Chelsea is a professional provider of “the girlfriend experience.” For the right price, she’ll talk with you about your feelings and problems and laugh at all your stupid jokes. She’ll kiss you, cuddle with you, and allow that intimate closeness to advance into sex. Her job is to convince you that her affections are authentic.

The girlfriend experience was designed to blur the lines between a paid exchange and a real relationship. Sex workers have always had numerous methods of putting a price on intimacy, from the $15 back alley blowjob to the billion dollar gold-digger. But this more emotional variation seems to be a relatively novel service. Only within the past decade did films and television first bring the practice to light. And once the girlfriend experience began garnering public attention, providers like Chelsea entered the market to meet new demands.

Many of Chelsea’s clients find that her loving performances make her even better than a real-life girlfriend. Because when your session is up, there are no strings attached. “You don’t have to call me, remember my birthday, hang out with my mom, or pick me up from the airport,” Chelsea says. Over the phone, she’s explaining what makes companionship with her different from typical escort experiences.

“I’m there when you want me to be, but you don’t have any obligations to fulfill, she says. “You can satisfy your needs for a feeling of closeness without the commitment of a full-time partner.”

The girlfriend experience, commonly referred to as GFE, is distinct from an average escort encounter because it’s focused specifically on social intimacy. “We’ll go out to dinner, we’ll go to parties, we’ll go on vacation,” Chelsea says. “Men ask for the girlfriend experience because they just want to connect with someone. It’s fulfilling a very basic biological therapeutic need."

With GFE, sex isn’t the primary focus of the evening. If the client wants that, he asks for the porn star experience, or PSE. “The porn star experience is more sexually focused than socially focused,” Chelsea explains.

But for the men who seek emotional affection, paid intimacy doesn’t come cheap. These men want more bang for their buck, and the young ladies who provide it charge a hefty fee for their therapeutic services. Chelsea typically charges $800 for the first hour you spend with her, then lowers her price with every additional hour to encourage longer sessions.

“If you want something cheaper, you can find someone on Craigslist for 20 bucks. For men who aren’t looking for a classy night on the town, that’s perfectly fine,” Chelsea tells me. “But if you’re looking for a professional — someone who screens their clients, takes care of their health, and has great hygiene — you’re gonna need to have a higher price range.”

An expensive price tag not only dismisses amateur escorts, but also ensures that the professionals have positive encounters. “When you price yourself in the high range, it weeds out a lot of negative experiences,” Chelsea explains. “If a client is paying you that much, they want you to like them, and they want the experience to be positive on both sides.”

A prime example of a negative experience that GFE providers aim to avoid is clients losing sight of the professional relationship and attempting to shift into an actual relationship. But unsurprisingly, this happens a lot. At that point, the girlfriend experience provider must make an important decision: perpetuate the fantasy or destroy it.

“I prefer to be honest with my clients. Our relationship should be straightforward and you shouldn’t be getting too attached. But I’ve had plenty of clients who want to rescue me from the industry. They want me to quit, and they’ll take care of me. So I have to stop answering their emails,” Chelsea says.

In the years that Chelsea has been working as a girlfriend experience provider, she’s found that clients have an average ‘shelf life,’ where they either get too emotionally attached or they get bored and move on. Boredom is a more common occurrence in the industry. It’s usually what drove the clients to call an escort in the first place.

This is at least the case for men who are married or in long-term relationships. “Sometimes they’re happily married and sometimes they’re in a long-term relationship with someone they desperately love," she says. "But they’ve been with their partner for so long that there’s no more passion. Their relationship becomes familial. So they want me to remind them of the excitement that comes along with the beginning of a relationship — where everything is electric. And I don’t mind doing that for them. I personally think sex and love are not mutually exclusive.”

However, many clients might not make the same distinction between meaningful sex with a partner and paid sex with an escort. In a sex survey conducted by Erotic Review, an online database of client reviews for escort services, 44 percent of clients in relationships said they would leave their significant other for an active escort.

But thankfully, not all men who seek out the girlfriend experience are already in relationships. Some are single businessmen, who can’t maintain a partnership because they simply don’t have time. Some are freshly divorced men who are trying to get a little practice before jumping back into the dating scene. Some are virgins who have made up their mind to finally reach intimacy. These are Chelsea’s favorites, she admits.

But no matter their relationship status, age, profession, or income, all these men have one thing in common: they crave attention and affection. And Chelsea and other GFE providers can provide exactly that.

Sure, they say you can’t buy love. But with the girlfriend experience, you can buy something pretty damn close.