Escorts make $100 a hand job — but entrepreneurs like me? We make $5,000 a night. Welcome to the new economy of the oldest profession.

By Svetlana Z
Photographs of Svetlana by Pascal Perich


His son didn’t get into Dartmouth and that makes him sad, because he loves his son and he knows how much pressure the boy puts on himself. I understand.

His wife won’t let him have his late-night bowls of mint chocolate chip ice cream anymore and she nags him about the Sunday afternoons he spends watching golf on television. I frown.

His doctor says he needs more vitamin D, and maybe he should consider anti-depressants, too, but he’s sure if he could just find something meaningful to do with his life, he would feel better. I make a little tsk-ing noise, widen my eyes. I am close to crying.

I tell him he’s sweet for caring about his son so much. I tell him if I were with him, I would let him eat all the ice cream he wanted, and Sunday afternoons would be set aside for watching golf, because why shouldn’t people do what makes them happy? Then I tell him I don’t know about vitamin D and anti-depressants (that’s the truest thing I’ll say all week), but he seems very healthy and, as I say this, I gently touch his thigh and dip my head a little and look at him so my eyes are half hidden — I’ve practiced in the mirror. I smile without showing my teeth — I’ve practiced that, too — and wait for him to reach for me. But he’s not ready for that; he wants to tell me about how he hit a triple for his softball team last weekend, how it was “magical,” how he wishes he could feel that good all the time.

I’ve had men like him before, and they’re sweet, but they can be tricky, too. I don’t know what a triple is, and I have no idea what it has to do with magic, but I do know we’ve been talking for 15 minutes. I know it’s important that he feel like we have all day, that we have forever. Time can’t exist for us. But I know exactly how much time we do have. I kick off my shoes (simple, beige $600 Louboutins that I got on sale for $250) that I wore specially for him because he told me he’s “not a fancy guy.” (If he were fancy, I’d wear my black Louboutins.)

He’s still talking about triples and magic and meaning. We have 35 minutes. It’s plenty of time, but I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. My job is all about minimizing risk. I move closer, tell him I have an idea that would make him feel good. I tell him it would make me feel good, too. I tell him I’ve been thinking about it since he texted me two days ago. I gently claw his thigh with my fresh, red (any other color, you’re taking a risk) manicure. I moisten my lips, flash just a little tooth. He’s shy, but he’s a man. He stops talking.

The tricky part of my job is over. Now it’s time for sex.

I arrived in New York City from Chelyabinsk, a city right in the middle of Russia, when I was 19 years old, with $300 in my pocket. I turned 24 in March and have managed to save $200,000, by fucking for money. I’ve traveled to Morocco, Paris, Beijing, and Monaco. Men have brought me tea from London, chocolates from Switzerland, lingerie from France and shoes from Italy. I’ve bought my parents a little village house. (I told them I had a rich American boyfriend who was taking care of me.)

I don’t hate men. I am not a victim of child trafficking. I have never been raped, or drugged, or done porn. I’m not an addict. I never had a pimp. I don’t suffer from what my American girlfriends call “daddy issues” and what my shrink refers to as “malformed identity centering on early childhood abandonment.” My dad had lovers. I don’t blame my parents for my job, or my life. Other kids have other problems. My parents had problems when they were kids. My therapist has helped me see that.

I’m a businesswoman. I did what politicians in this country are always encouraging immigrants to do. Work hard, seize opportunity, maximize your talents, and adjust and adapt to the new world economy.

I haven’t worked as an escort for over a year. Not because the job was illegal, though that’s part of it. And not because I sometimes had to deal with idiots, though that was part of it, too.

I got out because I want to study filmmaking, and psychology, and I can afford to do that now. I got out because eventually I’d like to get married and have a kid, and the longer I escorted, the trickier that would get. My life since I quit has been sort of complicated, and I’ll tell you about that. But first I’ll tell you how I got into the business, and what it was like.

