那些买春的女人

无论观点如何,成人服务在各种文化中都是无法忽视的存在。男人买春或许会被人们’厌恶’地接受,然而谁会想到女人愿意花费巨资买春?谁会想到男人竞相当鸭?谁会想到这一切都在我们身边默默发生而我们浑然不觉?妓女有她的苦衷,而妓男也有他的难言,喜欢猎奇的人们可以读读这篇文章,看看那些妓男有何想法、那些找鸭的女人又有何想法。

原文来自:http://aeon.co/  文章仅为翻译,学习,并非代表本站观点。

买春后的女人

买春后的女人

每月十五左右的月圆之夜,也就是发薪日的第二天,路易莎就会在悉尼北部一家精致的旅馆和汤姆约会,以享受她所谓的“我的小典礼”。她拿出一瓶她最喜欢的香槟,一盒巧克力和一小篮新鲜的草莓,并为了约会精心打扮,穿迷你裙或者紧身牛仔裤。

接下来的时间表安排的非常紧凑:路易莎需要为汤姆的陪伴付钱,而且价格高昂。这个能言善道的48岁男妓两鬓已经发白,他会陪她喝酒、吃饭、给她按摩。他还会和她做爱。他们最后一次约会持续了六个小时。‘我们坐下来,聊天,喝酒,’路易莎说。做爱吗?‘做过几次。’她咯咯笑着说。‘三四次吧。我忘了。’汤姆为她单调乏味的会计职业生活提供乐趣,给她安慰——一切围绕她转。‘以前我几乎花一整天时间泡温泉和做头发,’她娇羞卖弄风情地解释。‘很有趣。只是让自己好好放松以下。‘

2月时,47岁的路易莎翻阅悉尼的《愉快周末》杂志时偶然读到了一篇故事,文中讲述了当地男妓的情况,还配上了光鲜的照片,上面全是年轻健壮、满身肌肉的男子。‘我把它留了下来,’当我们在一个安静的宾馆吧台碰面时她这样说,并从手提包里拿出了那篇文章。‘我读了很多次。【我以为】你知道的,这非常适合我,我要试一试。’在经历许多次失败的一夜情和线上约会、且在三年前结束了一段挫折的感情后,她觉得自己没有什么可损失的。

找男妓比起和随意和陌生人做爱更加安全、更加令人满意:汤姆个人主页上不仅有良好的客户评价,而且每三个月都会上传性传播疾病的测试结果,以说明他的健康状况(澳大利亚东部妓院明文规定性工作者每三个月必须验血,且每月需要进行试纸测试,以预防性传播疾病)。一开始为了谨慎起见,路易莎和自己的普通开药医生预约见面,讨论相关的健康风险。医生告诉她以前听说过:“还有别的问题吗?我很多病人都找男妓。”

现在澳大利亚很多州都已经将卖淫合法化,越来越多的女性开始花钱买性。这个行业仍然是个空缺市场。(2010年IBIS世界市场调研报告表明,澳大利亚使用商业性服务的人中仅有6%为女性。)但这个数字正在增长;尽管很难得到精准的数字,但与我聊过的所有性服务者都表示竞争越来越激烈,所花时间也越来越长。

女性通过有着严格招聘程序的中介购买服务,比如墨尔本的春药(Aphrodisiac)男妓。该中介由两位四十五岁左右的澳大利亚已育女性经营,专为中年职业女性提供男妓。但通常她们会通过一人管理式网络公司选择男妓——那种年轻的运动小伙,而不是年龄更大、更加有经验的男子。不论何种方式,价格最高能达到500澳元/小时。

高费用意味着多数顾客为有可支配收入的女性。春药41%的客户年龄在30-40岁,只有10%在20-30岁。其中大多数是单身(36%)或离异(20%),18%为已婚。悉尼高端中介铂金X(Platinum X)的大多数女主顾在35-50岁之间。汤姆这位留着大背头、头发花白的兼职男妓在与我们见面时身穿蓝色天鹅绒夹克,条纹衬衫掖进牛仔裤中。他说与他接触的女性都属于“了解自己的身体,对自己更加自信,没有孩子缠身”的年纪。

