KREFELD-HÜLS - To his friends, 44-year-old Ralf Winkes is a hero — a guy who gets paid to do what millions of men pay to receive. He is, yes, a male prostitute.
While he originally trained as a baker — past jobs include waiter, housepainter, floor layer, taxi driver — he’s also sold stocks over the phone, manicured nails and butchered lambs and pigs.
He spent a long time trying to find himself, Winkes says, "and now I have."
For a year, he’s been escorting women to dinner, on holiday... and to bed. He currently has 60 women on his client list, and he keeps mum on what he earns. “You can figure it out yourself,” he says.
The escort agency price list offers some pretty good clues: four hours with someone like Winkes cost a cool 600 euros, while a week is 6,000 euros. A lot of women, a lot of sex, a lot of money. That's Winkes' life, which sounds like the quintessential male fantasy.
On this scorching June day in Krefeld-Hüls, in western Germany, a rain shower -- and some chilled beer -- provides the only relief from the heat. Winkes is sitting with some buddies on a café terrace. A small, pale man with rimless glasses sits next to him, and Winkes introduces him as “Alex, my best friend.” Winkes launches into how he’s going to the Maldives on an all-expenses-paid, two-week trip in October with a regular of his, a woman of 52. He grins. Then he gets up to go pay for the round at the bar. "I don’t have a problem with what he does," says Alex. "I have things he doesn’t have: a wonderful wife, a baby, a house"”
Ralf Winkes has no kids, no house. But he is in a relationship, drives a BMW 3-series and has a nice apartment.
Which is where we now are. White walls, white furniture. Breaking up all that white are a ceiling fan, a foosball table, a game console and two chairs for watching TV. The cleaning lady’s just been through, and now Winkes is intent on doing a little housekeeping of his own: sweeping away all the clichés attached to his line of work.
Escort4Ladies is the name of the agency that employs him. Its home page says it provides "exclusive escorts for women." Does that mean concerts, art exhibitions, caviar and filet of veal before repairing to the Presidential Suite? Winkes describes it this way: "We meet at a restaurant or at the client’s home. We talk and laugh, and then at some point we get down to the other part. When that’s over, we have a drink and chat about Tom, Dick and Harry." Tom, Dick and Harry, not Habermas and Kandinsky — because his primary job is the other part, his sexual services, he explains.
Ralf Winkes, escort - Photo: Veronica Laber screenshot
Women on his client list range in age from early 30s through mid-50s, and are normal women. Winkes says he gives his clients the feeling of being loved as they are — sags, wrinkles and all.
Men seeking paid sex usually go to flat-rate brothels where the deal is that for 100 euros, they get as many women as they can manage. Escorts are too expensive for most men. But things are different for female clients: Cheap sex doesn’t interest them. In Germany, somewhere between 12 and 24 escort agencies cater to women. They can check out pictures of the men online: age, height, physique. Some of the men also list preferences: oral, anal, group sex. Some set limits. Winkes doesn’t.
"I’m booked for a specific time frame to fulfill a woman's fantasies," he says. The fantasy, for example, of being desired. When the job is done, he gets his cash-stuffed envelope. Thirty percent goes to the agency.
On his bedroom wall hang many photos of him: Winkes wearing a fur collar, Winkes without the fur collar, Winkes bare-chested, Winkes with his hand in his pants. "A lot of people think I’m just an arrogant, good-looking guy who’ll fuck anything and is worth shit as a human being," he says. "But it’s not like that — being reserved with people is a way of protecting myself." Protecting himself is a big deal, he says, because nobody else ever did: His dad left when he was nine, his mom’s husband beat her, and he was raised in a state facility for kids.
But he’s not one to complain. He’d rather talk about the good stuff, like the story of the key. At night, the institution where he grew up was locked so that nobody could get out. "That’s the only reason I chose to do an apprenticeship as a baker," he says. "The staff didn’t feel like getting up at 4 a.m. to open the door for me, so they gave me my own key. And I was able to come and go as I pleased." As he tells this story, Winkes becomes incredibly endearing and likable.
"A man you could fall in love with"
"You have to be able to sell yourself," he says. "It’s that way with any job: The customer isn’t buying the product, they’re buying the show." Can he do that all the time — provide a show? For that matter, does he ever have any trouble providing the other part? "So far, I’ve never had any trouble. Sometimes you do get a client who’s difficult to arouse, and I say to myself, 'Okay, step one isn’t working, let’s give it step two, step three.' Logically, I guess if it still didn’t work you’d bring in some kind of sexual aids. Up to now I’ve never needed anything like that." Winkes knocks three times on a nearby wood surface: "Let’s hope my luck lasts," he says.
He says he's been open about what he does for a living. Everybody knows, including his neighbors, although he notes that his present girlfriend "swallowed loudly two or three times after I told her, when we first met."
On his agency website, Winkes is touted as a "man you could fall in love with" — but God help any woman who does. Grown women are perfectly capable of knowing the difference between illusion and reality, and he refuses the notion that a woman could develop feelings for any man who whispers sweet nothings in her ear or shows her tenderness. Women can separate sex from love, in other words. "Why should women be different from men in that regard? Of course my work is about giving clients the feeling of being loved — for the duration of a session."
Winkes is very body-conscious and works out every day to maintain his physique. His body is formed by his will, and now he says his life is too. He’s deliberately single — across the board, no falling in love. He says he’s been hurt too much in the past. This solution "may be drastic, but at some point you have to build protective mechanisms. My friends are my family."
He has no idea how long he'll stay in this job. "I don’t know how things will look in 10 years," he says. At the agency, only a handful of guys are over 50. "But you know what? If I can’t do this anymore, I’m going back to driving a cab."