Man for rent: Atlanta gay male escorts juggle taboo profession with personal lives

Jack Gunther, 21, was getting off of his bike in a Whole Foods parking lot one day when an older man in a Cadillac pulled up and asked if he had a minute. Gunther walked over and the man told him he’d like to take him on a date, then maybe take him home afterward.

“I was like, ‘No thanks,’ and I started to turn away when he said, ‘I’ll pay you for your time,’” Gunther says. “And I stopped in my tracks and said, ‘What does that mean?’”

It meant what Gunther thought it meant. The two later went out, had sex, and the man paid him for his services. Soon after that, Jack Gunther (who uses that as his stage name) started go-go dancing, then stripping, then escorting. Now five years later, at age 26, he’s escorting full-time. He’s just one of hundreds of gay male escorts across the city of Atlanta who advertise their services on websites like Rentboy, Men4RentNow and Rentmen.

The profiles resemble ones you’ll find on dating and hookup apps like Jack’d and Grindr, with risqué pictures and stats, with one notable addition: price. Hourly, overnight and weekend rates are typically listed. Some even include links to the escorts’ Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr accounts where potential clients can find out more about them.

Escort Jack Gunther, 26, sees himself escorting into his 40s if he stays fit. (photo by Tyran Xavier Weldon)
Escort Jack Gunther, 26, sees himself escorting into his 40s if he stays fit. (photo by Tyran Xavier Weldon)

Most clients are men married to women

Jayden McLane (who uses that as his professional name), a 22-year-old from Conyers, started escorting two years ago after being told about it by a friend’s boyfriend who had been escorting for nearly 20 years.

He says he’s always had an open mind about sex, and that the experience was “weird” at first, then grew easier.

“Now it’s just a breeze,” he says. “It’s really easy money.”

However, McLane and Gunther say escorting isn’t always about sex. Sometimes their clients just want companionship for a night on the town.

“There’s married men that just want to talk to someone about feelings they’re having,” says McLane, whose clients are mostly in their mid-40s or older. “It’s just a whole other world.”

Gunther also says most of his clients are married to women and are in town on business, but that he sometimes gets gay clients who are closer to his age.

Escorting affects love lives

Neither McLane nor Gunther worries too much about safety, saying they go with their gut when getting to know a client.

“I go by how I feel when I speak to a person,” McLane says. “It goes off my vibes. I’ve left a few situations because it hasn’t been the most comfortable environment. So far I’ve been a pretty good judge of character.”

Gunther concurs, saying, “Especially when I was beginning this work, I just talked myself down from all that [concern about safety] and instead used my intuition and trusted people. I find that my clients are great guys who just basically want to have a good time.”

Neither is currently in a relationship, and Gunther says the job has taken a toll on his love life. He says he’s always been sex positive and considers himself a “sex worker activist,” but that he’s been burnt too many times to continue to be an open book about it.

“I used to go into dating with an open dialogue around escorting. That filtered out men who thought they could handle it, then a few months down the road it got to be too much for them to handle,” he says. “As I’ve gotten older, my life is as private as ever and we all have a few secrets we can keep for a little while.”

He doesn’t plan to tell any future dates about his escorting unless the relationship gets serious.

How long can they keep doing it?

Neither will go into details about how much they make or how often clients hire them, but both say they live comfortably. McLane’s hourly rate is $150 and Gunther’s is $250.

“I don’t have many worries, I can put it that way,” McLane says, laughing.

But realistically, how long can they keep doing it?

McLane says there is too much game-playing in the dating scene, so he sees himself doing it only for a few more years.

“I’m not fully established yet,” he says. “I can make myself a little bit more happy.”

Gunther says as long as he stays fit, he can see himself escorting into his 40s.

“I’ve got no rush,” he says, but adds, “At the same time, it’s hard and I’m beginning to think impossible for me to find a boyfriend or a lover. I’d like to get out of it soon but I don’t really have a game plan there.”

And while the growing exposure of sites like Rentboy and others helps escorts pick up more clients, there are downsides.

“The public eye is turned toward it more,” Gunther says. “It’s great on one hand but on the other hand sometimes I feel like I walk into a bar and people know who I am and they’re like, ‘Oh there’s that hooker,’” he says with a laugh. | @patricksaunders