那么男妓对女性性行为的潜在转变有什么看法呢?今天的西方女性比历史上任何时候都要有更多自由、金钱和权利。但对很多人来说,比如路易莎,做出购买性服务的决定远不是经济独立那么简单:它标志着一个勇敢而全新的满足女性性欲的世界,在这个世界中,女性可以像男人一样自由追求自己想要的东西。

随着传统家庭规模的减小,一些女性-尤其是有钱没时间的职业女性——发现付费选择性伙伴比在家里、酒吧或网络寻找性伙伴更加容易方便。随意的关系或婚外情可能变得非常复杂,而招妓能够受人掌控,还提供了机会让人体验不同性交方式,进行天马行空的幻想,不用担心对方评判。正如路易莎所说,性服务者“全都见识过了”。

网络也促进了性服务行业的改革,让男妓更容易被发现也让男妓越来越多,而且保护了隐私。过去,性服务者只在妓院、街边或者靠口碑经营。如今,大多数都在网上营业。那些成功的经营者拥有专业设计网站、高品质照片,还附有评论。对女性顾客来说,通过网络购买服务(之后在宾馆或家里密会)保护了非常必要的隐私。

电视连续剧如《欲望都市》以及最近的《闺蜜》把女性欲望搬上了小小的电视屏幕,并展开了什么是好(坏)性交的讨论。《大器晚成》讲述了一个颇具天分的男妓所做的各种恶作剧。甚至还有一部电视真人秀节目《应招男郎》,上演的是有关拉斯维加斯中介牛仔4天使的故事。‘突然之间涌出了很多之前没有的新话题,’丹顿·卡兰德(Denton Callander)解释道。他是新南威尔斯大学专门研究性行为的研究员。‘就像很多媒体中介一样,【这些】既反映也加剧了社会中正在发生的现象-并且让它普遍化。’他们还帮助消除了传统的女性性欲相关的羞耻感。

小说同名电影巨作《格雷的五十道灰影》(2011)‘一手打造了男妓’,铂金X老板米西说,她四十多岁,性格开朗。‘女性开始想:这样没问题,社会能够接受,人们不会说三道四——他们有点尊重我:哦,你这个幸运的家伙,这太时髦和性感了!’

在提供男女性服务者的铂金X,一个名为克里斯蒂安的人成为要价最高的男妓并非偶尔——他和《格雷的五十道灰影》里性感撩人的反面英雄同名。他散发着自由放荡的魅力、有着厚颜无耻的笑声和奶油小生般的样貌,他每小时收取1400澳元。在成为男妓前,他曾是模特、拳击手和脱衣舞男。他的客户是‘非常富有的商业女性’,她们‘喜欢掌控’。‘和酒吧里的那些失败者相比,’他告诉我,‘我能提供一切,可能还更多。’

为了不让客户失望,克里斯蒂安带着自己“蝙蝠侠带”去见客户——里面有‘情趣玩具、绳子、手铐等东西’。自《格雷的五十道灰影》播出后,蝙蝠侠带脱了下来。‘我可以表现得更加强势,’克里斯蒂安说。‘可以掐脖子、摔打、打屁股,但都要掌握好分寸:不能流血。’另外,他还说他现在用的手铐已经是第二副了:第一副已经坏了。

这种差别——生理欲望和心里障碍之间的差别——要归根于社会羞耻感。

在《女性想要什么?女性欲望的科学探险》(2013)一书中,美国作家丹尼尔·博格纳(Daniel Bergner)说道,女性性欲即便不比男性性欲强烈,那也和他们相当。‘谈到性欲,我们更喜欢把人类的一半人口即女性算作调和力量,’他解释。一夫一妻制更适合女性这种设想只不过是“童话”而已。博格纳还称另外一种错误的说法是视觉刺激对一般女性来说不是非常重要。用阴道体积描记仪(一种用来测量血流量和润滑度的工具)所做的研究表明女性对视觉刺激的反应本能而迅速,在某些情况下还更加明显,和男性相比,能对更多类型的情趣照片产生反应。

