Recently, I’ve had cause to ponder the definition of the Girlfriend Experience (GFE), and what that means to me as a sex worker. In my few years of sex work, I’ve watched that definition change and evolve as I have. What was seemingly a way of categorising services has now become a list of expectations befitting of the intimate nature of the GFE, although not always for the best.
Everyone I’ve ever spoken to about the term “GFE” has a different understanding of what the service entails. When I worked in the parlour, it meant “companionship.” When I worked in the brothel, it meant “massage, kissing and sex.” When I took on independent work, clients suddenly expected things like deep French kissing (DFK), mutual oral sex (uncovered, of course) and sex in twelve different ways. Although, it wasn’t just physical expectations that had changed. The psychological impact and the required level of emotional investment accompanying the modern “GFE” were greater, too. Yet still I feel like I don’t fit. Regardless of how we label things in the sex industry, I feel like I will forever float between categories or stereotypes, unable to define myself or my services because I don’t subscribe to labels.
Some escorts, like myself, have written profiles stating that they do not provide a service list, preferring to engage in a naturally flowing experience. I’ve read a variety of comments from clients in the community that look on this disparagingly. They’ve called it “lazy,” “unimaginative” and “false.” Sure, it may very well be in some cases, but not all of them. The truth is that on any given day of the week, I might indulge in a deeply sensual and erotic booking with a client. The next day, I’ll be wiping lube from the inside of my highest heels because that client has a shoe fetish. The day after that I might do a raunchy doubles booking with a porn star. Faced with such a disparity between the sorts of bookings I partake in, how do I define myself? The term “true GFE” feels wanky to me. I’m not better than anyone else, and am certainly not the only definition of a girlfriend. On the other hand, I don’t offer a porn star experience, either.
I love how multifaceted the industry is. Every person, on either side of the envelope, has different tastes and expectations. We all have different stories and different sexual tastes, and it’s truly exciting to uncover these. I’ve mentioned before that one of my clients divulged a foot fetish halfway through our first booking, because he was too ashamed to mention it sooner. Now we’re indulging in things like foot jobs and trampling. Where does that fit? Am I offering a porn star experience now? I’d like to think that any open-minded or understanding girlfriend would indulge the fantasies of her other half, but I’ve been wrong before. I suppose I’m just trying to illustrate that while the structure of being able to plug “GFE” or “PSE” into a search engine filter is comforting for some, the majority of us are outgrowing these titles. They don’t mean what they used to, because we’ve all started being chameleons and doing the things that feel good, no matter which box they fit into.
Still, I have a niche. I have a little corner of the internet, marked “Alice Grey: girlfriend for hire,” and perhaps it’s the word “girlfriend” that gets me into trouble. Words have power, whether they're used in casual conversation, marketing or insults. We hang onto them. Buzzwords like “girlfriend” come up in sex industry search feeds, and we are programmed automatically think “hey, this chick will kiss me on the mouth and let me go down on her.” For some, though, it means “hey, I can get really close to this seemingly approachable, friendly person.” Herein lies my issue.
When little things happen in my day, like spilling a drink on myself over breakfast or having a sex toy run out of charge in a booking, I smile and shake my head. “GFE problems,” I say as I laugh to whichever client or peer I’m embarrassing myself in front of. Lately, though, I’ve started doing the same thing for bigger problems. When people get too attached, or expect things of me that I am not prepared to give, I shake my head and laugh as I think “ah, another GFE problem.” A client pointedly asks for my name, and I think “GFE problems.” What is wrong with this picture? Why am I making excuses for people who are making me feel uncomfortable? More to the point, why are the words “girlfriend experience” synonymous with “overstep my boundaries?”
For many clients, seeing sex workers is an escape from the pressures of daily life. Escorts provide a safe environment for clients to be themselves, in whichever weird and wonderful that may be. It’s unsurprising that exposing a vulnerable part of ourselves creates a lasting bond with whomever we are sharing that moment with. However, I’m noticing that there is a demand for reciprocation, almost as if an exchange of vulnerability provides compensation for a client being able to expose him/herself. Has that become the new GFE? Is this what people expect now? There is a small few whose company I treasure, and have this reciprocal connection with. I can be at my most vulnerable with them without fear of having that trust disrespected, but it seems to me that, generally speaking, there is a call to go from zero to 100 during the first booking.
This year, I’ve had a client discontinue our relationship because I wouldn’t disclose my given name. Another threatened suicide after I cut him off for a number of boundary-pushing offences. A third attempted bareback sex with me, because “we’ve seen each other before, I could trust him, right?” Wrong. I suppose it’s easy to lose sight of the nature of the engagement when you’re laying naked in bed with limbs sprawled everywhere, especially when you aren’t confined to the sobering quarters of a brothel’s premier suite (man, I miss that bathtub). I understand that. Even for me, there are times when I’ve lay naked and panting in post-orgasmic bliss, thinking that there are clients I would have happily spent a night with if they’d met me in a bar instead of having sought me out on an escort directory. But I would never make them feel uncomfortable or muddy the waters by telling them so. Similarly, I would never ask where a client worked or what their children’s names were, unless that information was volunteered. Why? It’s invasive. Simple.
I think that the take-home lesson here is simple: just enjoy it. It’s always great to have an idea of what you might like to achieve in bookings, and I encourage detailed communication about this before we get into bed together. Define things however you like, just keep it simple. Bond over things like your favourite movies and comfort food. Don’t quantify the worth of your relationship with an escort by how much personal information you’ve pried from them. If they want to tell you things, they will. Let’s all just go back to having great sex, because I kind of miss getting lube on my shoes.