I’d flown into Seattle a number of times before, but the plane had never taken this approach. We were flying past downtown, seemingly dangerously close to the tall buildings. Was this right? Had we been hijacked, a sequel to 9/11 terrorism? My heart pounded, and I imagined my friends and family back in San Francisco learning about my demise, and wondering why I was traveling to Seattle in the first place. I had no business there, knew no acquaintances, and nobody except my boyfriend knew I was making this trip. But in fact I did indeed have business in Seattle – a line of work that I’d been doing off and on for years, yet scarcely anyone knew about. A line of work that I’d given up, yet found my self drawn back to time and time again. A line of work that had quite possibly taught me more about life and society and the way of the world than any other job I’d had. The “oldest profession” as they say, and one that had provided me with enrichment both in terms of finances and maturity. If this plane crashed, would everyone finally learn about my on-again/off-again life as a male escort, and would they understand? Well, it wouldn’t really matter – I’d be dead anyway.
* * *
As it turns out, the plane followed its charted course and landed safely. I picked up my rental car and joined my client at his hotel for two enjoyable and interesting evenings. I’d met this individual before, in San Francisco, and a year later accepted his invitation to join him in Seattle while he traveled through the northwest. He’d become a friend of sorts, through our meeting before and subsequent correspondence from time to time by e-mail and through an internet message board. I truly enjoyed his company, remembering that the social aspect was something I really liked about this occupation, and found myself missing whenever I’d take a leave.
But of course there is a significant, implied component to the relationship beyond the dinners and conversations, which of course is the sex. Let’s face it, despite any chatter about dates, “executive companions,” and assurances of being “equally comfortable in jeans or a tux,” eventually it all comes down to the sex. Yet the sex was also something I missed whenever I’d take a leave from my escorting career. Despite commonly-held beliefs, the majority of the clients were attractive and sexy, and the sex was good. Indeed, I often believed the sex was better than that I’d had with anonymous hook-ups, for reasons I didn’t entirely understand but was definitely aware of. Maybe it was the defined boundaries, the understood contract between client and professional. Maybe it was the infectious enthusiasm on the part of many of the clients, who hiring an escort was often a special occasion to look forward to and savor. Maybe it was playing the role of the “stud.” For whatever reason, I realized I truly enjoyed the sex – no regrets or self-loathing, only a pleasing just-laid glow.
I’ve recognized that this role of the “stud” has been significant to me. As a child I was shy, effeminate, and terrible at sports. It wasn’t until after college that I discovered the gym and began a gradual transformation. As my body built up, and as I became more comfortable with my sexuality, I began to feel more confident and sexy. In this respect, I think it mirrors the experience of many gay men. With the shaving off of my thinning hair (something that had initially caused me great anxiety) the transformation was complete – all of a sudden, guys found me sexy. But sexy enough to pay me for my services? There was only one way to find out.
My initial foray into escorting had more to do with finances than self-image, though I suppose the viability of the venture was a test of sorts of my desirability. The idea had first come to mind in my first year of college when I’d read an article in the SF Weekly titled “It’s a Living: True stories from the working lives of ‘middle class’ prostitutes.” The story made the whole thing sound intriguing, but also something I could relate to. The guys interviewed in the story sounded intelligent and thoughtful, and instead of sounding seamy or threatening the idea sounded reasonable.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later though that I gave it a go. The SF Weekly article kept kicking around in the back of my mind, and meanwhile I’d seen a couple of masseurs, including one who had previously escorted. As I began to run through the last of my student loan money in the last year of college, I decided to take the plunge and place an “erotic masseur” ad in the Bay Area Reporter.
With those first appointments money was a big motivation, and I have to admit I loved the feeling of depositing cash into the ATM rather than pulling it out all the time. It was great to be able to pay my bills without having to contemplate more loans, let alone having to hit up my parents. But I found I also really liked the encounters themselves, and enjoyed meeting the different guys. With the first repeat clients, I realized that, yes, guys actually would pay me for sex! And that was a turn-on.
After college, I figured my escort adventure was over as I took on conventional jobs that covered the bills well enough. But a few years later, when I found myself working in a boring suburban office park with nothing to do at lunch, the inclination for escort work presented itself once more. I first started just looking for tricks at lunch and after work, but eventually thought I’d try my hand at escorting again, both for the extra cash and to regain some of the thrill from before. Now a few years older, though, I attracted a totally different clientele, and found the encounters even more interesting and enjoyable than before. I met some great guys and found I enjoyed the escorting more than the tricks I’d been doing previously since there were set parameters with the appointments and the sex was better. Again this was a boost to my confidence, but what’s interesting is that this translated into more confidence and assertiveness in my “real” job too. Going into it, I never would have imagined that I’d be building my confidence and personality over time through escorting, but soon enough I realized that was what was happening.
For a while, this dual career was manageable, but eventually the demands of my “real” job became so great that the prospect of being available for escort work on any kind of regular basis was no longer realistic. Not only was it harder or impossible to schedule escorting appointments on a regular basis, but my real job was now paying enough to make the escort work relatively less lucrative and less worthwhile, at least from a financial standpoint.
There was also the concern of what would happen if I were “found out.” For a long time I’d assumed somebody somewhere I knew in my public life had seen one of my ads and put two and two together. At one point I was even advertising with face shots, so assumed maybe it was an unacknowledged secret. Each time someone I knew made a side reference to escorting, I wondered whether they knew about me, and whether the comment was intended to draw me out. While this could have easily led to extreme paranoia, for me it just remained as a thought in the background. I figured if I were going to get away with it anywhere, San Francisco was the place, and I’d just deal with the situation when it came up. But I knew it would be an odd thing to have to explain.
Eventually I pulled all my advertising, but I wasn’t ready to give up escorting all together. It was something I enjoyed doing, even if the money was no longer the significant draw. I’d keep doing visits with repeat clients as long as they called… and here I was on my way to Seattle. As I sat on the plane, though, pondering what I thought could be my imminent demise, I wondered to my self what I was doing going here, and asking myself why I agreed to it. There was no rational reason.
I guess it’s a bit of an addiction. While I can try to justify my occasional ventures back into escorting as serving repeat clients, it’s also something I still feel drawn towards and still get the itch to do now and then. Just when I think I’ve finished with escorting once and for all, I’ll get the urge to take out an ad once more.
What is it about escorting that keeps beckoning me back? Now that the money is not the big draw, I have to ‘fess up that it’s the other things. The promises of excitement, ego-stroking, and great sex keep the addiction alive. Escorting has a hold on me, but it terms of addictions it could be far worse.
I also wonder how many other guys (and gals for that matter) who have professional jobs by day also moonlight as escorts. Surely I couldn’t be that unique. I’d review the ads of other escorts, and notice a number of them had restrictions for when they could set appointments, such as only on evenings and weekends. Clearly some of these people have day jobs. The longer I’ve lived in San Francisco, the more it seems that everyone I’ve met has done escorting or porn at least some point in their time here. Perhaps there is a whole army of office workers who double as sex workers… the City’s dirtiest little secret. This could be my defense on the day that I’m invariably outed: I’d just glibly respond, “well, who hasn’t done it?!?” and leave it at that.
Give up escorting altogether? At this point I’ve got to be honest with my fascination and addiction to sex work. Never say never.