梅雷迪斯·奇弗斯(Meredith Chivers)和其同事于2007年在多伦多成瘾和精神健康中心所做的一次实验中,要求男性和女性观看性交视频,其中既有异性性交画面,也有倭猩猩通奸的画面。实验发现猩猩能够激起女性的性欲,使她们血流加快,而男性对灵长类动物的反应就像面对群山湖泊一样无动于衷。但在随后的口头调研时,被问起时,女性的报告结果却比她们的身体产生的反应平和得多。这种差别——生理欲望和心理障碍之间的差别——要归根于社会羞耻感。

在一篇2011年的论文中,密歇根大学的特里·康利和其同事发现女性对一夜情的兴趣并不比男性低。但如果期望更高的性满足感且能够消除耻辱感的话,她们则更愿意结婚。

男妓可能完全满足对性伙伴多样性和新鲜感的欲望——这对男女同样重要,博格纳辩论道。尽管存在着文化规范,女性性欲大多并不是‘由情感的亲密度和安全感激起或保持的’,他写道。博格纳在一封邮件中告诉我:‘长期跟踪调查研究欲望程度-不是爱情的程度而是欲望的程度-一个不同的真实显现了出来,这种真实可能会导致女性偶尔寻找男妓。’

虽然女性终于掌握了薪水支票可能看起来像是好消息——一种表示她们性解放的标识——但性服务市场仍在为表现相反的传统性观念而烦恼。这保守观念加强了之前存在的、通常过时的有关性角色的想法。

此事如何运作也给出了有力说明。澳大利亚妓女一般提供小时服务,但多数异性恋妓男却要求至少预约两小时的服务——有些甚至要求支付24小时的费用。妓女经常为一些亲密行为如接吻收取额外费用,但妓男却被期望去亲吻、安抚、拥抱和按摩客户且不收取额外费用。原因很简单:大家认为女性客户需要的不仅仅是性,需要的是一个约会对象,一个顾问,一个朋友。

在春药,没有妓男照片,而是每个妓男都会录下一段话描述自己的性格,而且女性在享受服务前不需要‘见面及打招呼’。女性妓院用一些下流撩人的话语在网上打广告,春药却提供一个常见问答网页,用清晰直白的语言解释安全和法律问题。它还向女性保证其购买的服务不一定需要包括性:某些客户可能‘想要我们独具慧眼的男士的陪伴’,仅想找个人聊天。

男妓被描画成英雄,用各种美言描述。不变的词语是“付费享乐‘。

所有这些视觉以及口头的信号都突出了对性欲的根深蒂固的传统设想:设想之一是男性找妓女是为了满足生理需求,女性最需要的是感情慰藉。换句话来说,男妓市场让性别化的文化习俗、仪式和角色扮演陷入了困境。

这一规律既适用于性服务者也适用于顾客。大众文化中,妓女经常被描述成受害者,她们出卖自己的身体是因为她们陷入了绝望的境地、受虐待或者不知道更好的生活方式,而男妓却被描画成英雄,用各种美言描述。不变的词语是‘付费享乐’。正如真人秀《应招男郎》中的文·阿玛尼在xoJane.com中所写:‘我常把高级坦率的男妓的生活轨迹比作运动员的生活轨迹……我爱上了这种运动,人们发现我很优秀,而现在我运动会收费。

这种态度一部分要归咎于进化心理学。我们被告知男性想要和多人上床以散播种子,而女性只需要一个优秀的供应者,以帮助她抚养后代。对男人来说,做爱是娱乐;对女人而言,它是繁育后代。俄亥俄州立大学的心理学家特里·费舍尔说“做一个有性需求的人,并被允许有性需求是社会赋予的一种自由,这种自由更随意地给了男人而不是女人。’同样,在性行为中渴望安全、舒适或亲昵的权利更多的给了女人。

现实更加复杂,两性都是。一些女性是在有性需求时找男妓,没有别的原因。一些男性找妓女只是为了聊天。在铂金X,一个颇受欢迎的选择是‘女朋友的感觉’。密西解释道:‘一些男人想看电视,搂在一起,进行一场智慧的对话。‘不是每个人都想要一个完美的色情明星那样的性伙伴。’他们问:你们有不完美的中年女人吗?他们不需要一个有着坚挺胸部的20岁小姑娘。他们需要一个现实的人。’

