“Don’t tell a client you won’t fall in love with them. Don’t break that spell. You need them hooked because you need the money.”
That’s what a social escort told writer Gerrie Lim when he interviewed her for his non-fiction best-seller Invisible Trade: High Class Sex for Sale in Singapore, which was published in 2004.
He has also heard stories about girls who are paid to walk their dates around on a leash, or lap milk from a dish like a cat. It’s no wonder he had enough material for a second book, Invisible Trade II: Secret Lives & Sexual Intrigue in Singapore, which was published just four years later.
In the sequel, an entire section is dedicated to answering the question of why men pay for sex. One subject used to visit the now-defunct Paramount Shopping Centre to pick up girls despite already being married.
“He went to the extent of paying for their upkeep and university fees,” says Gerrie. Last I heard, he had gotten divorced and was still paying for a girl’s education. I couldn’t believe he was doing that; there’s no easy way for it to end well. Unfortunately, he couldn’t see that these girls had an obvious agenda, and was rationalising it to himself.”
Before he became a novelist, Gerrie was a music journalist with a Master’s degree in Print Journalism from the University of Southern California. His first book was the 1997 Inside The Outsider, a collection of interviews with iconic musicians such as David Bowie, Patti Smith and Pete Townshend.
Subsequently, his publisher expressed interest in working on a book related to the sex industry, and everything else just fell into place, Gerrie recounts. The subject matter didn’t matter to him, as long as he was doing what he loved and was good at — writing.
Since then, he has built quite a reputation for himself, and is now working on his eighth book — ghost-writing the secret diary of an escort who currently works in Singapore and lives a double life as a student. That’s all he is able to share for now, as the novel will likely only launch in the second half of 2020.
Later this month, Gerrie will headline an event at the co-working space Crane, titled Courtesan: The Invisible Trade, where he will have a candid discussion with fellow author Meihan Boey. She wrote science-fiction novel The Messiah Virus, featuring a male courtesan as its protagonist.
Even though it has been over 15 years since Invisible Trade was first published, Gerrie notes that almost everything in that book still holds true. The only things that have changed are accessibility and prices, which have become more competitive.
“Now, people can go online and book a girl directly. Back in the day, when the Internet was new, you couldn’t do that. So these two books are kind of like time capsules to me because they capture that,” he says. “Back then, I had to go through a lot to collect information, but now it’s easier because you can do it on a computer. Who knows, maybe I’ll consider writing a third one.”
“It doesn’t matter what I write. What matters is that I write well, and I articulate ideas in a way that makes sense to people. Sex just happens to be the niche I fell into.”