[Editor's note: The writer, spurred by news accounts of last weekend's conference on sex workers in Vancouver and talk of creating a red light district, sent this letter to The Tyee.] I am an escort in Vancouver and I am very concerned with the recurring media hype about legalizing prostitution. Repeatedly, I hear it's a good idea to form a brothel area within the city - and every time I get more and more annoyed, uptight and pissed off. I and the few acquaintances I have in this business do our business out of very nice, clean, discreet apartments. We are all drug free, alcohol free, and free of abusive relationships. This is our "life support" and we treat it as a business; with care and discretion. No one I know has ever had any kind of trouble, either with police or clients. With this in mind, I am wondering: Would setting up a brothel area mean joining the business escorts and the addicted eastside escorts into a one group area? Or is this brothel area just for eastside working girls, and the business escorts get to continue with "business as usual" in our own chosen areas? A bad mix I believe setting up a brothel area and mixing business escorts with addicted escorts would never, ever work. No lawyer, judge, politician, engineer, local or foreign business owner or representative, CEO, professor, school board member, teacher, city hall employee, government worker, computer professional salesman, director, producer, set person, actor, musician, artist, trucker, blue collar worker or professional would ever come to that area. Frankly that's because they wouldn't want to mix with either the cheap scum clientele - or the addicted prostitutes - or the crime and thievery that would follow. Not to mention the threats to safety of the business escorts and their possessions and belongings, or about how totally indiscreet this set up would be for both the businessmen and the business escorts. I believe this whole set up would possibly drive the "clean" escorts out of business. We'd return to the days of 30 or 40 years ago, to the seamy underground atmosphere of streetwalking and scummy hotel calls and scummy clientele. Which would only raise the odds of more murders. Sympathy for addicts Changes definitely need to take place to redirect, change, and save the eastside girls. They need compulsory rehabilitation and counseling centres in the outlying areas; where if they're caught working without treatment, the only other alternative is jail … repeatedly, until they get "the message." Once out of rehab, they need a choice of training options. Those who take advantage of such training might not care to turn back to prostitution. Those who go through this process and still decide to turn back to prostitution, or just choose to be "down on life" and exist in the east side, would need "safe houses" in their own areas to work out of. Other prostitution issues in need of change I hope will come about one day: Solicitation: The escort can place her ad and the client can phone her, but technically the escort can't tell him anything. Just pretend he's coming for dinner or some such thing. Otherwise, it's called solicitation. What is this about? This makes no sense. Health Clubs: These are exactly the same as brothels - or so called massage parlours; but these "health clubs" pay much less for a license/permit than do escort agencies and massage parlours. Why do foreigners get in this business so easily, by paying much less, and why is it called legal? Why do escort agencies need an office? Why does an agency need to interview girls, accept calls, and make appointments while sitting in a rented office? All agency business can be made from anywhere, on a cell phone. These owners can be in a coffee shop, hair salon, at home, or walking down the street. An office is an extra expense for any agency, which already pays a good price to run their business. I see this as another money grab for the city. Even though the city is the pimp, it does not need to be a greedy one. Up to three escorts working out of one apartment: If the escorts find this a suitable way to conduct their business, and they can do it discreetly and quietly, it is certainly a safer way than doing business alone, especially if the escort is new and or unsure of herself. Although it certainly can make things complicated businesswise. Many have been doing this for sometime now, anyway. I've heard of up to 15 girls working out of one apartment and I believe a limit of 2 or 3 girls per apartment should be set. Consideration for the other tenants in the building should be top priority, along with having the client feel "at ease and private." Foreigners: These women come to our country to visit or learn ESL and while here they sell their bodies out of escort agencies earning huge Canadian dollars, sometimes in a very short time ($10,000 to $20,000 per month or more). And then they leave. Does our money go with them? Does it recycle in Canada, where it needs to? Legalizing and taxing escorts: There are at least three groups in this city that are in dire need of help: 1. The homeless, including the addicted, the handicapped, and the elderly. 2. The barely sheltered elderly, whose plight and difficulties are rarely seen or even thought about by many of us. 3. Single mothers, who nowadays especially face insurmountable hurdles to do with feeding and clothing their children and just existing, never mind paying monthly bills and rent. Many of these women are being faced with a decision to turn to prostitution themselves, and as they move into that force, they worry that if the government finds out, they could lose their children. On the other hand altogether, we have the escorts. This group makes excellent tax free money, so it seems to me they should be helping those who are having trouble helping themselves. Many of this group, Canada wide, are in this business because of lack of education so they see this as viable way to "survive and support"; which it is. As I see it, this group should always be very aware of the homeless and should always be willing to lend them a hand, because right now life for the escort may not be so bad and is a hell of a lot better than starvation - or $7.00 or $8.00 an hour and complete poverty. But what will happen to the escort years later? Escorts should be overflowing with empathy for the homeless and needy, because someday these people could be them. After working for cash for years what are they going to do to survive? And what livable pension will they receive? The life of a prostitute can be a very isolating existence. On the one hand, you're surviving - possibly better than ever before - but on the other hand you can't/don't/won't socialize for fear of getting caught and being looked down on. You don't socialize with others in the business either - if you're smart - because you don't know who you can trust with "the secret." It becomes a dog eat dog atmosphere of mistrust and deception. No one trusts anyone, thereby making it difficult to support one another. What could be done to encourage escorts to form a group, and therefore be more helpful to other groups less fortunate? I would suggest making registration and licensing of escorts compulsory. As an incentive, the government could offer tax breaks to escorts because of the risk they face, and their difficulties in calculating earnings. If this could be done while assuring total anonymity, then maybe the escorts could begin to see themselves as members of an alliance advocate group or "union" (loose terms). We could actually permanently band together and financially help the homeless, single mothers, rehab of street hookers, and the elderly that need help - at Christmas and year round. It could be made compulsory, or no tax breaks. We can contribute to the community - and we need to! It would help our self esteem, as well as help those who need it. Ruining an image Finally, I do understand the need of eastside street people to stick up for their rights. However, escorting in the city of Vancouver is not made up of eastside street people only. And not all escorts have led lives leading to addiction. There are those of us (and there are many) that do our business well, and do it so discreetly that we are forgotten, and the media has now lumped us in with those indiscreet girls who abuse their own lives and the business they've fallen into, due to their own addictions. We are two separate groups - and two separate lifestyles. The life of the addicted and the unaddicted. The media, activist groups and anyone else referring to "prostitution" in Vancouver need to clearly make this distinction instead of making the public believe that we all need help. We do not need the kind of representation that ruins the image of escorts and causes the public to look down on them and this business. As business escorts, we've been doing our business so discreetly that apparently we've been forgotten. It seems to me, instead of sending a government group to Europe to see how they set up prostitution there, the rest of the world should come to Vancouver (and they do) to see how it's actually done right and with discretion. We have our business together - so send the world to see us and learn from us. The media need to start helping Vancouver's name, by making this distinction. The author has worked as a Vancouver business escort in Vancouver for seven years. She shared her identity with a Tyee editor, but wishes to remain anonymous.