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Last month my friend Rose came to visit. In between our Acai bowls and downward- facing dogs, catching up on life, Rose confessed she had been seeing an escort in Perth. I nearly rolled sideways off my mat. Okay, so, some things about Rose before we delve deeper: – she describes herself as a ‘lipstick lesbian’, a ‘femme’ who is attracted to other very feminine women. When Rose told me she has been frequenting an escort who provides lesbian services,I had to know why.
In my eyes, Rose was an accomplished, attractive, intelligent woman who would have no problem finding another woman to be intimate with. This is where I was wrong, apparently. So I probed Rose a little further, no pun intended.. She simply said it was too hard to find someone, and she was tired of wasting her time on pretty girls trying to lure her into threesomes on Tinder.
Well, this did not satiate my curiosity. I had no idea this even happened. I had so many questions. Who were the girls seeing escorts? Who were the escorts providing the service? And why was this happening? I emailed an escort in Perth willing to meet and talk to me about her experiences to help cure my fascination. I was nervous, excited and just so curious.
On the day, I knocked and a twenty something girl opened the door. She was a babe. The healthy-looking brunette with a gorgeous smile welcomed me into her apartment. We will call her Emma. Emma is studying nursing. She is in a long-term relationship with a woman more than ten years her senior who was previously married. She has four regular female clients, provides services for heterosexual couples that would like threesomes, and also has male clients.
We sat on her bed to chat and she talked me through the usual showering etiquette for when clients first arrive. She said it helped everyone to relax, gave her a chance to change into lingerie and, obviously, ensured good hygiene. Three of Emma’s four female clients were in their twenties. One was a woman in her forties, another was married, one was a busy flight attendant and one was in a high-profile business role.
From our casual conversation, I learnt a lot. Emma told me she felt empowered providing a service to women that has been available to men for centuries. Emma also said she preferred her female clients to her male ones. She described the niceness of being with a girl, the tenderness that can only come from being with a woman. The way she was describing it to me, lying on her side with sexy come-hither eyes and perfect winged eyeliner, made me wonder if she wanted me to give it a try. It all sounded so good.
She said that it’s just like hanging out with one of your girl friends, you just get naked at some stage too, and give pleasure to one another. There are no strings attached, and the bonus for her is getting paid. Plus, she felt her personal safety was not at risk with female clients.
I asked Emma her thoughts on why women seek out her service. The first reason she gave was the problem with the identification of other lipstick or femme lesbians. The stereotype of the butch lesbian is long outdated, but it leaves the question of “how do we know if you’re interested when you look so straight?” Emma went on to explain that it is difficult for femme lesbians to know if another girl is flirting with her beyond the regular banter that many girl friends have.
Another reason that emerged from our increasingly flirtatious conversation was the discretion that Emma offers. Choosing not to march in the Pride Parade or choosing to withhold from public displays of affection does not necessarily mean you are ashamed or against same-sex interactions. Rather, perhaps, it is just a case of a discreet person in general. Identifying yourself as a femme who is attracted to other femmes, but who also wishes for discretion, leaves a small slither of the population which is nearly impossible to find.
Finally, coming back to one of Rose’s initial complaints, there was the problem of being lured into threesomes. Emma lamented about all the very pretty girls on dating applications, bisexual or lesbian, who turned out to be recruiting a third party for the threesome that their partners had orchestrated.
I came away from my meeting with Emma with a lot more understanding, but still confused. Was this the answer to the problems faced by lipstick lesbians? Or was this the end of finding real intimacy? Driving away, Emma’s words swirled in my mind, and I felt unsatisfied and a little sad. Sure, for Emma it was like hanging out with a friend, but you don’t usually pay your friends to give you an orgasm. I empathise with and acknowledge the challenges faced by female-identifying individuals seeking other female-identifying individuals, but is this the best way to remedy those challenges? Instead of addressing the hurdles, are we helping to destroy intimacy? Instead of encouraging communication and removing stereotypes, are we trying to buy and sell connections?
Returning to my mat for a little session of Yoga before going to work, with Rose on the mat beside me, it occurred to me why I felt uneasy. Watching her gracefully and quickly flow through her postures, I froze. Here we were, looking like we knew all the moves well enough to squeeze them in before work, barre, dinner and study. This was not just about the lipstick lesbians. My distress was about the the desire for efficiency in our society.
A great importance is placed on things being efficient, quick and without relative effort. Once you learn a few postures in Yoga you can switch off, power through and check it off your list. We have the same attitude towards our connections to one another. Yes, it is hard to find someone to be intimate with and feel a connection to. For some people it is much harder to find than others. We go to bars and clubs, use Facebook and Tinder, trying to find a connection, and quickly. In an effort to stop “wasting time” we have given away our privacy: anyone with a profile can know intimate details about our lives without giving up the time to learn and appreciate their meanings. Intimacy is becoming more and more elusive.
But if we cannot have it instantly, is trying to buy it the right way? Rather than removing the barriers that prevent us from finding real connections and intimacy, are we placing a bandage on the issues in our society? Intimacy is not always something you can purchase or arrange. Perhaps we need to slow down and work towards shaping our society so we can savour our connections and honour the process involved in making them.