I grew up in central Russia. When I was little, I wanted to be a tour guide and see the world. Then a tour bus came through our town and it was small and stinky with no air conditioning. The tour guide had frizzy hair and sweat stains under her arms. I thought tour guides in the United States probably had it better.

I had the phone number of a Russian woman who had said she would host me. When I arrived at JFK, she told me to take the train to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. I knew about it because in Russian movies it’s a place where you can buy smoked salmon and caviar and nice clothes, and where only people who really achieve can go. I felt lucky.

When I came out of the train station I saw all these ugly people, people in wheelchairs, old people, and the streets were smelly and the people were wearing clothes worse than what people wore in the Soviet Union and the train station was loud and I thought: Fuck, this is not the America that I heard of.

I spent four days there before I met a girl who said I could live with her in Manhattan. When I got there and looked around, I understood the fuss. I understood why all people want to come here.

I applied for jobs at restaurants and medical offices, but no one would hire me. I saw an ad for dancers and called. They picked me up in a truck filled with other young girls. There were a lot of drunken men at the club, trying to touch different parts of my body. I made $300 and decided I would never do that again. I answered another ad, to work in a Turkish café. The owner said, you don’t have to work: If you just let me fuck you, I’ll pay you. No thank you, I said. Actually, it was more like, fuck off, you stupid dude. I’d been in New York two weeks, but I was getting better at English.

Then I saw an ad about massage. It said I didn’t need experience and I could make up to $500 a day.

I stood in a room with another girl and when the guy came in and got undressed, I did what the other girl did, and rubbed his back and his legs. Then after 30 minutes the other girl got undressed, and I realized, “Oh, this is why I’m getting $100 an hour.” So I got undressed and we jerked him off.

I started working five days a week. After two months, the spa told me I couldn’t work there anymore. I don’t know if it was because they were mad because I had been seeing private clients, or they just wanted to keep getting new girls.

The other girl from the spa and I decided to rent an apartment and to work on our own. We pooled our savings and bought a massage table and a bed and we started advertising on Backpage.com. We were making about $800 a day each. Most of the guys wanted more than a massage, which is what they all called a hand job, and they offered to pay more. I’m not sure what my friend did, but I always said no.

One of my regulars, he would come for a massage three times a week, and always give me nice tips, sometimes $100. He asked about my life in Russia and told me I might feel better if I talked to a psychologist. He gave me the number of one he’d heard of, who spoke Russian, and extra money to pay for a few months to talk to her. And he offered me $1,000 an hour to have sex with him. It was tempting, but I thought that if I ever fucked for money, I would never respect myself again. He told me he liked me just the way I was. He told me he would like to help me get into school, to take care of me. He told me I would be a great psychologist, because I made people feel comfortable.

So when he invited me to the Plaza Hotel one night, I went. He had an expensive suite with great views, opened a bottle of expensive champagne, and we started to talk. We talked for a while and then we got undressed and had sex. He gave me an envelope with $1,000, but he said it wasn’t payment; it was just because he liked me so much.

He had to leave the next morning for a business trip to Chicago, but I stayed in the suite and ordered room service — orange juice and a big fluffy omelet with mushrooms and beautiful golden toast and little pats of butter shaped like sea shells. I was so happy. I felt like Vivian from Pretty Woman.

He didn’t call me when he got back from Chicago. I called him, but he didn’t answer, so I called him at work. His secretary told me he was “not available.” She told me he would not be available, ever. I opened my eyes that day.

Clients knew me as Angelina or Anna. Angelina was “sweet, intelligent, fun and playful… a devoted pleasure seeker who takes enjoying life very seriously indeed.”

Anna was more shy, a “European companion who adores luxury travel… often passionate, sometimes hilarious but rarely forgettable.”

Angelina cost $800 an hour, $4,000 for the night; Anna ran $900 and $5,000. According to rankings in The Erotic Review (TER), the Yelp of the commercial sex world, each rated in the top 1 percent of all escorts.

