Art That is Secretly Based on Escorts

Barbie and the Bild Lilli Doll

        Since her inception in 1962, Barbie has been specifically marketed to girls as a “teen-age fashion model.” She was revolutionary because she was the first doll created for children that was not itself a child. Barbie is an aspirational toy for girls, an idea of themselves older and brimming with confidence. And with a fantastic wardrobe. When Barbie was created, she closely resembled another doll with a very different backstory…

        From 1952 to 1961, the German tabloid Bild ran a comic strip called “Lilli”. Lilli was a beautiful young woman with blond hair pulled back into a high ponytail, face accented by a single curl in the center of her forehead. 

        In each comic, Lilli is the focus of the single panel and is often dressed in revealing clothing, or disguising her nudity behind some conveniently placed object. I don’t speak German, but by cobbling together other sources and using Google translate, I am quite sure Lilli lives a lavish life funded by her many boyfriends. Her looks and wit get her into-and out of-many amusing situations. 

My rough translation: “My car broke down, and I wouldn’t have made it here without the help of a handy truck driver.”

        Lilli frequently laments that no one is looking at her when she is wearing skimpy clothing. She knows she is beautiful and refuses to keep her beauty to herself. 

My rough translation: “I think this nightgown looks good on me- actually it is a shame because no one else sees me in it...”
My rough translation: “I can always count on it, at the right moment why do you decide not to look?!”

        Always sexy and clever, Lilli in the comic strip was frequently involved with and supported by wealthy men. Although a few comics portray her in an office job:

My rough translation “How silly- when I woke up this morning I thought I was still on vacation!”

        She is usually leaving or arriving, but rarely actually doing the job, whatever it may be. Her main focus is to look and dress beautifully and be admired while doing it.  Her expansive wardrobe is certainly not within the reach of a secretary (?) in her 20s, and some comics outright state that her lifestyle is funded by her romantic partners.

        In one she appears at a friend’s door covering her naked body with a newspaper, saying “We had a fight and he took back all the presents he gave me.”* If she was not an outright sex worker, Lilli was assuredly a well-kept woman who relied on her boyfriends to support her lifestyle. 

The Lilli comic was so popular that in 1953 the tabloid launched a doll version of her. Around 130,000 were made between 1953 and 1964, at which point the Mattell company bought the rights to the character and Lilli was discontinued. As a doll she was an extremely popular “gag” gift for men both in Germany and internationally. One German advertisement for Lilli stated that she was “always discreet” and “the star of every bar.”**  Bild even sold a Lilli swing to attach to a rearview mirror, so Lilli could swing while you drove. 

        Although I love the fact that a character who may have been a sex worker existed and inspired Barbie, Lilli was not particularly three-dimensional. Some scholars have decried Lilli as a “sex doll”*** and a “sex toy”****, and argue that she is only a caricature of a man’s idea of the perfect woman. 

        Lilli was certainly a product of her time and is not a particularly flattering depiction of women or sex workers by contemporary current standards. But I think she was more than a sex toy. Operating within the bounds of femininity in the 1950s, Lilli the character had a happy life. She used her charms to get what she desired, without being shamed for the way she chose to live.





*Referenced by M.G. Lord in Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. I have been unable to find an image of the exact comic.


*** Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs 

**** Eve Ensler,

Hygiene 101: Touching the Butthole

     When meeting a companion, good manners are the best way to ensure that you both have an enjoyable experience. The second best way is impeccable hygiene. 

     In the week leading up to your session, brush and floss twice daily. If you don’t get bi-annual dental cleanings, try to schedule one a few days before the session. Not the day of! Brushing and flossing can open tiny cuts in your gums, so you should avoid cleaning your teeth right before we meet. If you’re coming to see me, I will direct you to freshen up with a shower. Please avail yourself of the mouthwash! 