‘有的女性会说:我们想要一个小弟弟有这么大、身体像这样、体香是这样的人’

英国利兹大学社会学家提拉·桑德斯发现男性雇用性服务者来满足他们的感情需求——利用这些时间去聊天、倾诉或者忏悔,有时候做做爱,但不过是一种事后的想法。同时,‘浪漫旅行’这个委婉语(20世纪90年代新词,用来描述出国买春的行为)仅为女性使用,不过却和男性一样具有商业化气息。在新南威尔斯大学研究男妓的博士后学生希拉里·考德威尔说:‘有的女性会说:我们想要一个小弟弟有这么大、身体像这样、体香是这样的人。’她们可能一周有三个性伙伴。不是所有的女性都是如此-不过也不是所有的男性都如此。

正如没有标准的女性服务者,同样也没有男妓楷模。比如汤姆在城里有自己的生意,也有妻子(她认同他的副业收入)。他坚称他‘给女性快乐的时候自己也收获快乐’,但他绝没有伪装或假装有兴趣。那是他生意的一部分。
27岁的蔡斯也没有什么不同,他来见我们时肩上挂着一件皮夹克,一手夹着个摩托车头盔。加上时髦的发型和轮廓鲜明的下颌骨,他像画一样英俊,不过看起来却是一个阅尽人间春色的小伙。蔡斯是通过同样在该行业的前任进入性服务行业的。他每小时收费350澳元,过去的八个月里,他兼职赚了大约3万澳元。但他再三强调这是一份严肃的工作。同伴们祝贺他赢得了头奖。‘他们看到的是我既能和身材火辣、家庭富有的商业女性做爱,还能赚钱,’他说。

蔡斯的第一份工作简直就是电影荧屏上搬出来的情节。一个50岁的澳大利亚律师雇用他哄比自己年轻得多的亚裔妻子开心。蔡斯乘私人飞机直达墨尔本,购物、做爱、啜饮鸡尾酒。他一个周末赚了11800澳元,他用这笔钱照了专业的相片,买了一件漂亮的西服(用于工作),支付了密宗做爱课程的费用。他表示性服务不是一份容易的差事。

‘如果你需要我去宾馆,我就去那儿。如果你需要我陪你吃晚餐,我在那儿。我就是玩偶,我的确是’

为那种易来的性易得的钱的想法所吸引,每周大约有150名男性申请加入春药,他们丝毫未被吓住。但那并不能得到创立者们的认同,她们的女性顾客年龄范围在18岁到70岁之间,而且外形体重各异。为了排除外行,她们要求申请者完成非常苛刻的应聘程序。然后如果他们通过了面试、无犯罪记录检查以及体检,他们会被要求参加实践考试。听起来很简单,但为获取报酬而表演有很大压力:很多男妓使用伟哥延长勃起的时间,而且经常达不到高潮。这份工作存在的意义在于取悦女性,而不是他们自己。‘非常伤脑筋,’春药创始合伙人里贾纳说,解释说试用阶段既可以让男妓明白这份工作的现实状态,也可以让中介找到合适的人选。

当我问克里斯蒂安这个每小时收费1400澳元的情种是否有过二十四小时都做爱的情况时,他嬉笑着回答:‘你问这个?’后来,他承认当你‘朝九晚五’的做爱时,做爱便成了‘杂事’。在我们谈话过程中,他曾两次把自己比作玩偶:‘如果你需要我去宾馆,我就去那儿。如果你需要我陪你吃晚餐,我在那儿。我就是玩偶,我的确是。’无独有偶,蔡斯曾在一个酒吧约会时被要求扮演男朋友;扮装成泰山参加偶像聚会;取悦一个丈夫不能勃起的女人。

社会告诉我们男人负责支配而女人负责娴静:将这种情况扭转能给人带来一种满足感。女性性行为可能和男性性行为一样强势-如果你排除文化因素。但同样,男性性行为可能更多的是因为感情需要而不是性欲使然。如果有的话,这种男妓现象表明了购买性服务的男女比我们想象的更加相似。对于妓女妓男们来说,工作意味着牺牲。除汤姆之外,与我谈过话的男妓中,没有人能够维持一段有意义的恋爱关系。

