Interview with comic and podcast host Eric Barry
Straight talk about going "gay for pay" and the stigma it set off.
HOOK: You came forward to talk about your time working in the industry as “Gay for Pay” in a very public way. What prompted it?
Eric Barry: I had been open with my friends and family for years about it – including women I was seeing while I was working.
But given that I host the Full Disclosure podcast where I’m interviewing sex workers, it seemed like I’d be doing an injustice to humanizing those in the industry without relaying my own experiences. There’s a lot of misperception about who decides to get into sex work, and there’s a lot of socially accepted stigmatization against sex workers.
Most of the sex workers I know are remarkably intelligent, well-rounded individuals. These aren’t people who were brought into the industry as a result of prior abuse or substance addiction. Of course people will point to examples of drug addicts who have used sex work to pay for their addiction, but the problem there isn’t that someone is doing sex work, the problem is that someone is a drug addict.
I wanted to change these perceptions.
HOOK: We all know “Gay for Pay” exists, but it isn’t always clear what that means. Can you explain it?
Eric: There’s lots of things we all do for work that we probably wouldn’t if a paycheck wasn’t involved. For me, that meant engaging in sexual acts with men, going in dates, etc. that I wouldn’t have otherwise, since I identify as straight.
HOOK: Was being ‘Straight” part of the client experience? For example, were they turned on or off by it? Was it part of your sales technique? If so, can you explain how?
Eric: It most certainly was in my later years when I learned that marketing myself as straight would help set parameters on what I was willing to do, and entice a specific kind of client. I do not have an underwear model’s body. I don’t calorie count. I don’t have a big dick. For a lot of gay men, these are important factors. Somehow, when you explain that you’re straight, that kind of harsh male criticism lessens.
It’s funny – so many gay men think they want a straight guy, but they don’t. They want a masculine, straight-acting gay man. I’d frequently get emails asking me to lower my rates, and these prospective clients would cite the numerous men they’ve been able to suck off in bathrooms for half my rate. They couldn’t understand how a man wouldn’t want that done to them – but they were approaching this from the angle of a man who likes to have sex with other men.
Often clients would say things during dirty talk like “Yeah, you want a big hard cock in your mouth?” to which I’d frequently respond, “No, not really. I’m straight. I think dudes are kinda gross.” It was a delight to be able to develop my “earnest sex worker” sketch character.
HOOK: Did you have any rules about contact or kissing when you were dealing with clients? What were they?
Eric: Absolutely. I had a no intercourse rule. I topped a guy one time, but he was a recurring client who was quite generous, and an all around, cool, down to earth guy.
I’d frequently use condoms for oral as well. If it looked like something funky was going on down there, I’d stay away. It’s funny that kissing gets portrayed as the sacred act of intimacy for a sex worker. I actually think kissing some guys can be fun. A dick in the mouth, not so much.
HOOK: Did your clients ever teach you anything you didn’t know before?
Eric: It was incredible how much my experiences with men informed my relationships with women. Men tend to be much more sexually aggressive and in turn adventurous. I didn’t even know you COULD lick an asshole, let alone how great it felt. When I’d return to the bedroom with women, I’d pull out many tricks I learned from clients, and the feedback I’d get seemed to say I was doing something right.
But one of the most eye-opening things I learned during a session was when a client was naked on top of me, dry humping. He was an old dude, and despite my not being into it, he thought he was performing the greatest sex act man had ever seen.
A thought occurred to me, ‘I wonder if I act like I’m more into this if it will get him to hurry up.’ I decided to play into it, and with each heave he gave, I’d say things like “Oh fuck yeah!” and “Fuck me with your big hard cock!”
About 10 seconds later PLUMMPH he shot his load.
As his head fell over my shoulder and into the pillow, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, a huge smile over my face. I finally understood for the first time why so many women fake orgasms. Sometimes, they just want to get the whole thing over with.
HOOK: Having worked in the industry, do you have a different perspective on it? What are three insights you take away from your work?
Eric: I’ve learned that there are so many different people in the industry who’ve come to it for so many different reasons. It’s certainly helped me form a kinship and have a degree of access, both literally and emotionally to those in the industry who are more apt to shut out “normies” for fear of judgement, violence, etc.
But really, being able to engage in sex for business purposes has further informed my perspective that we’re all sexual creatures in one way or another. I think sex informs so much of what we do – from who we sit next to on the bus, who we choose as roommates, all sorts of things perhaps we’re not full conscious of. Sex is still incredibly taboo in our society, which is an awfully strange thing to me considering it’s the reason we’re all here.
HOOK: After you disclosed yourself as a former worker, what has the response been? What are the most common questions people ask?
Eric: The response has been overwhelming. For those that don’t know me intimately (in every sense of the word), I still have to combat many assertions that I’m gay. No one has a hard time wrapping their head around the idea that someone would do something strictly for money, unless that something involved gay sex.
Unfortunately I was also fired from my job once my podcast was discovered, and I’m currently still looking for work, so being open about it certainly has had professional repercussions.
But the greatest responses I’ve received have been from those who have previously been sex workers, but have had to remain silent about their past, or those currently in the sex industry who have to use pseudonyms. No one’s doing it because they’re ashamed, they’re doing it because they’re afraid for their safety, they’re afraid they won’t have other career opportunities, that their families will disown them. Unfortunately these are all valid concerns. I’d like to think if we could all be a little more transparent, if people understood who sex workers really were, and how many of us are all around you, those concerns will one day be a thing of the past.
HOOK: Did it affect your personal life? Dating?
Eric: Not at all. As I said, I’ve always been open with my past, and was always open with the women I was seeing even while I was escorting. Of course we’d have all the necessary safety, STI discussions, etc. but anyone who knows me well never took issue with it.
HOOK: There has been a conversation about more women asking services to provide male escorts. What do you think about this?
I think it’s great. I think we all have sexual needs, sometimes it can be easier to enlist professional help to meet those needs, and men and women alike should be empowered to do so.
HOOK: You’re a comedian? I gotta ask for at least one joke.
Eric: Typically when a woman says this to me at a bar I tell her she’d misheard me and that I’m actually a gynecologist, so if she wants to throw her legs up we can start the exam – unless she feels that maybe this isn’t the right environment – maybe she needs some nice candles and a 2 drink minimum if she wants to see me work for free.
That usually gets a laugh, and she’ll never ask a comedian to do that again 🙂
But here’s a corny one I just wrote –
A man goes to an escort and asks him, “Hey, how much for me to suck your dick?”
“$200 for an hour,” replies the escort.
“$200!” The man says shocked. “I can’t afford that! How much for me to give you a massage?”
“$200 for an hour,” replies the escort.
“$200!” The man says shocked. “I can’t afford that! Well how much for me to take you out to a nice romantic dinner and a movie?”
“$200 for an hour,” replies the escort.
“$200!” the man says shocked. “I’ve offered to take you to a nice dinner and a movie, give you a massage, and suck your dick – and you want to charge me $200? You should be paying me!”
“How much for me not to tell your wife about this?”
The man pulls out his wallet, “Here’s $200”.