On a recent weekend evening, Jenna, a professional escort then-based in New York, happily crawled in between the soft, luxurious sheets of a hotel bed with her client.
But before having sex, the duo spent most of the evening cuddling and watching the “Star Wars” trilogy, the New York Post reported.
“He was a big movie buff, and his wife never watched movies with him,” says the 25-year-old, who asked that her last name not be used for privacy reasons.
She was paid more than £1,600 for the geeky encounter.
Informal interactions such as this are common for Jenna and other women-for-hire who specialise in “the girlfriend experience”.
More than straight sex, the girlfriend experience is the ability to act like a well-heeled plus-one at an A-list event, recall important biographical information with repeat clients, stay the night and say good morning with a wake-up kiss.
“The physical needs of a client are important, but equally important are his emotional and psychological needs,” says a 20-something who goes by the name Allissa at legal brothel Sheri’s Ranch in Nevada.
“You’re there to treat the man like the most important person on Earth.”
Before women become girlfriends-for-hire, most dip their toes into the sex industry in other ways. Jenna, who recently relocated to Los Angeles, began as a cam girl charging people to watch her perform solo sex acts online.
Jess Brighton moved from the Midwest to Washington, DC, to become an escort after losing her job in finance in 2008 when she was in her 30s.
She reached out to a few agencies she found online and made her pick after cross-referencing on the Erotic Review, a sex work-review website that rates agencies.
“Instantly, I was sent on out-calls, sometimes as many as 10 a day. I didn’t have any say in which men I’d see or how much time I’d spend with them,” recalls Jess, who quit the business in 2014 to launch a career as a relationship expert.
“I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t have any other life. I couldn’t.”
Jess would earn a few hundred pounds from each encounter, but more than a quarter of that would go right back to the agency.
At the time, the majority of her requests were for run-of-the-mill sexual favours, such as b*** jobs and girl-on-top sex, not for the girlfriend experience.
But, for many, specialising in the girlfriend experience is a sweet spot that lends itself to more cash, as escorts are paid for an entire evening and not just an hour between the sheets.
If a client has a kinky request, the escort directs them to a fetish expert more able to address their needs.
Once she switched to exclusively being a girlfriend-for-hire, Jess was making more than £13,000 per month from two or three clients.
But many escorts say that where US TV show The Girlfriend Experience gets it wrong is the amount of sex these women actually have with their clients. In reality, it’s just a small part of their duties.
“Clients really enjoyed bringing me out on the town,” Jess said, explaining she would often accompany them to important business dinners or events, being introduced as a new associate.
“I’d worked for nearly a decade in the financial service industry, and they loved that. They wanted me to actually contribute to conversations with their colleagues and not only be arm candy.”
In addition to her “Star Wars”-obsessed client, Jenna also spent an evening with a high-rolling real-estate lawyer in his hotel penthouse suite — to play a drunken game of hide-and-seek.
Allissa agrees that giving a satisfactory experience goes beyond the bedroom.
As an independent contractor within Sheri’s Ranch, Allissa can’t reveal her rates, but men often book her for a week at a time and she’s expected to be by her client’s side 24/7. They’ll go on walks on the ranch grounds and head to the in-house spa.
“They like that I listen to them without judgment. Some of my clients are widowers, and they just want to feel like someone is taking care of them,” Alissa says.
There are also material perks beyond the hourly rate.
Jess was once preparing for a Fifty Shades of Grey-esque sexual romp after being blindfolded by a client, only to be secretly whisked off to his private jet and flown to Paris for her birthday.
“It was incredibly romantic, and I loved every moment,” she recalled, although she unfortunately couldn’t tell anyone about the date of a lifetime. “I think that’s the hardest thing – you have this connection, but you’re essentially being paid to only exist [to these men] when they want you. The rest of the time, you’re supposed to disappear.”
Of course, not every client is a catch. If a guy didn’t strike Jess’ fancy – whether he had bad hygiene or couldn’t hold a conversation – she’d make an excuse not to see him again, or simply ignore his calls. “That’s not an option if you work for an agency,” she noted.
Marcia, a Brooklyn-based songwriter in her 30s who wouldn’t disclose her last name for professional reasons, has had plenty of clients who she considers awkward or shy.
She charges £340 on WhatsYourPrice.com to meet men desperate for companionship over drinks – nothing else – and considers it part of her job to relate to these men and bring them out of their shells.
No matter what the guy was like, Jess says the money made it worth it. “You’d better believe I set up and contributed to a [retirement plan] each month with my cash.”
Allissa agrees that the escorts she knows have an end goal in sight.
“I sock away a good amount of cash each month. It’s my goal to use that money to open a dance studio for kids in my hometown,” she said.
And while it may not be a long-term career, she doesn’t feel stigma about her chosen profession.
“I brought my grandma to the ranch for a visit,” she explained, adding that her granny was impressed with the facilities. “I think she was just happy I was safe. And it was also hard for her to argue with the money.”
When Jess quit the industry, it was all thanks to her clients.
“They were men at the top of their fields in politics, law, business. They gave me a ton of free business advice,” she explained. “Even today, they’ll see what I’m doing in my relationship coaching job and call me up to tell me how they were always my biggest fans; they’re so proud of me.”
Marcia agrees that the relationship is mutually beneficial. “[Clients] have also given me tickets to concerts and have introduced me to key contacts in my industry,” she said, adding that these favours do not mean she lowers her rate.
“A lot of men just want to have a drink with beautiful escorts,” she claimed. “It’s a myth that the only thing they’re looking for is sex.”