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Why the Price of Sex Is Getting Cheaper

Hard times have hit the world of sex work.
 
 
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They keep talking about recovery, but for many folks, work doesn't pay what it used to. (According to recent data, Manhattan and Los Angeles counties lead America in falling wages. In the counties which contain Dallas, Phoenix, and Chicago, workers are also seeing their paycheck shrink).

We can add sex workers to the list of people dealing with falling income.

Th Economist examined over 190,000 profiles of female sex workers on websites that feature customer reviews. Based on that data, which covered 84 cities and 12 countries (with the majority of workers in America), an interesting trend was revealed: the price of an hour with a female sex worker has been plunging. The average cost in 2014 is $260, down from $340 back in 2006.

What’s going on?

What a sex worker charges depends on many things, including what types of services are involved, the location, and the physical attributes of the worker. Sex workers who conform to Western standards of beauty can charge more. Blondes get a premium, as do those with slim (but not too skinny) bodies and ample breasts. Getting fake boobs can really pay off in sex work: “For those not naturally well endowed, breast implants may make economic sense: going from flat-chested to a D-cup increases hourly rates by approximately $40, meaning that at a typical price of $3,700, surgery could pay for itself after around 90 hours.”

Other ways sex workers can charge more is to provide niche services like having sex with two men at once, or providing S&M role-playing. Big-city sex workers in places like New York and London can charge more, too.

According to the Economist, the reason behind the drop in price is partly the 2007-'08 financial crisis. Other factors, like the migration of poorer sex workers into richer areas can also cause a drop in prices. This trend has been happening in Europe since the European Union expanded to include poorer eastern European countries, which has sent workers across borders. A 2013 article in Time magazine noted that Germany had become the “Cut-Rate Prostitution Capital of the World,” with thousands of brothels and “hundreds of thousands of prostitutes,” many from places like Romania and Bulgaria, dealing with intense competition and pushed-down prices. (Prostitution became legal in Germany in 2002.) In Berlin, oral sex from an Eastern European sex worker can reportedly be had for as little as $13.

The Internet is to blame, too, as more people are selling sex online. Because it’s easier and more discreet to sell sex online, women who in the past may have avoided such work are signing up. “More attractive and better-educated women, whose marital and job prospects are therefore better, are more likely to consider sex work if it is arranged online,” notes the Economist report. Technology increases the efficiency and speed of matching client to sex worker: there are even apps which allow customers to filter sex workers according to specifications like breast size, age or height. A new German app even promises that you can order a sex worker the way you would order an Uber car, using GPS to connect client to worker.

But changing attitudes toward sex work in our society are also part of this trend. The stricter a society is about casual and adulterous sex, the more sex work will be in demand. The acceptance of premarital sex and divorce mean that men are less likely to be driven to sex workers because they can’t get their sexual needs met anywhere else.

It’s a bummer to be a sex worker when prices are falling. But interestingly, it looks like incomes may not have fallen as steeply as the decline in prices would suggest, because sex workers have been able to cut expenses.