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I’m a 23-year-old professional who wants to pursue a Masters degree in a related field, but my current job alone just won’t pay for tuition on top of my rent, bills and current student loan payments.  I already tend to attract successful men and I’m a skilled and empathetic listener, so I feel I could make it as a courtesan with a select few clients.  However, I’ve never been an escort so I have no existing clientele to draw from.  Also, I’ve read that real courtesans don’t discuss payment openly with a client…I don’t understand how that works.

Given your circumstances, you might want to consider advertising on one of the sugar baby sites.  A 23-year-old graduate student is exactly the kind of lady many potential sugar daddies are looking for; the hours tend to be pretty brief, the pay is good (you can probably get about $3000-$4000 per month), and best of all it isn’t illegal yet so in the present climate of hysteria, it would be much safer for you.  Furthermore, you need to be very discreet in your advertising because even legal sex work could potentially come back to bite you.  As for “real” courtesans not discussing it…you should always be wary when people make statements like that.  Some of the courtesans of old charged set rates, some used a sliding scale and some preferred to let their patrons give them money and gifts, then complain if they weren’t generous enough.  It’s absolutely true that women who let their patrons set the fees and benefits generally do better in the long run, but it can take a lot of time investment to reach that point and you have to be good at sizing up a man’s income and generosity level right from the get-go so as not to waste too much time with a skinflint.

I am a mature and educated paid companion who has traveled the world and speaks several languages; men tend to find me fascinating and I live in a resort area.  I have three kinds of clients:  those who live here, those who come in for a few days a month or so and one-time vacationers.  I’m working on transitioning some of my regulars in the first two groups to longer-term arrangements; I think I could have client types 1 & 2 pay a monthly “allowance” plus a fee for dates, and just charge a regular flat fee to vacationers.  Do you have any suggestions on how to set my prices?

If you’re going to have regular “sugar daddy” type clients (the 1s and 2s), you may want to consider just charging them the flat fee and leaving it at that, especially if they only see you once a month to once a week at most.  Obviously you have to be sure it’s enough to justify whatever time you spend with them, but you may find that they tend to give you other presents and tips beside the fee anyhow.  Setting a rate in your situation is tricky; I expect most things in your area are more expensive than in a city, and that the clients tend to be wealthy?  That, and the fact that you can provide a more “upscale” experience, would tend to drive your price up.  You may want to do some research to see what other escorts in similar resort areas charge, and ditto what sugar babies in such areas tend to ask for…and then go just a smidgen higher.  Given your circumstances you can probably get it, and the higher price reinforces the image you’re trying to project.  As time goes on you will be able to tell if you can raise your prices, but it’s usually best to allow those who are already seeing you to continue at their current rates.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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I see you so often rail about the imaginary “trafficking” issue.  I realize that very few adult sex workers are coerced, and that anti-prostitution laws have nothing to do with protection, but is there any actual evidence that there are real girls under 16 (particularly from Asia) who are really being forced to work as prostitutes? 

distorting mirrorIn a world of over six billion people, it is a near-certainty that any situation anyone can conceive of (which doesn’t violate the laws of physics) has already happened at some point and continues to happen from time to time.  So yes, I am sure that there are some Asian girls under 16 who are actually compelled (by some means almost anyone would agree were coercive) to work as prostitutes.  I have no way of guessing what that number might be, and neither does anyone else despite pretensions to the contrary:  all the cases which make the news involve women older than that; and/or the compulsion is of a type that would not be viewed as a problem if she were a maid or nanny; and/or she chose the situation as the best of a number of alternatives, many or all of them bad; and/or there is some cultural difference which causes her to see her situation differently from her “rescuers”; and/or the “trafficker” is actually an intimate partner rather than a cartoon pimp or racist caricature of a crime cartel.  Moreover, though prohibitionists paint sex workers’ clients as sadistic perverts who ignore bruises and evidence of bondage and prefer prepubescent girls to adult women, nothing could be further from the truth; sex workers who seem to dislike their work tend to get bad reviews because most men don’t actually like having sex with unwilling partners, and the idea that a business model based on the overt enslavement of traumatized tweens could ever be a thriving concern is highly dubious to say the least.  In fact, the popularity of this narrative reveals the sick, twisted psychology and sexuality of those who promote it; their view of sex work is like something seen in a warped mirror, not only reversed but magnified and distorted into unrecognizability.  The three most important forms of distortion are:

  • a rare, extreme situation is presented as though it were not only the norm, but a norm from which there is little if any variance (thus making it unique in human experience);
  • complex, nuanced human interactions are reduced to absurd black hat-white hat melodrama complete with mustache-twirling “pimp” villains, passive damsels in distress, and heroes with pure motives who ride in on white chargers to save the day; and
  • the carceral “solutions” which the fetishists inevitably favor not only fail to help women in the complex real-life situations whose existence they deny, but also to help even the women in situations which actually resemble their fantasy somewhat.  In fact, these supposed “solutions” make things worse in almost every conceivable case, as I explained at length in “Straining at Gnats” and “Enabling Oppression”.  Criminalizing sex work does not discourage a black market in which coercion can thrive; on the contrary, it creates such a market.

