Stephen Hargreaves
The Lance Windsor CUP

I spent last Friday night with a prostitute.

I arranged to meet Chris* at 8 p.m. in a high-end bar downtown. Sitting alone at the bar I had a drink to pass the time and thought about the way we think of sex workers in western society: the myths of the back-alley sex trader in the seedier parts of town, addicted to drugs, abused as a child, working the red light districts, leaning into the windows of curb-crawling cars.

Selling sex is an old business; most say the oldest. While perceptions of prostitution have changed little, the sex trade often is nothing like the perceptions many hold.

“Stephen?” a well-dressed man asked me. It was Chris, who apologized for arriving late. He had just returned from a dinner date with a customer that culminated in a visit to a hotel. “I had to take a quick shower,” he said.

We took a table by the window, ordered a few martinis, and settled in to talk about his night, his job and his life. “I haven’t had to pay for a dinner at [this restaurant] in ages,” said Chris. “Their wine selection is really great too. I’ve had to learn a lot about wine and the finer things in life to maintain the wealthier clients.”

Chris’ dinner date was a Detroit area business owner-—a successful one—who enjoyed meeting for dinner in Windsor, followed with ‘desert’ in a hotel room. “He’s a really nice guy,” said Chris of his long-time customer, who, he explained, is a powerful and organized player in a number of fields of business in metro Detroit.

Chris told me about his client’s collection of German cars and Italian suits (he even had one made for Chris). He then told me about his customer’s large suburban house, where he lived with his wife and children.

“It’s a strange situation to be in at times. I wish he could come clean about his sexuality, but he has decided that he has no choice but to live a lie,” said Chris, adding that he wouldn’t be interested in a relationship with the man if he came out of the closet. He said he’d happily lose the client if it meant he was happy and honest with his family and the rest of his “real life.” Though it would be a lot of money to let go of, Chris told me that, on top of a free dinner, he made about $700 for his after-dinner services.

Chris then apologizes as he answers his phone. It’s his evening appointment. “No dinner this time,” he laughed. We finish our drinks and arrange to reconvene at a casino bar in an hour or so.

As Chris disappeared to entertain his next client, I surfed the internet on my phone, looking at his competition and his online persona. That’s when I realized just why Chris is so successful. He, unlike many other gay male sex workers in the region, didn’t solicit on forums and classifieds. He offered his escort services subtly in-between ads for posh restaurants and classic cars, offering company to American men who want a discrete relationship conveniently just across the river in Windsor, away from the prying eyes of acquaintances, associates and family.

When Chris returned he looks visibly tired.

“That was interesting,” he said, immediately ordering another drink. “That guy for instance, nice enough in person … just so angry at something. That’s the problem with those type of guys though; when some men pay for sex they are buying a window into a life that they are afraid to live and just for a short time they can let a huge part of themselves exist before running back to the life that they’ve decided they can’t leave. It scares the shit out of them.”

While working in the industry, initially in Toronto, Chris developed a huge respect for honesty in business, between friends and with himself.

“I’m honest with myself. I tell anyone who I am … what I do,” said Chris, though he added that he tells his parents that he works in IT. “I came out to them and that was hard enough so I keep them in the dark about hooking. Come to think of it, that may be why I relate to these guys and the lies that they tell their families.”

He told me that most of his clients are in their 30s through early 50s, and about half are openly gay. Those who identify as homosexual are usually “less freaky” and tip less than their closeted counterparts.

“I keep it safe. I always meet in public areas … every now and again someone wants to suck your toes, or dress up, or wrap their penis up with ribbon like a present,” said Chris with a laugh. “But most of the time people are just looking for a good lay with no strings … or ribbons.”

“When it comes down to it, it is a job, and it’s a business like any other. Sex is a commodity, like anything else, though people seem to need it more than anything, especially if they are working in a stressful environment. I mean, Maslow says that sex is more important than respect or self-actualization,” said Chris.

“I like spending time with interesting people, I like having sex, and I like making money for doing it. That fact that what I do is considered illegal is almost laughable. Come on, it’s genuinely the oldest profession in history.”

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