Las Vegas: Not even prostitution is immune to economics of supply, demand

By Abigail Goldman

Sun, Dec 14, 2008 (2 a.m.)

The pleasure of Stacie’s company used to cost $450 an hour, but no longer. Her clients were capped at 35 and older; today she’s taking almost anyone. Sex acts once off the menu are suddenly back on — recession specials, served with a side of shrugging compromise.

If she doesn’t do more for less, Stacie says, another prostitute will. And her weekly income is still down by half.

The illegal prostitution economy in Clark County is a multimillion-dollar beast fed by a black market so diverse that it’s impossible to pin down. On one hand, midrange prostitutes like Stacie say they’re being crippled by the economy. On the other, high-end call girls claim they’re not feeling much pain. And the women charging the least reportedly are making the most these days — counterintuitive in an industry where bargains come with risks.
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CNBC’s ‘Dirty Money: The Business of High End Prostitution’ Premiers on Tuesday, November 11th at 10pm & 1am ET

There’s one business thriving in this treacherous economy–especially on Wall Street. – October 30, 2008

(PRNewsChannel) / Englewood Cliffs, N.J. / The stock market plummets, unemployment soars, housing prices sink, but one business is sheltered from the rest of the country’s financial storm: high-end prostitution. Who are these “escorts” to the rich and powerful? And why do members of the “business elite” risk it all for their services?  

CNBC, First in Business Worldwide presents “Dirty Money: The Business of High-End Prostitution” an original one-hour production anchored by Melissa Francis (co-anchor of CNBC’s “The Call”) airing on Tuesday November 11th at 10PM & 1AM ET.
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OldestProfession2.0: A new generation of local “providers” and “hobbyists” create a virtual red-light district

By Keegan Hamilton

published: June 04, 2008

If you’re researching auto repair on the Internet and stumble across, you might well hit your Web browser’s back button before noticing anything amiss. 

“St. Louis Auto Specialists,” the banner proclaims, “brings you information on St. Louis auto racing.”

Read on, though, and you’ll raise an eyebrow. “This site is for entertainment purposes only. It is a place where users can post fantasies or stories for other members to view…. The information on this site is intended for adult audiences only, by definition, in the state of Missouri, you must be 18 or older to view the information on this site….”

These folks must really love their cars!

Beyond the homepage, it quickly becomes evident that “STLASP” stands for “St. Louis Adult Service Providers” — an entirely different kind of body work. Here the “providers” are prostitutes — or, if you like your euphemisms, escorts — and their customers are “hobbyists.” STLASP is the virtual forum in which they discuss everything from gardening to philosophy to how they prefer one another’s pubic hair to be groomed. They alert each other to possible police stings and scam artists in the “erotic services” section of Craigslist. And customers — seemingly all of them men — write and post lengthy reviews of their experiences with the call girls.

An escort herself, the site’s creator says she founded STLASP in June of last year after moving to the St. Louis area from Southern California, where she’d been involved in a nearly identical online community. She found that the message board not only made her job safer by allowing her to screen her clients, it also created a tight-knit network of the region’s online escorts, providing a forum for them to share knowledge, including concerns about potentially dangerous johns.

“I’m trying to educate the women and give them a chance to feel safe and feel a connection with others that are in the same industry,” says the woman, who agreed to be interviewed for this story on the condition that she not reveal her real name and that she be referred to as “Mac.”

“There’s a lot of power in numbers. I’m trying to educate them to be as independent as they can and make smart choices.”

The idea of escorts on the Internet is nothing new — the oldest profession has long embraced 21st-century technology. But according to Stacey Swimme, co-founder of

sex worker-rights organizations the Desiree Alliance and the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Mac’s site is part of an emerging national trend: Prostitutes have turned to the Internet and small, independently operated message boards as a means of empowerment.

“From what I’ve been researching about the sex industry over the past 25 years, that is the biggest change,” Swimme says. “Providers are talking to each other. That is a force to be reckoned with. That is where political power comes from, is that sort of community-building.”



STLASP’s “Reviews” section contains more than 7,000 posts. Many are based on a review template in which “hobbyists” share their experiences with local providers.


