What motivates a man to spend tens of thousands of dollars on sex?
That's one of the questions CNBC explores in “Dirty Money: The Business of High-End Prostitution,” which debuts Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET. As part of the documentary, producer Molly Bedell conducted an e-mail interview with a patron of the high-end prostitution industry. In the following Q&A , the client, who granted the interview on condition of anonymity, provides a glimpse into the world of the buying and selling of sex.
Q: What type of men hire high-end prostitutes?
A: The guys who avail themselves of these services are a varied bunch.
Some are older, some younger, some married, some single, they could pretty much get dates in the usual way but sometimes prefer the simplicity of an arrangement with an escort. There is no identifying trait I can point to that would indicate “this guy hires escorts.”
Q: How do men meet escorts?
A: Before the Internet (this is hearsay since it predates me), the high-end agencies were reached pretty much by word of mouth and a reference from another client was almost de rigueur. Certainly at this end of things there is no way I, or anyone I know, would search for this type of experience at a bar. If I picked up a gal at a bar I would always assume that I might pick up dinner and the like, but not that I was with a professional.
The idea is that a first meeting should be more akin to meeting an acquaintance for the first time than a blind date. This also relates to why many guys limit their engagements to a small number of ladies. Comfort level is SO crucial that once it is there it is a precious thing.
Q: When looking for an escort online, what do you look for in a Web site?
A: A good Web site will attract guys. More importantly is that a bad Web site will often rule a woman out very quickly. For starters, using a cookie-cutter Web site [will] be seen as a negative. Spelling and grammar count; how a lady expresses herself on her Web site counts. If there is a hint of plagiarism from another site, that will hurt. Good Web sites give a feel for who the lady is, what her interests are, what her background is.
Q: What is the “girlfriend experience”?
A: GFE [girlfriend experience] is popular for a) the service that it most likely implies and b) the illusion it presents. The reality is that with very, very rare exceptions, the lady is with the guy because she is being compensated for it. Sure, if the guy and gal see each other 20-30 days in a year then the relationship will generally evolve to more than what a one-time encounter is; even so the gal is unlikely to be there if she is not getting compensated. But, during those hours, night or days together, the illusion of a girlfriend has to be there or the extended engagement doesn't work that well.
Q: On the flip side, do you provide the women with a “boyfriend experience”?
A: My feeling is that a lady who feels that she is getting the BFE [boyfriend experience] will be just a little different than with a gent who approaches things in a very businesslike fashion. There is disagreement on this among the guys, but that is how I have found things.
Q: Is it customary to bring a gift when meeting an escort or to tip her?
A: Gifts are not, at least in the sphere we are discussing, a tip. In the $350/hour world, sure, a $50-$100 gift card can be akin to a tip. But honestly, when the number runs into four figures, $50 is noise. Gifts help break the ice, certainly on a first or second date. It is a way for a guy to show that he has taken an interest in what a gal might be interested in. I have found that gift cards are nice BUT finding something on a Web site that points to something a lady is really interested in … such a gift can change the dynamics of a date.
Q: How does your relationship with a sex worker develop over time?
A: As an example, think of yourself going on a first date. You would probably leave your BlackBerry at home, you might take your cell phone along but keep it on buzz and not answer it, and you would notice if your date did the same thing. Now fast-forward to date five or six. Your BlackBerry is probably with you and occasionally being scanned; if your date needs to go off and get some work done (or vice versa), there is no real angst about it. It may be hard to believe but it works that way in this world as well. When you have a chunk of time together and a certain comfort level is reached, the small things don't matter as much — GFE/BFE comfort level does develop and it changes the dynamic.
Q: Do you ever see a high-end prostitute when you are not paying for her time?
A: Many guys tend to date a small number of ladies with an occasional one-time meeting if they are off their usual travel track or schedule. There are times when a lady and guy who have an ongoing relationship may simply meet for a drink or a meal — perhaps they are both passing through town with a little bit of time — and other than picking up the tab, no money is involved. Why? Because there is more than sex to the relationship. The term for this is “off-the-clock.”
Q: Does a sex worker ever become a confidante?
A: Confidante and therapists? Sure it happens. I should point out that the flip side is also true. Guys will be asked for advice on matters they may be familiar with — i.e., business strategy — that pertain to some aspects of a gal’s other interests. It cuts both ways.
Q: Why would a man spend tens of thousands of dollars on escorts?
A: As far as the money goes, there are a fair number of factors. An oft-quoted statement is that guys pay escorts money so at the end they go away. I think that happens to be harsh, in particular for the high-end market. Historically (less so today, but still true), the companionship of a woman has had a cost. The cost may be that of supporting a wife, kids and a certain lifestyle; it may be the cost of an exclusive mistress; it may be the cost of an escort. For some, it [an escort] is a whole lot cheaper than an ongoing relationship.
Q: How do you view prostitution in terms of the law?
A: Prostitution — at whatever level — is not seen as acceptable by a large swath of society. The U.S. has an added complication that it is against the law and it is easy for a DA to get his name in the paper by making a bust.
Q: Why is the need for secrecy so important?
Look at the Eliot Spitzer case. It all started as an investigation into possible corruption on his part and a money-laundering angle from Emperor Escort Agency. The corruption angle was quickly discarded. How many laundering cases make it to the front page of the newspaper and to the 24-hour-a-day cable news cycle? Almost none, and those that do are typically multibillion [dollar], drug-involved ones. This one made it to the headlines because it was about sex and a sitting governor.
For more on “Dirty Money: The Business of High-End Prostitution,” .