Writer and sex educator Lux Alptraum will be walking through each episode of Starz’s The Girlfriend Experience for Vulture, gauging how closely it approximates what it’s like to be a sex worker, in a series of essays and interviews. Here, she breaks down episode ten, "Available" (check out her pieces on episode one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight/nine). Follow along, and read our Girlfriend Experience recaps here.
What’s a girl to do when her sex tape gets leaked and her life turns upside down? For Christine, the answer is hightailing it to Toronto for a few days of escorting. Behind the scenes, Toronto makes sense as a destination (since it’s where most of the show — even the “Chicago” scenes — was actually shot). But is it actually a city where an escort could find booming business? I reached out to Rebecca DeVeaux, a Toronto-based escort, to learn more about what kind of rates Canadian sex workers charge, why it’s always nice to get paid in U.S. dollars, and who, exactly, is at risk should the cops come calling in Canada.
Does it seem like an authentic depiction of what sex work in Toronto is like?
She’s doing great business. As a high-end escort, like super-high-end, is there a market in Toronto? There are people who are in the $600, $800, maybe $1,000 an hour range. Not many, but it’s not unheard of. It definitely happens. It’s not as big a thing as, say, New York. I think it depends on the city, in terms of a high-end rate, but I wouldn’t see anyone going over $1,000 an hour. I think she charged $1,500 an hour, and I don’t know if that’s her normal rate, but when you’re touring, you’re going to alter your rates, and generally increase them over your baseline. It depends. I guess if you’re from New York and you’re charging $1,500 an hour, which would be $2,000 Canadian — you’re not going to go to Toronto and charge that much.
So when you say $1,000 an hour, you mean $1,000 an hour Canadian.
Yeah. They paid her in Canadian [money]. I noticed that. I appreciated it, because often in shows they’ll be in Canada but paying in U.S. currency. And this would actually be one example where it wouldn’t be absurd or unheard of to use U.S. currency. Generally, you’re going to accept the currency of the country you’re in, but it wouldn’t be unheard of for someone to request American dollars, potentially, because to convert money, there’s a paper trail. So it wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask for American dollars as an American sex worker. People use the greenback everywhere, especially for sex work.
Do you know many U.S. sex workers that come to Toronto?
No. I know a lot more the other way. But it happens. Come to think of it, I know a lot of people going the other way, mostly New York from Toronto. But not the other way. It’s surprising, actually, because the legal status, at least for a worker, is less precarious than it is in the U.S.
What is the legal status of sex work in Canada?
Well, up until two years ago, solicitation was illegal. So, theoretically, was advertising for sexual services. It was primarily only ever enforced with street-based sex work. But that law, and other laws that criminalized sex work itself, went to the Supreme Court of Canada and were deemed to be a constitutional infringement of the rights of these women. So the laws were struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada and the government was given, I think, 12 months to propose new legislation. And they moved to a [Nordic model], where instead of criminalizing the sex worker they’re criminalizing the john. So now the act of buying sex is illegal, but not selling — as of a few years ago, buying sex is illegal.
There’s also anti-pimping laws, which in principle are meant to prevent people from materially benefiting from a sex worker, but the thing is, depending on how that law is interpreted, it could also be someone that you’re sharing groceries with. I haven’t heard of it being enforced like that.
Criminalization of purchasing sex creates issues for safety, because a lot of people aren’t going to want to give their phone number or their full name, or even talk on the phone in some cases. She was getting all these cold calls, and I find that most people are going to have first contact through a text-based format — like through email or text messaging. People calling out of the blue? Most people I know have a text-only number or a text-only policy, and then they’ll call people, rather than them just putting a number out. Or if they do have a number, it’ll generally be only used to confirm time and location and check in and do a call. But to just take calls, like she was doing, is a bit unusual. Men aren’t comfortable just cold calling sex workers that they don’t know, especially ones from out of town that have no references or reviews.
Did anyone ask her for references or reviews or anything?
I don’t think so. What’s interesting to me is she goes to Toronto because a dude who’s never seen a sex worker before — or seems to have never seen a sex worker — invites her up. One of my friends said that wasn’t that unlikely because a first-timer might just fixate on a specific girl, no matter where she is, but if it’s a really complicated legal status, that seems less likely.
Yeah. I’m assuming that he paid for the flight and gave a sizeable deposit. If you’re going to be flying to a different country, he should probably pay for the hotel room, but it looked like she just booked her own hotel? I mean, yeah, she’s charging a lot, but I’d at least want a deposit and the flight paid for.