The one-sentence answer to your question, then, is this:  A small number of such girls probably does exist, but their situations are a lot more complex than the “sex trafficking” profiteers want you to believe, and the laws they favor actually hurt such girls by enabling those who exploit them.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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I’m a 50-year-old, happily married man who values his marriage and would not change that for anything; however, I’ve fallen love with one of my co-workers.  At first I thought it was just sexual attraction, and because she’s a lesbian I thought I was “protected” from developing any stronger feelings; that, however, was not the case, and once I really got to know her I was smitten.  I’d appreciate any insight you can give.

Kirk and CharliePeople who believe that the human psyche and human culture are both the products of Divine ordination have either never fallen in love, or else they think God is a sadist.  Alas, one of the sad by-products of human evolution is that people often develop very powerful sexual and romantic feelings for others that human culture says they absolutely shouldn’t be having those feelings for, and there is very little that can be done about it without causing a major scandal.  The feelings themselves aren’t wrong; as Captain Kirk said to Charlie Evans, “There’s nothing wrong with you that hasn’t gone wrong with every other human male since the model first came out.”  But though romantic literature has celebrated the pangs of unrequited love as a wonderful experience for over 600 years now, the truth is that it’s awful.  And though both men and women can suffer from it, in men it’s mixed up with sexual frustration and the protective instinct and duty, honor and all that other glorious masculine craziness.

In a way, you’re very lucky that she’s a lesbian because it presents another barrier to your pursuing the tremendously bad idea of trying to make this go someplace it really can’t go (if you’re to remain happily married and gainfully employed).  Dealing with the feelings, however, is another matter; the world is full of art, music, literature and other beautiful things created by men in situations not dissimilar to yours for the love of women they can never have.  Even if you’re not the creative type, you can still borrow from their playbook by immersing yourself in your work whenever thoughts of your inamorata get to be too much to bear.  For you, work itself presents a problem because that’s where you see her, but if you’re like most people the work you do for money isn’t the same as that you do for love; it’s the latter I’m suggesting you pursue more diligently.  I made a Star Trek reference above, and that was not merely to lighten the mood:  On those occasions when Captain Kirk actually did fall in love with some woman he couldn’t have, the Enterprise was always his antidote, because his love for his work was strong enough to eventually pull him away from his love for any woman.  You need to find your Enterprise (or your music, or your novel, or your Sistine Chapel), the thing you care about deeply enough to pour your heart and soul into.  It doesn’t make the pain of unrequited love (or any of the other slings and arrows of outrageous fortune) go away entirely, but it’s the best coping mechanism anyone has discovered yet.  And in this world of pain and woe, I’m afraid it’s the best solace I can offer you.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Desperately Seeking

I’m 22 and I’ve never done anything sexual with a woman in my life.  No holding hands, no kissing, no making out, no cuddling; I think I’m too shy and lack confidence.  I’ve been out on a few dates, but nothing ever really seems to happen.  I’ve read some of your other posts about being a virgin or being a sensitive guy going to see an escort, but I’m not sure it would really help because I want more than just sex.  Are escorts OK with cuddling and kissing?  Besides that, I could only afford a couple hours at best.  Sometimes I wish there were sex therapists who have sex with patients; that might help me.  But what can I do to make myself more confident and less shy around women?  And is there a certain kind of woman who would be better for an inexperienced guy?sitting on the dock of the bay

Escorts who specialize in providing a girlfriend-like encounter are referred to as “GFE” escorts, but of course you’d have to find a reliable one because there is no quality control on that term and anyone can call herself “GFE” even if she’s not remotely girlfriendly.  So even with research it might take you time and money to find an escort who’d be able to give you the kind of experience you’re looking for.  But I don’t honestly think it’s what you need, though it might help you to relax a little so you wouldn’t feel the loneliness so acutely.  There is a kind of sex therapist who has sex with patients; they’re called “sex surrogates”, but they see patients by referral from psychologists and IMHO you’d end up spending more than you would for an escort without (in your specific case) any real increase in benefits.

