'It's my life': Singaporean escort opens up in new memoir

Dec 10, 2020 | 🚀 Fathership

SINGAPORE — “Ashley Chan” (not her real name) is only 24 and still in school but had led enough of a secret life to write a book about it.

Her recently released memoir, Scarlet Harlot: My Double Life, recounts her experiences as a “mid-tier” escort in Singapore as well as the struggles she faces in juggling sex work with her “civilian” life.

Ghostwritten by seasoned journalist Gerrie Lim, the book openly addresses a range of issues, from Chan’s entry into the sex trade at the age of 19 to fund her education, her dysfunctional family relations to her suicide attempt at 23.

In an e-mail interview with Yahoo News Singapore, she shared her motivations for writing the book, what she learnt from working with Lim and her plans for the future.

Started as a blog

Chan and Lim first met some years ago at a party organised by a sex worker rights group. Lim, who has covered the sex industry in both the US and Singapore, later convinced Chan to document her experiences as an escort and a student. These writings were first published in January 2017 as the Scarlet Harlot blog on the Adult Industry Press website.

“We decided transform it into a book when opur publisher, Epigram, agreed it could be a book after we expanded it. Gerrie got the deal on 22 July 2019 and it was good, because we felt that a book had a greater sense of permanency,” said Chan.

“Plus it also paid money, frankly, since the blogs were done without remuneration. We just did it to see if we could work together, in telling the story of my ‘double life’ and fortunately it actually did,” she added, noting that the blog has since been removed from the site.

In the process of collaborating, Chan said she learnt a lot about other aspects of the sex industry from Lim, whose past works include Invisible Trade: High-Class Sex For Sale In Singapore, In Lust We Trust: Adventures In Adult Cinema, and Singapore Rebel: Searching For Annabel Chong.

Secret life

In the book, Chan also details her fractured family relationships, especially her father, whom she partly blames for her decision to start doing escort work.

Asked if she thought such broken family situations were typical of women in the sex trade, Chan said, “I don’t want to generalise... I don’t know that much about escorts or sex workers to actually make this comment. I would say the main driving factor is definitely money, though, for wanting a more luxurious life.”

Chan does drop some hints of her real identity in the book, such as revealing the motto of her secondary school. She said she has a backup plan if her secret career ever comes to light.

“Deny, deny, deny! To be honest, people are so finicky about whether I reveal my real identity or not, so I leave some clues about what my real life is like and for people to find out,” she said.

Life of a ‘mid-tier’ escort

In her responses, Chan also described what she meant by calling herself a “mid-tier” escort in the book.

“I’m comfortable calling myself “mid-tier” because I’m like the girl next door. When you’re a ‘top-tier’ girl, there’s a certain layer of pretentiousness. You need to be more hypocritical and be a lot more greedy and pursue more materialistic stuff,” she said.

“You also have to commit more if you are ‘top-tier’ and you have to be more skilled – it’s not just ‘boudoir’ skills. You need to know other things like wine appreciation, knowing your food, maybe even playing the piano or playing golf. It’s a very different world,” added Chan.

Being a person who is “naturally more adventurous” has led her to work in more than one area of Singapore’s sex industry – from massage parlours to high-end KTV lounges.

“I worked in a high-end tier of the KTV scene and for that to happen, you need to have connections. So unless you’re connected to some parts of the sex work industry, it’s very closed off,” she said. Chan added that It is more common for foreign women – such as Vietnamese and Chinese nationals – to cover multiple aspects of the industry.

On what being an escort has taught her about being a woman, Chan said that she believed in “neutral gender equality” but would not call herself a “feminist”.

“Feminism is a word that’s been thrown around too loosely and it has very negative connotations, especially recently. I believe in neutral gender equality – it has to go both ways so I wouldn’t use the word ‘feminism’, she said.

As for her stance on whether sex work is empowering or demeaning for women, Chan said, “I would say you need to meet in the middle, just understand that women are still human and just treat the person as such.

“Some women like to be treated as sex objects, right? But not all the time. So you just have to meet halfway. As long as it’s neutral and consensual, I don’t really see it as a problem.”

