TORONTO Escorts. Frisky business in Ontario’s hinterland. Toronto Escorts Agencies Service. 416-346-6908
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Last fall, Star reporter Antonia Zerbisias spent a month looking at the world of escorts in Ontario. Her research is the basis for the Toronto Star eread Escorts: Love for Sale in Toronto, now available through stardispatches.com. Zerbisias’s exploration also took her to small-town Ontario, where she discovered a very different situation from Toronto’s high-end scene.
A blond stunner in her mid-40s, she’s wearing a tailored white shirt over form-fitting jeans. Her red cowboy boots match her luxury SUV, parked outside the pub. Reaching a delicate hand into the red designer bag by her side, she pulls out a red file folder. Inside, a decade’s worth of revenue spreadsheets.
Although growth has flattened, there’s no red ink.
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We’ll call her company Foxxxy Ladies.
“The in-town rate for a regular-service one-hour call is $175,” says James, who asks that I not reveal her escort agency’s base of operations. “That is exactly what it was when I started more than 10 years ago. It has never gone up. All the agencies outside Toronto have virtually identical pricing now.
“The market is really saturated; it’s very competitive,” she continues. “Many local independents are coming up, too, trying to undercut us at $80 an hour. They’re killing us.”
It seems even small town women want to earn tuition, clear up credit card debt or spice up an otherwise uneventful life by becoming escorts, even if they don’t make anywhere near as much as they could at one of the Toronto high-end agencies.
I have known James for at least four years. We “met” on Facebook, on a group page about politics and women’s rights. She jumped into a heated argument over prostitution and the constitutional challenge launched by three Toronto sex workers, which has now landed at the Supreme Court of Canada.
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Prostitution is the most divisive issue in feminism. One side sees it as exploitation by the patriarchy, no different from human trafficking and slavery. The other views it as a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body, no different from choosing not to become a mother.
James believes the latter, and advocates for sex workers’ rights. She maintains that, because prostitution actually is legal in Canada, then sex workers should have the constitutional right to safety and security of person, just like any other worker. Sexual assault and murder shouldn’t be occupational hazards, as the constitutional challenge maintains.
James saw the effects of such crimes in the 1990s, when she had a job helping female victims of violence at a social services agency. But provincial budget cuts at the agency forced her, a single mother with a mortgage, to search for a way to supplement meagre child support payments.
She eventually landed a job at Foxxxy Ladies as a driver, chauffeuring escorts to their appointments and back. One night, she drove a group of them to a hotel where a number of professionals in town for a convention were partying. The agency was short a couple of “girls” and asked James if she would go in, just to mingle. One of the men offered her a four-figure sum to join him in his room for the night. He was so attractive, she says, she probably would have done it for free.
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“That’s when I discovered that sex work isn’t the violent torture chamber I had thought it would be,” she laughs.
The easy money made her graduate from driving to escorting. About 10 years ago, with a partner, she bought the agency — although she herself maintains some long-term steady clients.
Turned out it was more frisky business than risky business. That’s because in some Ontario municipalities — Windsor and Barrie, for example — escort agencies are not only technically legal but also licensed under city bylaws, as are the women who work for them.
However, agency fees run in the thousands. For the escorts, the price is a couple of hundred dollars, plus the cost of a criminal-background check.
“You could say that these cities ‘live off the avails of prostitution,’” says James wryly, pointing out licensing is tantamount to pimping. “These cities don’t like it known that escort agencies are actually revenue generators for them.”
(In Toronto, a limited number of massage parlours are licensed. Escort agencies are not.)
The prostitution laws are full of loopholes, which is why escorts operate all around us, mostly under the radar.
For example, once two consenting adults are in a room together, even if money is exchanged they can have sex, because it’s considered a private matter. There is no public communication for the purpose of prostitution, which would make it a crime under the Criminal Code. No bawdy house laws are broken if the deed takes place in a client’s home, a hotel room or a place not regularly used for prostitution.
