[Dash of SAS] Brokering intimacy
“It’s not always about sex. Some men just want to talk.”
I did not know what to expect when I set out to meet Gwen, but it was not the non-chalant declaration of her services.
Gwen is a PSP, a personal services provider. In simpler terms, she is a freelance sex worker. Gwen was referred to me by a friend, who is one of her clients.
I did not expect Gwen to be barely 5 feet tall, rounded on all edges, her sharp street-smarts casually dressed in t-shirt and jeans. Ok, so maybe our meeting in a coffee shop in Quezon City merited a more subdued outfit, I thought to myself.
“Look, I know I’m not the prettiest PSP around. I’m short and chubby. But I know what I’ve got,” Gwen offered, as if reading my mind.
I leaned in closer thinking that Gwen would tell me some kind of mind-blowing sex tip that turns any man to putty between her legs.
“I can talk,” she said.
“I’m sorry?” I asked, uncertain what to make of her statement.
“I can talk,” she repeated. “I can carry a conversation. It’s not always about the sex. Some men just want to talk. And men are willing to pay extra for that,” she said, flipping her hair behind her shoulder.
Not exactly more cost-efficient, but for P2,500 to P3,000 for two hours maybe hooking up with a PSP was a sexier form of talk therapy.
GFE: The Girlfriend Experience
It was from Gwen that I first heard about GFE or the girlfriend experience which her clients were more than willing to pay a premium for.
“We talk first. I ask him about his day and I listen. I call him ‘honey’ or ‘baby.' I treat him like he’s my boyfriend, not just a customer,” she said demurely nibbling the cookie she ordered with her coffee.
And when the clothes come off, Gwen puts on a performance of enjoyment and pleasure.
GFE is where the business transaction ends and the semblance of a relationship begins. But can’t men get the “girlfriend experience” from his well, girlfriend? Or from his wife?
Apparently not. Not that it mattered to Gwen. The relationship gap was a business opportunity she was willing to fill.
There is always the danger of familiarity, of getting attached, Gwen admitted. Especially for the men who see her on a regular basis, like once a week. The payment made at the end of an encounter resets the boundaries and douses any sort of delusion that the relationship will transcend the four walls of a motel room.
“How do you know you’re the only one he’s seeing?” I asked her.
“If he sees me once a week, that’s P10,000 a month – at the very least. He can’t afford to keep more than one PSP and his wife.”
Accidental sex worker
Gwen got into sex work by accident.
She was already looking for hook-ups online and was surprised when after one dalliance, the guy pumped cash into her palm, thanked her and bid her good-bye. Her initial shock and indignation quickly wore off when she counted the money. “I can actually make good money from this,” thought Gwen.
From brokering casual hook-ups, Gwen began actively marketing herself online to test the viability of this business.
“I’m upfront about my looks, but even when answering inquiries, I make sure I sound professional. I invest time in answering questions and talking to prospects.” In the same way, Gwen also screens inquiries based on the way they text, phrase their questions or negotiate her asking price. “‘Pag medyo jologs, never mind.”
Pretty soon, she quit her day job working for a travel agency and focused on another kind of booking.
“It (bookings) was beginning to get in the way of my work. Ora-orado kasi sila mag-book, pag may window, ‘yun na.” (They always book at the last minute. If there’s a window of opportunity, they have take it).
“The latest that a man can be with me is 8 or 9 PM. Beyond that, his wife or his girlfriend will come calling looking for him.” In Gwen’s business, 5pm to 7pm is rush hour.
When the story of my interview with Gwen came out, several of my female friends reacted with incredulity. “What do you mean sometimes men just want to talk?”
It sounded like a fumbling excuse from an unfaithful lover who has been caught with his pants down. But since I first met Gwen, I have interviewed many other sex workers and they have all uttered a variation of Gwen’s revelation.
Whether employed in bars, working as independent freelancers, or internationally crossing borders and timezones for a rendezvous of the flesh, they have all said: It’s not just about the sex.
What sex workers are also selling is a fantasy, an illusion of a life not bogged down with mundane discussions about bills, the drudgery of family gatherings and having to put up with each other’s friends.
Monogamy brings security and stability. But its evil twin is monotony. The humdrum flatline that comes with living out life’s routines that bind us to the existence of another person.
A veteran sex worker will see it from a less utilitarian perspective. It is fornication with no strings, conversations without consequences, affection sans expectations.
It is not sex that she is selling. It is intimacy she is brokering. – Rappler.com