Paying for sex — and love

A survey of men who look for sex online finds they're more interested in emotion than getting kinky

Topics: Prostitution, Love and Sex,

Paying for sex -- and love

They’re rich, married, middle-aged — and they pay for sex. But they aren’t looking for taboo sex they can’t get at home: These men want an emotional connection.

That’s according to a new survey of men who look for sex online, rather than on the storied street corner, and trade reviews on a website called the Erotic Review (as a Gawker headline once put it, “It’s like Yelp, but for hookers”). These men are connoisseurs of the sex trade, although they refer to themselves as “hobbyists.” The nearly 600 men surveyed were mostly white, middle-aged, highly educated and pulling in six figures. They aren’t necessarily representative of users of the Erotic Review, let alone the much broader sex-buying community.

But the findings, even given these limitations, are fascinating — take that most of these “hobbyists” are primarily concerned that a provider has “a happy and cheerful personality.” That’s why I decided to talk to Christine Milrod, a psychotherapist and one of the lead authors on the study, about the so-called Girlfriend Experience, in which sex workers provide the illusion of a more romantic, cash-free transaction — and why these “hobbyists” are drawn to it.

So how would you summarize what you found in terms of what these hobbyists are looking for in sex-for-pay?

Well, the thing that struck me the most was the whole concept of the Girlfriend Experience, and the fact that the behaviors themselves really mirror conventional non-remunerative romantic relationships. Meaning, these men are not doing anything else they couldn’t be doing at home, they’re just bored with a non-paying partner. The behaviors, the kissing, the fact that they engage in penile-vaginal sex more often than fellatio, that’s really important, because most studies show, and I think it’s the perception in people’s minds, that, “Oh, well, they can’t get a blow job at home so they have to get it from someone else.” That’s not true for these men.



Of course, you also have to look at the men who answered. Clearly, it is not a representative sample. It would be really almost impossible to get a representative sample, because paying for sex or accepting money for sex is basically an illegal activity unless you go to the state of Nevada. This particular crowd, this group of men, for them, they don’t want it to be like a prostitution encounter, even though they’re paying for it. There’s some contradiction here: OK, you want a girlfriend, but at the same time you’re paying for it. How do you reconcile that in your mind? I think the way they have reconciled it is that these men feel that they are consorting with a woman who is in her sexual prime, who really wants to have sex, and isn’t just doing it for the money.

What is it that they want from the Girlfriend Experience?

First, they want her to act like a girlfriend and not like a prostitute. They want her to be romantic and tender: 78.5 percent said that. Next, they want her to be happy and cheerful. Not even a third said they want her to have enthusiasm in trying a variety of sexual activities. What they didn’t like was if she was rushing the session and if she was taking phone calls during the session and if she was emotionally cold during the session.

Whether you like to hear it or not, and most people don’t like to hear it, this population are concerned a great deal about the emotion and very little about outlandish sexual acts. We had 80 percent of them say, “Oh yeah, I could marry someone who had been a former provider. Doesn’t bother me.” Forty percent of them said, “I’ve been in love with them” — I mean, that’s almost half! Thirty percent reported having an “ATF,” an all-time favorite whom they saw exclusively.

Most of these respondents were married, right?

Over 66 percent were married. That’s a lot.

Did you learn anything about their relationships with their wives?

The only thing I asked was comparing their level of sexual interest to their partner’s. They were saying they were much more interested than their partners — that was like 60 percent of them said that.

But you have to look at the age of these men. The bulk of these men are from 50 to 69. That’s not to mention their average salary which was $141,510. Then comes the earth-shattering statistic that almost half of the respondents had a graduate degree. [More than] 84 percent of them were white. This is a whole different kind of crowd.

What’s interesting is when you look at who do they want, they want older providers. They don’t want girls, they want women. Over half of these guys want to see a woman between 26 and 35. And as far as preferred ethnicity, 85 percent of the respondents were white guys and 85 percent of them wanted white women.

You hit on this earlier where you were saying there’s this assumption that the women were enjoying themselves. Did they express much interest in the provider’s pleasure?

Well, I didn’t ask that in this particular study, but when you read the reviews on the Erotic Review you see that there’s a great deal of emphasis placed on “I made her come,” “I ate her out.” This is like prestige, because, remember, even though they have user names, they still have a persona on those message boards that people know.

Another surprising thing was that you found “deep kissing with tongue” was actually a common experience. That goes against the popular wisdom that sex workers have a “no kissing” rule.

But you have to if you’re going to offer the Girlfriend Experience. The stats that we generally read about prostitution are almost always about street prostitution, because that’s where you get the numbers — through HIV clinics, public health inventories, arrest records and all those “johns” schools.

I did a provider study that’s unpublished and you talk to these women and some of these women are like, “Yeah, what’s wrong with this?” Some of these women charge $1,000 an hour. How horrible could that be? You get flown to places.

How are these hobbyists different from the larger community of men who pay for sex?

Well, they’re richer, and they’re educated beyond belief. In terms of motive, most of these men said, “I like to be with a woman who really likes sex.” It’s really not rocket science: They want to be with the hot chick who wants them. They’re willing to pay for the illusion. And whoever is the best actress, I think that girl is going to be very busy and very wealthy.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>