Prostitute Or Professional Girlfriend: What's The Difference?

sex and the city

Welcome back to Sex and the Psychological City! If you have read the earlier posts, you are familiar with my confession that I was a hipper psychotherapist when my go-to girlfriends -- Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha were on the air, with fresh new material on everything from masturbation to marriage. Granted, their wardrobes and lifestyles were totally unrealistic, but the fashion and fabulousness worked well as a delivery platform for groundbreaking discussions about sex, commitment, friendship and love.

With the announcements about the Carrie Diaries penetrating the media and causing much debate, it is all the more interesting to consider all that has changed since the show first aired in 1999. Can you imagine a world void of email, blackberries, Facebook and Twitter? The original series may seem dated, but it managed to touch upon the very issues my clients face in therapy. Whether the new on can do the same for teens remains to be seen. Regardless, in honor of the show, I am taking a trip down Memory Lane that considers each first season episode, from a psychological perspective.

Episode five, "The Power of Female Sex", explores the relationship between sex and power. Carrie throws unpaid bills in the trash and diagnoses her obsession with "expensive footwear" as a substance abuse problem. She appears to hit rock bottom when her credit card is sliced to pieces by a Dolce & Gabbana sales clerk who refuses her purchase of lavender feathered pumps. Then, out of nowhere, Carrie's bold and bejeweled girlfriend, Amalita Amalfe, appears and insists on purchasing the shoes for Carrie with her escort, Carlo's, credit card. Amalita boasts that Carlo, an Argentinian ranch owner, has unlimited resources (she grossly adds some unwanted details regarding Carlos' anatomy) and begs Carrie to call her at the Four Seasons where she has taken up with Carlo and his bank account. Carrie proceeds to be swept off her feet for a romantic weekend with Gilles, a dashing Parisian architect friend of Carlo's who woos Carrie into bed in spite of her rule that she will not sleep with men she has known for less than twenty-four hours. (Carrie rationalizes that it is already the next day in Paris.) During their superficial whirlwind romance, Carrie opens up to Gilles about her shoe addiction and her unpaid bills. The next morning, Gilles kisses Carrie goodbye and leaves her in an elegantly appointed hotel suite, promising "I'll call you." Carrie worries, as he does not have her phone number. Remember, this episode was pre-iphone, pre-google and way pre-Facebook. Back then, it was actually hard for people to find each other without scribbling numbers on a piece of paper!

Carrie is flabbergasted to discover a note beside her bed with no number, reading only, "thanks for a beautiful day" and a thousand dollars in cash!!!!!

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Gilles' payment of Carrie for her escort services leaves her "unsure whether to take it as an incredible insult or an incredible compliment" and sparks a discussion among her girlfriends about when and how and whether it is okay to take money from a romantic interest. They debate whether Amalita is an "international party girl" or a "hooker with a passport." Samantha says "men give and women receive, it's biological destiny" and asserts that women should enjoy their sexual powers which are equivalent to men's financial ones. Miranda is totally offended and says these are the very arguments that have been used to oppress women for centuries. Charlotte ponders the hysterical question of whether she should allow the famous painter Nevil Morgan paint her vagina in order to secure his participation in an exhibit at her Gallery.

The question of whether or to what extent to allow a romantic interest to pay for you is obviously a timeless one. While the show boldly depicts an extreme, the issue of money is virtually unavoidable when it comes to dating. Men, too, struggle with this question, as increasing numbers of women earn more than the average guy they date. So, what do you think? Is it okay to let someone else pay for you when you are dating and barely know them?

My advice? The question of dating and dollars spent basically boils down to expectations. If a guy is a gentleman taking you out for a nice evening, this is totally appropriate, as long as there are not expectations of returned acts of service. The same is true if someone you date buys you flowers, or a gift, or any other romantic gesture. However, the more cash someone spends, the greater the liklihood that expectations are involved. It is worth discussing expectations directly, especially if you sense that your intentions and expectations are different than those of your escort. Such discussions can be awkward, but try saying something simple, kind and direct like:

Thanks very much for a lovely dinner, I just want to make sure you are comfortable taking things at my pace.

Consider that Carrie ultimately feels insulted, not complimented, and wonders:

We had such a fantastic connection. Then he leaves me money. I don't understand, what exactly what about me screams whore?

When Carrie runs into Amalita and her brand new escort, Peter, the suave Italian who resides at the Carlyle, and the dashing Mario tries to lure Carrie to his palazzo in Venice for the film festival. Carrie admits that she is seriously tempted, but she ultimately declines and rationalizes her choice to let go of the jet set and hold on to her values:

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Just because Venice was sinking, didn't mean I had to go down with it!

Check back next week to consider episode six: "How Many of Us Are Having Great Sex with Someone We Don't Want to Introduce to Our Friends?"

For more information check out www.elisabethlamotte.com and follow Elisabeth @elisjoy