A Whangarei brothel is offering men seeking companionship lessons in "how to get a Kiwi girlfriend".
Starting next week - just in time for Valentine's Day - clients of the escort agency The Bach can sign up to the three-part course it has called the "Kiwi Kissing Coach" or "how to get a Kiwi girlfriend".
The sessions cost $350 in total and won't involve sexual intercourse. Instead the sex workers will teach participants how to approach a woman in a flirtatious, respectful way, how to flirt via text (and use emojis), and how to kiss, as well as tackling talking about sex and specifically asking for consent.
The brothel's madam Antonia Murphy told the Herald on Sunday she decided to add "Kiwi Kissing Coach" to the list of services it provides after feedback from many clients who were immigrants - a number of whom were South Asian - and were seeking intimacy and companionship.
"What we found when they come and see us is that they wouldn't just come for the sex. They'd talk about how they really wanted a Kiwi girlfriend but they didn't know how to go about it.
"Sometimes it was the language that was a barrier, but much more often it was a cultural barrier. What we've found is that there is a need sometimes when men are new to this culture there's just a lot of blanks that they haven't yet filled in."
The Bach opened about a year ago with the aim of becoming a business that sells sex ethically - where escorts are safe and their legal rights are honoured.
Murphy believes sex work is a legitimate career and only hires women who geniunely like sex, freely choose to work in the industry and aren't in any desparate circumstances.
The Bach is a drug-free workplace, she told the Herald in an interview last year.
Speaking to the Herald on Sunday this week, Murphy said the services her employees provided were much broader than just satisfying a sexual urge.
"People think that escort agencies just sell sex, but actually what we do is treat loneliness. We're selling largely companionship and we're doing a fair amount of educating because we insist that the men behave respectfully and respect the women's emotional well-being and legal rights."
One of the "kissing coaches" - an escort at The Bach who spoke to the Herald on Sunday on the condition of anonymity - said the sessions would create an environment where escorts could talk openly and honestly with clients about sex and romance.
"It's specifically about all the interactions that come before what happens in a booking and the finer points. It's the nuances to it.
"It's a postive way to change guys' views on what's nice, what behaviours might be accepted socially here, or you know, just little things like what sort of compliments to give someone, what's an appropriate place to touch a girl on a first date."
Her profession was about doing good, she said, and she hoped the kissing coach services would benefit women the clients interacted with in the future too, by teaching men women's feelings and needs mattered when it came to sex.
"This isn't a one-sided arrangement here. Not many girls would be happy to put up with a guy who didn't care about their perspective."
New Zealand Prostitutes Collective founding member and national co-ordinator Catherine Healy said sex workers helping meet clients' needs for intimacy was "as old as the hills".
"I think clients already do this. They meet sex workers in public places. They talk and chat with them and they have dinners and so on and they send texts etcetera."
However, it was fantastic that Murphy and The Bach were emphasising the importance of consent in sex work and more generally.
"That's very good, very positive," Healy said.
"The issue around consent is what sex workers are navigating as well in that context all the time. It's a very precise negotiation and I certainly concur with the brothel in the sense that sex workers do have an incredible amount of knowledge in these areas."
AUT University psychology lecturer and relationship expert from the reality TV show Married at First Sight New Zealand Dr Pani Farvid said when she first heard of the Kiwi Kissing Coach intiative she had mixed feelings about it.
"I think as long as it's not sort of a predatory workshop taking advantage of emotionally vulnerable men I think it's really great. It's really about relationship coaching, intimacy coaching, consent coaching in new context where the norms and rules might be a little bit different
"I really like the focus on consent. I think that's wonderful and I think we as a society underestimate the valuable and advanced knowledge that sex workers can have in this area - particularly with negotiating relationships, sexual safety and consent because it's part of their job to do it quite openly, quite directly."
The course also exposed a potential wider issue of how Kiwis thought about intimacy and loneliness, she said.
As a society it was perhaps time to rethink the idea that loneliness could only be kept at bay and intimacy achieved through a romantic relationship.
"You can get intimacy from close friends, family and loneliness doesn't just have to be about just being partnered up."