The path to pleasure is carpeted in beige. The men, all the lonely, sad, married, bored, rich, horny men who come in search of "Samantha", take the lift to this softly lit foyer on the sixth floor of a city apartment block, where their footsteps are dulled by the hotel-style wall-to-wall. The anonymous hush and the long, dim corridor hint at something forbidden, a reminder they have stepped out of their ordinary lives and into a secret world.
At their knock, her door swings open and there she is, smiling, welcoming and fully dressed - for the moment - with just a little sexy cleavage on display, a taste of what lies in store.
Samantha is willowy, olive-skinned, dark-eyed and an E cup. On the day Marie Claire meets her, her full breasts press like overripe melons against the crisp white shirt that struggles to contain them.
Slim-fitting, avocado-coloured Ralph Lauren jodhpurs emphasise her long legs. On her feet are spiky, flesh-coloured Louboutins. Her brown hair, with its sombre ends, falls in waves around her shoulders, and pink lipstick delicately highlights pouting lips. She could be somebody's beautiful, stylish partner, although the breasts, the result of three boob jobs, and the faceless serviced apartment suggest another story: not one man's wife, but any man's woman - for a price.
"Samantha" is really Amanda Goff, 40, an English-born journalist who worked on the tabloids in the UK before moving to Australia, where she worked on magazines as a features and beauty editor. She also met a man here, fell in love and had two children, before the relationship broke up. About two and a half years ago, she changed careers, big-time. She's now a high-class escort and, more recently, author.
Her new book, Hooked, tells how she traded in a life filled with models, demanding editors and paragraphs on anti-ageing creams for the more lucrative business, complete with child-friendly hours, of sex work. So here she is in her latest workplace, a leased, sunlit unit in the Sydney CBD, with harbour views. She is now her own boss, selling herself, literally, via an escorts website - no brothel, no madam. "Would you like a drink?" she offers, tapping her way over to the bar fridge in her heels. "I've got some lovely rose. My clients always bring me very good wine."
A bedroom runs off to one side. Operational headquarters, one might think, but she gestures instead towards the two-seater couch. "That's where the magic happens, actually." She means conversation, actually, the unburdening of men's souls, which apparently often takes up more time than the sex. Still, a tour of the bedroom confirms that while the men might be seeking a sympathetic ear, they'd also like a blow job with that - hence their willingness to pay $800 an hour to Samantha, instead of $150 to a therapist.
A pair of black patent, platform Louboutin stilettos gleams suggestively from the bedroom floor. "The escort's uniform," says Amanda. "I only wear those to bed." Lacy lingerie and fine stockings are draped over doorknobs and chairs. A white uniform with "Nurse Feelgood" embroidered on a breast pocket hangs in the wardrobe. The bedside table stores enough condoms to service an army base, while a second drawer holds a black vibrator, a whip and a bulbous cherry red object for "sticking up men's bottoms". Amanda doesn't seem to know what it's called, but research suggests it's an anal plug. "I've only used it about three times," she says, which is surprising because, as she later explains, "a lot of men love anal play. There's one client who wants me to have sex with him in his bottom, so I have to fuck him in the arse with a dildo. Married guy with two kids. No, he's not gay."
Amanda has her limits. She'll do rimming, but draws the line at offering her own body for anal sex. Some men want it as part of PSE - the porn star experience, one of many acronyms on the escort girl's menu. Others include GFE (girlfriend experience), RTF (Russian titty fuck - vodka is involved), COB (come on breasts) and CIM (come in mouth). Why not anal sex? "It hurts and I think it's a bit dirty. One guy offered me thousands, but I just won't do it."
A bottle of massage oil sits on the bedside table, along with a scented candle and a jar of coconut oil - organic and extra virgin.
"Here's something for women," says Amanda. "Coconut oil is a great lubricant. I don't know if it destroys condoms, so I might be giving bad advice here."
Amanda says she doesn't have any particular "specialties", but she has mastered the art of oral sex. "There's no technique. You just have to really enjoy it. Men like to be desired. Imagine you've just been let loose on a tub of Ben & Jerry's."
Amanda is funny, chatty and doesn't take herself too seriously. It's hard to believe she's on the game and not a nice, middle-class girl with a university degree making this stuff up for a bestseller. Her book opens with racy tales of hard cocks and glistening nipples, but many of its pages are taken up with her on-the-job insights into the hearts and minds of men. Or, at least, the link between their hearts and minds and sex. Women, she warns, neglect the sexual side of their marriages at their peril. "Women are foolish to put their marriage, their sex life, on the back-burner, for whatever reason. Rightly or wrongly, men need sex to feel loved.
