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Escort Scotland, Laura Lee
Laura Lee, Irish Escort in Scotland, Activitist, Mum, Guardian of Hamsters and Cats :)

Interview with Laura Lee; an Irish escort in Scotland

Laura Lee, escort in Scotland, activist, Mum and hamster guardian

I was lucky enough to have Laura Lee give me some of her time for this episode of The Vivastreet Podcast.

Laura is an escort in Scotland but hails from Ireland so was an escort Ireland before she moved to Scotland.

She’s not only a lovely person, Mum and hamster-looker-afterer but also an amazingly strong activist. Belfast escorts are very happy to have someone line Laura fighting her side. Find out all about her in this transcript.


Vivastreet:
Hello and welcome to this episode of the Vivastreet podcast. Over on the Skype line we have the incredible, powerful, famous, Laura Lee. Laura, how are you this afternoon?

Laura Lee:
My goodness, what an intro. Hello there. Fine, thank you.

Vivastreet:
What do we say … you are. I’ve had lovely Rosie from National Ugly Mugs on, who is an OBE, which is quite good, but I think with 10,000 Twitter followers I think you may possibly just beat her slightly.

Laura Lee:
That’s very kind. Thank you.

Vivastreet:
So, on behalf of everyone that listens to this or advertises on Vivastreet, I want to really begin by thanking you for you vocal and vociferous campaigning for everybody’s rights. What spurred you to start becoming an activist in the first place?

Laura Lee:
Well, I was living in a very small highland town up north in Scotland. I was out and lost my job in a bank at the time and I suffered terribly in terms of discrimination and stigma from the locals. I had eggs thrown at my car. I had dog excrement in my letter box. And so, I began to become very, very, very angry. At the time that all that was occurring, a guy came back into the town who had just finished serving time for interfering with minors. He was welcomed back into the town with open arms. It was like, oh he’s done his time, leave him alone. And yet, I was completely vilified.

Vivastreet:
Sure.

Laura Lee:
So, yes Gob Almighty was born.

Vivastreet:
Why do you think it’s so hard for, not just the people in that small village that you were living in, but in society in general to accept what you and other ladies and gentleman choose to do with their own bodies in private. Why is it so hard for them to treat you with dignity?

Laura Lee:
I think it’s the perception around sex workers that we are the great unwashed. That we’re not clean. That we work in dirty seedy conditions. I think part of my work, and one of the most enjoyable parts of my work actually, is getting out and speaking to students. Speaking to various audiences including members of the Hindu community. All of them have been very, very, very surprised at the end and said, gosh you’re actually really nice. Like yeah, I know right? I have cats and hamsters. A lot of my work is not so much to normalise it, but to give people a window into my world, so they can see that I’m perfectly normal and that when I come home, I have the same home life as they do too. That takes away a lot of the stigma and mystery around what we do and certainly assists toward us being treated better.

Vivastreet:
That’s obviously something fairly high profile that you’re involved with at the moment, but for people that may be unaware, can you explain about the recent court case and what’s been going on in Northern Ireland?

Laura Lee:
Sure. So in June 2015, Lord Murrow and DUP passed a law which made it illegal for a person to purchase sex. They did that by pinning their hats on the trafficking aspect of things. To be clear, trafficking is and always was an offence, and actually the new law overturned a previous law, which already made it illegal to purchase sex from a person, so it was nonsensical. It was a moralistic crusade and a chance for Lord Murrow to make a name for himself because he’s nearing retirement. So I campaigned long and hard for three years against that law and indeed I staged a protest outside storm until the day it came in. And all to no avail unfortunately, it came in when it did. So I have raised proceedings through the high courts and we are back in the high court on the sixth of April to have our full hearing listed, which should probably be three four months into the future from that date. We’ll run for about three to four days I think. So, stressful times ahead, but it’s very very important. And I know a lot of other jurisdictions are watching to see what happens.

Vivastreet:
Sure. So obviously this is probably costing a fair bit of money. I’ll put a link in the show notes to your Go Fund Me page. How else can people help apart from giving you money?

Laura Lee:
Really that’s all the help that I need right now. I’m very, very lucky in that I’m surrounded by amazing family and friends and other activists as well. Other campaigners who can keep me sane. I get random emails from other sex workers all the time saying thank you so much for standing up for us and I would join you, but you know yourself what it’s like. I’m married and living in a small town, so it’s great to have that feedback from other sex workers and just from general members from the public as well. I got one last week from a lady saying, you don’t know me at all, but I live in county Fermanagh and you make me absolutely proud to be Irish. Wow, that’s so nice. That’s so amazing. Things like that just keep me going. But I know I’m doing the right thing and that’s the most important thing.