Did the ASP’s photos accurately portray her?

Was she punctual?

Did she pressure you into tipping?

And, of course: “Activities between consenting adults (what did you do)?”

The reviews are peppered with abbreviations and jargon. An escort might be a “FOTC” (fuck of the century) or a DFE (“dead fish experience”). When johns say “CMD” (carpet matches drapes) or “Hardwood Floors,” they’re referring to their date’s body hair, not her taste in interior decorating.

While phrases like “She spoke French without an interpreter” and “We took a trip to the Mediterranean” carry one meaning in a newspaper travel section, on STLASP they refer to oral sex without a condom and anal sex, respectively.

Reviewers may wax passionate: “I would advise you to take your vitamins, drink lots of fluids, eat your Wheaties, and get plenty of rest before your date,” one recently wrote. “She will wear you out.”

Or merely state the obvious: “The massage is not therapeutic, not a professional style, muscle-relaxing type massage. But if you enjoy a very pretty girl spreading lotion all over your body, you will be pleased.”

The practice of posting online reviews of escorts dates back about ten years. David Elms, creator of The Erotic Review (, claims his Web site was one of the first to encourage men to provide feedback about their clandestine encounters. Reached by phone in his Southern California office, Elms explains that he got the idea after being ripped off by a call girl.

“It was a way that people could be held accountable for their actions in this industry,” Elms says. “Now girls prefer that they find clients on The Erotic Review. It already tells a guy all the juicy details, so he doesn’t have to ask stupid questions.”

Elms says his Web site, created in 1999, now attracts more than 300,000 visitors a day, and that half of the site’s users log on more than once a day. He collects information about each person who registers an account and says the average hobbyist is between 35 and 55 years old with a median income of $80,000.

From the sex worker’s-rights perspective, Swimme has no qualms about the commodification that is taking place. She suggests that the practice of posting reviews adds legitimacy to an otherwise illicit transaction. “I think that having reviews in the sex industry to some degree makes a lot of sense,” she says. “It brings it into a realm that says: This is a commercial exchange, a profession, a service.”

Elms goes as far as to compare the john-escort dynamic to the purchase of expensive electronics: “It’s like a consumer-reports magazine that has buyer reviews of car-stereo performance.”

The quest for rave reviews and the booming business that comes with them can be hyper-competitive. One of the oldest and most popular review Web sites,, issues a twice-daily top-100 ranking of escorts from across the nation based on ratings tallied from user reviews.

The practice does have its critics. Amanda Brooks, author of The Internet Escort’s Handbook, a three-part series first published in 2006 that professes to “address every question that a woman could ask before she becomes a sex worker who advertises through the Internet,” points out that women can be pressured into doing things they otherwise wouldn’t do, for fear of the online backlash.

“It has turned into, ‘This girl is totally great, she’s going to do this and this and this,'” says Brooks, who also contributes to Bound, Not Gagged, a sex workers’-rights blog. “That’s a big problem, because girls will do sex activities that push boundaries, but they do them because they could get a good review and make money.”

At STLASP, Mac says when she first got into the business, the creator of one review site pressured her to have sex with him in exchange for positive reviews. “He said he could make me or break me because his site was national and if I was smart I would come visit him and have an appointment with him for free,” she recalls. “I told him no way.”

Despite that experience, Mac remains a strong advocate of posting the critiques “for the sake of quality control.” She admits, however, to having to frequently mediate disputes about authenticity and accuracy. Several times women have been caught creating fake profiles in order to post positive evaluations of themselves. Once, Mac says, a man posted a negative review that an escort later claimed was completely off base.

“I told her that she could write a rebuttal to the review and she chose not to,” Mac notes.

Elms says he has confronted similar issues. “I look at the history of reviewer,” he says. “If, consistently, this reviewer’s history shows he’s been accurate, no one has ever contested anything and he has long-term membership, then I know that this is probably pretty solid.”

Then again, Elms adds, reviews are rarely two thumbs down. “When you tell a story to a couple of friends, obviously you’re going to put yourself in a good light,” he notes. “When you tell a story here, you’re telling it to 100,000 of your closest friends. You still have the male ego to deal with.”



