This Is What Being An Escort Is Actually Like

Expensive cocktail lounges. Designer labels. Penthouse suites with sweeping views of a glittering cityscape below. When it comes to the world of high-end escorts and women offering a "girlfriend experience," the stereotype we assume is very city-centric. But for escorts across America, that’s simply not the case. Many find success (and paychecks) living in small towns, especially when technology and inexpensive airfares make commuting NBD. Season 2 of The Girlfriend Experience follows two stories, those of Erica and Anna in high-powered D.C. and Bria in a small town in New Mexico. Although the locations are radically different, the stakes are equally high for both. Here, the stories of real escorts whose experiences bridge small towns and big cities.
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Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro
The Digital Nomad Trend Is A Thing In Escort Work
Kacie, 22, who lives outside Kansas City, first discovered sex work as a cam girl in her childhood bedroom. “I was broke in between college semesters and realized that I could make money selling my body. [Being a cam girl] felt safe in the sense that there was just a screen in front of me. But then I began thinking, What if I did end up doing escorting? I did well as a cam girl, but there was a cap. I also felt sort of weird; while at first it was comforting having digital distance, I wondered who was really watching me. So eventually I began escorting.”
Jenna, 27, set up a few sugar-baby profiles on various websites but found that potential clients were sparse and unappealing in her smaller town. “I changed my location to Chicago. I realized that I could always fly there and, best of all, that clients would pay.”
For Kacie, racking up airline miles became par for the course. “I’m a gold, almost a platinum airline rewards member. I fly to Chicago a few times a month, around school commitments.” While Jenna has considered moving back to a big city, she says that she likes the work/life balance that comes from working in another state. “I see my clients, stay either at their apartments or at a hotel, and then can come home. I don’t need to merge worlds.” She adds that for her, it’s important to maintain privacy: “My clients don’t know my real name. They’ll pay for my flights, but they do so via a PayPal account and then I’ll buy my tickets. I think that line is important.”
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Big Cities Offer Big Opportunities
For Jane, a 26-year-old who’s dabbled in escort work, the best part of living in New York City is the fact that there are so many sex-work options, at least for her. “I love sex and got involved in sex work via the sex-positive community. I was going to ‘play parties’ — these sexy, BDSM-themed parties in Manhattan, and then I realized that a lot of people would pay to have sex with me. Not being conceited — just what I realized. So I spoke to some women in that community, who helped me find connections and find the ‘right’ people. Initially, I started by domme-ing — working at a BDSM dungeon — but I didn’t like being the ‘top,’ I was more of a submissive. So then I just started casually advertising on my own via Craigslist. I ask for a picture of the man’s driver’s license before I meet him. It’s not seamless, but I have been able to stay safe and charge my own rates.”
Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro
Jenna escorted in Los Angeles and New York City and occasionally ran across a few boldfaced names in her time. “I’m lucky that all my experiences were really respectful. I had one guy in the entertainment industry (not an actor) who just wanted to play board games — no sex. I think he was really lonely. It was sort of the opposite of what you would expect. I was wearing his oversized sweatshirt, we ordered a ton of room service, and we just talked about life. We really liked each other and are still in touch.”
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Small (& Big) Town Gossip Is A Thing
Lanie*, 23, had a successful experience working as a “sugar baby” in Los Angeles and wanted to replicate that in her small town. “Out of curiousity, I posted an ad on Craigslist and could not believe who responded — one man had worked at my high school!” Lanie didn’t go through with any dates and made the decision to stick to the city. “I know coincidences can happen anywhere, but for me, I realized that people in small towns talk, and even though I’m comfortable with escorting, I don’t necessarily want that reputation in my town.”
“Even if you do work in a city, the pool can get small sometimes — or at least it feels that way,” notes Jane. “I sometimes like to set up ads in different cities, so I have a different client pool. I think it’s also smart to think in terms of revenue streams and diversify. I know that sounds like marketing speak, but I like the idea of knowing I could phase out of escort work in New York and still have business opportunities in L.A. or wherever.” The reason, Jane says, is because she worries that the more familiar she gets with New York City, the more connections she may have. “When I was brand new, I wouldn’t know anyone at the fanciest restaurants. I’m not saying that I do now, but as I’m working my way up the ladder at my daytime job, I don’t necessarily want to run the risk of running into someone who may know me that way while I’m escorting.”
Illustrated by Isabel Castillo Guijarro
In The End, It’s All A State Of Mind
Adriana works outside the sex industry but escorts on the side both to make money and because she enjoys the work. “I advertise online with my own website and control my social media and other accounts,” she says, adding that having control means she sets her own prices and schedule. “I find the concept that escorts are only escorts because they ‘have’ to be harmful. I chose this work.”
For Los Angeles escort Lanie, location is much less important than digital savviness. “I mean, on the internet, you could live anywhere, right?” Every individual’s experience escorting is different, and, in the end (with a few big exceptions), it’s comparable to any other job. “I wish people knew that we're all just regular people. Sex workers are people. Clients are people. And, as humans, many of us desire intimacy in our lives. Space to freely be ourselves without judgement. To laugh with someone and forget about our stressful lives. To be held for a little while and feel cared for. Often times, my work goes beyond the physical, and I become great friends with many of my clients. I sincerely care about them and want to see them do well,” notes Adriana.
Season 2 of The Girlfriend Experience is back with two new stories in two new cities. Catch new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. on Starz.
*Name has been changed for privacy.