extract from 'Erotic, Necessary': as featured in MIR7.
Jonathan Newton, professor of English literature, had been visiting Amber in the exquisite chimera of her bedroom for some time, before she told him she would soon be leaving the Edgware Road apartment for good.
Since the breakdown of his marriage, Newton had satisfied himself with prostitutes, a habit that had trammelled his liberal conscience until he felt cross-eyed with guilt. It formed a shameful counterpoint to his work, from the publication of his second book, Nabokov and the Phenomenological, to his year-long sabbatical in St Petersburg, to his current appointment at a prestigious London university. It haunted him as he attended conferences with internationally respected female colleagues. It shadowed him during supervisions, while he pored over the dissertations of the various young women under his tutelage, each unaware of his predilection.
He had never given it up, though.
Prostitution, he had realised, was much like any other pastime: something to be discovered slowly, through experience. How much to pay? Where to go? There were several false starts. A maternal fifty-year-old, Janine, in a fl at above an all-night grocer on Stroud Green Road. Maggie, a rail-thin youngster in a Peckham high-rise blackened by industrial smoke. The walk-ups of Soho, with their Day-Glo cardboard signs and misplaced apostrophes (“Meet busty model’s upstairs”, etc.). And then the Internet: the twenty-first century’s street corner. A website: principallypleasureescorts.com (“Your heart’s desire”). Newton gazed at his laptop, and the blue light of twenty or so photographs of female bodies shone back in his face. Lingerie, leopard-print nighties, high heels. The shine of oiled torsos, shoulders, breasts. A price for incall and outcall services.
Here it was, then. Women for hire. Armies of them. Misha, Elle, Coral Pearl (Genuine Playboy Model). Marina Rio (student). Luma (West End Dancer). Kelle (offers “the complete girlfriend experience”). Here it was: the female body a commodity to be traded. Each pose, each portrait a cliché, but each cliché so shamefully piquant. Everything about the website offended him intellectually, and everything about it attracted him corporeally. Palpably, in the loins. He scrolled, he clicked, read profiles, read customer reviews. He clicked and fell in love then clicked again and fell in love again. Finally, Amber...