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Curiosity compelled this L.A. resident to experiment with a new persona: Rod Hagen, male escort. His first client's heartfelt gratitude led him to the conclusion that Rod was here to stay.

If you want to find me--or some other happy hooker--you'll have better luck pounding the keyboard than the pavement. Prostitution now booms over the Internet for the simple reason that it is needed. As Gore Vidal wrote in 1966, "If most men and women were forced to rely upon physical charm to attract lovers, their sexual lives would be not only meager but in a youth-worshipping country like America painfully brief." Add to that group men in "Brokeback marriages," diffident virgins, and all those requiring discretion, and you have a community of men with two options: keep it in their pants or use the power of their wallets.

I didn't enter prostitution on such noble pretenses; nobody does. These reflections came later. In the beginning there was only curiosity.

Several years ago (never mind how many) on a red-eye from LAX to JFK, I read one of the numerous how-to books on prostitution, only because some genius had slapped a half-naked man on the cover. By the last chapter I thought, This actually sounds fun. When I returned home to Los Angeles, curiosity compelled me to create my working name, Rod Hagen, and father a Web site. Curiosity then led me to ring the doorbell of my first client.

Forty-five and living alone, he was just back from a weeklong gay cruise, during which--to his by-now raging disenchantment--none of the 1,000 bronzed bucks had volunteered to rub oil on his less-than-perfect bod. He told me he'd never been with an escort before (insecure myself, I kept my professional cherry a secret). Two cathartic hours later I accepted his money and thanked him. It was only in the car that I realized I'd just committed Rod Hagen to something more than a one-shot test run. At home was an embarrassingly grateful e-mail. I hadn't imagined how much better a little attention would make him feel.

Every hookup since then has distilled the essence of that first time, as in an Updike short story where nothing much happens yet by the end everything is changed.

My testimony from the trenches won't change everyone's preconceptions about prostitution. But if I've portrayed myself as happy, generous, healthy, and reasoned, then I've succeeded in giving readers grounds to reconsider.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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