But there are lots of young, pretty girls in my business. What got me to the top — and what kept me there — was my work ethic and attention to detail. I was successful because I learned some hard, valuable lessons about making it in the sex-for-money business.

Here are some of them:

Lesson 1: Spend Money to Make Money

I paid someone to write my ad copy. I paid professional photographers $1,500 to shoot my pictures. I considered those investments in myself.

The best page for escorts, Eros.com, costs $400 a month to place an ad. They charge the most, and they attract the most serious escorts and guys who are willing to submit to screening. Backpage is more wide open, and it gets cheaper guys, as well as scary, freaky guys. Craigslist is barely worth mentioning. That’s where people get killed.

I spent $50 a day on Eros so I could be listed in the “What’s New” section, and I learned that to have an impact I had to be “new” for at least 20 days a month. I spent $500 a week for a “featured” spot. So that’s almost $4,000 a month right there. The girls who would only spend the basic $400 a month, they’d only get one email in two weeks. They’d be sitting at home, sucking their fingers.

Then there’s rent, because you want a separate apartment to do your work, because you can’t worry about roommates, and that costs at least $3,000 in Manhattan. You can rent a cheaper place in the Bronx, or Queens, sure, but you think guys with money are going to come see you there?

In my first ads, I used very little copy. What was the point? What I know now is that guys want to know the women they’re fucking. It surprised me, but a lot of them — most of them — really need to feel a sort of connection. Reading about Angelina’s easy laugh, or how Anna loves luxury travel, made them more comfortable. And when they’re more comfortable, they call. I always wondered why Playboy ran those little interviews with the girls alongside the photos. Now I know. The guys who are jerking off want to feel like they know the girl.

Lesson 2: Make Stereotypes Work for You

Anna and Angelina were exotic and vaguely foreign-sounding without any specific nationality.

Men here — especially American men — have certain ideas about certain nationalities. If you’re a South American girl, then you’re wild, you’re fun, and you love to fuck. If you’re Asian, you’re bad! You’re freaky, and you’ll do anything, and you’ll want to do more! American men think Russians are hot, but also icy and mean. Some of the guys have had some not-so-good experiences with what I learned they call Russian gold diggers. American girls are seen as being in really good shape and put-together, and open-minded and fun. Sometimes they have cute ponytails and big smiles, but guys think they’re sort of selfish and bitchy, too.

Once I learned all that, I decided that Angelina and Anna would be beautiful and mysterious, cosmopolitan, but no one would be able to tell from their names what part of the world they were from. They wouldn’t give a client any reason to rule them out based on stereotypes. It’s just smart business.

Lesson 3: The Price Is Right

These days, guys can fuck porn stars for $2,000 — and they advertise on the same sites I do. They can hire “sugar babies” for $4,000 a month. There are even “sex vacations” for $2,000 where you get food and lodging thrown in along with the sex. So if you want to make money as an escort, you better deliver something special. I did couples. I offered toys, role-playing, and BDSM. (I didn’t do anal and I didn’t even know what it was until one of my clients asked about it, then explained it. At first I thought he was joking and I think I hurt his feelings a little when I laughed. If I ever were to do anal, I would charge at least $1,500 for it, mostly because what I learned is that guys think it’s so forbidden and are so shy about asking for it and that they think most girls don’t really like it). Mostly, I offered understanding. The truth is, even for guys who hire me for three or four hours, the sex usually only takes about 15 minutes. It’s the understanding they’re buying.

White girls can charge the most, at least in New York. Then Spanish girls, then Asians (Koreans and Japanese tend to demand more than Chinese), then black girls. I don’t know if it’s supply and demand or what, but one of my clients, a handsome blonde actor, he told me to take advantage. He told me he’d been up for 10 commercials in the past five months, and hadn’t gotten a single one. He said it was because the marketplace wanted brunettes now, because of the increasing Latino population and their buying power. (I often learn business tips from my customers, even when they don’t know it.) In any case, I took advantage. I charged top dollar. What amazes me is some of the American girls who only charge $400. I don’t know if it’s because they’re stupid, or too lazy to study the competition, or they’re not as serious about their work. Maybe it’s because they never stepped on a stinky tourist bus with no air conditioning.

