There’s an old saying, “If you treated your wife like you treated your hooker, you’d have the world’s strongest marriage.”
Not familiar with that chestnut? Well, then you probably haven’t talked to enough prostitutes. Yes, they say things like that. And they’re not kidding. They’ve got tales that’ll make you cringe, many of which involve some pretty freaky sexual requests. But many of their stories are shockingly... sweet.
The way they talk about their relationships with their johns — who’ve been repeat customers almost as long as they’ve worn wedding bands — it almost sounds like a marriage. A happy marriage, no less. Brianna, a sex worker based in New York City, estimates that 90% of her clients are “married or in long term monogamous relationships.” And while they certainly visit her for the chance to be with a naked woman who isn’t their wife, she also says that her job is “95% emotional labor and just 5% sex.”
And the labor is a two-way street. Some married guys try harder to please their prostitutes than they do the women they ostensibly promised to spend the rest of their lives with.
I reached out to 10 high-end escorts — women who earn more per hour than many doctors — and asked them to share their relationship secrets.
What do their married clients do right, and when do they screw up? How do men woo them, negotiate with them (emotionally and otherwise), and behave in ways that would probably translate nicely if they started using these same strategies with their spouses, the women who aren’t offering companionship in exchange for an envelope full of cash left discretely on the nightstand?
SECRET 1: Always Ask For What You Want
When you pay for sex, there are no games. If you want something, you ask. “It’s so easy in this environment,” says Amber from New York. “Maybe it’s because of the transactional nature. It’s better this way, I think. You can’t go into a car dealership and say, ‘Whatever you’ve got on the lot is fine.’”
Heather from Orlando, Florida says her best customers are the ones who don’t beat around the bush (unless that’s what they’re paying for.) “I had a guy actually write me a three-page letter, explaining every tiny detail about his fetish,” she says.
The same goes for the escorts. There’s not a lot of mystery about what they will or won’t do. “It’s all there on my website,” says Heather. “No disgusting fetishes. No physical pain.”
Married people expect their mate to read their mind, says Cecilia Dahl, an Austin-based escort. She can’t grasp why married guys aren’t more honest with their wives. “It’s weird,” Dahl says. “You’ll make sure a Starbucks cashier knows exactly what you want. But you won’t tell your wife you like oral.”
The Experts Say:
These prostitutes might be on to something, says Dr. Michael Bennett, M.D., a Boston psychiatrist and coauthor of F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems. Just don’t take their advice too literally.
“The sex worker or Starbucks employee knows he or she can invite customers to ask for what they want,” says Dr. Bennett. “Not just because the transaction is impersonal, but because no matter how degrading or demanding the request, they’re getting paid.”
You’re not paying your wife for sex, so you can’t walk into your bedroom tonight and make requests like you’re picking options from a menu. But there is some value in talking about the things you want — sexually and otherwise — with a little more openness and bluntness.
Take the emotion out of it, says Dr. Bennett. “Stay away from expressing your need for sex or your attitude that you deserve it.” Instead, talk about what you think has been lacking in the sack recently, without making it personal. “Tell her you want to know what gives her pleasure, and she should know what works for you because it’s good for the relationship,” says Dr. Bennett.
SECRET 2: Have Sex During Your Lunch Break
Married men rarely visit prostitutes at night and never on weekends. That’s how sloppy johns get caught. Guys who want to be surreptitious do it when they’re supposed to be at work — that’s the perfect alibi.
“One of my regulars always tells his secretary he’s going to the library,” says Dakota, a longtime escort from Denver, Colorado. “I think that makes it more exciting for him. You’re getting laid on company time.”
Remember when sex with your wife was like that? When there was no such thing as “date night”? You’d sneak away to see her, and it felt like you had a filthy little secret from the world.
“The best sex feels like you’re getting away with something,” says Deb Libra, an escort in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “You need that sense that you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing. You should look at your partner and tell her, ‘I miss it when we used to do it in the car.’”
The Experts Say:
Many married men visit hookers for the adrenaline rush they’ve lost at home.
“The risk is exciting,” says Wendy Fader, Ph.D., a psychologist and sex therapist. A date night, by contrast, comes with zero risk. The worst that can happen is the babysitter cancels, or you forgot to make reservations at that one restaurant you both wanted to try. There’s never a feeling that before the night is over, you’re both going to need a good lawyer.
