Sex Workers’ Fees in a Recession

                   Sex Workers’ Fees in the Recession

One would assume that in a recession the fees sex workers charge for their services  would be lower than in good times. Wrong assumption! For over four decades, I have observed that sex workers’ charges go up in inflationary times but do not decline when the economy is in shambles. In fact, they go up, but more moderately.  How can that be? What about the rule that, supposedly, governs the market: Supply and demand? Wouldn’t there be more workers in the market and lower demand for their services? That would force them to reduce their fees.

When I wrote my first book about sex works (“A Consumer’s Guide to Male Hustlers”) a friend of mine, a graduate of Stanford and Harvard, with whom I discussed the issue of workers’ fees, informed me that the market is governed by supply and demand and that is all that needs to be written about this subject. By now even Alan Greenspan knows that things are not that simple. After a long discussion with my friend contradicting the supply and demand theory in sex work, he said in disgust: “Then write that it is a disorderly market.” Actually, it is not  disorderly. Sex workers think that they are entitled to periodic raises regardless of their performance or economic conditions. In this, they emulate the fat Well Street cats who demand bonuses even if they have contributed to a disastrous decline of their companies’ fortunes; or unions who want raises for their members when a new contract is due, regardless of the economic conditions.  It is only businesses that pay attention to the market. Even that is not quite accurate. Airlines, for instance, lower the price of their tickets, but impose extra charges for luggage, meals, blankets, and whatever else they can think of.

Because of the perennial prejudice of society against selling one’s body, sex work must bring more  income to the practitioner than any other job. For instance, assistant nurses, in spite of the hard and often unpleasant work, will accept the relatively small salary offered to them. Rather than study market rates, sex workers usually ask themselves, “What is it worth to me to sell my body?

Like most salaried workers, escorts feel that their income should go up periodically regardless of the quality of their work. Salary raises are often determined by seniority and education. Teachers who have twenty years seniority, and have taken specialized courses, are paid more than novices with only undergraduate degrees. Sex workers cannot advertise that they have worked in the field for twenty years (though sometimes that happens to be true) nor do they have  credentials attesting to their skills. When a few workers demand a slightly higher fee, copycats add a bit more to the higher fee and, in a few months,  the  charges jump by 25%. (Obviously, not as steep in recessionary times.) Very few escorts compete by charging less. Often this does not even work for them, because clients wonder what is wrong with someone who charges so much less.

The most profitable clients for escorts are the married men who come to a convention and stay in hotels. They are on expense accounts, their wives and children are far away, and they can satisfy their hidden lust anonymously.  The fee doesn’t matter to them too much. It may be months or even a year until they can indulge in this activity once again. There are also the drugged and drunken men who will summon an escort in the wee hours. They are willing to pay whatever it takes, provided they can see the escort right away. Many escorts avoid these clients. Those who don’t, claim that they are often the easiest to satisfy because they have great sexual ambitions but little stamina. The challenge is to make sure that they have the wherewithal to pay the high price for such calls. Most successful workers have a regular clientele. They are the ones they count on for a predictable flow of income. To a certain extent “regulars” are immune from frequent fee raises. Workers want to keep them to safeguard their income.

Even in the olden days, when sex workers were called “hustlers,” and stood in the streets waiting to be picked up, they often disregarded the market price. After many hours on a rainy night, they were willing to  accept much less than their competitors, in order to get off the street. The Internet has brought many changes to the profession. Advertisers who are in their fifties and even sixties are not uncommon,  chubbies and bears also post their availability including their pics. Surprisingly, they charge almost as much as their competitors do.

Before the advent of the Internet, escorts were students ,  low-income workers who found a way to make some extra money or “temporarily” unemployed.. That suited their clients. They were not paying for sex, but helping a young man with rent or tuition.  Later drug addicts came into the picture: They could not hold a regular job and sex work was an ideal solution. More often than not, these poor young men received gratuities in addition to their fees. The pioneers who advertised on the Internet were better educated and more affluent. They referred to themselves as “elite escorts.” These escorts one could take to an elegant restaurant or the opera, before the sexual encounter. They felt entitled to charge much more for their services but did not eschew gratuities. Computers are old hat these days, but the “ancient” custom of gratuities is all too often still in place.

Summing up, while sex workers are really independent contractors they consider themselves salaried employees who are entitled to yearly raises. Defying the basic laws of economics, if they have fewer clients because of the poor economy, they will raise their prices to make up for it. Some customers will try to bargain with them. Quite often this works out, especially if the escorts need the money. However, this can also fail: An escort will tell a client, “For what you pay me, I don’t need to do that,” whatever the “that” happens to be.

Much of the above does not apply to Certified Massage Therapists (not amateurs who advertise “erotic massages,”) a subject I will address in a later positing.

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