Mention London and all kinds of things and places spring to mind. Whether you're planning to take a trip around some of the historic sites, such as the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, whether you're visiting the city to go shopping in some of the best shops in the world, or you simply want to take in the capital's atmosphere, there's always plenty to see and do in London.
Soho, London's red light district, has always been worth a visit
One area which has attracted much interest over the years is Soho. Known as London's red light district, it's the epicentre of the country's sex industry and has numerous sex shops, erotic book stores, lap dancing clubs and, of course, brothels. Whether Soho still lives up to its reputation is currently a cause for debate, however it is true to say that this particular area of London has a long history of sex tourism and brothels and is extremely popular with people seeking erotic adventures. It was also one of the first areas to have a visible gay presence alongside the sex shops, the peep shows, the strippers and the hookers.
However, in recent years, Soho has undergone a bit of a makeover, which has noticeably changed the identity of this area. From the seedy underbelly of London's famous red light district, we've seen the emergence of many new businesses, many of which are elegant and trendy bars and restaurants; leaving it perhaps as far removed from the traditional image of Soho as it could possibly be.
From bohemian roots to the centre of the sex industry
Of course, there's been many changes over the course of Soho's lifetime. Originally popular with the artistic fraternity, it was the home of many painters, including the Venetian Master Canaletto and John Constable, the famous British portrayer of landscapes. By the start of the 20th century, Soho had become an increasingly popular place for immigrants who flocked to the area to set up restaurants to remind them of their homelands, making it a place where bohemians gathered to eat, drink and share their philosophy on life.
Prostitution became commonplace and, despite it being made illegal in 1959, Soho became the place to go if you were looking for a casual sexual encounter; especially with the birth of so-called 'walk ups', where prostitutes would offer their services to the public. These brothels became a feature of Soho that attracted many people to both sample their wares and to simply experience what it was like to be in an area where sex was so blatantly on show. However, while some of these 'walk ups' still exist to this day, they're becoming less and less representative of the area. Nevertheless, it is apparent that their existence created a sex-tourism era that continued for many years.
The hub of the swinging sixties, and the home of the LGBT community
By the time the swinging sixties arrived in London, the nature of the area changed somewhat, as the Marquee Club on Wardour Street played host to upcoming bands, such as the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. This led to the whole area becoming synonymous with a new genre of musical entertainment, having fun, debauchery and, the oldest profession in history, prostitution. Fast forward a couple of decades, and the first gay bars began to open in the 1980s, and even today, Old Compton Street still boasts the title of being London's main gay area.
From its roots as a place where men went to seek sexual relief from prostitutes, the emphasis started to change with the arrival of the gay fraternity. 1997 saw the opening of Prowler, a gay shop which stocked a mind-boggling array of sex products to satisfy the needs of both men and women. As the original and oldest shop of its type in Soho, it's gained a reputation as being the place that opened up the world of homosexuality and made it ok to be seen shopping for sex toys and aids in public.
Soho now in decline due to a loss of tolerance towards the sex industry
However, in recent years, Soho seems to have lost some of its tolerant attitude towards the sex industry. While the whole area is a tourist attraction because of its longstanding relationship with the world of sex and sexual adventures, a rising number of sex establishments are closing down every year and it's becomingly increasingly more difficult to get the necessary licences to operate in the industry. As a result of this, many of the sex workers and employees of Soho businesses are beginning to think that the whole area is losing its unique identity.
Despite being a popular meeting place for the gay community, with a proliferance of bars, pubs and nightclubs, such as Ku Bar, recently named as one of London's Award Winning Gay venues, there has been an increase in the number of 'incidents' involving gay people in the last couple of years. As part of the gay 'backlash' we've seen a gay couple being abused and forced to get out of a taxi by the driver for simply holding hands in his cab. Happily, the taxi company investigated the complaint, resulting in the driver being suspended. Surprisingly, even the church has been seen to practice discrimination, with the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, choosing to cancel the fortnightly masses for the LGBT community at a Warwick Street church. Unsurprisingly, this act of outright bigotry outraged the LGBT community in London.
Police raids carried out on many brothels
And what about the brothels? Well, they've also come under attack and have been the subject of many legal battles. Seen to be a cover for organised crime, numerous brothels, sex shops and nightclubs have been the target of large, organised police raids, some of which involved up to 200 police officers. During these raids, the officers found drugs and stolen goods (as expected) but, more worrying, they also found a number of women who were said to be living in sub-human conditions, together with other evidence which led the police to believe that people trafficking was rife in the area.
Soho's prostitutes protest against potential closure of 18 brothels
However, closing down a brothel doesn't mean the end of prostitution. All it does is force the prostitutes and sex workers onto the streets, a move which means that they're working without protection and become more susceptible to abuse. As a result of this, many Soho prostitutes have been protesting against the potential closure of 18 brothels, which has also led to members of a local church getting involved in their cause. Reverend Buckley of St. Anne's Church has denounced the actions of the police, and has told stories of how one woman was forced out onto the street in just her underwear. Furthermore, many of the women who worked in the brothels have been photographed, or have appeared in the media, with some sex workers receiving threats from the police, who told them that they'd reveal their occupations to their families. As you can imagine, there's currently a lot of tension in Soho as businesses fight to remain open despite the onslaught of new laws and prohibitions, and the fact that fewer licenses are being issued.
Behind the neon lights, it's business as usual, wherever possible
To the casual visitor to Soho, all these underlying tensions are barely visible. Take a stroll down any of Soho's streets and you'll see adverts for girls, brothels and signs to let you know that models are available upstairs, together with the ubiquitous adverts plastered inside the familiar red London phone boxes. Despite the fact that this kind of advertising was deemed illegal several years ago, the cards are still available in every phone box on every Soho street, and beyond. And, despite the dwindling number of brothels, the posters still advertise the sex workers' services and catch the eye of both potential customers and those tourists who are merely out to see what Soho's all about. What's more, while many people take advantage of the services on offer just to see what visiting a prostitute is like, there are also many regular clients who've been getting their thrills in Soho for a number of years.
So where does this leave Soho and its sex businesses?
One thing is for sure - the law in the UK pertaining to sex is very clear: it is legal to buy and sell sex in the UK, but the practice of it, pimping and owning a brothel are all illegal. So does this mean that Soho's tradition as London's red light area is coming to an end?
Sex workers are now making their feelings very clear by taking to the streets to protest against the closure of the brothels, while the government are looking to tighten up even further by proposing that the UK follows the example of countries such as Norway and Sweden who criminalise the buying of sexual services. So, it seems that the old tradition of visiting Soho to see the brothels and sex shops will soon be a thing of the past as yet another area of London is taken over by the large chains and becomes just another upmarket place to eat and drink in the city.
Sexual adventures are available throughout London
If you're in London and you'd like some female company, don't get caught out in Soho. There are many delightful escort girls available for escort services through top class London escort agencies who specialise in organising meetings with female companions. It's easy to arrange a meeting, it's discreet, and many escorts offer the choice of visiting you at your hotel or meeting in other public places, or you can visit them at their comfortable escort apartments, if you prefer to keep things easy and discreet. Of course, you'll only be paying the girls for their company, but what you get up to in private and by mutual consent is entirely up to you. Why risk getting caught in a brothel, when you can have fun safely with one of our London escorts?