Updated: Dec 20, 2020
Many of us have likely pondered this question: why do men see escorts? In a world where hook-up culture (no strings attached) is du jour, what makes men decide they would prefer to pay for sex? Is it the absolute anonymity? Is it the experience? The naughtiness? Or even, that sex workers are simply better at sex than the average punter? As the host of the Slow Love podcast series, which examines modern intimacies, and a researcher in the dating app domain, I have heard an inordinate amount of sex, relationship and intimacy stories. People approach the sanctity of the researcher, or the obscurity of a podcast (equipped with a pseudonym) with the type of gusto they would usually direct towards the confessional: full disclosure!
A podcast guest once told me she had sex with approximately 40 men in 30 days. She had met these men via dating apps. She had teed up one ‘guest’ in the morning and one in the evening on some days. It was all part of a sexual empowerment journey. She never knew their full names, nor any other details about them. It was completely transactional – and it served her purpose. By the end of the month she had reclaimed her mojo. This isn’t an uncommon story. Anonymous sex happens. A lot. There’s even an acronym for it doing the rounds. BONPA (Bed Only, No Public Appearances).
So, why do men see escorts?
For many, the sex industry is a fascinating one. It’s cloistered and titillating. But it also comes with its reputation. It’s known as the ‘grey industry’ in Australia because of its ‘under the surface’ characteristics – by that I mean, nobody talks about it. The stigma is real. Sex work is legal in Australia and yet it is still shrouded by a ‘shameful’ stereotype. Why? Why don’t we talk about the sex industry? What are we so afraid of?
Well, we wanted to demystify the sex industry on 'Slow Love' – and have conversations that matter. And who better to talk to than the infamous Samantha X, former journalist turned escort and Madam, and best-selling author. Sexy, intelligent and willing to own her story as a sex worker – she has become a point of intrigue for Australians and international audiences. But more still, we wanted to talk to Samantha, and we wanted to hear from one of her clients. We wanted to ask the questions we’ve always wanted to know the answers to. Like, why do men see sex workers? Do they consider it cheating? And do they ever fall for sex workers?
‘Mark’, a repeat client, revealed he had started seeing escorts in the final years of his marriage. By then the intimacy and connection was gone. He yearned for the affection and touch of a woman. Samantha X wasn’t the first sex worker he saw, but she was indeed the last. Mark knew it was cheating, but he needed the physical intimacy and confidence seeing a sex worker provided and also admitted it was ‘a treat’, a moment of ‘naughtiness’ and ‘escape.’
“I think it can be (addictive), you like it, you might see an escort for a short while and if you enjoy it then you’ll get on to seeing them for two hours or for four hours or overnight,” Mark said.
Mark indicated that the sex industry and escorts is almost a secret world. Men don’t usually talk about seeing a sex worker to others, mostly because of the stigma, but also because at a certain age, society believes you ‘ought to have figured those things out.’ For Mark there was an imagined sense of what ‘masculinity’ should look like, and potentially a sense that he had failed to live up to that ideal.
He confessed that he had developed feelings for sex workers:
“I know it’s a transaction and not a real-world relationship … but you’re inhuman to not develop some feelings,” he said.
“I think men who do see escorts regularly at some point they’ll have the dream of thinking, ‘Can it happen in real life?’”
What was clear was that men see sex workers for a variety of different reasons. For Mark it was simple intimacy, touch, a break from loneliness, and even reassurance. Samantha X indicates that she’s mostly an extremely well-paid psychologist, and that often men spend thousands of dollars with her to talk. But, there’s no one size fits all here. Some men don’t just want to talk, and would prefer the PSE (Porn Star Experience – yes, there’s an acronym for it).
The conclusion here is that men’s rationale for seeing escorts is complicated and nuanced – like relationships and intimacy. Despite Hollywood’s desire to establish a romantic masterplot – you meet-cute, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after, the reality is far messier. Some women sleep with 40 anonymous men for empowerment, and some men prefer to see escorts. Tune into Slow Love to listen into stories for everything in-between.