Making money while making time
In today's Village Voice, a story of a new sort-of-dating, sort-of-escort agency run by three girlfriends who needed to pay their rent in New York City:
Cara, April, and Julie, three 26-year-old friends—who, for privacy and safety reasons, prefer to use their agency-related pseudonyms and not their real names in this story—all found themselves unemployed victims of the bad economy at the end of last year. Cara, who has short-cropped hair, sharp blue eyes, and a background in social work, was laid off on November 4 after working on a state senate campaign. April, a tall, lanky brunette with a button nose and wide-set eyes, had just finished a stint in the art department of a cable-TV show. And Julie, a slender woman with an unruly mop of brown curls, had just returned from a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in Eastern Europe and couldn't find a job.
With the extra time on their hands and funds running low, the girls formed a little support group based out of April's Gramercy apartment, where, over coffee or wine, depending on the time of day, the three trawled Craigslist job postings together. Initially, they only searched in the "nonprofit" and "art/media/design" sections. But soon, desperation and curiosity led them to the murkier world of "et cetera" listings, where they learned that, aside from appeals to become egg donors, there were people offering to pay women $200 to tickle them or to see them in a pair of nylons.
And then one of the women—no one remembers which of the three—pointed out how brilliant it would be if they could get men to pay to go out with them. Both Cara and April had recently been denied food stamps, and they joked about how being paid to be taken out to dinner every night would be a great way to cut down on food costs. Behind the laughter, there was a thread of seriousness: What if?
What if indeed?
After all, there are lots of lonely men out there who would love to have the company of a smart, sophisticated woman but who would balk at the ideal of going with a call girl, despite the fact that many such sex workers are smart, sophisticated professionals who work as pros.
And these three friends were already going out on some pretty lousy dates.
So that's how the awkwardly-named Austen's Janes Agency was born. For $60 an hour, men can hire one of these three women for an afternoon at the baseball game or a night at the opera.
Strictly hands off, of course.
As one of the principals informs the Voice reporter:
"It is similar to a strip club, [in which] a man pays for, as Chris Rock reminds us, 'nothing,' but they get a beautiful woman to pay attention to them and act as if they are the center of the world when they need the attention," she wrote in an e-mail. "Women are often objectified in regular life—now we are finally getting paid for it without contracting any life-threatening diseases!"
Which is kind of amusing since, no matter what you call it, you're still selling yourself, right?
This fine distinction is one reason why I support the decriminalization of prostitution. I mean it's just a matter of degrees between this, sex work, and meeting via Craigslist or LavaLife and hooking up (with or without dinner).
Why get all moralistic about the contractual paying for sex part?
And for the record? I bet if some men started a service like this, it would do even better. I know lots of single professional women who always need presentable escorts for weddings and bar mitzvahs, office functions and charity events. The gay guy friends don't always cut it.