Staying safe, looking ahead

While sex work has also been journey of self-discovery for Chan, she acknowledges its impact on her physical and mental health in the book. Women entering the industry would do well to have a long-term plan, according to Chan.

“Stay focused on your goals... and self-care. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and, also, don’t be greedy. I feel when you’re not greedy and stay focused, you will not go unhinged so fast,” she said.

Chan also pointed to the need for public policy changes to better protect sex workers in Singapore.

“I think that all women should be protected, regardless of their job. You shouldn’t let someone get away with a crime because we are sex workers,” she said, adding that she’s had her share of threatening clients.

“It’s not safe, and you have clients boasting that ‘If I hit you now or rape you, you can’t go to the police’. At that point, you have to ask them to leave. That is enough. I have colleagues who have been injured by clients,” said Chan.

With half a decade of experience in the sex trade under her belt, Chan said she is looking to settle into a normal relationship once she quits the industry.

“Realistically speaking, from my experience, people expect me to be very jaded. But I just want a man who prioritises me and takes care of me and the family, and who understands his role in the relationship, and we can both get along,” she said.

“And hopefully, by the time I quit sex work, we will both be financially stable and be partners that can afford a family. To be frank, that’s all I ask for, the understanding of priorities and roles. It’s actually quite your stereotypical Singaporean dream.”

As she looks to transition out of escorting, Chan is currently working a “sales-related civilian job” while completing her final year of university as a part-time student.

“Other people would say I could have found a normal retail job, but hey, it’s my life. Everybody’s journey to a destination is very different and this is mine.

“I have decided what I am willing to sacrifice, and that includes doing things that people might find filthy. Some girls find sex work filthy, that’s a fact, but in the end we all make our own decisions,” said Chan.

Scarlet Harlot: My Double Life is available at bookstores and online.

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Unrepentant teen with a long list of offences is why some parents shouldn't breed

Nov 25, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Ralph Wee Yi Kai, a 19-year-old Singaporean man, has pleaded guilty to eight charges on Nov. 25 during his plead guilty mention before District Judge May Mesenas.

The charges include consuming weed, causing unnecessary suffering to a frog, possessing imitation tobacco products, trespassing into the rhinoceros enclosure at the Singapore Zoo, and committing mischief by damaging property, reported CNA.

Another six charges will be considered during his sentencing.

Probation is "not realistic"

Wee pleaded guilty via video link from his place in remand, where he has been since Nov. 6.

The prosecution strongly objected to a probation suitability report, noting that Wee is "beyond the control of his parents, which renders probation unsuitable", according to CNA.

The prosecution asserted that probation "is not realistic" for Wee, based on his repeated offences and conduct in court.

They cited his "blatant disregard for rules", and urged for a reformative training suitability report instead.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Melissa Lee said Wee "has a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol", which caused him to behave aggressively towards his parents.

He also "posed a risk" to them, which led him to be admitted to the Institute of Mental Health.

"Never expected it to come to this"

Wee's defence lawyer Shashi Nathan requested for the addition of a probation suitability report, according to CNA.

Shashi maintains that his family is able to supervise Wee, and added that his client "comes from a good family" who are "able to look after him".

He said that Wee was undergoing "a severe emotional crisis" when he committed his offences, and shared that the case has also affected Wee's family, especially after their home address was released to the press.

"While Ralph understands that what he did was wrong, he never expected it to come to this," said Shashi.

Difference between probation and reformative training

Wee was ordered to go though both assessments for a probation suitability report and a reformative training report, reported Yahoo News.

Offenders who undergo probation will not have a criminal record, while reformative training, which provides a more structured environment, results in a criminal record.

What Wee's lawyer said

Wee's lawyer said his client acted out after breaking up with his girlfriend, 18, who was the one who filmed the video of Wee backflipping in the zoo.

The defence lawyer, Shashi, said Wee spiralled into an emotional crisis as a result of his break-up.

Wee is homeschooled.

