Gigolo girls offer safe encounters with lesbian love
There's a new growth area in the 'escort' business, discovers Vanessa Thorpe - women for women
Anna, 31, is one of a growing band of lesbian escorts working in Britain. Personal service agencies, so long the preserve of the seedy businessman or lonely bachelor, are increasingly being called upon by women who want to hire another woman for the night.
The typical client is a financially independent, mature, London-based woman who is often experimenting with lesbian sex for the first time. In true gigolo tradition, Anna regards her work for them as part pleasure and part business.
"I don't have to do it. I enjoy it," she says. "I charge about pounds 50 an hour, whereas male escorts can always charge more because men have more economic power, although I do ask for more if I don't fancy the person. I spend the money on me and on my bike."
In the year since she started advertising herself as "versatile and active" at the back of gay women's magazines she has built up a regular business.
"Yes, it has become popular because women nowadays are more independent and can get what they want sexually. At first I thought they were all going to be older, but the youngest client I had was 25 - so it is all ages, from 25 to 50."
Details of lesbian escorts have started appearing in the small ads in the back pages of gay magazines. Simon Kennett, advertising executive at Diva, the lesbian monthly, presided over the decision to sell more space to escort ads.
"We weren't particularly keen to have them in the first place," he says. "There was pressure from readers though - there was obviously a demand." He adds that Diva "will always reject ads that are overtly sexual".
The average client has come to London on business, according to Anna. They might invite her to a hotel in Park Lane or take her to a good restaurant: "I like to wear jeans, but if they tell me to I can wear something smart."
She arrived from Spain five years ago and until last August had been living on irregular freelance work as a translator.
Unlike her gay male counterparts, Anna feels pretty safe with her clientele.
"Women are not usually aggressive like men. But you never know, especially if they have a husband. He may be there too, perhaps even hiding and watching.
"I try to find out on the phone. If they say they are married I say, 'OK, as long is your husband is not there I don't mind coming to your home.' "
She is safe, too, in other ways says are "important". "Even though I am with women I take precautions. They say that woman-to-woman HIV transmission does not exist, but it does and so I use gloves and everything. Even if they are married, or in a monogamous relationship with another woman, you don't really know what else they have done.
"If it is their first time they have very high expectations. They think it is the answer to all their questions. I am like a bridge for them."
For Stella Duffy, the author of a series of lesbian urban thrillers featuring the private detective Saz Martin, herein lies the horror of the escort trade.
"I can't imagine anything more ghastly than being one of these girls. The pressure to be good would be terrible.
"Mind you, if a married woman is wondering whether to act on these feelings, then I would say pay for it rather than break some girl's heart.
"But don't expect it to change your life. Love changes your life."
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