When Mac debuted STLASP a year ago, she promoted it with a mere two posts on Craigslist. Since then an average of 50 new people per day have registered for user names. A counter at the bottom of the site’s main page tallies the current membership at nearly 2,500; altogether they account for more than 19,000 posts.

Registration is free, and all that is required to access the forums is an e-mail address, a user name and a password. Fearing the site has began to attract too much attention, Mac recently posted a message saying she is considering a moratorium on new memberships.

For a site that specializes in sex, STLASP’s appearance is remarkably sterile: blue text on a plain gray-and-white background. The site is divided into several sections, each of which contains its own message boards. “Administration” features a glossary of “hobby”-related abbreviations. In “Providers” users can see which women are “Available Today” and browse the personal Web pages of two dozen escorts. Most of the posts are found in the “Hobbyists” section, which features the “Discussion” board, where the men and women tell jokes, swap stories and ask each other questions about nearly everything under the sun.

Unlike other sites of its kind, STLASP is devoid of advertisements. Mac says she has invested several hundred dollars in software, server space and the domain name. She estimates that she generally spends multiple hours each week dealing with programming glitches, creating new features and moderating disputes between users. Having had no prior Web-design experience, she concedes she may have gotten in over her head with her not-for-profit endeavor.

“This does not define who I am as a person,” Mac says. “It’s a very small aspect of my life. The more I invest time into it, the more it becomes a bigger part of my life. And since I’ve been spending like five hours a night on this Web site, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, it’s taking over now.'”

Swimme is impressed that the mind behind STLASP is a woman’s.

“I love to see when it’s actually service providers who are out founding these sites,” Stacey Swimme says. “It’s much more common for hobbyists to create these communities. As an advocate, I’m always thrilled to support the work of individual sex workers who pioneer their own free-speech spaces.”

In the world of STLASP, however, “free speech” is a relative term. One of Mac’s earliest posts under her “Admin” handle is a lengthy “code of ethics” that lays out rules for maintaining civil discourse. “Do unto others, as you would have them do to you,” she writes. “Do not post against somebody in a rude or nasty manner…. We all have a different perspective on life and general topics so respect others and they will respect you.”

The software for the forums automatically censors some content. Try to type the words “sex” or “money” into a post and they’re instantly altered to “sensual fun” and “donation.”

Such safeguards don’t bar the site’s users from self-indulgence. Women post pictures of themselves, often blurring their faces (but not much else) in hopes of concealing their identity. Men ask which local strip clubs offer “full service” and tip each other off to “UTR” (under the radar) adult establishments, such as a salon in a St. Louis suburb that offers a haircut with a happy ending. They frequently poke fun at their “Auto Specialists” pretext with threads like: “Pole position-how do you prefer to start the race.”

Some exchanges border on the cerebral. Observes one user in a February post on a lengthy thread entitled “Morality, Ethics and the Hobby”: “Our Western society’s anti-sensuality attitude foundations were laid around 430 CE with the philosophy of St. Augustine. It can be traced further back to the Gnostic Christians rejection of the physical world and the body as well as some of the letters of St. Paul.”

“My personnel [sic] morals and code of ethics calls to treat everyone with respect and human dignity in all my interpersonal encounters,” reads one of the replies. “For hobbyists it means being a gentleman with providers and treating them with the utmost respect a gentlemen [sic] gives a lady. For providers it means not treating the hobbyist as just another envelope but as a fellow human being that wants to do what comes naturally.”

In another thread begun in March, a poster writes, “The way I see it, indulging in this hobby is wrong. But I still do it because there is pleasure involved. I just haven’t been able to cheat my inner moral compass into believing that it is OK,” concluding in all-boldface, “It’s wrong. Still, I do it.”

In an e-mail in which he declined to be interviewed for this story, STLASP’s moderator, a user Mac deputized to police the forums for spam and other prohibited content who posts under the handle “luvs2duit,” described the STLASP community.

“There are a lot of very good people in here,” he writes. “The fact that they hobby doesn’t mean that they love their SOs [significant others] any less, or meet their obligations to the community any less, or are blatant in their choice of lifestyle.”

