“A woman doesn’t have to pay.” That is what is quickly answered in Amsterdam. Because it’s obvious, isn’t it? A woman can visit any cafe at night and pick up whoever she wants. She does not need to pay. Why on earth should men sit 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 is a one way market. “Every woman knows very well that nothing is more dangerous than going to a bar in the evening and picking up the first one that comes along”, René counters. “So that in three months we find you cut into pieces in his refrigerator”, he says. And then, “Do you think you have to pay?”, he whispers down my neck, my blouse between his fingers.
Because the ‘men for women’ market does exist: it is only a hidden market.
He is 42, he has the body of a god: René is a management consultant and secretly presents himself as a male escort or gigolo about three times a week. I first met him 20 minutes ago in the hotel lobby. In theory, we’re not necessarily meant 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, selected 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 not less than that. Because it all starts with two massages, a relaxing one, according to René’s definition, during which you still wear a few centimeters of fabric. The other….
He runs a finger across my lips to wipe 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 pushed a knee between my thighs. And that’s worth more than thirty hands.
Men behind the windows has already been tried in 2007. It took only one day, with zero customers as a result. The idea wasn’t wrong, but the window was. What works, of course, is contact via the internet. And not just in Amsterdam.
Returning clients are the ones I’m about to interview, and they’re the opposite of what we might imagine. A minimum of €300 for an appointment plus the hotel and supplies. In the fifteen minutes it takes a woman, so to speak, to inquire after his name, a man would already be ready and satisfied. The extra time and the resulting higher price make the gigolo market an elite market and is mainly visited by so-called career women.
The first one I met -after promising her complete anonymity- is easy to spot. Like me, she’s a TV journalist, flawless from head to toe. “I’m single now, and I wouldn’t have any trouble finding a guy for a one-night stand. On the contrary, they’re usually after me. Only I work in a male-dominated environment where I’d be labeled as ‘slut’, where this doesn’t happen to a man who has a different woman every night. A man can admit this without any problem. It’s not only socially allowed, it’s socially accepted, isn’t it? The cool man no woman opposes. 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 the ages of 25 and 45. And most of all like her. “But they book me for a variety of reasons”, René explains. “In the end, they all have their own story. From the 30-year-old who considers her non-existent first sexual experience, her virginity a barrier, to that lady from a few days ago. Cheated 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. He had to leave her alone with me.”
“Or, as is often the case, couples who, let’s say, don’t like routine. Or women missing something in their marriage, but not enough to want to end it. And a lot of women who don’t trust their bodies, and as a result don’t trust sex. Women who barely know themselves and who are somehow afraid of themselves, their instincts, their emotions. Women who adore their partners but are afraid to lose them because of it. Somehow they feel chastened, incomplete.”
And women who want to discover. With me, discovering yourself is easier. These women don’t call me to get something else, another man, but mainly to get more depth in what they already know.”
“In the end, I often think: I think I should actually be the one who pays.”
But this is something that René will only explain to me later. Now he’s holding 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, where you belong, and invites you to dinner.
At the moment, he is fully focused on his role. You can ask him whatever you want, there are no limits, no rules except that he is the one who starts. He’s a professional, a master of the game of expectations. With your back to him, you can’t see him, he starts massaging you. It is the only rule: only feel him, feel only yourself.
You barely have time enough to realize that you are really here and that you are now lying naked with a stranger. 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 hold of you and overwhelms you. This is the most beautiful thing in this fast-paced world. He pampers you. His hands all over 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 trying to understand who you are. Usually a date follows after a month and a half of messages or telephone conversations. Questions are mutual. “Because frankly, the taboo on my job is a different kind”, he says. “It’s not about the woman who is looking for sex. It’s about the woman who is looking for pleasure, I mean the woman who wants to receive without having to give anything in return. To do something just for herself. That’s why 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 are weighed down by thousands expectations, thousands of responsibilities, limitations, thousands of fears, you are accustomed 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 in the service of men.”
“It’s strange indeed. While every man strives to make you feel special, the beauty of René is that he makes you feel normal. He frees you from insecurity. And, just for a second, of your fears. And it also helps you put it in context, to understand that you are not alone”, F. (34) tells me. She’s a criminal defense attorney, she’s skilled with words. But not now, as she sits in front of me in a bar, charmingly unaware, fragile, looking the other way. “My childhood…my teenage years…let’s put it this way, it’s been unusual. A failed relationship. Trusting is hard for me, opening myself up. An orgasm…it’s not easy. My last relationship ended because of that. Also because of it. You can’t imagine how much I loved him. I was so frustrated, so discouraged.”
Although we were supposed to be talking about sex, we eventually come to talk about prostitution. We feel that sex for pay is for men or women who shy away from emotional involvement, but instead it is 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 agreement is clear. You can be sure of complete discretion, that René will go away again and so you can -I know it sounds weird- open up completely”, she says. “And eventually you realize that you are not alone. Because whatever your background, René probably met many women with a background like yours. You realize it’s not your fault that your life turned out the way it did. And that now it’s a matter of learning how to enjoy life. Even if only for three hours. Learn to forget.”
The entire appointment is tailored to you. You can do what you want, stop when you want, three hours of complete freedom. You can be whatever or whoever you want, and do things you never thought you could do. Because everything is so relaxed, so sweet, sensual and unearthly nice. At some point you just realize he’s not just touching you with his hands. You are now on your back, your eyes are still closed, like he wanted you to. And that one rule: that you have to let things go for once, you have to let yourself go and nothing else. Feel it. Feel yourself.
He is touching you. A body, over you. And a warm voice. As he caresses your neck, before you get overwhelmed, he sweetly asks you, “Can I?”