Radio Cambridgeshire investigation has found a flourishing and growing
sex industry in the county.
adverts in the local papers and on the internet, we've found a total
of 70 brothels, massage parlours and escorts, who are either based
in the county, or who travel here in return for payment for sex.
The number of adverts in the local papers has increased dramatically
over the past few years - and there may be many more places we're
not aware of.
BBC Cambridgeshire reporter Max Rushden explains:
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do this investigation?
I began to wonder whether adverts in local papers were really for
brothels, and whether we were looking at one place with lots of
phone numbers or if there was a significant number of places people
were going to for sex. This isn't an attempt to sensationalise or
moralise on the issue. It's up to you to decide whether you approve
of it or not.
The aim of the investigation is to find the extent of the sex industry
in Cambridge and to listen to the stories of the people involved
in it - all we're saying is, it exists. Some of you probably
know this already, some of you don't.
how many brothels are there?
I spoke to Steve, who used to run a massage parlour in the Mill
Road and Coleridge Road areas of Cambridge: "From
the centre of Cambridge it would take ten minutes to find somewhere,
and if you could get a cab it would be two minutes. As soon as you
could knock on the door, that's how long it would take".
researching the local papers and the internet I've found a total
of 70 opportunities to pay for sex in the county. This includes
brothels, massage parlours, single women and men based in the county
or prepared to travel here in return for payment for sex. It's obviously
difficult to be sure about the numbers of prostitutes who work on
I spoke to 34 massage parlours advertised in the local papers. A
further 17 couldn't be contacted so are not included in the overall
figure. These are advertised in the Cambridge Evening News, The
Hunts Post, The Wisbech Standard, The Cambridge Town Crier and Weekly
News and the Peterborough Herald and Post - and also in one National
Paper - the Daily Sport. These phone numbers are changing all the
time, and new ones keep turning up each week - and quite often different
adverts will carry the same number. But we can be sure about the
34 I've spoken to.
spent about two hours on the web. When I typed "sex",
"escorts" and "Cambridgeshire" into google,
I found over 1,800 sites. Obviously not all of these were actual
sites for massage parlours or escorts but I did find 36 sites that
I could check were real.
On the streets
many cities around the country - there aren't specific areas, or
"beats", where street prostitutes go. But there are small
pockets of street prostitution in the county - particularly in Peterborough.
Recently members of the City Council went to look at a designated
red light zone in Northampton to see if it was a sensible way to
deal with street prostitutes - that's a sign in itself that it's
an issue that concerns a number of residents.
Trina, for example, lives in the centre of Peterborough. "Lots
of the prostitutes are drug users, so there are syringes left in
the street, which isn't very nice. We constantly get harassed and
asked if we're doing business by curb-crawlers. It's happened to
me when I'm just walking out with a friend. It's happened to other
friend's children, who are just 12 and 13!"
law is complicated. The act of one consenting adult paying another
for sex is NOT actually illegal. So, a woman who works on her own,
in her own house and charges people for sex is NOT breaking the
the laws that exist around it make it almost impossible to carry
out prostitution legally.
put it as simply as possible...
Brothels are illegal - that's a room where more than one
woman works - even if they work on different days or at different
times. A massage parlour is normally a classier name for
It's also illegal to live off immoral earnings - that could include
pimps, massage parlour managers, and receptionists.
It's illegal to advertise for sexual services - though not to advertise
massage or escort services like those in the papers and on the internet.
It's also quite likely that people renting a house and using it
as a brothel are committing planning and tenancy offences. At a
street level it's illegal to solicit for trade, and curb-crawling
why don't the police close these places down?
in the industry have told me the police are often compliant when
it comes to the sex industry. "I had a reasonably good attitude
from the police in the counties where I worked," says former
massage parlour owner Steve. "At the same time, when I was
finally arrested (in Hitchin) it was by a constabulary that had
previously gone so far as to confirm their happiness - in writing
- that I was trading in their town. I had a letter saying they weren't
happy with me working in one location, but if I was to move the
premises to a different part of the town they would be less concerned
to the point of not having a problem and not disturbing my work."
is a former prostitute who worked in many towns in the eastern region,
including Cambridge. She started work on the streets at the age
of 15. "They (the police) did look out for the girls; they
never used to move you on. They used to just say as long as you
weren't using drugs or ripping off the punters then they were fine
the police do have powers to stop street prostitution and close
down brothels. Steve Welby is the sector inspector of Peterborough
city centre and central ward: "We have some new legislation
under the Anti-social Behaviour Act using anti-social behaviour
orders and we've taken two orders out on two very persistent prostitutes.
says there aren't enough resources to deal with all the massage
parlours: "The truth is, massage parlours are not a priority.
The things that change it is whether there's a criminal aspect to
the prostitution like girls being forced to work or underage girls
- that would make it a priority, but the massage parlours that you
see advertised in the papers are not a priority.
talk about whether prostitution should be legalised - why?
are lots of different views about whether prostitution should be
completely legalised. Perhaps the most important thing to remember
is that prostitution is an industry of massive extremes.
women enjoy being prostitutes and providing a service, and they
earn a good living from it. At the other end of the spectrum, there
are underage women, and women trafficked from other countries who
are forced into the industry. The question is, would legalisation,
and the regulations that would come with it, benefit the industry
and the people who it affects?
The sex industry is a range of jobs that should be considered in
the same way as other jobs women do. So, they should enjoy some
level of protection, basic pay and conditions and union representation
as any other profession. This would require a big shift from treating
the selling of sexual services as a crime.
Prostitution and other aspects of the industry can only be exploitative
and abusive of women, and strongly marked by violence, rape and
sexual assault. So we should try and stop prostitution altogether,
perhaps by criminalising the men who seek to pay for sex.
do you think?
It's a debate that has been raging for years. Why
not join in on our message
and tell us what you think...