As for living off the avails of prostitution, an escort agency owner and the non-escort employees — drivers and office staff — have deniability because all they’re selling is “companionship.” True, they could be charged under the “living off the avails” provision. But that’s not likely to happen in municipalities that profit from prostitution through licensing.
Despite the competition, Foxxxy Ladies does steady business, with a large percentage of its clientele being unmarried regulars who book escorts every week or so. Many of these men lead solitary lives in remote locales, and they’ve been known to hire girls just to play Scrabble and watch videos. There are even a few who live in their parents’ basement — and use their parents’ credit cards.
“Sometimes the mothers catch them and chase the girls out with a broom,” says James.
“Many of our clients see us as a dating service — and many girls are open to that happening. It seems that, every summer, we have a wedding. One girl just hit the jackpot. She married a very rich client. But she is still working because she loves it.”
James says it takes all kinds to be in the job. Young, old, fat, thin — there’s demand for every type of woman. Her “girls” range in age from 19 to well over 60, although her sixtysomething employee, “Linda,” tells clients she’s 49. She can pass. She has a sensational body and she exudes vivaciousness.
“Linda doesn’t need the money; she’s a scientist,” James explains. “She just loves the work. At her age, she doesn’t get much attention anymore. Where else will she meet frisky 70-year-olds?”
In the pub, where it’s the dead of the afternoon, James pulls out another red file folder. In it, rules for escorts, rules for drivers.
“Do not give out your personal info on calls.” “You must be sober/straight while working.” “Dress like you are going to a nice restaurant.” “Keep conversation light.” “Do not spray perfume in the drivers’ cars.”
The driver protocol includes safety regulations. “Remain at the location until the girl calls out and says all is well.” “Don’t go far from the location and return within 10 minutes of the stated end time.” “Do not go to the door unless instructed by the office.”
There are code words for everything. Drunk clients, girls who are stoned, drivers who are not respectful.
And all sex is straight sex. Safe sex. As for the Foxxxy Ladies bottom line, if a one-hour call brings in, say, $260 for a drive 50 kilometres out of town, the girl gets half, the driver $50 and the agency $50. (Rates vary according to the distance from the office.)
“Yes, we make less than in Toronto,” James concedes. “We can only price at what the market will bear unless we offer a specialty — but many of the specialty girls starve and move away because of a lack of demand. It’s all meat and potatoes here in the hinterland.”
James does admit to a few clients who have harmless kinks and quirks. There’s “Pantyhose Pete,” who wears, you guessed it, control tops. The cross-dressing “Dr. B,” who likes to be like the girls. And “Clock Changer,” the guy who, when the girl is not looking, resets the clock to eke out an extra 10 minutes or so.
“Men are just as lonely and vulnerable, isolated, as women can be,” James concludes. “A lot of them just have emotional issues, or physical issues.
“But I see them as endearing. I no longer see them as treacherous. They just can’t form and maintain relationships. So appointments with us are the highlight of their lives.”
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Read more about escorts
Prostitution has always been with us. The world’s oldest profession has sometimes been celebrated, other times censured, almost always stigmatized. Even while elite courtesans moved among royalty, less fortunate women scrabbled for a living in the streets. Today is not much different. But what we know is based largely on hearsay and sensation, bad movies and crime series, with the focus on the most downtrodden. Escorts: Love for Sale in Toronto is not about those women. Rather, it is the story of the top level of the love-for-sale subculture — the world of high-end escorts. They are the courtesans of our time, discreet, educated, sophisticated and very much in control of their own fates. Who are they? And what are their lives really like? Through exclusive interviews with Toronto escorts and their clients, Star journalist Antonia Zerbisias uncovers this little-known society, painting a vivid portrait of a way of life that operates under the radar in our own city.
TORONTO INDEPENDENT ESCORTS. INCALL INDEPENDENT ESCORTS AT STEELES & BAYVIEW. CALL 416-605-9855