Is your date night usually on a weekend? Cancel it. Instead, have her meet you downtown during your lunch break for a quickie. Rent one of those by-the-hour hotels and see what happens. Or if you have to do a weekend, wait till your in-laws are on their way over, and then see if you can master the complicated positions necessary to have car sex in your unlocked garage before they arrive.
Are you seriously doing this? Hell yes you are. You’re a bad, bad man. It’s time to remember what that feels like again.
SECRET 3: Don’t Fight About Money
Savannah from New York has never had a disagreement with one of her customers about money.
“Some guys who come in here want to negotiate rates,” she says. “I always win. You don’t like the price? Get the hell out.”
She thinks all financial negotiations between men and women should happen this way. Things cost what they cost. You pay or you don’t. The things you don’t pay for, you don’t get.
“I’m not an asshole,” she says. “If you’re a steady client and you’re $20 short, I won’t chase you down the street. But next time, you better make it right.”
The Experts Say:
Squabbling over finances? You may be on the path to divorce, says Sonya Britt, Ph.D., a professor at Kansas State University.
Britt and her team analyzed data from more than 4,500 couples and linked arguments over money — more so than arguments about children, in-laws, and even the frequency in which they have sex — with lower relationship satisfaction and a higher likelihood of divorce.
In fact, all that yelling about the bank account could play into extramarital relationships, Britt speculates. Which is kind of fitting. Fighting with your wife about money could lead you into the arms of a prostitute, with whom you never fight about money. Your ex-wife’s credit card bills were egregious, but hey, a blowjob costs what it costs, right?
It all comes down to treating your wife with the same respect you’d have for a woman charging you extra to tickle your balls.
SECRET 4: Give Your Armpit an Extra Whiff
Think the only thing prostitutes care about is dough? “The money is great, but I’ll give up the biggest payday is he smells like a dumpster,” says Crystal from Los Angeles.
Escorts talk to each other; that’s how they gauge a new client’s trustworthiness. But they don’t talk about who’s a big spender or who has an enormous schlong. “None of that matters,” Crystal says. “The best recommendation you can get is if she says, ‘He shows up on time, and he’s clean.’ That’s like music to an escort’s ear. Oh my god, he’s clean?”
The Experts Say:
It’s not that you don’t bathe enough. You’re not a train hobo from the 30s. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have body odor, and that she might be noticing something you don’t.
“In general, women are more sensitive to odors than men are,” says Dr. George Preti, Ph.D., of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “A women will notice an unpleasant odor before a man will. She may even notice something that he can’t smell at all.”
In Preti’s study evaluating whether fragrance chemicals could block perceptions of armpit stench, only two of 32 fragrances prevented women from detecting an odor, while 19 of them fooled men. Just because you can’t smell something doesn’t mean it’s not there.
So what’s the solution? Don’t be overconfident in your odor profile. “Ask your partner,” Preti suggests. “I’d trust a partner before I’d trust my own nose.”
SECRET 5: Accept That The Grass Isn’t Greener
Every so often, one of Savannah’s regular clients goes through a horrifying transformation. “He gets that stupid look in his eyes,” she says, “and then he starts making little jokes about how we should run away together. And I’m like, oh no, this poor bastard is catching the feelings.”
Yes, sometimes johns fall in love. They promise to divorce their wives, empty their bank accounts, and devote themselves entirely to the woman they’ve been paying for sex.
The problem isn’t the impracticality of it, even though we all know divorce is messy enough without adding a prostitute lover into the mix. And it isn’t even that the guy is confusing fiction like Pretty Woman with reality. The problem is that prostitutes are people too. And people get annoying the more you’re exposed to them.
“They don’t have to live with me,” says Brandy of her clients. “They don’t know what I’m really like. It’s very easy to be on your best behavior for an hour or two.”
Melody, an escort in Indianapolis, Indiana, has dealt with a multitude of men suffering from “grass is greener” syndrome. “Some of them tell me, ‘I would leave my wife for you.’ But they’re getting the fun part. They don’t have to deal with me day to day. They don’t see me in my sweatpants, vegged out on the couch, or stressed out about bills. If I lived with them, I guarantee I’d become their nagging wife.”
