Exploring another side of the sex industry: the online boom of escort services in Malta

Exploring another side of the sex industry: the online boom of escort services in Malta

A current topic of debate on the island is prostitution – whether to recognise sex work as being a job like any other or whether to criminalise clients. In September, the government launched a public consultation on the reform of human trafficking and prostitution laws, pledging to “launch a debate on the regularisation and decriminalisation of prostitution.” The main aim of the reform is to protect vulnerable people from being exploited as sex workers and to fight people trafficking.

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Since the discussion kicked off, NGOs, politicians and numerous individuals have voiced their opinion on the lives of prostitutes, painting a picture of vulnerable individuals who end up in the sex industry because they do not know any better or are trafficked. While this may be the case for many women, should we be limiting the discussion to prostitutes?  

The Malta Independent on Sunday delved into the world of Malta’s growing online escort industry. While in the past few years, fewer women and street walkers have become visible in areas such as Marsa and Gżira, a simple Google search turns up numerous websites where women post pictures and advertise their services, with full descriptions, prices and mobile numbers. For the size of the island, a number of websites have pages full of women advertising their services in key locations such as St Julian’s, Buġibba and Sliema, and certain escorts also have reviews left by those who used their services.

This newsroom investigated such websites and forums to see what exactly is going on in this particular industry.

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What is the difference between escorting and prostitution?

In the traditional sense, an escort is a person who may be hired to accompany someone to a social event as their date. Over the years, the term ‘escort’ has evolved to mean an entertainer or companion hired and paid for their services, which may include sex. Although often compared to a prostitute, an escort is not paid to have sex, but for their time and companionship. Like prostitution, paid escorts have been around for decades but the industry has boomed thanks to the internet, and although rarely discussed, Malta plays a role in this.

 

Services ranging from €80 per hour to €300 per hour

This newsroom looked into a number of websites advertising European escorts, and on one particular site, over 1,207 entries were registered in Malta. On such a website one can even specify a locality, with 732 escorts available in St Julian’s, and 264 in Sliema. The website provided a filter to choose from based on traits such as age, hair, breast size, height, rates and services, nationality and whether they are ‘independent’ or ‘verified’, that is, whether they work for an escort agency or not.

Escort profiles include pictures and a description of each girl, including information on where they are from or their ethnicity. Many describe themselves as “passionate”, “ready to make your XXX dreams come true,” and “offer an exceptionally sensual girlfriend experience.”

Notably, most escorts indicated that they would only be in Malta for a short period of time, sometimes just a week or two.

Many advertised similar types of sexual services, including kissing, hand jobs, oral sex, anal, domination, foot fetish and sex with and without protection. Prices ranged from €80-€100 an hour for in-call services, to €1,000 for 24 hour service.

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I’m tired of wasting money on ungrateful, lazy girls – escort reviewer

Some escort websites also allow users to leave a review of the escort, explaining their experience and services with the girls. The reviews varied from very happy clients who left five-star reviews, to others who shamed and degraded certain escorts.

One review read: “AVOID this escort! She tries to convince you to just talk, wastes time talking, leave[s] her phone ringing and even answers calls and texts in the middle of the meeting! Her breasts are silicone, not natural as stated on her profile (…) A total rip-off and waste of time. She should understand that these are men who are lonely and cannot easily find a girlfriend. I will definitely not need her services again.”

Another review on a sex forum went into more detail, complaining about one Maltese escort’s lack of hygiene. He said her apartment smelled like “something died inside” and had no running water. Regardless, he concluded his review by saying, “If your hygiene standards are low, and you want a Maltese mature, she’s the one.”

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‘Spoilt for choice’

One user whose review was titled ‘Spoilt for choice lately’ seemed extremely impressed with the escort services provided on the island, particularly from foreign escorts. “Safe hunting guys, remember just go to the main escort sites and check what’s available. Malta is booming not only in property!”

Other positive reviews described escorts as “one of the finest ladies I ever met”, “better looking than in her pictures” and providing a “clean place”. Particular escorts were said to have made them feel “at the centre of the universe,” unlike others.

A number of users sought advice on where to find independent escorts and how to avoid pimped out girls “like the plague,” with some reviewers recalling how they had been robbed by the escort or her pimp, and how such customers need to “help these independent girls sustain without resourcing to pimps.”

Other comments, however, were extremely explicit and, at times, disturbing. Many included internet sex slang and abbreviations of services particular escorts did or did not provide. Some users left comments describing their desperation for connection and touch and how such escorts must be reminded that it is their job to provide these services to “poor men”. Many reviewers on the forum exchange advice on which escort to seek out, and where to find them.

One poignant review described the experience of a man who had requested the services of a particular escort, only to be told that “Liza (not real name) does not work any longer. She went into rehab and now she’s been at least two years crack free.”

Such websites and online forums raise a number of questions, such as how the money earned through such services is spent and whether escorts should be taxed and regularised. If these women work independently, what form of support or protection do they have if they are injured or abused by a client? Why do profiles ignore the issue of STIs? All this needs to be considered if Malta is to have a truly open and objective discussion on prostitution and sex work.

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