Did you ever notice that character in the movies, the sympathetic hooker who steals our heart stumbling upon hard times and in a confused effort to make ends meet, we realize she in fact has “a heart of gold”, the misunderstood soul, the single mother with mouths to feed, the college student coming up with the fees the only way she knows how. All these characters earn our sympathy in some way especially as they are painted with generous strokes from the ‘nice girl’ brush, suggestion being that this girl is ‘different’ from all the other nasty whores that perform the same duty. And that there is the ‘elephant in the closet’ to pass off a whole entire industry of sex workers as being the bad guys with the occasional one rare, kind soul among them. The almost heroine who turns down party favours, reads classic literature in between turning tricks and looks all the part the girl next door if not for the high heels and mini leotard combo.
This all fits neatly with the classist idea of a ‘whorearchy’, a classification system to differentiate the least desirable ‘streetwalker’ from the most desirable ‘hotel suite hooker’. Interestingly some Men will share reassuring words with their ‘special date’ such as “It’s fine to be doing this kind of work if you’re just doing it to pay for your post-secondary education” as if their particular brand of service is at a higher value than the lowly sex workers who are doing sex work for less honourable meaning ‘dishonourable’ reasons. This idea of a righteous and justified cause for exchanging sex for money is described as a “return to civilization” by sex work study researchers, not too dissimilar from the kind of judgement variance reserved for those working with their hands versus those working the cerebral professions.
Now, just to add another layer to the intrigue of the oldest profession in the world, a new app. is available in Europe where the ‘civilizer’ the man, can type in a location and is presented with a long list of women for hire to select from with the assistance of colour photographs, measurements and of course prices. There is a 5-10 euro booking fee for organizing a session with the escort of choice. As a result of some very liberal regulations toward prostitution in large parts of Europe the app. named Peppr looks to be growing in size and stature. A step up from the dog-eared phone booth postcard and to be honest who uses phone booths any more anyway? With the help of modern technology the sex trade looks to be becoming more efficient for the end user and, more importantly, safer for the sex worker as electronic surveillance and record of event increases. Sex workers can now warn their colleagues off from meeting with shady clients and can even perform background checks if they wish. Latest research in the U.S.A estimates that hookers who work the street make up only 15-20% of total sex workers plying their trade across the continent.
On the flip side there is now considerable documentation of the ‘controlled’ sex work business that takes place not only behind closed doors but behind closed screens. The internet is enabling sex workers to really grow their earnings as access and data stream increases. There is even one online U.S site aptly named TrickAdvisor with 190,000 profiles of available sex workers across a network with international reach.
However sex workers are not the only ones to benefit from the power and speed of the world-wide Web. Tinder users and even members of the controversial site Ashley Madison, who it seems are in the business of facilitating adulterous hook ups, are providing an attractive alternative if not a form of competition, hunting for sex as opposed to simply buying it. Hourly rates differ greatly from country to country, what may be considered a discount deal in Tokyo could be expensive in comparison to some of the going rates in Holland or Denmark.
Funnily enough a sex worker with a university qualification can command higher fees than one without in some parts of North America, although they traditionally work on less given days per week but maximizing number and ‘pedigree’ of clients per shift. How that fits with the mythology of the “Hooker with a Heart of Gold” is a little harder to ascertain. In the long term it appears there will always be the supply and demand those who are not inclined to go to a bar to look for an encounter and those who are drawn to the power and utility of the quick dollar. The prediction and the overall feeling is that sex workers will profit financially even when that monetary benefit comes at a socio-psychological cost.