Do Lesbians Ever Pay for Sex?

Over the years, I've often been asked, "Do women ever pay for sex with other women?" I'm qualified to answer the question since much of my performance work has dealt with sex and gender and I have worked on and off in the sex business for years.

I looked in the usual places for an ad -- the alternative newsweekly, the naughty classifieds -- and discovered there were no ads explicitly for women looking to pay for sex from another woman. So, I started asking around.

Through word of mouth I found two women from very different backgrounds: Lydia, a Chinese woman who, though she did not deal exclusively with female clients, had some dealings with women paying for sex, and Kate, a lesbian who was an occasional sex worker and whose clients were exclusively lesbian.

I spoke to Lydia first. She advertised her business under the subcategory of "Asian Ecstasy." She lived in the heart of New York City's Chinatown in a spotless one-room studio with bright fluorescent lighting and a small loft bed. She was 5'8" -- rather tall for a Chinese woman. Very stylish, she wore skin-tight Versace jeans, black high-heeled shoes, bright red lipstick and an expensive-looking Cartier watch.

Lydia told me that she had owned her massage business for more than five years and hired only Asian girls. She'd had a few women customers.

I asked her some standard interview questions: Why do you think men come to visit you more than women? Besides the obvious, what's the difference between men's and women's sexuality? Do you prefer to give service to men or women? Do you think the women who come to you are closet lesbians? Things like that.

Lydia wasn't having any of it. Maybe it was the Easterner in her. She gave one long, unbroken answer: "Men and woman same. Though not so many woman come for erotic massage. Most time business lady, like Wall Street lady, they have lot of money and work very hard. They want it very discreet, I like to give woman pleasure. They work hard, too. Many woman just more shy, they like pleasure, too. I think maybe men need to have release more, but I also think woman need, too. More and more I think woman like come, too."

While she was talking, I was having all kinds of Western thoughts. She was telling me about a 48-year-old woman who came to her once a week because her husband couldn't make her come, and I began to feel sorry for this faceless woman who had to pay for sex.

I began to wonder: why would women want to pay for sex? Why would they want to participate in something so politically incorrect? Buying the sexual services of a woman, I mean, isn't that degrading? Why would I want to promote whoredom? Isn't there something wrong with a woman who works in the sex industry in the first place? I mean, was she molested by a brother, father, uncle, mother? What kind of fucked-up thing happened to her in her childhood? And if I hired her, wouldn't I just be adding to her illness?

But then I had a whole different set of voices that said paying for sex was progressive. That maybe Lydia's client just knew what she wanted and used her own money to get it. Maybe her marriage was great and she'd rather orgasm with some sexy Asian girl than with her husband. Could you blame her? Maybe more women should pay for sex.

Unlike Lydia, Kate Martin didn't have a business, instead she wanted to provide a service. To get started, she placed a few sex ads in a lesbian magazine. She needed some extra money and decided to offer herself as a lesbian escort. She hoped to make some fast, good money. She imagined she'd be taken to dinner and afterwards provide the sex and be paid-a full evening for $500. Kate was not a tall, blonde, bimbo type. She reminded me of one of those boys from the '30s with a tweed cap selling newspapers on street corners -- kind of a turn-of-the-century hoodlum. Her speaking manner was not unlike the actor Tobey Maguire -- everything she said was in a deadpan manner.

Her ad read: "Seeking older professional lady, generous only, financially give me what I want, I give you what you strings attached."

Kate got a lot of calls but, from the start, lesbian prostitution wasn't a concept that lesbians understood. There were a lot of misunderstandings. Terms were just not spelled out clearly enough.

"For example," Kate said, "I had this one woman who interpreted generous as taking me to dinner at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She thought that was enough and that I would be obliged to fuck her.

"Another time I went out with this couple. The woman was in her mid-40s, blonde, and she had this fag-hag relationship with this guy who was along to check out the situation, but they got so fucked up they passed out and we didn't have sex."

"Did she pay you?" I asked.

"Well, I asked her for cab fare, and she said how much do you need? I said a $100 dollars. She gave it to me but it wasn't worth all the time I spent with them.

"Then I had this other women," Kate said. "She wanted me to meet her at her place of employment, pick her up at work, and so I go there. She was like a real-estate broker. She had this big office with a big fat desk. She was sitting behind a desk and she's a big fat woman smoking a big fat cigar and she's talking on the phone and she says, 'Just have a seat. I got to wrap up these calls and we'll be right out here.' So she's on the phone yakking away with these clients, puffing on her cigar, and every once in a while she gives me a hard stare. Then finally she puts the phone down and said, 'You know, I don't think this is going to work out, after all.' After I had been waiting for her for a half an hour, sitting there in this fucking chair in her office having her gawk at me, and deciding whether or not she liked me or not. Her reason was she thought I was too skinny.

"Well, I said, 'you knew exactly what my physique was like when I talked to you on the phone.' She just got really aggressive and nasty at that point and said, 'Listen, this just isn't going to work out so that's all there is to it.'"

"Did you get any money?" I asked.

"No. She wasted my time."

Paid sex for women is still a new thing. It's uncharted territory and the boundaries are still unclear. But judging from Lydia and Kate, it doesn't look good. Kate finally gave up on her idea and it's doubtful that lesbian prostitution will ever become as common as men paying for sex. Maybe women just aren't made up the same way, or maybe they're just cheaper, or maybe they don't have a clue that they can pay for sex. But the one thing I know for sure is that women like to come, too.

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