Escort Story Needs Headline

Britney posing during a long exposure to her her identity. Britney’s roommate at the time helped reveal to her the life of escorting, going on dates and hanging out with men while getting paid to help with their college finances.

Ashley Torres

The average U.S. student debt rose by six percent this year with students averaging $37,172 in loans, leaving over 40 million students to pay back their debt, a total of over $1.54 trillion. American women own two thirds of that debt.

Kent comes in at number six with a total of 927 sugar babies in the country on “SeekingArrangement” (SA), a website to help sugar daddies find their babies. The agreement is mutual; women offer a slew of services that are agreed on prior to meeting in person and men provide the cash flow. And contrary to popular belief, sex is not a given.

Stella*, 21, a psychology major at Kent State, works as a stripper while attending school because it helps her pay the bills But she’s not struggling with money, she said. Her parents set up a college fund for her when she was younger, and with the help of scholarships, her tuition is set.

She was looking for a job to make extra money after she left Dairy Queen and was applying to coffee shops when someone she knew who was stripping told her about an opening available. Stella first worked at Club Boom Boom before she auditioned for her manager and got the job at The Dome in Kent. Her audition only consisted of her dancing to three songs.

“You don’t have to do something you don’t have to do,” Stella said of her stripping profession.

It’s not how someone without prior knowledge would envision the job; she has a flexible schedule that works around her classes and easily makes $130 to $150 per night, only working from 5-9pm. Some of her colleagues that stay later make $1000 per night.

“I can leave whenever I want,” Stella said, which is more than most college employees can say about their jobs.

When it comes to the stripping stigma, Stella isn’t too concerned with it. She grew up with an open-minded mother who worries about her.

Because of her psychology major, Stella approaches stripping differently than the average person. She’s open to changing the stigma by sharing part of her life on Snapchat, where people are free to ask her any questions they might have.

“I’m OK with talking about it. I feel safe and have a good support system,” she said.

She encourages other women and sex workers to grow comfortable enough to speak about their experiences because that will change the stigma.

While working at The Dome, she’s met other Kent State students and “meets interesting people every night.”

Stella’s encountered a variety of people with different kinds of backgrounds varying from construction workers to cardiologists. Most of them enjoy the company aspect and want to be asked about their days, she said.

“Sex work is different than sex trafficking,” Stella said. “Sex work isn’t forced and is just a job like anything else.”

For a short period of time, she dabbled in escorting, which is accompanying men on dates in exchange for money.

“I didn’t enjoy it as much,” she said of her escorting experiences.

Stella didn’t enjoy the emotional work that she was expected to put in with escorting. This entailed listening to problems and acting like she was interested for two hours. It didn’t feel genuine because she wasn’t invested in the person, not to say there was anything wrong with these clients.

“The stripper environment is more physical, not emotional,” she said.

She found her clients through the “SeekingArrangement” and “WhatsYourPrice” websites. She set out to achieve her goal of purchasing the latest Michael Kors bag. Stella made $150 per date, and though it was nice money, she didn’t enjoy it.

“It’s nice money, but there are hours of vetting who you feel safe with,” she said.

At The Dome, she feels safe and mostly encounters the regulars that come back to see her.

For Britney* and Jessica*, their involvement in escorting was similar to Stella’s — they only did it a few times to get extra money.

Britney, a senior speech pathology and audiology major, was introduced to escorting her freshman year at Kent State in 2014 while living in Centennial Court B with Jessica, a senior fashion merchandising major. Their third roommate Amanda, who was an expert earning up to thousands of dollars while still studying at Kent State, introduced both of them to the lifestyle.

“She had done it back home and kind of roped us in,” Britney said.

Amanda had expensive things and was not struggling for money, which peaked the curiosity of her roommates. Both girls made profiles on SeekingArrangement and WhatsYourPrice with Amanda’s help.

“I’m naturally goofy, and she was sexy,” Britney said of Amanda preparing her profile to attract men. Amanda ended up switching the details in Britney’s profile to make her more appealing to the opposite sex. It worked.

The girls would dress up and head out on the dates together, never going alone to meet strangers. One client that became a semi-regular was Matt*, who maintained a texting relationship with Britney and gave the girls $100 each, which went toward a new coffee maker for their dorm, and in hindsight, the girls think was ridiculous.  

“We ran into the bathroom and took pics with the money,” Jessica said.

Matt even gave Britney $500 toward her spring break experience when she told him that she was strapped for money.

“I remember asking for $50, and he was like ‘how about $500,'” Britney said.

Matt picked the ladies up at their dorm and drove them to a local restaurant, Bricco, where they engaged in conversation over a bottle of wine. The conversation was light and surface level. Matt managed to make the newbies feel comfortable.

The only time anything escalated was when he paid for each girl to get their nipples pierced; he asked for before and after pictures. Other than that, it was all surface level, which is not to say that all men on the website are as casual as Matt was.

Jessica remembered an encounter with a man who seemed interested in talking, but pushed to meet halfway in between their locations and have a quickie at a rest stop — something Jessica vehemently refused to partake in.

“Our other roommate knew how to pick them,” Jessica said of Amanda.

Though Stella owned her sexuality and wants to break the stigma surrounding her job, Jessica feels the opposite. Because of the stigma associated with it, she feels ashamed of her time as an escort.

“The stigma kills it,” she said of any empowerment she would’ve felt otherwise.

“I think it’s funny,” Britney said of her time as an escort.

Both girls said they were naive to how the process would be because they had just gone from living under their parent’s roof to living alone in the dorms and tasting their first experience with independence.

They estimate the three made over $6,800 that year, with Amanda cashing in the majority. Neither can remember how the money was spent.

“It’s all fake,” Britney said of escorting. “You have to look a certain way, talk a certain way.”

Escorting perpetuated an image of what the girls seemed to be, but it was an illusion. However, the girls credit the experience with taking them out of their comfort zone and teaching them about life.

At first, Jessica felt empowered and attractive and wanted, but after her ex-fiance found out about her escorting past, all those feelings went away. Britney’s ex-boyfriend, on the other hand, was supportive because he felt any money was a win for them both.

As for women who want to go into the profession, the girls both agree that being “smart” about it is the best way to go.

“Don’t go alone,” Jessica said.

“Always carry pepper spray,” Britney added.

The money helped each girl with the stress of school because they didn’t have to struggle to buy anything they needed. Though “SeekingArrangement” does have an extensive vetting process in order to join the website—each post, including photographs and profiles must be approved by the SA team—it’s encouraged for both parties to get to know each other before meeting. It’s also important to note that both websites acknowledge that sex for money is illegal and don’t encourage the act of prostitution. They do, however, encourage “relationships on your terms,” according to “SeekingArrangement’s” website.

“If I had to do it again, I’d wait until I was 21,” Jessica said.

With more women raising awareness and speaking up about their experiences, perhaps will diminish shame surrounding the stigma sex workers face on the daily basis because they are jobs like other professions, they just pay more.

Editor’s Note:

Ashley Torres is a feature writer. Contact her at [email protected].