LAS VEGAS — A new analysis of men who pay for sexual activities suggests that their true goal is finding something a bit more complicated – true love – even if it’s from the sex worker.

In this new study, Christine Milrod and co-author Ronald Weitzer analyzed 2,442 postings on an online discussion board from a sex provider review site where more than a million clients of sex workers read and post about their experiences. Approximately one-third included a discussion about emotional intimacy between sex workers and their clients, many of whom expressed a desire to grow their relationships beyond the physical level in the form of sharing private feelings and mutual love.

“In recent years, we have come to see a gradual normalization of independent escort prostitution, where sexual encounters have come to resemble quasi-dating relationships,” stated study author Christine Milrod. “Our study shows that regular clients of a particular sex provider often come to experience feelings of deep affection, which can progress into an authentic love story.”

In one survey, 32 percent of customers arrested for soliciting a prostitute said they bought sex because they ‘‘didn’t have time’’ for a conventional relationship, 28 percent did not want ‘‘the responsibilities’’ inherent in such a relationship, and 18 percent said they would ‘‘rather have sex with a prostitute than have a conventional relationship with a woman.’’

The study uncovered feelings ranging from “counterfeit intimacy” to “authentic emotional bonds” between many prostitutes and their respective customers. Motives for initial payment for sex ranged from difficulty finding a partner for simple conversation to fantasy role-playing and abuse targeting.

However, many of the customers interviewed in the study expressed emotional elements lacking in a pre-existing relationship. Many of the female sex workers interviewed said they catered to the men’s emotional needs and described many of them as, “highly respectful” and sometimes “more caring than the other men in their ‘true’ personal lives.”

One-third of them in the study said they wanted something more than the physical release of “the hobby” as it is called by many sex customers.

A Boston man cautioned, “Men in this hobby who think they are only after sex are deceiving themselves. Sex always involves emotion, with the possibility for eventual affection, closeness, and emotional connection always lurking there. People can fall in love when they least expect it. And that love can last, even while one or both parties are married … and even when one is a provider.”

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