     When showering at my space, you will note that I have provided you with a towel, a washcloth, and a robe. The washcloth is not a suggestion. Typically it is fine to wash with just soap and your hands; however, a washcloth is essential for enjoyable intimacy. It serves three functions- 1) It gets into cracks and crevices that may be too narrow for your hands. 2) It exfoliates. This isn’t something you need to do everyday, but lightly exfoliating your body weekly removes dead skin cells that cause body odor. 3) It removes loose hair. If you don’t regularly exfoliate, your body hair may shed at inopportune times. No one wants hair in their teeth!  

     Now that you have the washcloth in your hands, you should use it vigorously! Lather it up with body wash and scrub away. There’s no need to chafe yourself but you should take care to scrub all your skin and pay special attention to the nooks and crannies. This means: armpits, toes, skin folds, and especially your groin. If you are not circumcised, be sure to pull back your foreskin and clean underneath. 

     And finally, turn your attention to the most important aspect of personal care- cleaning your butthole. This is an essential and too often neglected part of hygiene. “But Phryne” you may say “I don’t want anyone to go near my butthole.” That’s fine of course, but you should always clean your ass before intimacy. Any smells or unwashed bits will be very apparent when a partner is between your legs. Please follow Phryne’s steps for a sparkling booty:

  1. Choose your weapon. Washcloth or fingers are acceptable.
  2. Turn your back to the shower head and let the water run between your cheeks.
  3. Move your legs apart and tilt your pelvis back so that your cheeks separate. 
  4. Using your finger or a washcloth, very gently scrub the exterior of your booty hole. Rinse and repeat until clean. 
  5. (optional) If you are hoping for attention to your booty*, a more thorough clean is necessary. Insert the first knuckle of one finger (covered with the washcloth if you prefer) into your butt. Make 2-3 circles with your finger. Remove, rinse, and repeat 2-3 times. 

     Once you are squeaky clean, dry off thoroughly! Don’t forgot to dry all the crevices you just washed, and your hair if it is damp. 

     Slip on the cloud-soft robe and come join me…

*These instructions are not sufficient preparation for anal sex/pegging. Please see a comprehensive guide to deep cleaning here. 

You don’t need to apologize

…for gaining weight

…for losing weight

…for being short

…for being skinny

…for being fat

…for being a virgin

…for having many partners 

…for having a smaller than average penis

…for having an average penis

…for taking a long time to come

…for not coming

…for coming quickly

…for only wanting to talk

…for only wanting to cuddle 

…for only wanting sex

…for having a fetish

…for having a kink

…for seeing companions

…for being married

…for being single

…for never having touched a woman intimately 

…for never having touched another human intimately

…for loving sex

…for masturbating

…for being asexual

…for being shy

…for being nervous 

…for needing guidance 

…for asking questions 

…for being assertive

…for having boundaries

…for saving up to afford my time

…for seeing other companions

…for liking toys

…for not knowing what you like 

…for having a disability 

…for saying “no”

…for being submissive

…for being dominant 

…for only booking an hour

…for being chronically ill 

…for having a terminal illness 

…for only seeing me once 

…for seeing me every day 

…for wanting affection 

…for needing affection

On being out to my family

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All of my immediate family members know that I am a companion. Many of my vanilla colleagues do as well. My mother goes out of her way to check Phryne’s Twitter account if I haven’t texted her in a few days. My graduate advisor asks after my safety and points out typos on my website. 

Despite being out to the majority of my family and friends, I did not enter this world aiming to be so open about my choice of career; rather I came out gradually as I grew tired of bending the truth for the (perceived) comfort of the people closest to me. There have certainly been some emotionally charged conversations, but by and large I am glad that I have the privilege to be out to my family, because it gives me a valuable opportunity to extend a nuanced view of sex work to people outside of this community. 

My mom is my #1 cheerleader. My father prefers not to talk about this aspect of my life. Between these extremes there is a vast range of discomfort, fascination, and confusion. As an educator, I embrace these reactions as a chance to counteract the often harmful and vitriolic rhetoric surrounding sex work. Where a close friend might once have taken such rhetoric as fact, I can provide an alternative narrative that highlights the many benefits of paid companionship. It may take several conversations, but when I teach my already sympathetic friends about my choice to become Phryne, they can in turn share that knowledge and spread awareness even further.