Rose is a 27 year old escort living in rural Tennessee. She’s been in the business for three years, and also works an office job. I talked to her about the challenges of being a sex worker in a small town, and living a double life.
How and why did you get into escorting?
Rose: I’ve actually had an interest in doing it since I was young. Then, a few years ago I became friends with a girl and one night we drank a bunch and she ended up telling me about her sugar daddy who takes care of her bills, eventually as we became good friends she told me she also was an escort and started telling me about her Johns. I thought the job sounded really intriguing, and like an easy want to make money. She helped me get started, and showed me an escort website where you can post personal ads.
It’s funny, I’ve talked to a lot of sex workers and many of them say something similar–that sex work something they’d always wanted to do. Sort of like how if you ask a doctor about her job she’ll say, “I’ve always been interested in medicine.”
Yeah lol, it’s a total calling. Plus I’m not a person who makes emotional attachments through sex–it’s just a physical thing for me. Of course sex can be emotional, and I do enjoy having sex with people I have actual feelings for, but I’m also good at detaching. I don’t think most of my friends could do this job.
So if you have an office job, and don’t “need” money, is escorting just for thrills?
Honestly, sometimes I feel like I only have a legitimate job to cover for my greasy side work, and keep my family and friends from asking too many questions. I lead what some would call a double life. I’m attractive, I work, I’m popular in my area, but I also enjoy having my lifestyle paid for by men who go weak for a blonde with a Southern accent.
I know you live in a small town. Is it easy to make money escorting there?
Not at all. I live in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee–Nashville and Memphis are each two hours away–so it’s not the most reliable place to make money. There’s a lot of work in Nashville and Memphis, but that involves four hours of round trip travel, and then half the guys are flakes, so I like to arrange multiple appointments over a couple days if I’m going to make the time and effort to travel. Still, a lot of the time it’s a wasted effort and I end up spending more money than I make. But occasionally it works out. A lot of the time I arrange to work together with my escort friend who I mentioned–we’ll go to Memphis or Nashville together, which means we save money on gas and hotels. If I see clients in my hometown, they tend to be men who are traveling on business. But I don’t really like to work here too much, because it’s such a small, sleepy town, so it’s hard for me to walk into a Hampton Inn because I literally might know the person working behind the counter. Gossip here travels fast. Plus my parents live here–my dad owns a small business, and actually one of my clients owns a company that he buys goods from, so it’s risky business, really.
Have you ever used a sugar daddy website to meet clients, rather than a straight-up escort site?
I have, but they aren’t my favorite. A sugar daddy site once resulted in the biggest debacle I’ve ever gotten myself into.
Well, the guy lived in New York and was CFO of a major TV news station, and he bought me a train ticket to visit him. I normally wouldn’t have gone, but I was already planning to come to New York to visit my friend, so I figured I might as well make money while I was there. So I ended up missing my train and getting there three hours later expected, at 8pm. He had a car pick me up at the station which brought me to wherever he lived in Brooklyn, which I quickly realized wasn’t a nice part of town, and then his apartment was crappy and rodent infested, and we literally had takeout for dinner.
Eww, NO. Takeout is so depressing.
I know! So I spent the night and I blew him but I was like, “I’m not having actual sex with you because you haven’t given me any money yet or fed me properly.” So the next morning we woke up and I asked what he had planned for us that evening, and he was like, “Actually I don’t think is going to work out, you should just stay with you friend.” And I was like, “Well, what about my money?” And he goes, “I’m sure you’ll figure something out.” Like… thanks dude.
That’s heinous. From what I’ve heard, that’s what can be weird about sugar daddy sites–the money-for-time exchange isn’t as clear cut. Men who hire escorts know they have to pay by the hour, but sugar daddies want pseudo girlfriends–so basically a “non sex worker”–because they want to feel like they’re just helping a girl out, rather than paying for sex. But sometimes they can abuse that ambiguity.
Yeah, that’s what’s annoying about those sites, because it’s like, I am a call girl, I am an escort. On sugar daddy sites it’s really hard for me to draw the line between not wanting to sound like a professional, and making sure I get paid well. Plus those guy can be so needy too. I had one sugar daddy who wanted to text me constantly, and ask how my day was. I was like “Ugh, I don’t want to tell you how my day was!” And the weirdest part was that I think he was gay, so I never even slept with him. I would only kiss him on the cheek.
Do you think he wanted you to be his “beard” or whatever?
Well no, because we never went out in public. I just went to his house. He had a really awesome, old Victorian house with a giant wrap-around porch that we would sit on and drink beer. He gave me a $700 iPad on our first date, and he bought me a really nice collection of Jeffrey Campbell shoes that I don’t really know what to do with.
How do you juggle your real life relationships with your work? Do you tell guys on the first date about your job? Do you keep it a secret? What’s the protocol?
