Recently, I had a drink with a friend who's a high-end escort. I hadn't seen her for a while, and it took most of her first cosmopolitan before she came out with the real reason she'd asked me to meet her.
"So there's this guy. A client. He's been coming to see me a lot. He's nice. I like him." She paused, toying with her glass. "He says he really likes me."
I raised one eyebrow slightly. "Well, that sounds fine. Unless... it's not?"
She sighed. "I mean, he really likes me. And I could really like him, if I let myself."
"Oh. You mean you could seriously fall for this guy and have a relationship with him?"
"God, I don't know. Maybe. He's very attractive—smart and funny—and he's great in bed. But you know what they say about dating clients: It never works out."
"Yeah, that's what I've always heard. And based on what I've seen, there seems to be some truth to that."
She shrugged. "Maybe he and I could be different. But maybe not. How can you know?"
"Let me tell you a theory I have about this," I said. This is what I told her:
Every relationship has to have a frame—a system of rules and expectations. Between a sex worker and her client a main rule of the frame is that the woman gets money for her time, and in return for that, as long as the client is basically respectful of her and her stated limits, she makes no other demands of him. If he wants to be open to her emotionally, to be affectionate, thoughtful of her sexual pleasure, and interested in her thoughts and feelings, he can choose to be. It's not uncommon—many of my clients are this way with me and I enjoy it. But a client doesn't owe this. It's a gift, not an obligation.
That suits a lot of clients, because they're not free to offer more. Maybe they're married, or they're married to their job, or their art, or simplyto a life without strings. There's a quote most lately attributed to Charlie Sheen, although he surely was not the first to say it: "I wasn't paying them for sex; I was paying them to go away afterward." I believe him. Nearly any man can find a girlfriend if he tries; there are men in prison who court and marry women on the outside. So a man who's high functioning enough to afford a couple of hundred dollars an hour for an expensive call girl is definitely smart enough to be able to attract a lover. But that would create emotional obligations, so he elects not to.
Until the day he makes a date with a call girl and winds up meeting the woman of his dreams. She's a beautiful angel who's undemanding and always understanding about his crazy schedule. She's happy to be with him when he's there, and when he has to go, she kisses him goodbye sweetly and without a fuss. When they realize there's a genuine mutual attraction between them, it seems like the perfect relationship to him. So they discard the old frame—the one in which money changed hands—and begin a romantic relationship.
What often happens next in the client-turned-boyfriend dynamic reminds me of the old saying, "A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't. A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, and she does." Something definitely changes here: The woman who once never asked him why he hadn't called is now making some new rules. She has needs and she wants the relationship to be conducted just as much on her terms as his. She feels, rightly so, that he owes her this now because they are lovers. He wasn't prepared for this—he thought it would be just like before—and so therelationship falters because the old frame was removed.
"I don't know," she replied. "But it gives me a place to start the conversation."
FRIDAY 9/15TRIBAL INSTINCTS WORKSHOP AND PLAY PARTY FOR MEN
Get wet and wild at this month's workshop on water-sports—stick around for the play party. Male ID required. Wet Spot, email@example.com or 270-9746. Workshop: 8—10 pm, $5 or free for members of Seattle Men in Leather, Wet Spot membership not required. Party: 10 pm—3 am, $15, Wet Spot membership required.
SATURDAY 9/16KISSING SCHOOL
Kissing School is a safe, playful way to explore tantra and experience the kiss sublime. No previous experience necessary. Kissingschool.com, 10:30 am—5 pm, $335 per couple, preregistration required.LOVE LOUNGE SEATTLE
Love Lounge is an "adult social club" that holds events for bi women and male/female couples—no single men, please. Lovelounge@lovelounge.net, 9:30 pm, no cover, membership required, 21+.
SUNDAY 9/17BUG BLAST!
According to entomologist GA Pearson: "Insects become a fetish object for the crush freak, who wishes to be an insect ground underfoot. Witnessing or imagining the act of a woman crushing an insect is sexually arousing." Today, at the Burke Museum, thousands of insect specimens, both dead and alive, will be on display, along with a new animated film about 19th-century entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre and bug-themed music by John Ackermann. Wear your crushingest heels. Burke Museum, University of Washington campus, 543-5590, 10 am—4:30 pm, $5—$8.PARADISE POOL TIME
A clothing-optional "swim and be social" event at an indoor pool. The Longhouse in Redmond, firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-9746, noon—4 pm, $10, RSVP required, members and their guests only.VIOLET WAND DEMO AND WORKSHOP
See how these sparkling purple toys work and how they can electrify your play life. Wet Spot, email@example.com or 270-9746, 2—5 pm, $20, membership not required.
MONDAY 9/18SIX MINI WORKSHOPS ON SEX
Babeland sex educators take you on a whirlwind sex tour in six ten-minute workshops—a crash course on topics such as buying your first vibrator, cunnilingus and fellatio, anal sex, high-tech toys, and the G-spot. Babeland, 707 E Pike St, 328-2914, 7:30 pm, free, 18+.