28岁的安德里亚正以男妓工作的收入获取微生物学第二学位。他曾有一个顾客,每次到时间后总会哭。他会安慰她,说:‘你知道你不久后还能见到我。’他向我坦白:‘在度过一个愉快的周末或一天后,又要回到那个残酷的现实,非常不容易。我也有感情——另一方面那也是生意。’

更糟糕的是,安德里亚还有过算得上性虐待的经历:‘有人’用手指插进我的屁眼,或者狠狠地咬我的奶头,咬出了血。我喜欢野性,但老天,不喜欢那样。还有指甲的抓痕。当我说别这样对我时,她们听而不闻……是的,不舒服。’有时候他感觉自己‘被利用了’。在一次狂欢会上,他和另外两个妓女一同被雇用,‘她们不需要我时便把我晾在一边,真是让人忍无可忍。这种行为不符合职业道德。事实上我非常郁闷。’他耸了耸肩——‘她们买了你。’

文中姓名采用化名以保护隐私。

2014年11月12日

 

原文: 来自 http://aeon.co/magazine/society/women-who-hire-escorts-are-no-different-to-men/

In the middle of every month, when the moon is full, and straight after payday, Louise meets Tom in a smart hotel in north Sydney to indulge in what she calls ‘my little ritual’. She lays out a bottle of her favourite Champagne, a box of chocolates and a punnet of fresh strawberries, and dresses thoughtfully for their rendezvous, in a mini?skirt or tight jeans.

What follows is tightly programmed: Louise is paying for Tom’s time, and for a hefty fee this smooth-talking 48-year-old escort with greying temples will wine, dine and massage her. He’ll also make love to her. Their last meeting lasted six hours. ‘We sit down, we talk, we have a drink,’ says Louise. And sex? ‘A few times.’ She giggles. ‘Three, four. I lost count.’ Tom provides relief from her humdrum career in accountancy – it’s all about her. ‘I spend practically the whole day before in the spa and the hairdresser,’ she explains coquettishly. ‘It’s fun. It’s just treating myself.’
Back in February, Louise, who is 47, stumbled across a story in Sydney’s Good Weekend magazine. It was about local male escorts and it featured glossy pictures of young, buff men, rippling with muscles. ‘I kept it,’ she says when we meet in a hushed hotel bar, and pulls the article from her handbag. ‘I read it so many times. [I thought], you know, this could work for me, I’ll give it a go.’ After a succession of botched one-night stands and online dates, Louise, who three years ago ended an emotionally abusive relationship, felt she had little to lose.

Hiring an escort seemed safer and more satisfying than casual sex with a random stranger: Tom not only has rave testimonials on his website but also uploads STD test results once every three months to show he is clean (it is a legal requirement in brothels in eastern Australia that sex workers have quarterly blood tests and monthly swabs for STIs). Initially cautious, Louise had booked an appointment to discuss the health risks with her GP. The doctor reassured her that she’d heard it all before: ‘What else? A lot of my patients see escorts.’

Now that many Australian states have legalised prostitution, women are buying sex in increasing numbers. The industry remains niche (a 2010 IBISWorld market research report found that just six per cent of those using commercial sexual services in Australia were women). But it is growing; although exact figures are hard to come by, all the escorts I talked to described increasing competition and more demands on their time.

Women buy services through agencies with rigorous recruitment processes, such as Aphrodisiac male escorts in Melbourne, run by two Australian mothers in their mid-40s and which provides prostitutes to professional middle-aged women. But just as often they’ll find escorts – youthful gym bunnies to older, more sophisticated types – through one-man businesses online. Either way, prices top Au$500 an hour.

The high cost means most customers are women with disposable incomes. At Aphrodisiac, 41 per cent of clients are in their 30s, and just 10 per cent in their 20s. The majority are single (36 per cent) or divorced (20 per cent); 18 per cent are married. At the upmarket agency Platinum X, in Sydney, most female patrons are 35?50 years old. Tom, the freelance escort with slicked-back grey hair who, when we meet, sports a blue velvet jacket and a striped pink shirt tucked into jeans, notes that women approach him at an age when ‘they know their bodies, are more confident in themselves, are not caught in the trap of young children – and life’s too short’.
So what do male escorts tell us about an underlying shift in female sexuality? Western women today have more freedom, money and power than at any point in history. Yet for many, like Louise, the decision to buy sex goes beyond financial independence: it marks a brave new world of go-getting female sexuality, in which women can be as assertive as men in pursuing what they want.

