"For somebody to tell me, â€˜You're going to graduate college Magna Cum Laude, but you're going to be a prostitute on craigslist,' I never would've believed it," says Ashley, 24. "I wouldn't be in the industry if I hadn't gone to college. I'm really in a black hole of debt. My student loans are $80,000. I found that craigslist was a good enough outlet for me to meet men. Craigslist is a useful tool that anybody can go to for pretty much any type of service. It just so happens that the erotic services are very available. If I place an ad on craigslist, I could be having sex for money within a few hours, and that's a fact."
Ashley pages through her little black book. "I have my client list of addresses, phone numbers, likes and dislikes. That's exactly 15 men whom I've met. I can make more money within one to two hours meeting a man than I can with a regular 9 to 5 job."
She recalls, "The first time I had intercourse for money: He was a little rough. The second time, he was more rough. I was talked into having unprotected sex. I was talked into things I didn't want to do because of desperation. I put myself in a situation where I am exchanging my body for financial benefit. This is a lot like a drug addiction, where you need it. I need to pay bills. I need to pay that tuition bill every month."
Ashley sits in front of her computer. "I'm marketing myself specifically as a girl who doesn't do this professionally, which is pretty much a blatant lie. This is what the ad looks like: Young, college, blonde, non-pro seeks help with student loans. I would love to get to know you better and see what you have to offer me' " I'm implying money. The way that it's phrased in the ad is â€˜how many rea$on$' with dollar signs. The interchangeable terminology is â€˜roses,' â€˜reasons,' all interchangeable for â€˜dollars.' I say, â€˜I start at 300 donations.' The term donation is used all the time because it's not considered payment for services because it's illegal. In bold it says, â€˜I do outcalls only. I do not host. I'm 100 percent real, independent. I'm young, in college, blonde, natural, don't have implants,' and some guys respond very strongly to that," she says.
[AD]Ashley says she hasn't placed an ad in weeks. "In the past couple of weeks, I started dating somebody, who offered assistance financially, from craigslist. He paid me $200 to meet him for coffee the very first day. He's had long-term relationships with other women he's met on craigslist. If there's a possibility that assistance from my friend will stop, relapsing back into prostitution is a distinct possibility," she says.
"I have two questions," Dr. Phil tells Ashley. "You recognize that this is prostitution, whether it's Internet, street corner, back alley, hotel, this is prostitution?"
"Oh, yeah," she says.
Ashley's career in the adult industry started as a dancer in a strip club. "What was the decision process where you said, â€˜You know what? I'm going to start taking my clothes off for money'?" Dr. Phil asks.
"It was right before I graduated college, when I knew I had impending bills coming. I had a six-month grace period for my tuition loans, and the money I was making in the restaurant industry wasn't cutting it, so I decided " "
"But what people do when they have student loans is they use the education that they borrowed the money for, they get a job, and they pay those methodically over the years. You just pay them off like everything else. Why did you decide that you needed to go do this?" he asks.
"I was looking for work. I was looking for legitimate work," she says. Ashley explains that she couldn't find a job in the industry in which she studied " interior design " because it was when the real estate market started to dip.
"You said you're doing this to pay off your student loans. Are you?" Dr. Phil asks.
[AD]"I'm paying the monthly minimum. I had to have it reduced," she says.
"OK. But you're not paying those loans off any faster than somebody working at the mall."
"No," she says.
"So, isn't that just an excuse? You say you're doing it so you'll have all this extra money, but you're not paying them off in an accelerated way," Dr. Phil says.
Ashley says she has many applications out for regular jobs, and she's waiting to hear from them.
Dr. Phil asks about the pay Ashley gets for her services. She says the most she's gotten was $300 an hour. The least was $100.
"You said this has really kind of become a drug addiction to you? What do you mean?" Dr. Phil asks.
"I see this as the quickest way to make money to pay the bills that I have immediately pending, and when I relate it to the drug addiction comparison, it's because if I were to, say, get a job and live a normal life for even a few months, and I would be able to pay my bills, if I found myself in a situation where I was laid off, and I was back at square one, I feel like I could very easily relapse. I could relapse back into craigslist," she says.
"Aren't you getting paid now by a guy you met on craigslist to be his girlfriend?"
[AD]"Yeah, kind of," she admits.
"How is that any different? He's just paying you by the week, right? He just, like, bought a season pass," Dr. Phil says.
She agrees. Ashley says she is not having sex with this man. "It's too early. We're actually treating it as a semi-normal dating relationship where we did meet and get to know each other first. And eventually, that will evolve if things are right," she says.
"But, are you kidding yourself here?" Dr. Phil asks.
"Maybe," she admits.
Sheriff Dart wants Ashley to know that he arrests girls like her all the time. "All I can tell her is she is playing with fire because on craigslist, as you can imagine, you don't know who is showing up at the door," he says. "I mean, to start with, us. If we show up, and we arrest you, that's a difficult thing you have to explain, a criminal arrest, but then the other part of it: these people that are coming for the dates, you don't know who they are. You don't know what their intent is, and there are all too many stories that we hear about people who are prostituting themselves who get beaten half to death, and some of them actually get killed."
Dr. Phil asks Ashley, "Are you concerned that you are going to get arrested, create a criminal record, or worse, get beaten up, or worse, get killed by some demented pervert?"
"Oh, yeah," she says matter-of-factly.
"Because, look, the kind of guy that you're going to meet on a prostitution ad, you know one thing about him already, and that is he's not healthy, or he wouldn't be looking for a prostitute on the Internet, OK? Are you concerned that you're going to get beaten, that you're going to get killed?"
[AD]"Yeah, and that's one of the many reasons why I don't want to do this anymore, because I understand that the risk is high," she says.
"OK, now answer this big question for me: Why are you here?" Dr. Phil asks.
"I think I'm here for two big reasons. The first one is very selfish, because I'm hoping to drag myself out of the industry," she says. Ashley says she's looking for a support system, or else when times get tough again, she fears she may return to prostitution. "I want to not go back into it," she says.
"You told our producer last night that you were thinking about putting up another ad," Dr. Phil points out.
"Yeah, because I'm trying to move out of my apartment by the first, and it requires a down payment on a new place, and it's all about deadlines, and you know, it's the middle of the month, and bills come up," she says.
"What's your platonic $400-a-week boyfriend going to think if you start seeing other men?" he asks.
"I told him that I cancelled an appointment that I had with someone, because the thought of meeting men like this anymore is actually making me very, very " it's making me sick now. I think I've turned it off in my head for a couple months while I was doing it, and now it's starting to really affect me," she says. "I told him about this, and he was surprisingly unsupportive, and he said, â€˜Well, do whatever you want to do,'" Ashley recalls.
[AD]"What do you mean he was surprisingly unsupportive? You expected a high degree of fidelity and commitment from a guy who's paying you $400 a week to hang with him?" Dr. Phil asks.
"He had said so much how he didn't want me to do it anymore," she explains. Ashley says she's slowly realizing the truth of the situation.
"You are selling yourself out. It's not just that you're selling your body; you're compromising your character here," Dr. Phil says.
"Yes," Ashley agrees.