"Most women would divorce their husbands if they knew they searched elsewhere for it, yet they're not willing to have sex with them. So I would say to women, 'Don't neglect your sex life - ever. Try to make an effort, even if you don't want to.' "I'm not saying that's right - the feminists are going to kill me - but that's what I'm seeing and hearing."
A friend recently told her that she and her husband hadn't had sex in weeks. "I said, 'When your husband gets home from work today, pull down his trousers when he's at the front door and give him a blow job. I know you're busy, I know you've got kids, all that. But the minute he comes in, pretend you've been thinking about him all day.'"
Amanda's sense is that most men don't want to go elsewhere. "The majority of my men would rather have sex with their wives. It's a pain in the arse for them to have to spend $800, park the car, and go and have sex with some girl. They don't have affairs - too dangerous. They don't want to get divorced. They love their wives. They just want the release."
Amanda didn’t become a sex worker until she was 38 and her marriage had ended, but it had previously crossed her mind. “I went for an interview at an escort agency before I got married and had kids,” she reveals. “I always knew I’d be an escort. I always knew it was in me. I just felt different to other women.”
There are many ways to view what Amanda does, but, oddly enough, one way is to see it as refusing to let men get the better of her. “I think I learnt when I was younger that I was seen as a sex object, so I’ve just improved on it.” To the tune of a day rate of $5000. Amanda insists she enjoys the sex most of the time. “More often than not I have a real orgasm, which is so surprising to me; it disgusts me sometimes.” The trick is to find something attractive about each client.
Her first job was in a small illegal brothel. She can remember her first day and her first client, a pale, thin, balding man the girls used to call Mr Burns.
“I was wearing a black G-string and a black push-up bra and black stockings. I was a bit new then and these men weren’t paying top dollar. I was a bit girl-next-door, I think.”
That’s girl-next-door? She hoots with laughter and continues. “I remember looking at the boats on the harbour and thinking, ‘Oh my God, I really wish I was on one of those boats right now.’ So he came in and was a bit eager and snivelly. I just took control and thought, ‘Right. Showtime.’ “We had sex – it was over in seconds – and then talked about Delta Goodrem. I remember thinking, ‘How bizarre that I’m lying in this man’s skinny little white arms, having just had sex with him and talking about Delta Goodrem.’
“The sex was me on top, me looking in the mirrored wardrobe thinking, ‘Oh my God. I am a prostitute. I’m having sex for money.’ And it was exciting. Wildly exciting! I felt like I was starring in some kind of show.”
Even so, she admits she took up serious drinking while working at a larger brothel she calls “the bordello”: “You have to, just to get through it.”
She’s seen hundreds of men since Mr Burns. What has she learnt about sex? “This guy once said to me, ‘I’m scared to have sex with you. I’m not going to be good enough in bed.’ I thought, what does he think I am? I’m just normal.
“There’s no such thing as ‘good in bed’; it’s whether you’ve got chemistry with that person. I don’t have this list of ingredients – tick, tick, tick – things I do in bed to make sure that what will come out of the oven is an orgasm.
“One man will ask, ‘Can you suck my cock really hard?’ and the next will say, ‘Please don’t touch it. It’s really sensitive.’ So there’s no formula. There’s just a bad experience with someone.”
A secret life as an escort is one thing, but why write a book about it? “I felt I would be doing women a disservice by not telling them what I’ve learnt about men. As a journalist also, I’m lucky enough to be a fly on the wall to hear so many interesting stories from men. How could I not write it?”
What about her children, aged six and eight? She bristles a little. “Well, I don’t see that I’m doing anything wrong, but, of course, I’m worried about my kids. I’ve had sleepless nights. I spoke to the school. The teachers know, everyone in my local community has known for a long time what I do. No-one has rejected us. No-one has said, ‘My kids can’t play with yours.’”
So far, her explanation to her children has been along the lines of, “You know Mummy’s a writer, but Mummy also has another job. She helps lonely people feel happy again. I love you very much and because I do this job, you don’t have to go to vacation care, you don’t have to go to after-school care.”
And yet, you can’t help sensing Amanda’s own conflict about this work. She makes it sound so attractive that you wonder why the rest of us do it for free. Yet she also admits it is dangerously addictive – as the title Hooked suggests – and comes at a price. “I can’t have a boyfriend. I can’t have a personal life. I go home alone every night. I wake up alone every morning. I’d love to have a boyfriend sometimes.”
For the moment, though, she has no plans to hang up her suspenders or throw in the whip. Like much of what Amanda gets up to in this nondescript city apartment, it’s all about timing.
“I’m very glad I didn’t do this when I was 20. I would never have had kids. I would still be doing it and I’d be bitter. I’ve had my children; I’ve had a fantastic career. I’m doing this because I’ve always wanted to and now I feel this book is the right thing to do. I feel I’m living my right life.”