By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
According to agency rules, the girls only meet in a public place and won't ride in a car. Most date requests are along the lines of dinner and a movie, but the ones that stand out range from the poignant to the kinky. There was a guy who wanted to pay a girl to sit in a park with him and feed squirrels on a sunny day. Another wanted to take a "really" Asian girl to have a pedicure. There was "lacy underwear guy," who had a lingerie fetish and didn't seem to understand that the most he might see is an accidental glimpse of his date's bra strap. A few weeks ago, this odd request came from someone who identified himself as Naughty Good Man: "I wish to meet a tall gorgeous female with perfect shape and well structured. Not very lean and not very fat." Naughty Good Man might have even landed a date with April if he hadn't expressed his desire to share his "hobby" with his date by giving her a "nonsexual, relaxing, safe, and clean massage."
One guy who did get to indulge his fantasy had a payment fetish: He claimed to be happily married, but he liked the idea of an affair and the exchange of money. So, according to Julie, he met up with her for lunch and a few glasses of wine and, by paying her for her time, he felt satisfied with this pretense of an affair. What was he like? "He was educated, attractive, and successful," Julie wrote in an e-mail from Eastern Europe, where she is on an extended trip.
Early on, Cara learned about the fantasy angle. When a guy didn't like her photograph and said he preferred long hair, she put on a long black wig and took another photo. He agreed to a date. "Some men just want you to be a certain way," she says.
When I asked Elizabeth Bernstein—a women's studies and sociology professor at Barnard, and the author of Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity, and the Commerce of Sex—what she thought about Austen's Janes, she pointed out that the bad economy that had motivated the women to start the business may also be motivating the men to patronize it.
"It's a budget service for the client, who may have previously paid more for sex," she says.
Sixty dollars an hour is cheap for a college-educated, young, attractive white woman, she said. Ashley Dupré was reportedly charging then-governor Eliot Spitzer more than $1,000 an hour for sex, and she didn't even have a bachelor's degree.
Poking around the agency's website, Bernstein found the style—flowery purple writing on a black background—very "neo-Victorian and demure." She then burst out laughing when she read about Julie's professed advocacy for victims of sex trafficking, which can be found in the bio section of the site.
"Part of what they're selling is the sexual fantasy that goes along with the chaste woman," she says. "It's part of the 'no-touch' fantasy, like strip clubs and peep shows."
Julie herself uses the same analogy when she explains the service.
"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!"
It's the seventh-inning stretch, and a group of peppy young women with swishy ponytails are racing around the field shooting free Pepsi T-shirts into the stands. Carlos hands me his camera, and I snap a few shots of the crowd and of him. Then he asks to take one of me. I let him. It's around this time that he gets a little flirty. I feel him leaning in closer as we talk a few times, and I pull away. When the game resumes, the Mets finally score the only run of the game, and the crowd goes wild.
Soon, everything is over, and we join the masses heading out of the stadium toward the subway. My time with Carlos is officially up, but I figure it doesn't hurt to ride the subway together back to the city. As we walk down the stadium stairs to the 7 train, he gently places his hand on my waist for a moment, and I quickly step out of his reach.
"That was fun," he says, "even though you clearly aren't that into baseball."
I tell him I had a nice time, too, and thank him for the beer and sandwich. In the subway, we make more awkward small talk. When we arrive at my stop, I stick out my hand. I ask him to send a little note to the agency rating me, but he never does. Instead, I get a text about an hour later that reads: "Hi Emily, it was fun going out with you. You looked great!—Carlos."