With the decline of the traditional family unit, some women – particularly career women who are cash-rich and time-poor – find it easier and more efficient to organise paid-for sex than to seek it at home, in a bar, or online. Casual relationships or affairs can be complicated; hiring an escort offers control, an opportunity for sexual experimentation and exploration of fantasies without fear of judgment from a partner. Escorts, as Louise points out, have ‘seen it all’.

The internet has also revolutionised the sex industry, making male escorts more visible and available, while ensuring discretion. In the past, sex workers operated only in brothels, on the streets, or by word of mouth. Today, the majority advertise online. The successful ones have professionally designed websites, good-quality photographs, and post testimonials. For their female clients, making a reservation on the web (followed by a clandestine meeting in a hotel or at home) provides much-needed privacy.

TV series such as Sex and the City, and more recently Girls, have put female desire on the small screen, and opened up discussion about what good (or bad) sex means. Hung zoomed in on the escapades of a well-endowed male escort, and there is even a reality TV series, Gigolos, filmed around the Las Vegas agency Cowboys4Angels. ‘All of a sudden, there were these new discourses that weren’t there before,’ explains Denton Callander, a research fellow specialising in sexuality at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). ‘Like all media representations, [these shows] are both reflecting and driving what is happening in society – and normalising it.’ They also help to diminish the shame traditionally associated with female sexuality.

The blockbuster bondage novel Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) has ‘single-handedly helped male escorting’, says Missy, a bright 40-something madam who owns Platinum X. ‘Women have started to think: this is OK, socially accepted, people aren’t judging me – they’re revering me a bit: Oh you lucky thing, this is so hot and sexy!’

At Platinum X, which offers both male and female sex workers, it is no accident that the most expensive male escort is called Christian – the same name as the titillating anti-hero in Fifty Shades of Grey. With his laissez-faire charm, cheeky laugh and creamy looks, Christian charges Au$1,400 an hour. Before becoming a male escort, he worked as a model, kick-boxer and stripper. His clients are ‘businesswomen with a lot of money’ who ‘love taking control’. ‘Rather than going to a bar and meeting some loser,’ he tells me, ‘I deliver everything and hopefully a bit more.’

In order not to disappoint, Christian travels to bookings with his ‘batman belt’ – ‘your sex toys, your ropes, your handcuffs, all that stuff’. Since Fifty Shades of Grey, batman has taken off. ‘I have been allowed to be more rough,’ says Christian. ‘There is choking, there is smacking, there is spanking, but all within limitations: there is no blood.’ For good measure, he adds that he is already on his second pair of handcuffs: the first wore out.

At the root of this gap – between physical urges and psychological restraint – sits societal shame

In What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire (2013) the American writer Daniel Bergner argues that female sexuality is as animalistic – if not more so – than male. ‘We’d rather cast half the population, the female half, as a kind of stabilising force when it comes to sexuality,’ he explains. The idea that monogamy is more suited to women is no more than a ‘fairy tale’. Bergner claims another misnomer is that visual stimulus is not especially important for the average woman. Studies with a vaginal plethysmograph (a tool used to measure blood-flow and lubrication) have shown that female response to visual stimuli is visceral, immediate and, in some cases, more pronounced, to a wider variation of sexual images than with men.

In one experiment in 2007 by Meredith Chivers and colleagues at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, both men and women were made to watch videos of sex, ranging from heterosexual penetration to fornicating bonobo apes. The apes proved a turn-on for women, whose blood-flow soared, while men reacted in much the same way to the primates as they did to mountains and lakes. But here comes the telling part: when asked, the women themselves reported less arousal than their bodies let on. At the root of this gap – between physical urges and psychological restraint – sits societal shame.

In a 2011 paper, Terri Conley and colleagues at the University of Michigan found that women are no less interested in casual sex than men. But they are happier to engage if they expect the experience to be sexually satisfying and if they can remove any risk of stigma.

