FACT: OK, so I am not an escort. Not technically.
But I respect them and I think you should too.
This is a response to two articles discussing the merits and perils of the escort business. Specifically, the original article discusses the "girlfriend experience" which is (most typically) an engagement where an attractive woman essentially "dates" a man in exchange for money where both parties understand the limited nature of the relationship.
If you want to read these before we get going here, I will wait:
What I got from Leandra's article is that, while she can see the benefit to men, she is having a hard time seeing the benefit being an escort poses for women.
I don't believe it's so one-sided.I will speak to this as a 29 year old woman living and dating in Los Angeles. While I am not planning on getting married, I do have relationships. Many of them. Perhaps this will change but my preference for now is for allowing the mix and makeup of relationships in my life to be in flux in a way that compliments my life. That means I can love someone because it feels good to be in love. It also means I can fuck someone because I am a human being and human beings -- male AND female -- enjoy sex.
But then again, maybe I'm a fucking weirdo...
Anyway, I have a few relationships with lovers that have been on/off for years and continue to evolve and change. I use "lover" deliberately to signify that these people are not exactly boyfriends and will never be husbands (though I'm sure several of them would marry me if I ever needed health insurance or something) but they are certainly not fuck buddies. I guess they are closer to "friends who I do things with, one of those things being sex."
TO BE CLEAR, I have not accepted money for sex. But I don't think the fact that I don't plan on getting married to anyone I date means that I should feel bad about letting someone buy me dinner, a trip to Paris, or a tiny treehouse for me and my cat if they are so moved by my presence in their life.
Sex is always a trade. Anyway, here's why I respect and support escorts:
Marriage is a financial and legal arrangement.
Don't hate me, but marriage is not about love. The origins of marriage are economic, not romantic. It is, primarily a legal and financial institution.
Our culture is heavily-biased towards (straight, traditional) marriage. So much so, that single people are penalized. The Atlantic recently asserted that single women can expect to pay over $1 MILLION more than married women over their lifetimes.
If it were just about love, the government and/or your religious institution of choice would not have to be involved.
Marriage is treated preferentially but that doesn't mean that it provides any real benefit to women.
So, marriage, today, is an accepted and preferred form of financial and legal arrangement between two people. So it must be good for us, right? There's a lot of research that argues that it might not be beneficial to the health and happiness of women.
If our society rewards marriage and accepts that women are "worth" less than men in the workplace,* does that not sanctify the position of "wife" as inherently financially valuable to a woman? We have no problem with wives who use the financial resources of their husbands during a marriage (and frequently after it ends). And, we are only passingly disturbed by women who appear to have married for money.
But if you take marriage off the table entirely, somehow a financial exchange becomes shameful.
I think to properly understand why a woman would participate in -- to use Leandra's words -- such an "ephemeral, so besmirching, so downright regressive" occupation, we first have to answer the question of why we insist that traditional marriage is a "good fit" for everyone in the first place even in the face of much evidence to the contrary.
There are marked health and emotional benefits to being in love, of course. But marriage isn't any more synonymous with love than sex is...
Alternative arrangements ARE intended to mutually beneficial.
Unlike marriages, the "asset" exchange is entirely up front, understood, and up to those involved. Plus! When the arrangement ceases to be mutually beneficial, you don't need lawyers to terminate it.
The object of forming any partnership is to secure an advantage or benefit that was not available without it. And if it's just an exchange of assets, this is america and we are capitalists. How can we shame a woman for trying to maximally shift the power exchange to suit her purposes in any partnership she enters? Is her time not worth anything if she's not a wife-in-training? Similarly, we shouldn't shame men for using capital to appropriately value and appreciate time spent with a consenting partner.
Think of it as the relationship equivalent of an MVP or minimally viable product that serves the stated goals of both parties for the time.
None of that seems particularly regressive to me.
What about love?
What about it? We've already established that love, sex, and marriage exist in separate (if not overlapping) spheres. I think it's important to have this discussion openly. Part of the reason I think the Girlfriend Experience is so controversial is because it blurs the lines between an acceptable and unacceptable exchanges of sex, money, and power. It's not "just" sex for money. (Which I also think is highly reasonable, especially considering the disproportionate physical and financial risks involved between parties. tbc). It combines the elements in a way we're not exactly comfortable with.
But if we cling to the concept that a woman's most valuable bargaining chip is her sexuality, isn't the biggest difference between the "GFE" and a traditional relationship simply the timeline and/or duration under which the exchange of "assets" occurs? In which case, aren't we all whores?
Instead of viewing these arrangements as inherently extortive, maybe we should just take them for what they are - alternative agreements between consenting adults.
Now Your Thoughts in the Comments Please! I am Dying to Know.
A disclaimer: There is rampant sexual slavery in America right now. I am not talking about that, which is fundamentally oppressive and therefore, evil. I am focusing this discussion only on women who are voluntarily professional escorts and their clients.