The Experts Say:
There’s nothing wrong with escape fantasies, says Fader. Even the most happily married couples daydream about getting out.
“That’s human nature,” says Fader. “But in a solid relationship, you might look at your co-worker and think she seems really cool and hot and interesting. But then you keep your dick in your pants and you go home to your wife.”
Enjoy your fantasies. Imagine how wonderful it’d be to skip town with that mystery woman, create a new life and start over. But don’t act on it. It’s the same reason you can have revenge fantasies but not actually poison your boss’s coffee. Because you’re not a crazy person.
SECRET 6: It’s Okay to Want Something Just For You
Amber of New York City prefers married clients because they seem happier. “One talks about his kids all the time, how great his home life is,” she says. “He’s like, ‘I work hard, I provide for my family, so let me have this one thing.’”
It sounds reasonable until you remember his “one thing” is putting his erect penis inside another woman.
“I asked a married guy about it,” Amber says. “I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this? You could lose everything.’ And he was like, ‘I’ve made a lot of sacrifices for my family. We moved to a city that I don’t like. We got the house that she wanted, near the perfect school for our son. I’ve done everything for them. I need something that’s just for me.’”
The Experts Say:
Let’s break this down: Having hobbies are cool. Having hobbies that don’t involve your wife are cool. Having hobbies that maybe your wife doesn’t know about or would even approve of are cool. Just don’t have hobbies that might result in you catching gonorrhea.
“I call it enlightened selfishness,” says Diana Wiley, Ph.D. a licensed marriage and sex therapist in Seattle, Washington. “It’s about taking care of yourself first. On planes, they even advise securing your own oxygen mask first before helping your child.”
In essence, Amber’s married client had the right idea. It’s okay to want something that’s just for you. It’s okay to be selfish. “When we feel energized, without resentments, this flows into the primary relationship,” says Wiley.
Treat yourself to something special — play hooky from work and go to a baseball game, for instance — and don’t tell your wife. It could be anything at all, as long as it doesn’t — and I can’t emphasize this point enough — involve your penis making contact with a person who isn’t your spouse.
SECRET 7: Some Fantasies You Should Probably Keep to Yourself
“I don’t see fetish guys,” says Brandy. “If it costs more than my therapist, I’m not going to do it. There are some things you can’t unsee.”
You don’t want to know more, but you kind of do, right?
“Once a man wants you to dress him in a diaper and feed him milk from a baby bottle, you cannot look at him as a man anymore,” Brandy says.
It gets so much worse. Brandy recalls another client whose favorite fantasy involved burning her at the stake for being a witch. “I’m on a rack, being tortured,” she says. “I’m burning alive, and he’s screwing me, mumbling something about the Judgment Day. It was awful. I wanted to die afterwards.”
It’s amazing what some escorts will smile and tolerate from their customers. But even they have their limits. “I’m not going to dress a 6’5” man in a woman’s dress,” Brandy says. “I’m 5’2”. It’s disgusting! It’s inappropriate! You know what I want to tell my clients sometimes? Stop trying to force a square peg in a round hole! That’s not even a metaphor! I mean that literally! Keep your weird shit away from my round hole!”
The Experts Say:
Christian Joyal, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, is pretty forgiving when it comes to weird sex fetishes. In 2014, he led a study examining the sex fantasies of about 1,500 adults and found that most of the desires considered atypical by mental health textbooks are actually pretty common and healthy.
In other words, that sex act you’ve been afraid to try because you think it’s so kinky really isn’t all that kinky.
Unless, that is, it involves burning somebody at the stake.
“The first criterion to determine if a sexual interest is abnormal or pathological is if it involves non-consenting partners,” Joyal explains. This includes sex with children, animals, anything involving rape, and oh yeah, burning witches.
“Yes, re-enacting an interest to burn a witch should be considered pathological,” he says.
Nobody is saying your marriage shouldn’t be a safe and nonjudgmental place to explore your fantasies. But if what you’re into would make even a career escort wince, then maybe you leave your wife out of it.
“I think we’d probably be horrified if we shared all of our fantasies,” says Fader. “Thank goodness we have filters. A little repression can be a good thing.”
[Originally published, in a slightly different form, in Men’s Health magazine.]