Male escorts might satiate an impulse for variety and novelty in sexual partners – as important, Bergner argues, for women as for men. Despite cultural norms, female sexuality is not, for the most part, ‘sparked or sustained by emotional intimacy and safety’, he writes. In an email, Bergner told me: ‘Track the level of desire in long-term relationships – not the level of love but the level of desire – and a different reality emerges, a reality that might lead to a male escort now and then.’

Yet, while women finally taking hold of the pay cheque might seem like good news – a sign of their sexual unshackling – the escorting industry remains beset by gender stereotypes that act in the opposite way, reinforcing pre-existing, and often out-moded ideas about gendered sex roles.

How this plays out is telling. Female escorts in Australia are commonly available to hire by the hour, but most heterosexual male escorts require a minimum two-hour booking – with some even demanding a 24-hour fee. Female sex workers often charge extra money for intimacies such as kissing; but male escorts are expected to kiss, caress, cuddle and massage their clients for no extra cost. The reasoning is simple: it is presumed that their female clients want not only sex, but a date, a counsellor, a friend.

At Aphrodisiac, there are no images of the men. Instead, each escort records an audio message describing his personality and women can enjoy a no?obligation ‘Meet & Greet’ before engaging his services. Where female brothels resort to dirty come-hither phrases to advertise online, Aphrodisiac offers a Frequently Asked Questions page that explains matters of safety and legality in plain, straightforward language. Bookings, women are assured, do not need to include sex: some clients might ‘enjoy the company of our discerning gentleman’ for his conversation alone.

Male escorts are portrayed as heroes, and described in envious terms. One phrase doing the rounds is ‘paid to play’

All this visual and verbal semaphoring serves to underscore deeply conventional assumptions about sexuality: among them, that men visit sex workers to sate their physical appetites, and that women primarily need emotional sustenance. The male escort industry, in other words, keeps gendered cultural habits, rituals and role-play around sex firmly entrenched.

This goes for sex workers as well as clients. While female escorts in popular culture are often depicted as victims who sell their bodies because they are desperate, abused or do not know better, male escorts are portrayed as heroes, and described in envious terms. One phrase doing the rounds is ‘paid to play’. As Vin Armani of the reality show Gigolos wrote in xoJane.com magazine: ‘I have often compared the life trajectory of a high-end straight male escort to that of an athlete…. I fell in love with the game, became really good at it, people noticed, now I get paid to play.’

Evolutionary psychology is partly to blame for such attitudes. Men, we are told, want to sleep with multiple partners to spread their seed; women want just one good provider who will help raise their offspring. For men, sex is recreational; for women, it’s reproductive. Terri Fisher, a psychologist at Ohio State University, says that ‘being a human who is sexual, who is allowed to be sexual, is a freedom accorded by society much more readily to males than to females’. Likewise, the freedom to crave safety, comfort or intimacy in sexual experiences is more readily afforded to women.

The reality is more complex, on both sides. Some women hire escorts to enjoy sex on demand, without complications. Some men hire female sex workers merely to talk. At Platinum X, a popular option is the ‘girlfriend experience’. Missy explains: ‘Some guys want to watch TV, cuddle up and have an intelligent conversation.’ Not everyone desires a flawless porn-star type either. ‘They ask: do you have a middle-aged woman who isn’t perfect? They don’t want a little 20-year-old with perky breasts. They want someone realistic.’

‘Some women will say: we want a penis that is this big, a body that is like this, and a person who smells this way’

Teela Sanders, a sociologist at the University of Leeds, found that men hire sex workers to fulfill their emotional needs – using the time to converse, confide or confess, with intercourse sometimes no more than an afterthought. At the same time, the coy term ‘romance tourism’ (coined in the 1990s to describe sex-purchasing trips abroad) is applied solely to women, even though it is no less consumer?led than its male equivalent, ‘sex tourism’. Hilary Caldwell, a PhD candidate researching male escorts at UNSW, says: ‘Some women [who travel to the Caribbean] will talk to beach boys and say: “We want a penis that is this big, a body that is like this, and a person who smells this way.” They might have three partners in one week. Not all women behave this way – but then neither do all men.’