Lesson 4: One Is the Most Profitable Number

With an agency, they screen your clients. They set up your appointments. They take care of you. What they also take is your money. For massage parlors, it’s half. For escort agencies, it’s 30 to 40 percent.

Girls who work at the agencies don’t want to deal with owning their own businesses. To me, that’s shortsighted. First off, the ones that advertise 20 girls usually have two, one blonde and one brunette. So, of course, those girls are working hard. Really hard. If an agency gets 20 clients a day, each of those girls is fucking 10 guys — a day. At the end of a summer, they have $50,000, but they had to fuck a lot of guys for that. To me, that’s not worth it. It’s not cost-effective.

I worked hard, but once I went into business for myself, I worked hard for myself, not someone else. It’s the entrepreneurs who get rich.

I’m 5'7", 119 pounds, with long legs, hazel eyes, full lips, and a slim body that has been getting attention since I entered puberty. That’s the raw material. It’s my product, so I took care of it.

I’m a vegetarian and I have a personal trainer. I got manicures and pedicures at least twice a week, always red, and always showed up in expensive lingerie and thigh-high stockings.

Every time I met a client it was a performance, so I prepared. My mascara cost $130. Hair color was $200; eye shadow was $50, as was foundation and lipstick. A nice lingerie set costs at least $100; I spent $600. Not to mention the shoes.

In real life, girls prepare in the same way, then the guy takes her to a diner, or he says, “Let’s go to a sports bar and we can drink bottles of beer.” What a schmuck. No wonder so many guys complain about not getting laid.

My dates gave me flowers, Prada coats, iPhones. They did not take me to diners, or sports bars. When a guy meets an escort, he wants to be nice, he wants to prove he’s the best, he wants to be great.

And then in real life, he can be so stupid. Last Valentine’s Day, I was in a McDonald’s near my apartment. Valentine’s and Christmas and Easter are never big days in my business, at least with the guys who have money. I came there to drink some Coca-Cola and because the internet worked faster than in my apartment. I had bought myself flowers, daisies and violets. There was a couple sitting next to me and the girl said, “OMG, how cute are your flowers?” I was in a pretty good mood and I said to the guy, “Maybe it’s time to buy your girlfriend flowers,” and he said, “She’s okay without them.”

I’m not sure why, but that made me so mad. “Fuck you!” I said to the guy, and I left.

The big part of my job started at the door. You don’t pay attention to the envelope he has. You pretend it doesn’t even exist. You’re smiling because he’s a handsome man, and there’s chemistry. If he’s shy, you offer him a glass of wine. If he’s super shy, you ask, can you massage him, there’s nothing wrong with a massage, right?

Sometimes I would say, “Oh, you’re so handsome,” because people like to be flattered, even if it’s not true. People like to believe the better things, because believing better things is easier. And guys who are paying $1,000 an hour really believe the better things! If he can afford $1,000 an hour, he already thinks he’s cool. When a guy’s got money, he thinks he’s cool, cooler than regular people.

They all wanted you to come, and they wanted you to come more than once. The 60-year-old guy who wants me to come five times before he has an orgasm believes it’s because he cares about me. But it’s because he wants to prove to himself that he can still make a young girl come. (I told lies for a living, but the biggest lies in the world are the lies people tell themselves.) So of course I pretended to come. And I learned that the best, most convincing, easiest way to show my clients I had an orgasm was just to say, “I just came.” That’s it. Nothing fancy. I’m not that good an actress, and it’s not necessary, anyway. “Oh, I came” would always do the trick. They believed it. They were so proud. The truth is, for most girls, you can’t tell: It’s like God, or love, you don’t see it, but you believe it exists.

