A girlfriend experience (GFE) is a commercial service that blurs the boundaries between a financial transaction and a romantic relationship. It ranges from a transactional sex relationship to a client paying a sex worker to pretend to be his girlfriend during the session.
Within the sex industry, GFE is a common term for a sexual encounter in which both the sex worker and the client are willing to engage in reciprocal sexual pleasure and some degree of emotional intimacy. A "girlfriend experience" generally involves more personal interaction than a traditional call girl or escort offers. There is a focus on not just having sex, but also having more of a comprehensive experience. The details vary widely from person to person. In the field of sex work, sex workers impart a sense of authenticity in order to make the experience more pleasurable for their customer, as well as to make the outcome more lucrative for themselves. According to sociologist Elizabeth Bernstein, this makes it more meaningful for both client and sex worker as it involves a particular form of emotional labor. Paying for any sexual act, including GFE, is considered to be a form of prostitution regardless of the type of service involved. Because of this the legality of GFE varies from place to place.
If the sex worker is male, the service is called a boyfriend experience.
Girlfriend experience and prostitution
Indoor prostitution, which includes the use of massage parlors, saunas, brothels, strip clubs and escort agencies, is more likely than street prostitution to involve conversation, affection and mutual sexual pleasure.
A GFE may start with dinner at a restaurant followed by making out on the sofa in an apartment and end with non-rushed sex and cuddling. In 2012 the cost of a GFE was typically between £200 and £1,200. Escorts traditionally have a reputation for not kissing their clients and it used to be the norm for legal prostitutes to never kiss on the mouth.[page needed]
Clients or hobbyists
The term "client" is sometimes used to describe a person who pays prostitutes for sex. However, in the escort agency code that has grown up around the GFE, clients often call themselves "hobbyists" and refer to a prostitute who provides GFE as a "nice girl". In a GFE situation the client would pay for time spent with the call girl meaning: social interaction, dating, or sexual acts. Clients could come from all different backgrounds (white-collar, blue collar, different races, different ages) therefore there is not a "typical" type of client using the GFE service. Many clients emerge through the need for a feeling of closeness without the commitment of a relationship. To a certain extent it eliminates the feeling of guilt or fear of "addiction" to a relationship.
Research in Cambodia published in 2010 identified a number of waitresses and bartenders who were also working as "professional girlfriends" with "western boyfriends". They relied on these relationships for their livelihood but did not regard themselves as "prostitutes" and often sought love and marriage as well as material comforts. In these relationships there was a performance of intimacy which lay somewhere between the feigned and the genuine.
In Thailand some independent sex workers are reported to work as "professional girlfriends", providing company and affection to foreign men and middle-class Thai men, and only having sex with their clients occasionally. Their remuneration is provided in the form of things such as clothing and visits to the cinema.
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