Vivastreet:
Sure. The delightful Lord Murrow who introduced the bill, if you could have a 15 minute chat with him, sat down in a coffee shop opposite him, what would you like to say to him?

Laura Lee:
I don’t think most of it would be broadcasted onto the podcast. I would be very robust with him and I would simply point out that there has been no increase in the number of arrests for trafficking. Everything that I told him was going to go wrong has gone wrong. The relationship between the PSI and the sex work community is at an all time low. The tax are up on sex workers. Sex workers are living in fear. There has been no change in demand in terms of those who want to purchase sex. Or that really his low has been an abject failure. That’s the kindest way I can put it.

Vivastreet:
That was very polite and restrained.

Laura Lee:
God bless media training.

Vivastreet:
So, what is essentially wrong with the Swedish model?

Laura Lee:
The Swedish model is aimed at reducing demand that is discouraging men, the majority of them, from going forward and purchasing sex. Quite simply in its stated aims, it doesn’t work. We’ve seen that from Sweden. Sweden police themselves admit there’s no evidence that its decreased in any way shape or form. What happens is that it pushes sex work further underground so that we have to work further away from those organisations who on the front lines should be there ready to help us. Not want to try to identify where we’re working from and persecute us.
I know some countries like Sweden and Norway … in Norway you have what they call operation homeless where if a sex worker reported an attack that would’ve happened, for example, in her home where she might see two or three clients a week, the police will thereafter go and target her home for easy pickings to arrest the buyers coming out of her home and thereafter. Eventually the landlord will get wind of what was happening and the lady concerned will be made homeless often instantaneously. If that’s how we look after vulnerable women, I’m sorry but I’d hate to see how we’d look after women that are even worse off. It’s horrendous. The fallout is horrendous.
I speak to a lot of people with rose alliance that are working on the front lines in Sweden and the stories they’ll tell you about the abuses that they’re suffering at the hands of the police as well is really horrific.

Vivastreet:
So, is that abuse now happening in Northern Ireland? I saw in your blog about giving legal advice to ladies when the guard come to the front door and what they’re rights are and what they’re not. Is that level of abuse and stalking and profiling, is that happening now?

Laura Lee:
The PS and I in Northern Ireland, I have to give them their dues, they have been absolutely excellent. They haven’t actually prosecuted anybody in Northern Ireland for purchasing sex. They have dealt with them by way of a discretionary disposal and they did oppose the law from the outside and say that it was impossible to enforce. They just don’t have the man power apart from anything else. They’ve also given me two police liaison officers dedicated to the sex work community who have been fantastic in helping deal with sex workers in varying levels of distress. I haven’t heard one report of a sex worker falling victim to abuse from a police officer at all. There have been one or two idiots imitating a police officer.
On the other hand, in the republic of Ireland unfortunately abuse is rife. It’s really really bad. We are working on trying to get liaison officers in place there and try to open negotiations with these guys because the behaviour of some guard toward sex workers has been nothing short of disgusting in terms of robbery, rape, assault, pretty much anything you can think of.

Vivastreet:
And this is the police that are doing that, the people that should be protecting them.

Laura Lee:
Yeah, exactly. So where do you go when the one person who’s supposed to protect you is against you?

Vivastreet:
Yeah, yeah. You work quite often still over there, so how has it impacted your business?

Laura Lee:
There was an initial drop in demand, but we kind of expect that. Just an initial reaction to the law. It’s coming back up to where it was before. The one big change that I have noticed is that clients are flat out refusing to identify themselves. So they’re refusing to use online screening processes or give me any kind of a reference to previous reviews that they may have written. The sex workers in Northern Ireland are therefore left with a choice. Do you turn the booking down or if you really really need the money, do you take a chance and do it?

Vivastreet:
Yeah, cause I’ve talked in previous episodes about the screening process and how you can tell a lot on the telephone, particularly when you’re experienced, but without that backup of the online review process that other competitive sites that I will not mention may have then what do you do? You’re right. It’s like you take the risk or you turn the money down.

Laura Lee:
Yeah you do, as you said, with experience you do develop a lot of … I call it my spidey sense. I think if alarm bells are ringing and if something about it feels absolutely wrong just don’t do it. But then, I’m quite privileged in having the choice to do that. Other sex workers just don’t. They need the money and they need it now.

Vivastreet:
Sure. Sure. One of the, not that National Ugly Mugs offer a review services, but we are both friends with them. How important do you think their work is today?

Laura Lee:
Oh I think it’s absolutely crucial. There’s no doubt in my mind that they have safe lives. I know that they also support sex workers through the core process as well, which is very very important. I believe strongly that they should be government funded. I know that they are funded by various police forces, but they shouldn’t have to go asking for funding. They are after all protecting a minority group. They should be enumerated as such.