As important as it was for me to do, and say, certain things, equally important was what not to do and say. I didn’t ask about the guy’s family. Not because it was crossing any boundaries (you’d be surprised at how many men brag about their kids) but because what if someone had just died? That would make him sad. I never, ever wanted to make a client sad.

For the same reason, I didn’t talk about anything that was bothering me. In Russia we have an expression: “If I’m hungry and you’re full, you won’t understand me.” A billionaire doesn’t understand what shitty problems I have. It’s bad business. Telling your guy might get him to help you once, or twice, but it’s going to turn a potential regular, long-term client into a non-repeat customer. A guy will complain to you over and over, but he doesn’t want to hear your complaints. I promise you that.

I tried to be entertaining. I would tell clients I just got back from Dubai, or Hawaii. I’ve never been to either place, but I learned about them on television and I told stories about all the sheiks in the marble hotels in the desert, and the big waves at Oahu. It made me more exotic, more interesting. Guys like to fuck women with pretty faces and slim bodies, but they also like to fuck interesting girls.

I don’t eat a lot. Once a day I ordered vegetable fried rice from a place around the corner because it’s fast — five minutes to cook, five minutes to deliver, five minutes to eat — and if I spent two hours in a restaurant, that’s at least $1,600 I was not depositing into my bank account. I eat slower now, but still not a lot.

If a guy wanted to take me to dinner, I would have a salad, and juice. No garlic, no onions, no coffee. Nothing that stinks. Even if he doesn’t mind, other men will. I rarely drink and don’t do drugs. Payment in advance. Condoms, of course. No discussion of price over the phone.

I was available 12 hours a day, noon till midnight. I was always prompt, always nice, even when the client was rude. One or two bad reviews can hurt business.

I liked to book two or three days in advance. If a guy emailed and said, “Hey, what’s up, are you free later?” I wouldn’t see a guy like that. It’s better to have two great, dependable clients than 10 occasional customers. That’s what’s called the “80–20 principle.” I read it in a business book.

I would travel with clients. I wanted them to know I was special, but not bitchy. So when I told them I wanted first class on the jet, I didn’t say, “You have to treat me right!” I said, “I have really long legs and in coach they get cramped and then I lose my flexibility, I cannot do doggie style so good.” That seemed to do the trick.

Even though what I really want to do is to be a film director, or a psychologist, I study business, too. I had to. One of the biggest things I always read was to learn from your mistakes.

My biggest mistake when I started was when the guy asked if I had a boyfriend, and I said no, which was true. Then when he asked why not, I said “Because he couldn’t fuck me good.” I said that because I thought it would get the men excited. But what happened is the guy would try to fuck you so hard. So hard! I could tell it wasn’t the natural way they did it, it was awful. So after that, when a guy would ask why I don’t have a boyfriend, I would frown a little and say, “Well, he was Jewish and I didn’t want to convert because it would have killed my parents,” and the guy would look at me and hold my hand and say, “Oh, I totally understand, poor thing,” and all the guys would be so sweet, and gentle. Even the Jewish guys.

Ninety percent of my clients were married, and most were bankers. If you know an investment banker who tells you he’s never been to an escort, you know a saint — or more likely a liar.

About a third of the guys liked to watch me masturbate. I’d say 98 percent wanted to go down on me. Fifty percent told me what big dicks they have. The ones who bothered me were the ones who really did have giant dicks (about one fifth of the guys who thought they did). No girl wants to take one of those on. Eighty percent asked if I came.

Some wanted to take me shopping; others wanted to take me to dinner. One guy just sat and looked at me like I was a statue. I asked him if he didn’t want to do something, to have some fun, and he just shushed me. Another guy just fucked me for an hour, and he kept making train noises, “Wooo, wooo, wooo.” I put my finger in his ass so he’d come faster, but it didn’t work. Finally I just lay there, didn’t even pretend I was enjoying it. That’s rare for me, to stop pretending. But come on. Woo, woo, wooo? It was annoying.

