BBC - Ouch! (disability) - Features - Disabled women who pay for sex

Home > Features > Disabled women who pay for sex

Disabled women who pay for sex

by Hannah Barnes

25th February 2009

"I think generally society finds it shocking when disabled people want to have sex," Catarina* told me.

Her disability meant that sex was painful and uncomfortable. Ex-boyfriends had made her feel guilty for not being able to have an orgasm, and left her confidence at rock bottom.
A couple's hands clasped together
That's when she decided to see Andrew - a male escort.

"He was just very kind and took the time to listen to me and did whatever I wanted to do, not what he thought was right. If I came one day and said 'I don't really feel like having sex today,' we could just talk."

It wasn't a decision she took lightly, but Catarina is by no means alone in being both female and paying for sex. I've spent the last month delving into this issue for the Jonathan Maitland programme on Radio 5 live. 'What women would do that?' I asked myself. The answer - all sorts! They're all ages and races; come from all walks of life and are hiring an escort for a number of reasons - perhaps because they have busy business careers that leave little time to meet men; some want to act out a fantasy without risking ridicule by their partner; and some, like Catarina, want to gain sexual confidence.

Nearly half the escorts I've spoken to, see disabled clients. Catarina's escort has now written a book about his experiences, 'Whatever She Wants', using the pen name Andrew Rosetta. The real 'Andrew' told me that seeing people with disabilities was one of the most rewarding parts of the job:

"Personally I think it's really very fulfilling. You're providing a really wonderful service for somebody. You need to be much more sensitive. To get from a chair to a bed, for example, is not going to be very easy."

Catherine, another sex worker, says it's a "privilege to be able to give people that kind of experience. Often the only touch these people experience is medicalised - or touch that's related to practical care. The only touch they receive purely for pleasure is when they are paying for it and that seems very tragic to me.
Hannah interviews Catherine
"I would really like to see a world that recognised that there is a deep unmet need for that aspect of disabled people's lives to be addressed and taken care of."

Other sex workers and clients agree and would like to see money and arrangements to see a sex worker included in care packages, if that's what someone wants. It can be very expensive, with the top male escorts in London regularly charging over £100 an hour.

But, a bigger barrier could be the proposed new laws currently making their way through Parliament. The Policing and Crime Bill - if it goes through - would make it an offence to pay for sexual services from someone who is 'controlled for gain' by another person. What's more, it's something called a strict liability offence - so ignorance of a prostitute's circumstances would be no defence. The client would be fined £1,000 and receive a criminal record...
The Government wants to stop some men paying for sex with trafficked women, or those who are controlled by pimps or drug dealers - all categories that sex workers say make up a very small number of those working in the industry. But some, like Catherine, fear that clients could be criminalised for simply booking an escort through an agency - where the owner would take a cut of any earnings. The new law, she argues, could see that escort as being "controlled for gain."

"The controlling for gain law makes no reference to abuse, coercion, deception or violence. It explicitly includes people who are acting under free will. It's very wide. It does nothing to target abuse within the sex industry - it does nothing to target exploitation. But it will drive out good practice."

* (Names of some of those interviewed have been changed to protect their identity)

• Hear more about this story on the Jonathan Maitland show on BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday 1 March at 8pm, or download the free podcast (available after transmission).

• Hannah Barnes is a radio journalist with BBC Current Affairs.

Comments

  • 1. At 11:04pm on 26 Feb 2009, glammyleg wrote:

    Plenty of disabled do have sex without going to see a prostitute. I'm fed up with the hackneyed idea that disabled people are all so undesirable and tragic that the only people who will have sex with us are those who are 'benevolent' prostitutes who of course don't mind doing it for pay but can't otherwise. 'It'll just cost the tax payer a little extra so dig deep now
    Plenty of non disabled people use prostitutes for all sorts of reasons should it also be included in their care packages. Find some other mug to make your money off of and don't insult disabled people and reinforce stereotypes. Maybe the disabled 'clients' might want to work for their 'care package' and become prostitutes themselves then they could fulfill their sexual desires whenever someone else decides they want to have sex.

    Complain about this comment

  • 2. At 3:58pm on 27 Feb 2009, belfastgerry wrote:

    i do find it unfortunate that this is the case, many people don't have the patience or respect to cope with a persons disability - i worked with people with a disability for 6 years now and I can't say i knew any who used a prostitute or escort, but many of them would be very withdrawn about sexuality. A modern way to meet people is online but if you were to put u had a disability I don't believe there would be many responses. so as i say its an unfortunate situation

    Complain about this comment

  • 3. At 3:58pm on 27 Feb 2009, belfastgerry wrote:

    i do find it unfortunate that this is the case, many people don't have the patience or respect to cope with a persons disability - i worked with people with a disability for 6 years now and I can't say i knew any who used a prostitute or escort, but many of them would be very withdrawn about sexuality. A modern way to meet people is online but if you were to put u had a disability I don't believe there would be many responses.

    Complain about this comment

  • 4. At 4:00pm on 27 Feb 2009, belfastgerry wrote:

    i do find it unfortunate that this is the case, many people don't have the patience or respect to cope with a persons disability - i worked with people with a disability for 6 years now and I can't say i knew any who used a prostitute or escort, but many of them would be very withdrawn about sexuality.

