Anyone contemplating jumping into the sex business will find a plethora of pamphlets, websites and services organizations offering advice on how to ply their trade. But while plenty of tips on physical and sexual safety are passed around, the basic task of how to sort the good clients from the bad is something you have to largely figure out yourself.

I’ve gradually made some rules over my years in the trade. I never answer my phone after 11 pm or before 8 am — the former means they’re drunk; the latter that they’ve been up all night partying. If someone tries to negotiate about money, I immediately shut them down. Same thing with barebacking, since, even if they ultimately say condoms are okay, I know in the heat of the moment they’ll start pressuring me to stick it in unwrapped. I used to say yes to guys who wanted to party with the caveat I wouldn’t indulge but was happy to join them as long as they could stay in control. Now I just tell them to find an escort into PNP. No shortage of that.

Another thing I’ve learned to avoid are situations that seem impossibly grand. Every hooker has a story of a guy who’s unexpectedly dropped a few thousand on them, whisked them away to Mexico for a week or taken them on a shopping spree. The fact that those things actually do happen from time to time means it’s hard to stamp a universal no on every invitation of that kind. But in almost all cases, if a client is going spend a massive amount of cash, he’s not going to do it after 20 minutes of exchanging emails. In short, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I’m working in Paris when I get a message from a guy who goes by Tower, which is seemingly appropriate — according to his profile, he’s got a good six inches on me. He wants me to come immediately to his hotel and stay until the morning. He offers me 2,000 euros (considerably more than I’d charge for an overnight visit). He has a fetish for guys in sportswear and wants me to show up sweaty from the gym in a tank top and basketball shorts. He wants to meet in the hotel bar, have a drink while he watches me play with my dick through the shorts and, when I’m hard, head up to his room.

I explain that since it’s hovering around 15 degrees, shorts are a no-go, but I can do sweats with shorts underneath. I haven’t been to the gym that day, but offer to jog over so I’m decently sweaty on arrival. There’s substantial negotiation about the colour and fit of the shorts, at what point in the encounter he wants me to take them off, whether the tank top should be loose or tight, and exactly how public the scene is going to be.

We finally decide I’ll wear the loose tank top, shorts with no underwear and sweatpants over top. I’ll jog to the hotel and then drop the sweats when I get there. It’s a weekday afternoon so I have no idea how busy the bar will be. And as much of a slut as I am, I don’t actually get off popping a boner in public, so we agree we’ll have one drink, exchange some flirtatious glances, and then head to his room. The whole scene feels a little sketchy, but there’s a lot of money on the table and it’s only 20 minutes from where I’m staying. I decide to just bring my gym bag and head for a workout if things don’t go as planned.  

A half hour later, I’m standing in the lobby of a huge downtown hotel I’ve never been to before. A quick scan of the bar shows no one matching his description, so I find a semi-inconspicuous spot opposite the entrance where I can catch him going in. Three different conferences are happening simultaneously: one for opticians, one is for financial managers, and the third is something science related I don’t totally understand. I’m slightly nervous that I stand out, skulking around this high-end joint, unshaven and in my dirty sweats. But the hotel staff apparently have better things to do then wonder about some scruffy Canadian with a backpack, hanging out in their lobby, staring at his phone.

I’m going to make a slight break here to talk about my phone. I’m the first to admit, I’m not the most tech-savvy of whores. I’ve never had a smartphone. I don’t even have a Blackberry. My primary tool of communication is a six-year-old, pay-as-you-go flip phone. While it often garners dismissive “What a fucking hipster!” comments in bars, my trusty mobile has never let me down. And while there are certainly times when I contemplate upgrading, I’m generally happy with my Luddite technology. Since I’m rarely in one place more than a few months, having the inevitable two-year contract that comes with high-end communication devices isn’t practical. But my flip phone happily accepts SIM cards from any country I’m working in.

This, however, is one of the moments I wish my technology was smarter. I haven’t asked for the guy’s number and I don’t know what room he’s in. I notice this young blond dude on a bench across from me, poking at his iPhone. He doesn’t seems like he’s a guest or a conference goer, and I start to wonder if he’s waiting for the same client. I debate approaching him, but don’t want to risk an awkward misunderstanding. On the way in, I’d clocked a business centre with a bank of computers, so I decide to head there and surreptitiously check the sex website where we’ve been chatting to see if he’s changed his mind.

He’s not currently logged in, but there’s a new message from him: “See if the 19-year-old is here.” I mail back to say I arrived and to either come down or text me. Back in the lobby, the blond kid (who I assume is the aforementioned 19-year-old) is still there. He’s cute and clean cut, in skinny jeans and runners. He clocks me looking at him and I give a little nod, in case he’s got some clue who I am. Apparently he doesn’t because he just shrugs and goes back to his phone.

At this point I’ve been waiting 20 minutes, and I decide to give it another 10 before I bail. Part of me already knows I shouldn’t waste another second on this douchebag, but there’s also the thought that maybe it’s not his fault. Perhaps something came up; a call from his wife, an emergency at work, a fall in the shower. But really, if I’m going to be honest with myself, I know what’s going on here. I’ve just been punked.

It’s a rare occurrence to get stood up this way, but it’s also not the first time it’s happened. I find myself thinking back to the handful of occasions a guy’s left me in the lurch like this and wonder what exactly gets a someone off about this kind of set-up. Is he laughing to himself about tricking some stupid hustler with promises of mad cash? Did he get so into the fantasy he ended up jerking off, shooting his wad, and he’s now lost interest? Is he some kind of intense closet case who desperately wants to go through with things, but is currently lying on his bed in the fetal position, terrified to take that life-changing step?

The blond guy gets up and goes outside. After a minute I follow and find him a few feet from the door, puffing on a cigarette. I debate how to start the conversation before I saunter up to him and just say, “Eh, tu attends le gars turc aussi?” He looks stunned, so I switch to English. “Hey. You waiting for the Turkish guy too?” He still doesn’t say anything and I start to wonder if he doesn’t speak either language. I try again. “You’re waiting for the guy from the internet, right?”

“Yeah,” he says with a thick Slavic accent.

He’s clearly very young and a recent transplant from somewhere in the east, maybe the Czech Republic or Ukraine. I think about trying to engage him in a collegial conversation about our shared conundrum. But our mutual vocabulary in English is clearly pretty minimal, so I just explain I was supposed to meet this guy too, that I think he’s not coming, and I’m going to book. “You leave?” blond boy says. I nod. He just shrugs and keeps swiping at his screen.

Later at the gym, I’ve pretty much forgotten about the bad date, but I’m thinking more and more about blond boy. He’s clearly in a new city and new to the sex business. I wonder whether I should have stayed, asked him for a drink, and tried to impart some of my years of hard earned wisdom on him. But I realize that probably wouldn’t have worked, partially because we didn’t have a common language and partially because I have a feeling he wouldn’t be interested. Turning the treadmill up a notch, I decide to just chalk this up as a learning experience, not so much gaining something new, but being reminded of what I already know. When it comes to deciding whether or not to meet a trick, the number one rule is to trust your instincts. And as for the blond kid, he’s just going to have to figure things out the hard way like everyone else. 

 

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