Men are all alike, but they’re all different, too. One guy paid me $20,000 a month and I needed to be available to him two full days and nights every week. He was 62, divorced, a very nice guy. I would have liked a couple other guys like him. Sometimes we went to movies, or to dinner. Sometimes we fucked. He had cancer and he said he loved me and wanted to marry me. I don’t know how much money he had. I didn’t want to marry him and find out he just had debt. And I wasn’t comfortable asking him how much he would leave me. This might sound odd, but it just doesn’t seem right to ask. Plus, I didn’t want to make him feel bad. For business reasons, and because I liked him.

He used to get four or five escorts a week, but he stopped after he met me because he said he loves me. I needed to be honest with him. So I told him, “I like you, but I don’t love you. I can’t fall in love in just a few months.” He said that was okay, I was young, I would learn.

I had another guy in his 60s, from Illinois. He said he wanted me to move to Illinois with him. “No,” I said, “I don’t think so.” I didn’t come from Russia to the United States so that I could live in fucking Illinois! I didn’t tell him that, but it’s what I thought. He said he had come to New York to find a wife, because New York was the best, and escorts in New York were the best. He said they all like to fuck so much. They all like to please you. I was in a bad mood, so I said, “We like to please you because you pay us!” We stopped seeing each other after that.

I had one guy videotape us having sex and when I noticed I grabbed his phone and erased it and told him to get the hell out of my apartment. I had another guy tell me he wanted free sex, or he was going to call the cops. I told him I would put his phone number up on Backpage.com and say he was a gay escort. You run into assholes, and you have to know how to handle them.

Young guys are bad. Virgins are awful. Young virgins are a nightmare. I had one guy, all he had done was watch porn and jerk off until he was 25. So it was “Do this position, do that position, turn over, turn around.” I don’t think he even knew how to talk to a woman. I felt sad for him. But I tried to be nice.

Clients fall into four categories. There are the guys who want to pay for your companionship. There are the guys who think they’re buying a relationship. There are the ones who think they own you. And then there are the couples. The first group is the simplest. The second, while they think they’re sweet, can be much more demanding. The guys in the third group were the biggest headaches. One guy demanded to pour honey all over me before he fucked me. I said no. He said he’d pay double and I said no. He said he’d pay triple and I said okay. The whole time, I was thinking about cleaning the sheets, and another two and half hours of hair and makeup. That’s when I decided that if he ever asked me for honey again, I’d charge quadruple. At least.

My favorite kind of client was the fourth kind — the guy who invited me over for a threesome with his wife, or girlfriend.

A great thing about doing couples: With a couple, you would go through the door and see a table covered with good wine, different types of cheese and fruits, like it’s a celebration of something. If it’s just a guy, you see a glass of water and an envelope on the shelf.

There were also more positive emotions — more emotions, period. With a guy, you feel like he wants to have it all, to make sure he’s getting his money’s worth. When it’s a girl, you can just relax and have your conversation. You can eat fruit.

Usually threesomes are two or three hours long. The couples were always shy, even though they had done threesomes before. (I was never the first for a couple. I’m not sure why.) I had to do the first step. “I’d like to get to know you better,” I would say, or, “I’d like to kiss you.” Even with the emotions and the conversation, I knew, they were not paying me to talk.

First I would be with the girl. Then the guy would be standing there and wouldn’t know what to do, so I would invite him to kiss with us. All of a sudden we’d all be naked, in the bed, but then it would be the girl and me having fun, and the guy doing his own thing, and honestly, I would forget about him. His girlfriend would definitely forget about him. I promise you that.

And then after 30 minutes, she would remember she had a boyfriend and that he might be lonely. She would usually give him a blow job then. Ninety percent of the time I wouldn’t do much with the guy in a threesome. Partly because I was having so much fun with his girlfriend, but mostly because it wouldn’t have been good business. I didn’t want the girls to be jealous.

I loved doing couples, but I charged more than twice as much. I got $2,000 an hour, and the sessions were usually at least two hours. I charged more not because the work was harder — it obviously wasn’t — but because I could. That’s the cool thing about capitalism.