Juggling a relationship is complicated. In my personal sex life I generally have about five people at one time who I’m talking to, but I don’t commit to any of them because I’ve realized I just don’t want to be in a monogamous relationship. Generally, I don’t tell them about my job. There was one guy who was my primary hook-up for a year, and he would absolutely die if he knew I did any of this while I was with him–which I did, a lot. However, if I get to a point where I actually want to be in a relationship, the person will have to know and be OK with my work, because I don’t want to lie again. Basically, any guy who wants a traditional, monogamous relationship is instantly a no.
Have you ever met a guy, told him what you do, and he didn’t care?
Yeah, there’s one guy I’ve been seeing pretty casually for years, and he knows what I do and likes it. He has a thing for getting with total strangers, which I think is hot, and he think it’s hot that I get paid, so we enjoy talking about that. We probably could make so much money if we worked as a pair, but he refuses. He has a good job so he doesn’t need to make extra money.
Do you think working as an escort fulfills your sexual needs? Like maybe if you weren’t doing this you’d be more interested in having a conventional boyfriend, because you wouldn’t be getting so much sex and attention?
I kinda of feel like the three years of escorting has deterred me from ever wanting a conventional relationship again. Society wants to put you in a box, and tell you to be with one person, but then at work I see so many married men who are cheating on their wives, and they’re all so unhappy. Most of the time I have to sit there for an hour and listen to them talk about how they’re married to women who don’t appreciate them, who don’t have sex with them, who just take their money. And meanwhile they’re paying me $300 to listen to them. It makes me feel bad for them. I’ve actually been married before, when I was 21, but I got divorced when I was 23. We were together for 6 years.
Wow, 21 is young.
Yeah but it’s completely normal where I’m from–that’s how I got trapped into it. At 22 I had a career, a boyfriend, a perfect house and a nice car–the life some people dream of–but I was so unhappy. I didn’t have any friends, because all my old friends were going to college, so I would just come home from work and make dinner. Six months into being married my husband lived in the basement and I lived upstairs. We didn’t even talk anymore.
So there were two years in between your divorce and when you started doing sex work?
Yeah, it was weird because I was 23 and I’d never been on a real date before, and I’d only ever had sex with one person. It was basically like being 15 again. I ended up going to school–I have three college degrees. I dated people and made friends. It took me a minute to ease into having sex with other people because it seemed so strange after only having seen one person naked ever. But it’s been pretty easy since then.
Do you ever enjoy sex with clients?
I definitely like it sometimes, because I don’t care what they think about how I look, so I’m really uninhibited, whereas I get nervous and uptight around people I actually like.
Do you ever find being a prostitute degrading?
I don’t. I actually find it semi-empowering that there are people willing to pay money and buy me nice things just to hang out with for me an hour. I’m really nothing special–I’m just a small town girl with an office job who’s never done anything really spectacular.
Have you ever had any weird requests from clients?
Oh yeah. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this whole experience, it’s that people are just weird. But I kind of enjoy that. Probably my favorite part about getting into this industry has been learning about all the weird things that get people off, and how unique and special people really are. I had this one guy who liked to be humiliated–he didn’t want me to let him touch me, which is fine because I prefer that. So we would go out to lunch or dinner, and I would wear something really nice and low cut to draw attention. He totally got off on other people were looking at us, thinking he wasn’t good enough to be out with me. Then we’d go back to the hotel room and I would videotape him masturbating while I told him he could never touch me.
Lol, that’s like being a dominatrix–I’ve done Domme sessions similar to that. So have you ever been really broke and done anything “drastic” to make money?
Not too drastic, but there was a month where I was between job and I needed money really bad, so I put an ad up on the ‘casual encounters’ section of Craigslist that was like “I need help, I’m traveling through the area and my car broke down, blah blah blah.” In two hours I got sixty responses. Over the next week I met three of the guys at hotels for sex, only one of which could actually perform, and made almost $2,000. I told each of them that my car needed a $600 repair and they all gave it to me.
Do your friends know what you do? Are they judgmental?
My good friends know, but I usually phrase it like I have a “sugar daddy” rather than that I’m a prostitute, ya know? I haven’t been able to tell my guy friends at all really–I find that they’re more judgmental than the girls. But I had one female friend get really judgmental on me when I did the Craigslist thing, and told me my job was degrading. But I was just like, “Well if that’s how you feel then we can’t be friends, because I think it’s degrading that you’re almost 30 and live with your parents. At least I make money and have my own place.”
You said you feel empowered by what you do. But have there ever been any moments when you felt bad, or you questioned what you were doing?
I usually feel a bit apprehensive before an appointment, but I really haven’t had any “bad experiences.” I mean, I’ve definitely had to sleep with my fair share of men that weren’t attractive–like really fat or really old, or really small dicks–but for me escorting is just a job, and I far prefer it to other jobs I’ve had, like when I worked in a deli and had to bread fried chicken. I was like, “Eww, I don’t want to do this, I hate my life!” But I don’t feel like that now. Still, I don’t imagine myself doing this forever.p.s. You can read my interview with a New York City escort here.