I'll bet you haven't seen too many job descriptions that read like this one from San Francisco-based start-up ManServants. A ManServant is a gentleman host that knows how to charm the ladies and keep a party going. He’s the life of the party, while making the ladies the stars of the show. He’ll serve drinks, light cigarettes, take Instagram photos, feed grapes, and go above and beyond the call of duty to fulfill a lady’s every wish. Compensation begins at $80/hr.
When copywriter Dalal Khajah and social media maven Josephine Wai Lin weren't busy doing work for clients such as Target, Gap and Google+ at the ad agency AKQA, they were trying to figure out what women really want.
The Big Idea
What they came up with was a company offering a myriad of hourly services provided by highly selected “man servants” who adhere to a code of chivalry and will show up at homes, the office, or social events like bachelorette parties. The concept is to empower women to make their own rules. Rules a ManServant may then follow.
However, the women say the services do not include sex. The founders told Mashable their company is no escort service, and those seeking gigolos are out of luck. Instead, they’re offering dream men for hire who can simultaneously serve as a personal photographer, DJ, bartender, bodyguard and butler.
“It’s completely PG,” said co-founder Khajah. “We have a very strict code of conduct and a very rigorous training process.”
The idea for the company came at least in part from a work colleague who was disgusted by the behavior of male entertainers at bachelorette parties, and insisted her own party be male stripper-free.
Convinced that other women found the experience equally awkward, unsexy and undignified, they instead dreamed up a service that would provide a different kind of performance.
So these male entertainers sing songs, paint your toenails, take snaps of you and your friends, throw doves out when you arrive, fill up your glass of champagne, or act as a buffer against pretend paparazzi.
TIME magazine correspondent Katy Steinmetz tried the service out this fall for her very own bachelorette party, with her finance's approval, and wrote about it.
"The first step was to build him, kind of like those nerds in Weird Science. You get to pick his name, his wardrobe and his 'special skills,' as well as outline tasks he should be prepared to complete with aplomb...We asked for and received back massages and hand massages. At bars, he held our bags and pushed to the front to order our drinks. And it was all great. But the funny part is that my fellow ladies, given a man to do whatever they wanted with, weren’t that interested in objectifying or demeaning him or pushing boundaries."
And now, just in time for the holidays, the company is expanding their idea beyond the Bay Area and taking it online with ManServants Gifts. #InstaLover and ManGram are digital products available for purchase on the company's website.
#InstaLover is a dedicated ManServant that will dote on someone via Instagram. He'll 'like' and compliment all of their posted photos. "Because all ladies (especially recently broken up girlfriends)," says the marketing copy, "deserve an Instagram newsfeed overfilled with adoring admirers. One month of adoration is available for $30."
ManGram is a 30-second custom video message from a ManServant. Senders can compose a greeting for a girlfriend for him to read with a wink and sexy smile, serving them compliments, not come-ons, for the holidays. Or they can provide some information about their girlfriend and her ManServant will create his own personal message for her. ManGrams will be delivered via email and can be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Each video is $20.
So why is the idea of paid chivalry appealing to some? That's what this article in Toronto's The Globe and Mail asks.
Women want to be treated well, but the services also function as a power play, letting clients flaunt their financial independence, says Samhita Mukhopadhyay, former executive editor of Feministing.com and author of Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life, which looks at how a modern feminist negotiates relationships.
“With traditional chivalry, the expectation is that a man spontaneously does something. That signifies a type of courtship that often leads to some reciprocal behavior from a woman,” Mukhopadhyay adds. With gentlemen rented (platonically) by the hour, “it’s a paid transaction, so it completely shifts the power dynamic of traditional chivalry.”
Who knows, maybe ManServants has happened on a model that could shift the dynamic of a traditional staffing agency. Then again, maybe it was just some light pre-holiday reading.