Sex: Confessions of a Chico call girl

She got into the business for money; getting out isn’t as easy

“I’ll always be known as a call girl in this town,” said Sarah, taking a drag off her cigarette. “Somebody always knows.”

Sarah, which is not her real name, is a call girl, and has been, in Chico, for the past four years. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. She’s beautiful, to be sure. But she could be confused with any student on the Chico State campus, or any barista in town. On this particular afternoon, her cleavage is minimal, her jeans well-fitted rather than skin tight, her shoes cute and comfortable.

In other words, she doesn’t fit the stereotype of prostitutes who overdo their makeup and wear clothes that show off their bodies.

“Most of the girls I work with, they’re classier than anyone you see at Five and I,” Sarah said, laughing.

But on any given evening, whether out with friends or at home relaxing with a movie, Sarah could get a call promising money in exchange for certain favors. She’ll meet her clients at their homes, and also receives “in calls,” at an undisclosed location. That’s when she leaves herself at the door and turns into a fantasy, offering sensual massage … and then some.

“You live a double life: who you are in the world, and then you have this other life, where you show up, pick a different name and create this illusion,” she said. “A lot of it is acting.”

Despite her different names—part of that is for her protection, she said, and part is so she can tell where someone knows her from—she says it’s impossible to completely keep her call-girl identity under wraps. In a small town like Chico, word travels fast.

“There’s always someone who knows in this town,” Sarah said. “And there’s such a stigma around it. Like, ‘You don’t have a brain.’ That may be true for a small percentage of girls, but a lot of us are just pretty girls looking for an easy way to pay the bills.”

Sarah advertises as a sensual massage therapist. In fact, she’s hoping to take her ability to put men at ease a step further by becoming a CMT, or certified massage therapist. The training takes time and money, but would add legitimacy to her title.

On a typical on-call night, Sarah gets a name, an address, and an order—men typically ask for an hour or half-hour massage session, for a fixed price. Then, for out calls, she gets spruced up and heads out.

“You pray it’s the right house, that someone answers the door and that there are no guns,” Sarah said. “Basically, you pray for your own safety. But in the four years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never had any major issues.”

Like many others in Chico whose ads offer the same “erotic massage” services, once you’re behind closed doors—and naked—that $150 hour-long massage could turn into anything from a “happy ending” ("most guys just want a massage with a hand-job,” Sarah says) to full-on sex, for an extra fee. A quick search on, a site of “escort, massage, and strip club reviews,” reveals that even girls at some of the more reputable establishments in town—they all say they’re legit—have reviews touting their oral or sexual prowess.

That’s not to say that every woman in Chico who offers sensual massage is a hooker. Some actually are legit—making it difficult for law-enforcement to crack down on individuals or businesses. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said he’s seen only two prostitution cases from the Chico area in the past five years. “I’m not saying it doesn’t happen,” he added.

Sarah said she’s been approached by cops before, and follows a strict protocol so as not to get arrested. “A cop will never take his underwear off,” she offered.

As for the rates for anything beyond a massage, every woman has a different set of standards.

“I’m not going to give you a blowjob for less than $150,” Sarah said. That number goes up to $500 for sex.

A number of women who advertise on Craigslist charge anywhere from $75 to $250 for what’s referred to as the “girlfriend experience,” or GFE. Basically, that means she’ll have sex with you, Sarah said. “Full-service,” or FS, means the same thing. She added: “If they say they’re French, they’ll give you a blowjob, and if they say they’re Greek, they do anal.”

One woman contacted for this story replied to an e-mail asking about her rates by explaining that she’ll do an uncovered blowjob in addition to “lots of kissing and fucking.” And she offered to drop her regular rate of $250 an hour to $100. A limited-time offer.

“The problem with Craigslist is that it’s free,” Sarah said, telling a story about a girl she knows who had her photo and text reposted by another girl, with a different phone number. Plus, the advertisers yo-yo with their prices, so often it’s hard to tell what to expect. “I tell other girls, ‘Don’t do it once if you aren’t willing to always do it.’ Because [clients will] expect it forever, at this price.”

