“A woman doesn’t have to pay.” That’s what you’ll soon be told in Amsterdam. Because it’s clear, isn’t it? A woman can visit any cafe in the evening and pick up whoever she wants. She does not need to pay. Why on earth should there be men in the windows of the Red Light District, where you can buy fifteen minutes of sex for €50, just in the shadow of the church? Such a naive question. A woman usually has to shake off men.
It’s a one-way market. “Every woman knows very well that nothing is more dangerous than going to a pub in the evening and picking up the first one that comes along,” René objects. “So that we find you cut into pieces in his fridge in three months,” he says. And then, “Do you think you have to pay?”, he whispers down my neck, the fabric of my blouse between his fingers. The market ‘men for women’ does exist: it is only a hidden market.
He’s 42, he has the body of a god: René is a management consultant and secretly offers himself about three times a week as a male escort, or gigolo. I first met him twenty minutes ago in the hotel lobby, and in theory we’re not necessarily supposed to end up in bed together.
“The most important feature of my work is not sex. Let’s say it’s half listening and half sex. All in all, it’s mostly about having fun,” he smiles. In the meantime he has already dimmed the lights, chosen piano music and poured two glasses of wine. His hands are already on my back and dangerously sliding down.
The date will last three hours. Or more, if you prefer, but no less than that. It all starts with two massages, a relaxing one, according to René’s definition, where you still wear a few centimeters of fabric. The other…. He runs a finger across my lips, wiping away every word. His hands slide intensely down more and more. We’re not supposed to end up in bed together, but he’s gently slipped a knee between my thighs. And that’s worth more than thirty hands.
Men behind the windows was already tried in 2007. It only lasted one day, with zero customers as a result. The idea wasn’t wrong, but the window was. What does work is contact via the internet. And not just Amsterdam.
Returning clients are the ones I’m about to interview, and they’re the opposite of what we might imagine. A minimum of €250 for an appointment plus the hotel and supplies. In the fifteen minutes it takes a woman, so to speak, to inquire about his name, a man would be ready and satisfied. That extra time and the resulting higher price makes the gigolo market an elite market and is mainly visited by so-called career women.
I easily recognize the first one I met – after having promised her complete anonymity. She’s a TV journalist like me, flawless from head to toe. “I’m single now, and I would have absolutely no trouble finding a man for a one-night stand. On the contrary, they’re usually after me. It’s just that I work in a male-dominated environment where I would be labeled as “slut”, where this does not happen to a man who has a another woman every night. A man can admit this without any problem. It is not only socially allowed, it is also socially accepted, isn’t it? The cool man that no woman can resist. But if I were to say, I like men, men are hot, sex is good… If I were the one to say that, it would just be considered vulgar.”
His clientele is between 25 and 45 years old. And just like her. “They book me for the most diverse reasons,” René explains. “In the end, all ladies have their own stories. From the 30-year-old who considers her non-existent first sexual experience and her virginity a hindrance, to that lady from a few days ago, cheated on by her husband. She wanted him to understand what it felt like. The wound. The horror, the disillusionment. I arrived at her place and her husband was there too. He had to leave her alone with me.”
“Or also – as often happens – couples who, let’s say, don’t like routine. Or women who lack something in their marriage, but not enough to want to end the relationship. And a lot of women who don’t trust their bodies, and as a result don’t trust sex either. Women who barely know themselves and who are somehow afraid of themselves, their instincts, their emotions. Women who adore their partners but fear losing them because of it. Somehow they feel chastened, incomplete.”
“And, of course, women who want to explore. With me, exploring and discovering yourself is easier. These women don’t call me to get something else, a fling, they call me mainly to get more depth in what they already know.” “In the end, I often think that I should actually be the one paying.”
But that’s something René tells me later. Now he holds me tight, skin to skin, on that island of half-light and whispered words. Mutual discovery, where nothing else matters. Or when he slips the ring back on your finger, to take you back to your own life, to which you belong, and invites you to dinner.
At this moment, he is fully focused on his role. You can ask him whatever you want, there are no boundaries, no rules except that he is the one who starts. He is a professional, a master of the game of expectations. With your back turned to him, you can’t see him, he starts massaging. It is the only rule: only feel him, feel only yourself.
You barely have time to realize that you are really here and that you are naked in bed with a man, stranger, you just met. His intense way of touching you all over and, driven by your reaction, your shiver, your breath, each time stopping just a little earlier.. With that knee always there, between your thighs, and the lust that slowly and powerfully takes possession of you and overwhelms you. This is the most beautiful thing in this fast-paced world. He pampers you. His hands everywhere, on your breasts, your nipples he plays with. It builds up and pulls back and your body is revived. It’s no longer a matter of a few erogenous spots, your whole body is involved, that’s the best part. You would like to turn around and say, “take me, take me now…”
René never says ‘my clients’. He is a professional and talks about ‘my women’. He is interested in you and he is trying to understand who you are. Usually a date follows after a month of texts s or phone calls back and forth. Questions are mutual. “Because frankly, the taboo on my job is a different kind,” he says. “It’s not about the woman looking for sex. It’s about the woman looking for pleasure, I mean the woman who wants to receive without having to give anything in return. To do something just for herself. You can ask me what and how you want it, but basically I just want you to ‘be there’, nothing else. In my hands. I want everything to be attuned to you for a moment. You’re weighed down by thousands expectations, thousands of responsibilities, limitations, thousands of fears, you are used to giving much and receiving little, and believing that you receive little because you have not given enough, because you would not be entitled to it, you receive little because that is custom: our society is at the service of men.”
“It’s strange indeed. While every man strives to make you feel special, the beauty of René is precisely that he makes you feel normal. He frees you from insecurity. And, for a moment, of your fears. And it also helps you to put it in context, to make you understand that you are not alone”, F. (34) tells me. She’s a criminal defense attorney, she’s usually skilled with words. But not now, as she sits in front of me in a café, charmingly oblivious, fragile, looking the other way. “My childhood…my teenage years…let’s put it this way, it’s been unusual. A failed relationship. Trust is difficult for me, opening myself up. An orgasm…it’s not easy. My last relationship ended because of that. Also because of that. You can’t imagine how much I loved him. I was so frustrated, so discouraged.”
Although we would be talking about sex, we end up talking about prostitution. We have this idea that sex for money is for men or women who shy away from emotional involvement, but instead it’s very different. “There is definitely an emotional exchange. It’s not just sex. It’s a deep exchange, much deeper than usual, precisely because in the end you are with a stranger and the similarity is clear. You can be sure of complete discretion, that René will leave, and so you can – I know it sounds weird – open up completely,” she says. “And eventually you realize you’re not alone. Because whatever your background, René has probably met many women with a background just like yours. You realize it’s not your fault that your life turned out the way it did. And that it is now a matter of learning to enjoy life. Even if it’s only for three hours. Learning to forget.”
The entire appointment is tailored to you. You can do whatever you want, stop whenever you want, three hours of complete freedom. You can be whatever or whoever you want, and do things you never thought you were capable of. Because everything is so relaxed, so sweet, sensual and so unearthly nice. At some point, you just realize that he’s not just touching you with his hands.
You are now lying on your back, your eyes are still closed as he wanted you to. And that one rule: that you have to let things go for once, that you have to let yourself go and nothing else. Feel. Feel yourself.
He touches you. A body, above you. And a warm voice. While caressing your neck, before you get overwhelmed, he sweetly asks, “Can I?”