When is a moral dilemma not a moral dilemma?

June 10, 2012

Making moral judgements is so much easier in theory.

I mean of course I wouldn’t sell my body for money. Would I ?  Well, no obviously not now I wouldn’t as I wouldn’t get enough to cover the cost of a large glass of wine to take the taste away. But as a student in my late teens it wasn’t always that simple.

The summer of 79 saw me living in a flat in central London with four lads. During the day I worked in a photocopying shop in Hatton Garden, the jewellery quarter of London. It was easy to get jobs then and I was made manager in just over a week. No one had computers or printers in their offices so they came to shops like ours to have copies made of anything important. Including trays and trays of jewellery. I would photocopy them and they would then use this as a record of their stock. In the evening I would walk  a few doors up and work in the pub till closing time. Which in those days was 11 pm.

And many of the jewellers I had seen in the day would come for a drink in the evening and we would chat some more. One gave me some diamond stud ear rings that had flaws in them so he couldn’t sell them. But as I couldn’t see the flaws they were gratefully accepted. Another asked if I’d like to go to the Playboy club with him after work. As a penniless student working two jobs, the thought of the Playboy club was incredibly exciting. But he was really old – by which I mean probably late 30s- and I really didn’t fancy him so I said I’d love to go but not as a date or anything. But if he still wanted to take me with no hidden agenda then I’d love to. He said he’d pick me up at 11 when I finished.

He rolled up in a Porsche. Oh. My.God. A previous boyfriend of mine had been car mad and some of it rubbed off so I was seriously impressed. I climbed in and we sped off. We pulled up outside and a doorman helped me out and then took the keys to park the car.

This was another world of luxury and service and I loved it. The manager asked to take us for a meal and so we ate all three together. I didn’t realise how important a client he must be. I didn’t really think about it. And then we went in to the gaming rooms and he gave me a handful of chips and told me to play. I had never gambled at all and didn’t know what to do but he didn’t care. He liked watching my enjoyment.

The  glamour was everywhere. The Bunny girls were even more gorgeous than I’d imagined and seemed to ply us with drinks and nibbles throughout the evening. They did that funny ‘bob’ with their knees to deliver drinks to low tables so that they didn’t spill out of their minute costumes. We went to one room where the minimum bet was £1000. It seemed more serious in that room. I preferred the hubbub of the main casino. He gave me more chips throughout the evening. Sometimes I won, only to lose it all again the next throw of the dice. He played too, but I dont really remember how he did.

At the end of the evening, about 4 am, he offered to drive me home . I had had a wonderful time playing with plastic chips until they had all gone, eating, drinking, watching beautiful people, but  I reiterated that if he drove me home he wasn’t coming inside.

He smiled and said he knew that, he just wanted to get me home safely.

He pulled up outside my front door and leaned over to me. I thought “Oh god, this is going to get awkward.” And it did. But not in the way I expected.

He handed me £500. I went all moral and affronted and said something to the effect that “I am not a prostitute and I told you that there was no way I was going to do anything with you.”  He said that he’d had a lovely evening and wanted to give it to me. I said I couldn’t possibly take it.

And then he asked me a question,  “Would you give 5 pence to a friend?” . “Yes” I said, puzzled. He smiled, “That’s what this is worth to me, but I know it means a lot more to you. So take it” .

So I did.

I’d like to say I struggled with the moral dilemma, but I didn’t. (Let’s face it, I’d taken the diamond earrings without a second thought.)  £500 basically for a night as an escort. Does it make it any  better that I was clear there was no sex on the menu at the outset?  I don’t think so.  After all, there are women (and men) who do this escorting for a living, and they are basically selling themselves and seen as part of the sex industry. Does it make a difference that I had no expectation of payment at the end? Perhaps. But surely the point is that I took the money, whether or not I had expected it; I got paid for spending an evening with a man.

I pecked him on the cheek and got out of the car.  I couldn’t believe it. This was more money than I’d ever had.

And I spent that £500 over the next few years.  About three or four times over. Every time I bought something I probably shouldn’t , or spent more on something than I should have, I justified it with the thought that I’d been given that extra five hundred quid for simply having a good time, so surely it had to be spent with that idea in mind.

So, in answer to my own question in the title; when is a moral dilemma not a moral dilemma?

When it suits me.


4 Responses to “When is a moral dilemma not a moral dilemma?”

  1. […] have mentioned before that during the summer of 79 I worked in a pub in central London in the evenings. It was a busy pub, […]

  2. Janet Says:

    Classic! I’d have grabbed his hand off..
    The most I was ever offered by a customer in the pub I used to work in was to beat up someone who had annoyed me (and I did consider it…)

  3. Lorna Kyle Says:

    I have just two things to say:-
    1.Please tell me that you didn’t have that bubble haircut then
    2.What’s his phone number?

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