In an interview with Viva Magazine from 2004, Julie, Esther and Jovanka from Women of the World, now called The Courtesan Club, describe the policy of the escort agency, how the people around them react to them working at an escort agency and how they once started out. Also, Erin, a student in daily life and in the evening hours an escort companion describes what it is like to be a high class call girl.

Julie, Esther and Jovanka run an escort agency. A fancy agency with a nice atmosphere and where customer isn’t always king. Although… “We’ve been trying lately to empathize with what a man wants, instead of what we want.”

Work diary

Work at an escort agency? Yes sure, nice!

A nice couch, apple pie on the table, burning candles and nice music. An ordinary living room in an ordinary house, in an ordinary street, in an ordinary Amsterdam neighborhood. And then the phone rings: ”Good evening, what can I do for you?” (…) ”Do you have a preference for a certain age?” (…) ”All right. And do you prefer a quiet type or an extrovert woman?” (…) ”Well, then Anna seems like a good choice. She’s 29, courteous, eloquent, calm, slim and has a B cup. Do you want to pay with cash or credit card?”

The house is home to escort agency Women of the World. But this isn’t just any escort agency. It was founded five years ago by a few women who thought it could be different. When you think of prostitution you quickly think of words like ‘dirty’, ‘vulgar’ or ‘abuse’. “We don’t want that,” says Julie Ryan (30). An elegant escort company is the result. An agency that aims for class and has to be pleasant to work for.

Typical whore madams? Nothing like it

Julie started the agency in 1998 together with a friend who was a businesswoman. She regularly heard from business men that there was a lack of quality escort agencies. Julie’s partner now works somewhere else; Jovanka de Boer (33) and Esther Meppelink (30) have joined the club instead. The three of them stand their ground in the sex industry. Typical whore madams? Nothing like it, they are like you and me. Just like the twenty-six escort ladies and five gigolos who work (on an independent basis) for the agency. They don’t do it for less than 250 euro an hour.

Jovanka offers a piece of apple pie. “Whipped cream?” she asks. The whipped cream is left over from the cake they baked yesterday. Jovanka: ”That was for an anniversary: someone who has been a regular client with us for five years. We brought him the cake ourselves, he loved it.”

The escorts are the girl next door type instead of the typical image you might think of when thinking of a prostitute. Esther: ”Men who call us are usually looking for a kind and warm woman. Someone who could have been their girlfriend. Of course it’s about sex, but our clients also need warmth and attention. Some call as many as five times a week. Then you have to be careful: if you give too much of yourself on the phone, they get enough warmth and care from the telephone call and then they are less likely to book a girl”.

People forget it’s an ordinary business just like anything else…

Esther responded to a newspaper ad and that’s how she ended up here. Jovanka came through an employment office. “I’m probably the first person in the history of the world to end up in the sex business through an employment agency,” she laughs. All three of them like working in this company because of its small scale and pleasant character on the one hand and working with women on the other. Jovanka: ”At the employment agency they thought I was perfect for this job. It’s an industry where a good sense of humor and a bit of a tongue in cheek mentality are in place. I like that.”

Do her parents find it as humorous as she does? Jovanka’s parents don’t mind. “My dad thinks it’s extremely funny and tells everybody who is willing to listen.” It’s different in Julie’s case who is originally from Australia: “They don’t like it at all and they don’t talk about it. When I told them, my father just said, ‘You’re not doing it yourself, are you, Julie?!’ Nothing else; it’s a big taboo for them.” Esther’s parents are more open to their daughter’s employment choice, but are not that enthusiastic either. ‘They thought it was really great until it turned out to be a permanent job. Then their initial approval was gone.’

Julie, Esther and Jovanka are open about their profession. Jovanka: “I have no problem talking about it to anyone. It’s just that sometimes I’m a little tired of coming up with the anecdotes at every party. People forget it’s an ordinary business just like anything else.”

Jogging pants and curlers…

Just like with any job, you have to apply before you can be hired. It is very important to find out what her reasons are for wanting to become an escort according to Jovanka. “I want to make sure a girl doesn’t have any underlying issues that steer her in this direction. For example financial problems or a problematic childhood. In those cases, this type of work can be harmful. She needs to be positive in life, happy. Otherwise she may not work here.”

