In an exclusive with Gerrie Lim, an author unafraid to explore the best-kept secrets of Singapore, we take a look at what he has uncovered 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: Searching for Annabel Chong that have revealed the inside world of Singapore’s high-end escorts and the inner turmoil that comes with it.

Using his latest and eighth book, Scarlet Harlot, to kick off his journey, we followed him to Orchard Towers, an infamous spot that is part of Singapore’s red-light district. Scarlet Harlot is a tell-all that is co-authored by Ashley Chan, a university student by day, escort by night.

We asked Mr Lim about how he came to know a young, scandalous escort like Ashley, and how a night at a party led to writing a book.

He said that Scarlet Harlot had opened his eyes to high-end sex-work and shared with us some curious places where his previous books have taken him.

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Mr Lim also added that the Covid-19 pandemic has definitely taken a toll on the sex trade. “Even for escorts, a typical escort like Ashley would work four or five hours a week (one session is one hour) whereas previously she would work 10 hours a week, and earnings have been reduced by some 60 per cent.”

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

He said the sex industry has always intrigued him from the time he was an impressionable teenager — starting from the mere fact that even soft-core pornography is not legally allowed in Singapore.

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

Mr Lim, however, didn’t start by writing about sex. Strangely, he began in the music industry, and then made a shift. He was a music journalist with a master’s degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California.

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His first book was the 1997 Inside The Outsider, a collection of interviews with iconic musicians such as David Bowie, Patti Smith and Pete Townshend. But he eventually found himself writing about the porn industry.

Although more than 15 years have passed since one of Mr Lim’s earlier books Invisible Trade was first published, Mr Lim notes that almost everything in the book still holds true. The low-end sex work is still very much present, with the only change being reduced accessibility and more competitive pricing. /TISG