Salacious Sunday

With that title, you’ve been warned. All courtesy Sudhir Venkatesh.

First, much sex is about status:

I’ve been studying high-end sex workers (by which I mean those who earn more than $250 per “session”) in New York, Chicago and Paris for more than a decade, and one of my most startling findings is that many men … pay for sex, but end up chatting or having dinner and never get around to physical contact. Approximately 40 percent of high-end sex worker transactions end up being sex-free. Even at the lower end of the market, about 20 percent of transactions don’t ultimately involve sex. … “Men like it when you listen. … and to tell them how great they are.” (more)

Ghetto clergy charge for everything, accept sex as payment:

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Venkatesh’s [ghetto] account is the role of neighborhood ministers. Clergy resolve disputes, but they don’t do it for free. Numerous ministers accept “contributions” from gangs and drug dealers for their services. They take other forms of payment, as well; Bird, the prostitute, has serviced “most of the preachers in this community.” Other ministers have been known to hide guns, drugs, and stolen property for a fee. Nannies rely on preachers for referrals to families but must pay a 10 percent commission. The residents are unshocked by all of this. (more)

Street walkers do it less than honeymooners; more details of their lives:

[Chicago] street prostitution yields an average wage of $27 per hour. … This generates less than $20,000 annually for a women working year round in prostitution. … The wage of a prostitute is four times greater than the non-prostitution earnings these women report (approximately $7 per hour). … A prostitute would expect an annual average of a dozen incidents of violence and 300 instances of unprotected sex. … Prostitutes are officially arrested only once per 450 tricks, with johns arrested even less frequently. Punishment conditional on arrest is limited – roughly 1 in 10 prostitute arrests leads to a prison sentence, with a mean sentence length of 1.2 years. …

For prostitutes who do not work with pimps (and thus are working the streets), roughly three percent of all their tricks are freebies given to police. … On average the prostitutes work roughly thirteen hours per week, performing roughly 10 sex acts total. Average revenues generated per week are about $340. … Prostitutes also steal an average of $20 per week from customers. … The women report being a victim of violence on the job (either by a client or a pimp) about once per month of working. … Women who work with pimps are much less likely to be injured by customers. … Pimps, however, hurt their prostitutes enough to roughly equalize the number of injuries. … Total weekly earnings from these outside [non-prostitution] jobs … total … $110 per woman. (more)

I failed to find average weekly sex rates for high end prostitutes – anyone do better?

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  • Aaron

    Does the first case necessarily indicate status seeking behavior? I think the article’s discussion might be more accurate:

    “Indeed, the high-end sex workers I have studied routinely see themselves as acting the part of a counselor or a marriage therapist. They say their job is to feed a man’s need for judgment-free friendship and, at times, to help him repair his broken partnership. Little wonder, then, that so many describe themselves to me as members of the “wellness” industry.”

    Maybe it’s just that seeing a prostitute is viewed as being higher status than seeing a therapist.

    • Matt Simpson

      I think the key with high end prostitutes is that men take them to social events (there was a special about high end prostitutes on one of those investigative journalism shows that talked about this. This may be it. ). High end prostitutes are usually high end because they are physically attractive, intelligent, and socially adept – essentially high status women. So the man, by being seen with the prostitute, is seen as the type of guy that can attract high status women. This increases his status in the eyes of others (that don’t know she is a prostitute). The effect at work is exactly the same as what the PUA’s call “preselection.” Though in this case, the proximate goal isn’t necessarily the attraction of other women.

      • anon

        “High end prostitutes are usually high end because they are physically attractive, intelligent, and socially adept – essentially high status women.”

        Very good point. Essentially, people like to associate with verified-as-impressive folks, and being in business as a high-end prostitute is a signal of impressive qualities.

      • pjf

        However, in the absence of additional clarification, we don’t know whether or not intereactions with the high-end sex workers in question are publicly visible, so the idea that many men’s relationships with sex workers takes on therapeutic qualities does seem more reasonable than ascribing it entirely to status-seeking. These men are presumably seeing the same women repeatedly, and having sex on some occasions while just talking on others – effectively paying for a sexual friendship. I suppose though that it may be that having someone assure you of your own high value is only therapeutic insofar as it creates a simulated environment where your status is exaggerated (i.e the therapeutic effects are still closely related to the status effects).

        Incidentally, if men are indeed having hiring high-status women just to boost their own status by having them appear with them at social functions, it is odd that this in done under the veneer of a paying-for-sex relationship, when the actual interaction is sex-free. Why is there not just a market for high status female “escorts” in the more literal interpretation of that word? Or does that market exist already?

      • Doug S.

        <blockquote?Why is there not just a market for high status female “escorts” in the more literal interpretation of that word? Or does that market exist already?

        It does, but it’s hard to tell the difference between an escort and a prostitute because, in order to present the appearance of compliance with the law, many prostitutes work for “escort agencies” and present themselves as escorts with the understanding that they’re willing to have sex with the clients “off the record” in exchange for large tips.

  • mwengler

    Wow. A study has discovered that a significant fraction of what “escort services” provide to their customers is “escort services.” Stop the presses!