At any given time, up to 20 addresses in London offer escort and massage services for men, with men
People walk past it every day and never notice. To them it’s perfectly ordinary, just another basement flat in a street of white-painted terraces sandwiched between Kensington High Street and the King’s Road. Except that this flat houses a male brothel.
Working boys: London’s male brothels offer a more lucrative way for young men to ply their trade than the streets and a more discreet service to the discerning customer
Inside, there is an anteroom where up to a dozen ‘boys (the term is universally used among them), mostly in their twenties, lounge on a sofa watching satellite television.
There are four bedrooms here, recently reduced from five to accommodate an office. A boy who calls himself Rita acts as receptionist, accountant and maitre d’ for the night.
The atmosphere is musty; the smell of polish barely conceals a whiff of something cooked a while ago. But it’s spotlessly clean, even if the flock wallpaper and cheap prints seem out of place for this salubrious west London address.
Fifteen seem to stay the course and, of these, four are known for offering sex on the premises. There were five until last year, when the owner of ‘Rome, a few streets away from Kensington Town Hall, was jailed for credit card fraud. According to the Metropolitan Police, the last convictions for running a ‘disorderly house were brought in 1990 against two men who ran a gay sauna in Streatham (they were imprisoned for three and six months respectively).
Some of the boys here are actors between jobs, but there are also office workers who are into the gay club scene in a big way and who cannot finance this lifestyle solely out of a regular wage. Some are heterosexual and have girlfriends. There are variations in the hours that the boys are expected to work. Some of the houses allow the boys to drop in more or less when they like, although they are expected to stay at least five hours and to telephone in advance to check that they are needed. Others operate a more conventional shift system and boys are sent home if they are late for the start at noon or at 6pm. On a quiet weekend the boys will go home at midnight.
Most dislike the job. ‘It’s just temporary, I would not want to do it forever, said ‘Philip. ‘I sort of switch off when I’m here. I make noises like I’m enjoying it – I moan and all that, but it’s like I can watch myself. I’m not involved like I am when it’s just for me.’
The customers’ view is somewhat different. ‘It’s brilliant, said Murray, a debonair former actor, ‘like a well-organised and very jolly repertory company. It is a minor branch of showbusiness after all. Everyone is there to please and they just do it professionally . . . they are almost always excellent masseurs for a start.
‘I’m only there for one thing and so are they; there’s none of the hassle of a club or bar. Quite often I don’t see the type of boy I’m after how to delete XPickup here, in which case I’ve no hesitation in just leaving.
About half the customers are ‘in the closet. ‘Many prominent people know they are safe here, that they won’t be exposed, said Stephen, a regular since the Sixties.
The customer chooses his boy and pays pounds 50. Half goes to the owner of the brothel, and half – eventually – to the boy. Credit cards are accepted at most establishments. At some houses this buys an hour in which to do whatever you wish. At others pounds 50 only pays for a massage; other services must be negotiated between customer and boy. ‘I’ve never been hassled about the time, and I’ve spent up to an hour and a half with some boys, said a regular client. ‘It’s very relaxed, but of course you leave the boy a good tip for anything on top of the basic.