It was hard to quit. My psychologist said the best way to leave the business was to think about doing it the rest of my life. Usually, a girl thinks she’ll work one more week, save a few more thousand dollars. Or one month, one more trip to Las Vegas. But then another year has passed. I would see girls on The Erotic Review with 600 reviews. That’s 10 years, at least. I didn’t want to be one of those girls.

Some of my girlfriends have quit but they haven’t managed to stay quit. One got a job on Wall Street. They pay her $6,000 a month. I used to make that in a day. So did she. She escorts in her spare time. It’s hard to give up money.

Another girlfriend got a job at an advertising agency. Nice people, good benefits, interesting work. But she started at $80,000 a year. She knew she could make that in two months as an escort, so she decided she would just take the occasional client, just to “supplement” her income. Now she’s almost full-time at both jobs. She’s making money, but she’s a wreck.

I don’t know if I would recommend being an escort. I know that there are dangers. Getting arrested is just one thing. I read about the serial killers. Child trafficking. Violent pimps. I think those people should be locked up forever. But I never felt close to any of that stuff. I think it’s because I approached it like a business. My psychologist says I was lucky.

I miss some things, not just the money. I enjoyed to dress nice all the time, to put on makeup. Now I don’t have a reason to even put nail polish on, and I miss that. I’m wearing my T-shirt and jeans every day for weeks, and I do my own manicure and pedicure, and sometimes that makes me a little sad.

I’ve had one boyfriend since I quit escorting. I met him at a nice bar. He was just a few years older than me, very polite, a banker. When I met him, he told me he used to fly in his private jet to Vegas all the time. I believed him. But then when we went out, it was always, “Let’s just meet for drinks, why don’t you come over later?”

Since then I’ve been dating. I use the internet, and everyone — guys and girls — posts ads of themselves on Match, or OkCupid, or wherever, saying how great they are, how they like long walks on the beaches and they’re looking for fun, or love, or whatever.

Dating is weird. My clients were older than the guys I’m dating now, and these guys don’t have that much money. Clients, if they like you, they spoil you very well. Boyfriends don’t really care. They have their dinners with work, their ball games they watch with their guy friends.

Before my job I never did blow jobs for boyfriends. If they would ask, I would be like, “Are you kidding me?” Or if they would say, “Change positions,” I would be like, “What are you talking about?”

Since I quit, no blow jobs, either. If you’re dating somebody and he didn’t live good before, and you start giving him blow jobs and doing different positions, you can spoil him. I don’t want to spoil someone that much.

If someone’s not paying you, you don’t have to do blow jobs, you don’t have to smile all the time, you can be yourself. But after a while you feel like something is missing. The something is money. You’re sitting in the same apartment, you’re the same you, but something is missing. Your wallet is empty. Sex is sex, but money is money.

I don’t regret what I’ve done with my body, or my life. I had some good times and some not-so-good times. I’ve met some interesting people and some idiots. I’ve learned a lot about what men and women want and need.

I don’t eat $100 breakfasts anymore. No smiling blow jobs. I don’t hang out with some of my old escort girlfriends. I miss them, but I have to weigh, okay, on one side friendships with whores, on the other side, a family, and my future. So I make a choice.

In one of my film classes, we watched The Great Gatsby. Gatsby always wanted to be something better. He would never really do it, but he tried. The girls in this business, they want to touch this new world all around them, so they go to expensive stores, expensive restaurants. You want to be someone you have never been. If you’re a girl who is pretty and has dreams and maybe comes from a small town where men behave differently toward you because you’re prettier than the other girls, you think that will help you be something better. So you try.

It can help you get money, that’s for sure. But after, you have to find that world for yourself.

Svetlana Z is a 24-year-old former escort living in New York City.

This story was edited by Bobbie Johnson, fact-checked by Emily Loftis, and copy-edited by Lawrence Levi. Photographs by Pascal Perich for Matter.