During the job interviews, Jovanka uses a list of questions about size, possible tattoos or plastic surgery. Just when we discuss the importance of appearance in this work (not unimportant I believe), escort lady Erin (22) walks down the stairs: jogging pants, thick socks, a casual shirt and… curlers in her hair! “Usually it’s not that hard to have fun,” she says. “Men often try very hard to make you feel at ease. It is important that you grow your own backbone and demand respect from your customers. Of course you don’t always feel like going on a date. Sometimes I feel insecure and not attractive. In that case, I usually just put myself past it.”

Julie: ”The important thing is that nothing happens against your will. Of course, if sex with someone who’s too fat makes you uncomfortable, well… that’s part of it. Furthermore, it’s up to the girls themselves to set their own boundaries.”

High class escort Erin looks like someone who knows what she wants and what she’s doing…

Erin goes to university (Cultural Studies), does an internship with the government and has a side job as a project leader at an art institute. Her choice for this work, less than a year ago, was not an easy one.

Erin: ”It’s was going through my head for a couple of years. I thought it was a tantalizing idea. At one point I read something about this agency and then I thought: if I am ever going to be bold enough to go for it, then let it be with them! Of course it’s a nice financial addition to my student grant, but that’s not the main reason. For me, it is essentially about the thrill and excitement.” One of the difficult aspects of her work is that she cannot be honest about it. “A lot of people have prejudices. That’s why I often have to lie, even to people I love. That hurts.”

High class escort Erin looks like someone who knows what she wants and what she’s doing. According to Esther, that’s another condition for this work. Someone else her age can be much younger and immature in spirit. “It’s not advantageous for your personality to be shaped by this business. Many of the women who work in prostitution have been sexually abused at some point in their lives, research shows.”

We try to create a safe environment for everyone

Jovanka: ”We try to uncover that in the interviews. If she seems a bit emotionally unstable, we advise her to first work on themselves and look for help. Usually you pick up on this during the first conversation.” Julie: “Sometimes someone slips through the cracks and we hear that she had a bad time with a client. It makes me confused about what we’re doing. There are two sides to it: of course this is not a good profession for someone who has been damaged in the past. But on the other hand, I’m glad she didn’t end up with some dirty pimp. We try to create a safe environment for everyone.”

Every new girl gets a conversation with someone who has been ‘in the business’ for a while. Jovanka: ”For example, we give them tips on how to recognize and indicate their boundaries, how to not lose themselves, how to remain discrete and not reveal too much of who they really are. It’s also our job to make the best possible match. But the other girls know the real ins and outs of the job. Better than we do.”

Julie, Jovanka and Esther would never do it themselves.  Esther: ”It’s a special job. Being an escort requires certain qualities. You have to know the basics of psychology, you have to be able to empathize and adapt to the situation at all times. I don’t think I could do it. Suppose you’ve got a boring client… I’d actually give money for him to leave!

Advice from friends…

For the clientele, mostly wealthy businessmen, there’s a lady for almost everyone. “Because we’re quite pricey, the requests are usually sincere and serious,” says Julie. “As long as they’re not too bizarre, we take them into account. Provided the escort lady agrees, of course. We get the strangest requests. For example, some men find a lot of body hair very exciting.”

What sometimes turns out to be difficult is to determine what the customer desires. The girls who work for the agency are dressed in stylish outfits. At least, what they consider to be stylish: no excessive cleavage, miniskirts or stiletto heels. But what if a man does want that? Well… that sometimes can be a bit difficult. In the end it’s all about sex,” says Jovanka. “We’re trying to find a middle ground. Take for example the text on our new website. Sometimes they’re pretty horny, and it makes me laugh. But men seem to find it sincerely exciting. Well, so be it. Lately, we are taking on a new approach and empathize with what the man wants, instead of solely on what we want. Sometimes we even ask our partners for advice.”

The phone’s ringing. “Customers!” says Jovanka. Julie picks up and walks out of the living room. When she comes back, she asks Erin to be ready in half an hour. No problem. Half an hour later she walks elegantly down the stairs. The girl with the curlers is transformed into a beautiful femme fatale. Black skirt, elegant shoes (heel height: civilized), sexy top with classic fitted jacket. The driver is ready to take her to The Westin, Rotterdam’s most expensive hotel. Two hours later she calls up to tell that she is going to stay a bit longer.

Business is good. “Of course we’d like to grow, we’re a real company!” says Esther. “But ehm… we are also a bit old school and we’d like to stay that way. Our first consideration is always: ‘Does that sound fun?’. Because it has to stay pleasant.”

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