. That’s a fitting ending.