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Scholar by day, escort by evening; Creator Gerrie Lim reveals what some college students are doing to make ends meet

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In an exclusive chat with Gerrie Lim, a writer who isn’t afraid to research Singapore’s best kept secrets, we take a look at what he discovered about the local sex industry.

61-year-old Mr. Lim has authored notable books such as Invisible Trade, In Lust We Trust and Singapore Rebel: In Search of Annabel Chong, which revealed the inner world of high-end escorts in Singapore and the inner turmoil that goes with it.

With his latest and eighth book, Scarlet Harlot, we followed him to the Orchard Towers, an infamous place that is part of Singapore’s red light district. Scarlet Harlot is a jack-of-all-trades, co-authorized by Ashley Chan, a college student by day and an escort by night.

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We asked Mr Lim how he met a young, scandalous escort like Ashley and how one night at a party led to them writing a book.

He said that Scarlet Harlot opened his eyes to high-end sex work and shared with us some strange places his previous books took him to.

Mr Lim added that the Covid-19 pandemic has definitely weighed on the sex trade. “Even for escorts, a typical escort like Ashley would work four or five hours a week (a session is an hour) while previously she would work 10 hours a week, and income would be reduced by about 60 percent.”

However, he notes that luckily she still has a pool of “regulars” who still support her.

He said he had always been intrigued by the sex industry since he was a teenager, based on the mere fact that even softcore pornography is illegal in Singapore.

He began writing for Playboy magazine in 1987 and for Penthouse in 1999. He says he has the ability to address issues related to the sex industry that most people can’t, especially men who usually hide behind a machismo facade.

However, Mr. Lim did not start writing about sex. Oddly enough, he started out in the music industry and then did a shift. He was a music journalist with a masters degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California.

His first book was Inside The Outsider in 1997, a collection of interviews with famous musicians such as David Bowie, Patti Smith and Pete Townshend. But at one point he wrote about the porn industry.

Although it has been more than 15 years since one of Mr. Lim’s previous books, Invisible Trade, was first published, Mr. Lim notes that almost everything in the book is still true. The low end sex work is still very present. The only change is limited accessibility and more competitive prices. / TISG

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