The court was told Wee saw a video of a man riding a giraffe and decided to make a video in the rhino enclosure, Yahoo News reported.

The ex-girlfriend had filmed the act and posted it on her private Snapchat account.

Wee posted it on his public TikTok account and a police report was made by a zoo personnel within the same day.

Wee removed the video when he was told to do so by the police, but reposted it on Dec. 18, before being told to remove it again, claiming he thought the video had been made private when he reposted it.

Wee had also included a link in his Instagram account biography to directed to a page selling t-shirts with the words "rhino ralph".

But he denied creating the merchandise profile.

He later removed the link.

Wee will return to court on Dec. 20 for his sentencing.

Timeline of events with updated details

Oct. 9, 2020, 2:40am: Allegedly committed an act of vandalism by hitting an information panel at a bus stop in Sixth Avenue, off Bukit Timah Road, causing S$900 in damage.

Allegedly caused damage to two cars -- S$2,800 to a Mercedes-Benz and more than S$1,600 to a BMW -- in nearby Sixth Crescent.

A taxi driver passing by reported him to the police, as Wee was standing in the middle of the road with a beer bottle in hand.

Dec. 16, 2020: Wee was placed on compulsory supervision for 60 months from Dec. 16. He was required to present himself for urine tests on each Tuesday and Thursday, but failed to turn up on four occasions.

He was placed on e-tagging during this period of time, after having been charged for his earlier offences.

He had to stay at home from 10pm to 6am as part of his bail conditions.

Dec. 17, 2020, 2.40pm: Accused of trespassing into the rhinoceros enclosure and taking a video.

Dec. 18, 2020: Reposted zoo video, despite taking it down earlier after being told to do so by the police. Told to remove video again.

Dec. 24, 2020: Accused of abusing a frog, which subsequently died, by hitting a ball against it on a foosball table, causing "unnecessary pain and suffering".

The incident allegedly took place at a Sentosa Cove property.

July 2021: First hauled to court and charged with two counts of mischief, as well as one count each of vandalism and criminal trespass.

Bail was then set at S$15,000.

Aug. 6, 2021: Allegedly consumed cannabis while out on bail. Arrested at his residence and two urine samples obtained tested positive for weed. S$15,000 bail revoked.

Sep. 14, 2021: Allegedly possessed an e-vaporiser and six e-cigarette pods at a ward in the Institute of Mental Health.

Three police officers showed up at IMH, where Wee was warded, to arrest him for failing to attend court.

He was admitted to IMH due to his drug and alcohol abuse, as had acted aggressively towards his parents when they demanded the drugs from him.

He was warded in IMH due to the risk he posed to his parents.

Oct. 13, 2021: Charged with one count of drug consumption while still in remand.

Bail raised to S$20,000 and Wee was released.

While out on second bail, Wee committed a string of offences, including cutting his electronic tag, according to ST, as well as not reporting for his urine tests on a few occasions, CNA reported.

The prosecution has called for an urgent bail review hearing to have Wee's second bail revoked for the alleged fresh offences.

Oct. 26, 2021: Allegedly cut a S$100 GPS ankle tag at an address on Leedon Road at about 12:10am.

Prior to this act, Wee was upset at his father, who had asked Wee to sleep early since he had to report for his urine test in the morning.

After arguing with his father, Wee decided to leave the house, and used pliers to cut off his e-tag before cycling to his friend’s house.

Upon discovering that Wee was missing, his father called the police.

The e-tag, worth S$100, was damaged and could no longer be used.

It was found in Wee’s house.

Oct. 28, 2021: Allegedly possessed an e-cigarette pod at the Leedon Road address.

Nov. 5, 2021: Warrant of arrest issued, as Wee could not wake up to attend court.

Nov. 6, 2021: Wee arrested.

Nov. 12, 2021: Slapped with four additional charges.

Nov. 25, 2021: Pleaded guilty to consuming weed, causing unnecessary suffering to a frog, possessing imitation tobacco products, trespassing into a rhino enclosure, and committing mischief by damaging property belonging to others.

Ordered to go though assessments for a probation suitability report and a reformative training report.