Alex has the chiseled body of a man in his early 30s, even though he's more than a decade older than that. After a more conventional career in such areas as insurance and securities, Alex decided to return to a job he did as a younger man: helping others indulge in the flesh. His own well-tanned flesh, to be specific.
He offers the "ultimate fantasy party" or "stress relief."
But, as the song goes, let's talk about sex, baby.
Alex (his stage name) is a gigolo, a rarity in the underground economy of Tampa Bay's escorts, stress relievers and relaxation experts, often code words for the sex-for-hire business. He ends up having sex with about 80 percent of the women (or couples) who hire him for relaxation or stress relief.
More than simply sexual release, Alex says, his profession is about touch.
"Above all what they are looking for is the human touch, the human contact," he says. "It's not your prowess or your technique or how well-endowed you are -- and I'm all of those. It's the comfort and the touch and the familiar aspects that the people want. The gratification, that's great, but it's the human contact, the feeling of being with someone."
This is the commercial touch that is clearly illegal. Florida has laws against prostitution or soliciting for prostitution. But that doesn't mean there isn't a robust trade in it, as witnessed by personal ads in magazines like Night Moves or online services such as this newspaper's CLundressed.com.
For escorts such as Alex, advertising for their services carries the danger of attracting the authorities. Worse, though, is the idea that they might attract the licensing police. Advertising for "massage," "rubs" or anything involving touch would put them in the realm of the legitimate licensed massage therapist. And without such a license, they could be charged with committing a felony if they were to advertise massage services. Ironically, having sex for money in Florida is only a misdemeanor.
And so were born terms such as stress relief and sensual relaxation.
"That is really the little tightrope that we walk on what we do," Alex says.
("Aromatherapy" has become such a popular advertising code word for "stress relief" that non-sexual aromatherapists, part of the holistic medicine world, are starting to experience the same consumer confusion that licensed massage therapists do because of so-called "massage parlors.")
Alex is 50. His work, one or two clients a day with a few days off a week, is lucrative enough to maintain his half-million-dollar home in a Florida beach community.
His clients vary. "It runs the gamut from single career gals to executives to housewives," he says. "They can be married and doing it on their own. They can be married and doing it with permission. They are getting the same sexual charge out of it. [Their spouse] may be away on business somewhere."
The clients typically book a session for what amounts to a fully nude sensual oil rub. It doesn't always end with the client paying for sex, but eight out of 10 do go all the way with Alex, he says. He gets paid between $150 and $300 for each stress relief session. Tips from satisfied customers can add another $500-$600. Variations -- working with couples, having a voyeuristic partner there, etc. -- cost more. Alex relates a recent session he had in the best suite in one of Tampa Bay's top resorts for a traveling executive and his partner. The price tag: $1,000.
In a community like Tampa Bay, where sun and fun (and sex) is not too hard to find in a bar or beach anywhere, why do women pay Alex for his work?
"It's like you get really hungry and your mind [thinks of] a really tasty hot pizza," Alex explains. "And when you are done you pop that empty box in the trash, and you are done. I am on demand. I am not going to fall in love with her. I'm not going to steal her. I play by rules that are pretty much understood by everyone."
Urban Explorer's Handbook 2007
Sensory Overload Edition
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