    Complain about this comment

  • 5. At 11:13pm on 28 Feb 2009, glammyleg wrote:

    It is no more unfortunate than anybody who is 'withdrawn about sexuality' teachers, parents, etc all who project their own insecurities, prejudices etc on those who they are guiding through life. Plenty of non-disabled people are also in 'unfortunate' situations, and not all disabled people are by the way. I'd say more 'sad' 'lonely' 'ugly' people or people just wanting to explore sex with a prostitute are non disabled people. The problem could be improved much more with a more posiitive portrayal of disabled people and sexual diversity in the media and advertising. There should be open and honest debate which focused on attitude supportive relationships and increased awareness, not on sexual competiton.

    Presumably her boyfriends knew she was disabled to begin with but acted in a very ignorant and immature way to her situation. Not unusual regardless.

    The fact that the only focus of their relationship was whether or not she could have an orgasm suggests poor communication was really at the heart of the problem. I doubt her disabilty would have made much difference it is not uncommon to be dumped and left feeling sexually undesired.

    If they had not minded and she felt guilty then would she have minded retaining some form of sexual or friendly relationship with her boyfriend and let him have sex with some escort who did orgasm? It might not be such an appealing prospect when he decides that is what he needs would you continue to feel insecure?.

    Complain about this comment

  • 6. At 5:34pm on 01 Mar 2009, mistyvickers wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 7. At 01:51am on 02 Mar 2009, missminute wrote:

    The term 'prostitute' on this site, should not be used. It is described as an 'unworthy purpose' in dictionaries. It is as insulting for escorts as it is for massage therapists.
    The majority of escorts are as sensitive and emotional as those who seek their time and attention. Many escorts are kind and caring. They are not drug addicts either. Predominately they are intelligent, caring, well-informed and empathetic people with 'invisible' physical problems too!

    Complain about this comment

  • 8. At 00:16am on 04 Mar 2009, naughtylizzer wrote:

    I think that sex workers can be extremely helpful to some disabled people, and certainly it must be more rewarding to try and help someone who has physical reasons for not being able to enjoy normal sex, not just someone who can't be bothered to woo someone.
    Having said that, I don't think it is something the tax payer should pay for, apart from anything because it reinforces the idea that disabled people can only get sex if they pay for it.
    Plenty of people with very severe disabilities enjoy normal sexual relationships, and plenty of people with very minor problems (eg eczema) are too self conscious to enjoy normal sex. It is largely a matter of attitude and mind, as it is with non disabled people. Similarly, plenty of ordinary women and men have peroblems with orgasm and erection, not just disabled people.
    The key is to encourage wider society to realise that disabled people enjoy sex too... and already a certain percentage do realise that.

    Complain about this comment

  • 9. At 6:15pm on 05 Mar 2009, tc1151 wrote:

    There are several issues here I think really; one issue is that to many, it is still the view that "oh, disabled people don't have sex" despite many disabled (from moderate to very severe) being part of loving sexual relationships without the need to go to a prostitute or escort. I find in the media that it's often perceived that this is the only way for the "poor disabled guy" to get sex in their lives, which simply isn't the case whatsoever.

    Another issue here is that, it's society as a whole that needs to be look at also; society can make disabled people feel marginalised and make some people think that because they are disabled that they won't get sex, and they feel almost pressurised into paying for sex; especially when you consider how sexualised Western societey is in the 21st Century.

    The attitude of some of the escorts somewhat disappoints me also, they all seem to point out that they are helping poor needy people out, as if to say, "aw, poor cripple", as opposed to simply giving fellow human beings sex, which is all it is ultimately, it's not some sort of Samiratan movement or disabled charity. But it's not surprising of a society that still, largely, looks down on disabled people in one way or another.

    To incorporate it into any disabled benefits is quite crass and could also be viewed as an offence. I don't need government money for sex, thanks Gordon; not having to wait months and months for the NHS to provide a wheelchair, that ultimately isn't any good, would be a better start.

    Complain about this comment

  • 10. At 6:16pm on 05 Mar 2009, tc1151 wrote:

    There are several issues here I think really; one issue is that to many, it is still the view that "oh, disabled people don't have sex" despite many disabled (from moderate to very severe) being part of loving sexual relationships without the need to go to a prostitute or escort. I find in the media that it's often perceived that this is the only way for the "poor disabled guy" to get sex in their lives, which simply isn't the case whatsoever.

    Another issue here is that, it's society as a whole that needs to be look at also; society can make disabled people feel marginalised and make some people think that because they are disabled that they won't get sex, and they feel almost pressurised into paying for sex; especially when you consider how sexualised Western societey is in the 21st Century.

    To incorporate it into any disabled benefits is quite crass and could also be viewed as an offence. I don't need government money for sex, thanks Gordon; not having to wait months and months for the NHS to provide a wheelchair, that ultimately isn't any good, would be a better start.

    Complain about this comment

View these comments in RSS

Bookmark with...

What are these?

Live community panel

Our blog is the main place to go for all things Ouch! Find info, comment, articles and great disability content on the web via us.

Mat and Liz
Listen to our regular razor sharp talk show online, or subscribe to it as a podcast. Spread the word: it's where disability and reality almost collide.

More from the BBC

BBC Sport

Disability Sport

All the latest news from the paralympics.

Peter White

In Touch

News and views for people who are blind or partially sighted.

BBC Radio 4

You & Yours

Weekdays 12.40pm. Radio 4's consumer affairs programme.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.