I have some good news for you, though.  Twenty-two is actually quite young, though I know it doesn’t seem so to you because that’s your whole lifespan.  There are a lot of people who have never had relationships by your age, but far fewer who haven’t by thirty; you’re moving into a time in your life when the likelihood of intimacy nearly always increases.  I’ve written before to a gentleman whose situation was not-dissimilar to yours; he was a bit older, but the advice still applies to you.  The most important thing is patience; relationships simply cannot be rushed, and if you feel a sharp need to be in one (as you clearly do) it makes the waiting seem much longer and harder than it actually is.  Also, if you’re desperate you may let yourself be caught up in a bad, toxic relationship, which (believe me!) is much worse than none.

Finally, you ask if there’s a specific kind of woman who might be better in helping you get experience, and who wouldn’t judge you for being a virgin; the answer is yes.  Some older women enjoy initiating young men into sexual life, and I have met many men whose first experience was with a woman 10 or 20 years his senior; such women often consider the lack of experience a plus.  The only drawback to such a relationship from your point of view is that they are often short-lived; whether the woman is just looking for a younger playmate rather than a life-partner, or if she loses interest once the young man gains confidence, or she’s in denial about aging and seeking a succession of younger partners as validation of her sex appeal, or if she truly believes her young lover needs to move on to partners of his own generation, the end result is the same.  So if you do get into such a relationship, keep in mind that it may only be a brief stop on your greater journey; if it turns into a long-term relationship, well and good.  But if it doesn’t, you will still have gained confidence that will help you with other women, and experience that can guide your future course as long as you learn from it.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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We are hardly ever grateful for a fine clock or watch when it goes right, and we pay attention to it only when it falters.  -  the 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Every so often I get an email or series of “tweets” that causes me to shake my head and wonder whether the author has been paying attention at all at any time in the past four years.  Now, I’m not talking about communications from new readers or from non-readers who just read one column or even one “tweet”; rather, I mean people I’ve corresponded with before who have (presumably) been reading here for a while and should know how I do things.  Recently, I had several such incidents, so I think it would be worthwhile to address the points that somehow seem to have escaped some folks.

clockwork girlFirst, it appears that I need to spell out some details about advice letters (again).  It seems as though some people have made it several decades into their lives without quite understanding how an “agony aunt” column works, so I’ll reiterate and add details specific to mine.  Since there are many different, competing demands on my time (especially while on tour), I cannot promise that I will always get to advice emails quickly.  I understand that people who write are often upset or even suffering, and I really do try to answer every letter as quickly as possible.  Usually that’s within a few days, but while I’m travelling it can be longer; some letters that arrived in July took me almost six weeks to answer.  Yes, I could dash off a quick response, but I hardly think that’s what anyone wants unless the question only requires that sort of response.  Unless you specifically ask me not to publish your question, it may appear in a future Wednesday column, though edited and condensed to remove identifying details or even to broaden the scope slightly.  Some of you may have noticed that if you clarify the situation in a later letter and my advice changes because of that clarification, it’s still the original version which appears on the blog; when that happens it’s because I felt either that the clarified version gave away too many personal details, or that the original version would apply to more people reading.  Though you are only concerned with your own specific problem, you’d be surprised how many other people may find my answer helpful (even if their own issues are slightly different).

Next, some people seem to have failed to notice the level of organization I maintain in this blog, and have made requests of me that, while they might seem reasonable, are actually nothing of the kind.  I’ve noticed that when a reader links to either a column or one of my feature pages to make a point elsewhere on the internet, at least one ass will usually disparage the citation with some variation on “a WordPress blog isn’t a credible source”.  If I ran this like an ordinary blog, a place to jot down stray thoughts here and there as they came to me, that might be a valid criticism; however, as anyone who has been paying attention will have noticed, that isn’t how I do things.  I treat this like an electronic magazine; I write a column every day, hyperlink and cross-reference my citations, and include every post in the extensive subject index.  Once a post is published, the only changes I make are to correct typos or (within the same day or two) to correct some major error or omission; also, I may change a picture for one of higher resolution, or because the subject of a picture asked me to use a different one.  I take an extremely dim view of websites who shove posts down the memory hole just because some readers didn’t like them; I have the philosophy that “you can’t unring a bell”, so once a post is up I will not remove it no matter who finds it offensive.  Besides the ethical problem that would create, removing the index entries and hyperlinks would be like pulling one gear out of a clock; given that many of my posts are reblogged or scraped, it might not even do any good for me to censor a post because it might already have been copied elsewhere.  And if you think I’m going to leave an ugly and conspicuous hole in a four-year-long perfect record just because it hurt your feelings, I respectfully suggest you reconsider your place in the universe.