Vivastreet:
Absolutely. As I understand it you’re a bit greedy with a degree front, that you’re already a law graduate and working toward your psychology degree. So how do you go from training in law to escorting. What happened with that?

Laura Lee:
Well, okay so truthfully, I finished my law degree and then I went on down to Kings Inns to study for the BAR. And I was 18 months away from being called to the BAR when it became apparent that law was not going to be the career for me for several different reasons. Firstly, I don’t have any family in the law and that’s important when you’re starting off and you need somebody to be passing your beliefs. And secondly, it became screamingly apparent that I was overly familiar with half of the BAR libraries walls, but probably in a more unclothed state. It just wasn’t a comfortable position at all. No pun intended. It really wasn’t and so I changed careers and went into financial services for nine years and then made the decision to go back to Uni, so yeah this is attempted career number three I think.

Vivastreet:
I think it’s good to continually reinvent. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. So what was life like in financial services, from reading you online, you don’t seem that sort of person to me.

Laura Lee:
In the beginning I liked it a lot cause it was about helping your customer. The bank was actually the one that moved me to Scotland. I built up a great relationship with my customers. I was a mobile mortgage consultant so I was driving all around the highlands and islands meeting families and it was fun. But then the nature of the job changed and it was all sales and targets and compliance and it was just really really awful. And then unfortunately it came to light that I was subsidising my income at the weekend which the bank didn’t take very kindly to at all.

Vivastreet:
So that outing forced your hand?

Laura Lee:
It did, yes. I fought them for four years through the courts. And then I lost my technicality which broke my heart.

Vivastreet:
Somebody with your background is the wrong person to pick a fight with about employment law. It must be so frustrating that it was a technicality.

Laura Lee:
Yeah you think the DUP would’ve learned that lesson, but apparently not.

Vivastreet:
No. So, we’ve got a lot of people listening to this and reading our blog that are looking to become an escort. When I see what people are searching for on google, when they find the site, it’s like how do I start? How much do I charge? What do I do? With your advice and experience, what would you tell them?

Laura Lee:
Don’t. I spend a lot of my time talking people out of the industry, you would be amazed. Not that I’m not willing to give advice, of course I am, but I give it to them straight in terms of you have to prepare yourself for the stigma, what if your family found out, what if the press get a hold of you? You have to give something to the tax man because it is a very bitchy industry. You have to prepare yourself for all these eventualities. And then, sometimes I meet women and they’ll say things to me like, I have no problem having sex for money, but I’d have to fancy him. I’m like, oh dear. That’s not how it works.
So, for example, one lady I met one day in Marks and Spencer and I said, see that man over there with about a week’s worth of food in his beard? And she said yes. I said, do you think you could roll around with him for whatever, 100 pounds. And she went, no way. And I was like, well then you can’t be an escort I’m afraid.
So I give it to them straight. If they’re still absolutely determined then I send them in the right direction of the body scheme and safe and I try and help them as much as I can with their marketing getting up off the ground. Some women are just determined and they know they’ll make good escorts and if that’s the case, good for them.

Vivastreet:
Sure. But I think you’re right. It’s important to make people aware of the realities of it that it’s not Pretty Woman and you’re not going to be Julia Roberts. But if somebody is still interested enough after that then pushing them to the safety thing seems a very important first step.
Finally, Ms. Lee, if there was one thing that you could change about sex work or escorting or how people perceive it, what would that be?

Laura Lee:
I think it would be in terms of decriminalisation. That’s my dream. Decriminalisation across Europe. I think it would be the first and very important step towards the reduction of stigma as well. I think its important for your listeners to know that at some poin through their lives almost everyone has known a sex worker, but we just weren’t about to tell you because we were afraid of your reaction. So, have a think about that and about your attitudes toward sex work and do some reading on it because 70% of us according to the English collective of prostitutes, our mother is just like you guys.

Vivastreet:
Yeah. Well, wonderful. If people want to find out more about your court case or to find out more about you, where should they go Laura?

Laura Lee:
Well they can hop onto my website which is lauralee.com or they can follow me on Twitter with is @glasgaelauralee and I post updates on there regularly of where our case is going and what the next update will be. Yes I’ll keep it up to date and here’s hoping. We’re in for the long hall. I’m not backing down.

Vivastreet:
Fingers crossed, Laura. Fingers crossed. Thank you very much for fighting for everybody.

Laura Lee:
Oh gosh, you’re welcome. Thank you for having me on today.

Vivastreet:
Absolutely. My pleasure.

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