When I first began in the industry, most sex workers offered safer sexual services. With the inception of the internet, the public forum of escort review boards allowed clients to offer feedback to sex workers. Clients wanted a more personal atmosphere and to be treated as though they were more than just a transaction. This desire for more personalized relations soon became known as the girlfriend experience. Although the girlfriend experience began with a preference for a more natural environment, it soon became defined by the physical services that sex workers offered.
In the early stages of the girlfriend experience, clients pressured sex workers to offer kissing and uncovered cunnilingus. To many clients, these intimate services made the engagement more real and personal. Although clients stated that personality and attitude were important to their engagements, few sex workers were classified as a girlfriend experience unless they offered physically-intimate services. Sex workers who offered the girlfriend experience were praised by clients in their reviews, thus influencing other sex workers to also offer the girlfriend experience.
The effect of this offering was immediate. As the girlfriend experience became popular, it categorized sex workers into two camps: girlfriend experience and non-girlfriend experience. Because the term non-girlfriend experience was in essence a negation, it was deemed by many clients to be an inferior service. On some review boards, administrators devised ratings guidelines wherein only sex workers who offered higher risk services could be given high scores. There were no scores for personality or attitude; it was simply a checklist of services.
Even on review boards which did not use this ratings formula, sex workers who did not offer the girlfriend experience were oftentimes given negative reviews. At the same time, the more that clients read about other clients receiving girlfriend experience services, the more that they, too, wanted to receive them. Over time, the girlfriend experience became the norm in the sex industry, making it difficult for non-girlfriend experience sex workers to preserve their client base. As they lost bookings, some sex workers began offering the girlfriend experience, regardless of their personal thoughts on the matter.
As time went on in the industry, the definition of the girlfriend experience began to change. On review boards, many clients insisted that only sex workers who offered bareback blowjobs should be considered a girlfriend experience. As they praised sex workers who offered bareback blowjobs, they often censured safer sex workers as “restrictive” and/or “dispassionate about sex work.” At the same time, as review boards became the predominant information source in the industry, nascent sex workers were socialized into thinking that the girlfriend experience, including bareback blowjobs, was the normal service offering that they, too, began offering them.
In response to client demands, new industry classifications emerged. Sex workers who offered bareback blowjobs began labeling their services as the “true girlfriend experience.” Conversely, sex workers who did not offer bareback blowjobs labeled their services as the “safe girlfriend experience.” Similar to the distinction between the girlfriend experience and the non-girlfriend experience, most clients deemed that a true girlfriend experience was superior. As such, over time, bareback blowjobs became the norm in the sex industry.
This industry-wide transition did not happen because sex workers, suddenly, became passionate about higher risk services in the post-internet world. Instead, it was a learned behaviour, which happened over a period of time, and was the consequence of both competitive pressure and client expectations on review boards.
Now, on some review boards, offering bareback blowjobs is no longer enough. Recent changes to the ratings guidelines of The Erotic Review mean that sex workers must now offer anal sex during their engagements in order to be considered for the highest ratings score in services. As such, there has never been more pressure upon sex workers to engage in physical services.
And, all the while, many clients have forgotten that the true purpose of the girlfriend experience is to be treated as though they are more than just a transaction. For sex workers, the girlfriend experience means being treated as though they are more than just a checklist of services.
As I have stated countless times before, sex workers are unique and dynamic individuals who deserve to be treated as such. This industry-wide obsession with acronyms, and the services contained within them, needs to change.