Finally, some people seem to have developed very strange misconceptions about my status in the universe, so let’s put those to rest, shall we?  I am not a goddess, an angel, a superheroine, a bodhisattva or any other form of superior entity, and have never claimed to be.  Accordingly, I am not perfect; I make mistakes and misjudgments like anybody else.  Because of this, you cannot use the evidence-free accusation that I made one mistake as an argument that my entire body of work is flawed; rather, you can do that, but it will simply result in your looking like an idiot.  Even if you have actual evidence of an error in one essay or statement, it doesn’t ruin my “perfect track record” because I don’t have a perfect track record, and nobody sane ever claimed that I did.  Moreover, I’m not required to explain every editorial choice I make to the satisfaction of whatever random stranger cares to demand such an explanation, and anyone who believes that I am needs more help than I can give in one of my advice columns.

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My husband wants me to dress as his slut when he takes me out or when he has friends over; is this normal?

I think it’s a mistake to worry too much about what is “normal”.  “Normal” men in patriarchal societies tend to want their wives to dress in a way they perceive as modest; this derives from a desire to protect their “property” from those who might trespass or steal it.  The more patriarchal the society, the more “modestly” it expects women to dress; in societies where women’s status is higher, women tend to dress more provocatively, and in those where it is lower, they tend to dress more concealingly.  There are few if any exceptions, yet neofeminists teach a looking-glass version of reality in which dressing sexily is “objectification” and a manifestation of “patriarchy”, despite abundant real-world evidence that the exact opposite is true.  Now, this is not to say that one individual man, or indeed large minorities of men, might not prefer women who “belong” to them dressed in a revealing fashion; however, the majority (“normal”) view has always been the opposite.

Given the language you use (“his slut”) your husband seems to belong to this minority category, which means that in the strictest sense of the word it is not “normal”.  So what?  Why does it matter whether something is “normal” or not?  Most people deviate from the norm in at least a few ways, and nobody seems to think this is a problem except where sex is involved.  Don’t concern yourself with whether his request is something the majority of men would want; rather ask how it makes you feel, and how it affects your relationship.  Does it make you feel attractive and sexy to dress provocatively, or does it make you feel uncomfortable and ashamed?  Does it make your husband happier?  Does it seem to spice up your sex life?  Do you like or dislike the way others react to you when you dress that way?  Do you like to do it in certain circumstances, but not in others?  These are the questions you need to ask yourself, rather than whether conventional people would approve.  And if dressing like a “slut” at certain times (or even a lot of the time) works for you and makes you both happy, nobody else has a right to condemn you for your wardrobe choices.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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I’m a 24-year-old girl who feels that if cheating is inevitable, and most men have paid for sex, then there’s no way that I can ever be in a healthy relationship.  While I support sex workers and want them to work safely, I refuse to marry a man who has paid for sex; I would rather be alone than do this.  How can I pursue a healthy, honest relationship if I can’t trust men?

If you define “healthy” as “unrealistically perfect”, then you’re correct that you’ll never be in a “healthy” relationship.  Human beings are not perfect, and men are not women; if you expect perfection, and furthermore define that perfection as men behaving like women, then you are indeed doomed to disappointment.  Healthy relationships aren’t those in which both partners meet and never fall below some unrealistic standard of behavior; they’re those in which each partner recognizes that the other is a flawed human being who will inevitably do upsetting, disappointing, hurtful or infuriating things, and that he or she is really no better no matter how much he or she might like to think so.  “I refuse to marry a man who has paid for sex; I would rather be alone than do this” is just as unrealistic (and, frankly, as immature) as “I refuse to marry a woman who is not a virgin; I would rather be alone than do this.”  If you insist on controlling your partner’s past, you obviously mean to control his future, and any self-respecting man in his right mind should run screaming from such a danger sign (just as any self-respecting woman in her right mind should run screaming from the counterpart).

Note that I’m not telling you that all men will cheat, because that wouldn’t be true; what I’m saying is that many will, and that it’s foolish to throw out a man you profess to love merely because he has a fairly-typical flaw.  I might point out that many a client comes to sex workers precisely because he is wise enough not to discard a woman he loves merely because she has the correspondingly-typical female flaw, namely losing interest in sex after a few years of marriage.  Everyone agrees that good relationships need to be based on more than sex, so why is it that so many people believe that a sexual disagreement is sufficient grounds for ending an otherwise-good relationship?  Even if a man cheats on you, applying some mechanistic “zero tolerance” rule like a guillotine to sever a connection you find beneficial in every other way is cheating both yourself and him.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

 

 

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