Just as there is no typical female sex worker, there is, similarly, no archetypal male escort. Tom, for example, has his own business in the city as well as a wife (who approves of his sideline income). He insists he ‘gets pleasure out of giving women pleasure’, but he is not above faking, or feigning interest. It’s part of the business.

Chase, a 27-year-old escort who turns up to our meeting with a leather jacket slung around his shoulders and a motorcycle helmet at his side, could not be more different. With his hipster haircut and razor-sharp jawbone, he is picture-perfect, though he comes across as a tad world-weary. Chase came to the world of sex work via an ex also in the industry. Charging Au$350 an hour, he has made roughly Au$30,000 in the past eight months working part-time, but he is at pains to point out that this is a serious job. Mates like to congratulate him on winning the jackpot. ‘The way they see it, I have sex with hot rich businesswomen and get paid for it,’ he says.

Chase’s first ever job was straight out of a movie. A 50-year-old Australian lawyer hired him to keep his much younger Asian wife entertained. Whisked by private jet to Melbourne, Chase went shopping, had sex and sipped cocktails. He made Au$11,800 in a weekend, which he invested in professional photographs, a sharp suit (for the job), and courses on tantric sex. Escorting, he insists, is hard work.

‘If you need me at a hotel, I’m there. If you need me at a dinner function, I’m there. I’m the puppet, I am’

Undeterred, about 150 men apply to join Aphrodisiac every week (competition is high: only eight escorts work on the agency’s books), attracted by the thought of easy sex for easy money. But that does not wash with the founders, whose female clients range in age from 18 to 70 and come in all shapes and sizes. To eliminate amateurs, they ask applicants to complete a gruelling recruitment process. Then, if they make it through an interview, police check and health examination, they’ll be asked to sit a practical exam. This sounds simple enough, yet performing for payment adds pressure: many male escorts use Viagra to maintain erections and often do not achieve orgasm. The raison d’être of the job is to pleasure the woman, not themselves. ‘It is nerve-racking,’ says Regina, Aphrodisiac’s co-founder, explaining that the trial session is there as much for the escort to understand the reality of the job as for the agency to choose someone suitable.

When I ask Christian, the Au$1,400-an-hour charmer, if he ever has sex off the clock, he replies with a naughty smile: ‘You asking?’ Later, he admits that when you’re at it ‘nine-to-five’ sex becomes a ‘chore’. Twice in our conversation, he refers to himself as a puppet: ‘If you need me at a hotel tonight, I’m there. If you need me at a dinner function, I’m there in a suit at your side. I’m the puppet, I am.’ Chase, meanwhile, has been asked to pose as a boyfriend at a pub trivia night; to dress up as Tarzan for a fetish party; and to pleasure a woman by her husband who can no longer maintain an erection.

Society tells us that men are dominant and women are demure: there is some satisfaction in flipping this dynamic around. Female sexuality might be as aggressive as male sexuality – if you take out the cultural component. But equally, male sexuality can be much more about emotional needs than carnal desires. If anything, what the new phenomenon of male escorting shows is that men and women who buy sex are more alike than we thought. As for the escorts, the job comes with sacrifices. Aside from Tom, none of the escorts I spoke to had managed to sustain any meaningful romantic relationship.

Adriá, a 28-year-old whose escort work is helping fund a second degree in microbiology, had one client who cried whenever their time was up. He’d comfort her, saying: ‘You know you’ll see me again soon.’ To me, he acknowledges: ‘After you have had a good weekend, or day, and you get back to that harsh reality, it can get quite tough. I do have feelings – on the other hand it’s business also.’

Worse still for Adriá are the rare experiences that could amount to abuse: ‘Somebody’s fingers up my ass. Or biting me really hard on the nipple and blood coming out. I like it rough, but Jesus Christ, not like that. Claw marks. When I say do not do this to me and they do… Yeah. Not pleasant.’ At times he’s felt ‘used’. In one orgy, when he was hired along with two female escorts, ‘they discarded me when I was no longer required and that was pretty shit. It wasn’t handled in a professional manner. I was pretty upset actually.’ He shrugs his shoulders – ‘They’re buying you.’

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