What do we really want sexually? Imagine that we lived in a society where you could have sex with anyone, but conversation was strictly circumscribed. You could only have conversations with your beloved. The rest of social communication is conducted through some kind of bleep technology. Imagine the sort of conversations that could come up:
“I thought you were just going to have sex with Doris. I felt betrayed when I found out you were discussing French literature. What’s wrong with my French literature? I did night school classes on Proust. Bastard.”
Imagine further that in this society, instead of sex workers, there are conversation workers, who you have to make clandestine meetings in order to have a good talk.
What sort of conversations would you pay for? Would you pay to have your views affirmed, your jokes laughed at, your vocabulary favourably compared to your wittiest friends?
I think not.
My guess is that you would want to pay for a real conversation. Not a safe and habitual conversation but one that has risk and uncertainty so that there is some new stimulation. Talking that would allow both seduction and rejection to be possible. Having a conversation that gives you success or failure. Wouldn’t that be more interesting?
So turning to our world, what do people want when they buy sexual services?
Kant defined marriage as a contract for the reciprocal use of the other’s genitals, and in the common understanding of sexual services, the genitals and the wallet are in one place, as it were. But the actual experience is generally joyless and dispiriting. You know the other person is pretending. You know it’s not real. It’s pretend real.
Is that what we really want?
My dear friend Ali Grace thinks not, and to test it out, she has recently started offering a tantric escort service. The idea is that initially you pay to meet up over lunch. No sex is on offer, but you can agree certain other things. It’s a kind of audition. If she likes you, you take it from there. There’s no promise of anything. It all depends how you get on.
So far, it seems to be working very well, and I think she’s on to something, because she’s offering something both real and relational. It’s fun and flirty, and as she’s a brilliant conversationalist, discussions can dip and soar like an exultation of swallows.
Her work is very different from ours in content and form, but both are rooted in actually meeting the other. With her, the primary thing is excitement, and with us, it’s probably devotional love.
Different kinds of conversations: but both equally real.