Another problem Sarah sees in the industry is the lack of knowledge some women have about how sexually transmitted diseases are, well, transmitted. And she’s known some who have walked around with STDs without getting tested for months.

“It’s scary how uneducated some of these girls are,” Sarah said. It’s her policy to never get intimate with a man without a condom. Even so, she gets screened for STDs every two months.

“I worked the other night and made $500,” she said. “The guy offered me another $500 to have sex with him without a condom. I said, ‘No way!’ “

Being a call girl, particularly in Chico, isn’t all glamour and cold, hard cash.

“It is cold,” Sarah said. “I feel like I compromised myself.”

Rewind the clock to four years ago. Sarah had just moved to Chico and was working a “crappy, minimum-wage job.”

“A guy came in and asked me, ‘Do you want to make a lot of money?’ and gave me his card,” she said. Eventually she called him. “Half of my friends told me to go for it. The other half said, ‘What the fuck are you thinking?’ “

She was thinking it was an easier way to make her car payments, afford a nice apartment and buy new clothes. “Growing up shopping at thrift stores for clothes, you really get an appreciation for jeans that fit,” she said.

Lots of women get into the business—or other aspects of the adult-entertainment industry, like stripping—for similar reasons. Some are paying their way through college or trying to support themselves as single mothers. Others do it to pay for drugs, and others do it for a sense of empowerment, Sarah said.

“Most of us are a psychological mess,” she said. “Some have been abused by men in their lives, and it’s a way for them to feel empowered. They can say, ‘Ha, you’re a piece of shit—I’m taking your money.’ “

That “psychological mess” is often a product of the job as much as it is a reason for doing it. Sarah admits she’s been turned off to sensuality, and even to relationships in general. As a prostitute, sex is a game, and it’s not a particularly fun one for the women involved.

“None of it is fun. It’s a giant fantasy,” Sarah said. “You have to make these guys feel special, wanted, if you want them to come back. A lot of them don’t feel that way at home.”

Maybe that’s why a good portion of her clients are married men. They see relations that they pay for as something other than cheating, she said: “It’s business.” Plus, calling Sarah or one of her colleagues around town offers a level of secrecy you can’t get by picking someone up at a bar.

“It’s really ruined my faith in marriage,” Sarah admitted.

For her, even dating is a futile effort. Either the guy she’s seeing knows what line of work she’s in and considers her unworthy of his love, or he finds out and assumes she’s trying to gold-dig him.

“You can’t expect to maintain a normal relationship when you leave the house smelling like Chanel and come back smelling like Old Spice,” she said.

Sarah is trying to work her way out of prostitution. She now has a part-time job in town and is pulling in an “actual paycheck.” But life beyond prostitution is hard to imagine. Despite the reputation she has earned for herself, which she believes will be impossible to shed as long as she stays in Chico, the money really is hard to resist.

“I can’t support myself on a part-time job,” she said. “My overhead is now $1,400 a month after doing this for so many years.”

But, she admits, getting that first paycheck, knowing the money came from good, old-fashioned hard work (never mind the fact that prostitution is the “world’s oldest profession"), felt really good—even if the amount on the check was miniscule.

Sarah sees Chico as the perfect breeding ground for prostitution. Lots of young women show up in town each year, some of them trying to pay their way through college, and they know Chico is known for being a party town. In fact, she’s approached girls the same way she was approached—"Wanna make a lot of money?”

It’s not something she’s proud of.

“I’ve gotten a lot of girls into this,” she said, wiping a tear from her eye. “And I kind of feel like I’ve ruined their lives, too.”

Looking back over the past four years, Sarah recognizes the parts of her that have changed, as well as those that she’s held on to.

“When I started, I was insecure. I didn’t think I was attractive. Now I get told I’m pretty every day and I’m like, ‘whatever,’ “ she said. “But thank God I’m still intact with who I am. For sure, my morals have been stretched, but at the end of the day, I’m the only one who has to go to bed with me and wake up with me and, ultimately, live with me.”