The night I hired the company
Why do women hire male escorts – and what’s it like for the man for hire? As a new film about escorts hits the big screen, Nadine Bateman meets one in a cafe – and discovers what is, and isn’t, on the menu.
AS I RELAX outside the Watermark cafe bar watching the sun sink slowly behind the yachts moored at Port Solent, I sip at a cool drink and wait for my ‘date’. Not an unfamiliar experience, only this time I’m filled, not with excited anticipation or first-date nerves, just bags of curiosity.
A stream of questions are running through my mind: What does he look like? What will he talk about? Will he be sporting a fake tan and an equally fake Rolex? And, most importantly, what sort of women hire him? I’ve never met my companion for this evening, a professional male escort. On the phone, Mark (not his real name) described himself as 32, about 5ft 11, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. That narrowed it down to every third man who hangs out in the bars of Portsmouth.
How would I recognize him? ‘I usually wear a badge,’ he said.
A badge? Like one of those big hand-written stickers that announces your name and your position when you go on a company training course? Would he walk into the bar with ‘Mark – Male Escort’ pinned to his lapel? ‘No,’ he laughed, ‘It’s much more discreet than that. It’s usually a small, red dot on my left lapel. But sometimes it can be a flower – although no carnations, that would be a cliche. Sometimes it’s a fairly distinctive tie. The woman and I agree on a code beforehand.’ A shadow soon falls over my table and a cultured voice says ‘Hello’. I spin round to see a very slim man who looks – to me, anyway – younger than 32. I’d put him at about 26.
Nadine chats to her new friend at Port Solent
His hair is short, almost black and has benefited from a liberal squirt of gel – although it’s not greasy, just slick. He’s wearing sunglasses – not designer – and casual chino-type trousers with a stylish shirt. There’s not a hint of perma-tan.
He introduces himself and I offer him a drink. ‘What are you drinking?’ he asks. I say I’ve had a busy day so a glass of wine would go down a treat. He says he’ll join me. His manner is self-assured but not arrogant. He is charming but not slimy. And he has an engaging smile. He shakes my hand and politely waits for me to sit down before he does.
He reminds me a little of a young Sebastian Coe with a nod to the Hugh Grant school of foppish charm. First impressions are all very promising . .
He is very well-spoken and I‘m not surprised to learn that he was educated at a public school. ‘I went to prep school – I was a boarder – and then to university where I took a degree in music,’ he says. ‘I suppose I come from a fairly middle-class background. My dad’s a lawyer and my mother was a nurse. My upbringing was fairly normal. We weren’t rich but we never wanted for anything.’ Mark lives in Havant and is (perhaps unsurprisingly) single. The escort agency he works for, Cavendish Knights, charges £65 an hour with a minimum booking time of three hours. Mark says his cut is about £30-£40 an hour. He says he’s making an average £100 a fortnight from his escort work. ‘It’s like buses,’ he says. ‘Sometimes you’ll wait for ages then several come at once.’
But he has a day job, in the marketing department of a music company not far from Portsmouth where he earns around £25,000 a year. ‘I don’t do it for the money. I genuinely love older women. I’ve always dated them. Even at university. In fact it was a former older girlfriend who suggested I would make a good escort.’ And what does that take? ‘I’m a good listener. What women want when they hire me is somebody to talk to. They talk about all aspects of their lives: The stresses of work, the relationships they’ve had, their grievances. It’s nice to provide a comforting shoulder. It’s like being a counselor. I let the women do most of the talking. I never rabbit on about myself.’ And what sort of women hire him? ‘About 70 per cent are business women. The rest are divorcees who are not yet ready to start dating yet. Usually they’ve been badly hurt by their ex-husbands and want to get out and about with a man but don’t like the idea of being chatted up in a bar. I’m a kind of bridge. ‘I’ve been out with about 15 so far, and most are in their mid to late 40s. Usually very attractive. The youngest was in her mid-30s and the oldest was in her 50s. Two were headmistresses, one was a bank manager and some worked in retail. Because they are normally fairly well-off and have earned that money themselves – it’s not cheap hiring an escort – they tend to be powerful women. They control the date. Although sometimes I may suggest where we meet, it’s usually in a hotel bar – the Marriott is a favorite.
‘Usually we’ll have a few drinks then dinner. Sometimes we’ll go to the cinema or the theatre. Once I went to the horse racing at Epsom. Another time I spent the day on a yacht cruising the Solent with three ladies. That was great for me because I love sailing. ‘I’ve also been shopping and helped the women choose clothes for themselves. In return they bought me a couple of nice shirts. I’ve never accepted jewelry or other items. But they do pay for the drinks, meals and entertainment. ‘Another time I escorted a woman to a theme park because she had always wanted to go but had never had anybody to go with. Her ex-husband didn’t want to.’ But surely he must sometimes fancy a client? ‘Yes, of course. Sometimes that’s better because then we have a greater rapport. And what about sex? Mark didn’t look at all fazed by the question. ‘No. Definitely not, that would be against company rules, not to mention illegal and unethical. Although technically, once the arranged hours have ended there’s nothing to stop us. But I wouldn’t because it would be unfair on the woman. She may become emotionally attached.’
But he must get propositioned … ‘Once or twice. Especially as the evening progresses and the wine has been flowing. Some women can be very tactile. I’m happy to give them a hug or kiss – but not French kisses. I’m polite but firm.’ Could he imagine himself falling in love with a client?
‘It’s possible. As I said, I love older women anyway. And I would like to get married within the next few years.’ And what do his family and friends think of his part-time job? ‘I couldn’t tell them. It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I do – quite the opposite – I think it’s a nice thing. There’s nothing sleazy about it. But my parents would be embarrassed because of the stigma attached to it. People immediately assume that you are offering sex.
‘I haven’t told anybody. Not even my best friend. He’s married and I think he’d be jealous.’ As our ‘date’ nears its end, I realize the sun had disappeared over the horizon about 15 minutes earlier and that Mark has been shivering in his smart shirt, which I notice is actually rather crumpled and in need of a good iron. There would not be much chance of me wanting to tempt Mark away from his no-naughtiness rule. Although relaxed and charming, he’s no Richard Gere.
But neither is he the flashy smooth operator I’d been expecting, and I’ve had a very pleasant evening. As we get ready to part, he apologizes for his creased look. ‘I came straight from work. Usually I go home, have a shower and change. But I must remember to carry a spare one in my car that’s iron-free – you never know when you might need it.’ And he flashes me a disarming grin.
Choose from 1400 men nationwide
Cavendish Knights was established five years ago and claims to be the only non-sexual escort agency in the UK. Nationwide there are more than 1400 men to choose from between the ages of 21 and 70. There are about 50 in the Portsmouth area alone.
The company’s motto is ‘Our male escorts won’t let you down.’
It costs £65 an hour to hire an escort with a minimum booking time of three hours. For long engagements such as a business conference, a fixed discounted price can be agreed. Owner Tony Perry, 48, says all of the men are well educated and thoroughly checked out by him. Potential escorts go through a police check and Tony says they never take anyone with a criminal record. He says the men are picked not just on their looks but also for their personality. They are well mannered, easy going and mostly pretty worldly and well traveled.