Archives for posts with tag: domestic cleaning

On Monday evening I return home from work to find my flat cleaned and my clothes ironed and put away. I don’t have a partner and the housework isn’t performed by wee people out of the pages of Grim’s Fairytales. As with a growing number of professionals I employ a cleaner. On the few occasions I’m at home when my cleaner comes to clean I’m filled with a mixture of thoughts and emotions. On the one hand I want to relax reading a book, watching television etc, however, on the other I feel a sense of guilt that a fellow human being is busily stripping my bed, vacuuming the carpets etc while I have my feet up. Why should I feel this way? I don’t experience the same feelings when a lady or man serves me at the check out in my local supermarket so why should I experience this twinge of guilt when my cleaner comes to clean?
My home is my private space, the place in which I relax and unwind after a hard day’s work. There is a small part of me which feels that I should be fully responsible for my home and do my own housework. Shades of Upstairs Downstairs (a television programme showing an upper class household in the late 19th and early 20th centuries  swim before my eyes). Unlike the fictional household portrayed in Upstairs Downstairs I don’t employ a whole bevy of servants, just the one cleaning lady who cleans for me, for 3 hours a week. In Upstairs Downstairs the relationship between the upper class household and their servants (the latter group living downstairs) is paternalistic and hierarchical. The servants have their own eating area (the servant’s hall) and would never dream of eating with the upper class household. My relationship with my cleaner is wholly different. I will, if I am at home offer her coffee or tea and make us both a drink. I don’t regard her as a lesser human being due to her work and yet I feel this nagging doubt, from time to time at the back of my mind regarding the ethics of the situation. At a logical level this is ilogical. If my toilet gets blocked I will call out a plumber to fix the problem and feel no guilt whatever about doing so. Why then should I feel a twinge of conscience merely because I employ a cleaner? The answer is I shouldn’t. In the unlikely event that I inherit a vast sum of money I would move to a big house and employ not only a cleaner but a gardener to keep the place in good order. Employing someone to clean your home isn’t wrong provided that you treat them with respect and pay a decent wage. Having said that I will no doubt continue to experience those twinges of guilt the next time I’m at home and my cleaner comes to clean.

What makes ladies and men for that matter turn to the world’s oldest profession? One may answer money and to those who have few (if any) financial resources prostitution may appear to offer them a way of obtaining financial security. However to state the blindingly obvious there exist ways for those lacking in resources to obtain money which do not entail becoming a sex worker. For example the domestic help industry is booming in the UK. In London a cleaner can earn between (approximately) £6-10 an hour for general housework including cleaning and ironing. I have employed a cleaner for many years and my current helper earns £6.50 an hour for 3 hours making a total of £19.50. No academic qualifications are required to enter the world of domestic cleaning and the market is, as I said above booming. Given the health of the domestic cleaning sector why do large numbers of ladies choose to become prostitutes rather than availing themselves of the opportunities offered by the domestic cleaning sector?
One obvious answer is that of money. While a small number of cleaners may earn £10 (and, very occasionally more) per hour, most domestics receive between £6-8 as their hourly rate. In contrast ladies who work as professional escorts can receive upto £1000 for spending the night with a client and, of course providing what is known in polite society as “personal services”. Many ladies will charge rather less for an evening’s company (anywhere between, approximately £500-800), this is however still a significant sum of money. Some may ask why given the lucrative nature of high end prostitution do not more ladies (and men) enter the world of sex work? Having used both cleaners and escorts/prostitutes I sometimes speculate on that very issue. My answer to the question for what it is worth is that most people have a deep seated aversion to becoming a prostitute (indeed the very idea would never enter the minds of the majority of people). The majority of ladies would rather launder my dirty socks for cash rather than service my more personal requirements and I can’t say that I blame them! To most individuals money is not the most important factor. They would rather earn £6.50 an hour and feel good about themselves than earn a great deal more but feel worthless.
No doubt some escorts will respond that they take pride in their work and do not feel worthless. I wouldn’t dispute this, however having used escorts for many years I know through having built up professional relationships with a number of ladies that beneath their smiles there often lurks deep unhappiness. A number of ladies have confided in me that they suffered abuse as children while others have been in (or still are in) abusive relationships. Abuse does no doubt act as a factor leading some ladies (and men) to sell their bodies. However many individuals who have suffered abuse do not go down this road, consequently abuse can not be sighted as the determining factor in explaining why people enter the world’s oldest profession      .
The fact of the matter is I simply don’t know why people enter the world of sex work. In truth there are many and complex reasons, however there appears to be no overarching explanation as to why ladies (and men) take this momentous decision.
I would be interested to hear your views on this interesting and contentious subject.