He then requested that Riverfront Times not pursue a story about STLASP:

“Our happy little life may be seriously damaged because folks outside the community will still view us as cheaters and perverts that violate the social norms. The fact is, many of us are much happier than our repressed neighbors.”



A sandy blonde in her thirties, Mac says she has been an escort for the past three years. She says that in addition to working on a graduate degree at an area university, she is her family’s main breadwinner. Fearing it would jeopardize her anonymity, she declined a request to provide documents to support her purported résumé.

Before moving to Missouri, Mac says, she lived and attended college in Southern California. A single mom at the time, she began working as a stripper to make ends meet. Eventually, she says, she began commuting to Las Vegas on the weekends to work at the city’s lucrative strip clubs. When she suffered a knee injury and could no longer dance, she became an escort.

She says the decision was as easy as clicking a mouse: She placed an ad in the “erotic services” section of Craigslist.

Mac had little trouble emotionally adjusting to her new lifestyle. “Actually it was kind of exciting for me,” she says sheepishly. “I know that sounds funny, but it was actually exciting. It turned me on. I liked it. I was like: ‘Wow, this is something really hot.'”

She is emphatic that she became an escort on her own volition, that she has never had a pimp and that she doesn’t touch drugs. (During an interview at a west-county bar that lasted several hours, she didn’t order a drink.)

She says she specializes in “GFE,” commonly employed shorthand for “girlfriend experience.” The term is loosely defined, but Mac describes it as doing anything the “ideal companion” would. Needless to say, that includes the intimate act frowned upon in Pretty Woman: kissing on the mouth. (Two GFE-related entries from the “Abbreviations” glossary: DFK = Deep French Kissing; LFK = Light Face Kissing.) It also means, Mac says, being excited to see her date, appearing to be genuinely interested in what they have to say and not rushing to leave.

For her services, Mac charges anywhere from $350 an hour to several thousand dollars for a weekend or multiple-hour stay.

“I’m a like a therapist,” she explains. “Sometimes I’m a mom, sometimes I’m a wife, sometimes a slut, sometimes I’m a girlfriend, a sister. Sometimes people just need someone to care. So many people are just unloved. There are times when I have an appointment when I feel so good because I feel like I’ve been able to touch somebody emotionally that maybe hasn’t been touched in a long time.”

Asked directly whether she enjoys what she does for a living, she responds, “I think that I do like what I do most days. I make the schedule, I work when I want to work and I don’t when I don’t. I choose to do my job, I don’t have to. That’s a big deal in this industry.

“If you’re not sound emotionally, this industry will tear you down,” she adds. “There are definitely days where it’s maybe not a good day, where I feel like it’s affected me more. But those are few and far between. If I’m having a bad day, it’s not a good day to be working. I think for some ladies, that can be a pitfall.”

Mac says her spouse knows about her profession and approves of it. But, she adds, “My biggest fear is always my kids finding out. Everything else is just things that I can take care of. But that will never leave my child if they ever found out. I could never take that back.”



Stacey Swimme says many women use Craigslist as a jumping-off point into prostitution. The anonymity the site affords users, coupled with the fact that it’s free, popular and easy to use, combine to render it about as close as America currently comes to the decriminalization of sex work.

“I think of Craigslist as training wheels,” says Swimme. “When a girl wants to work in the sex industry, she ought to able to contact a local union and ask, ‘What kind of materials do I need? What training do I need?’ Since that’s not available, Craigslist is the easiest way.”

It was the lack of resources for women starting out in the field that spurred Amanda Brooks, a Dallas-based former call girl, to author her Internet Escort’s Handbook.

“Craigslist is generally people who haven’t really studied the business, so they end up taking a lot of risks,” Brooks says when reached by phone. “Often they don’t screen [their customers], which is very unsafe, and the men who surf Craigslist generally aren’t your better clients. And police have been busting girls on there ever since it started.”

“I didn’t screen my clients at first,” Mac says of her early Craigslist experience. “I was really naive, I didn’t know how to really protect myself. I didn’t know about a lot of message boards [like STLASP]. I didn’t know any of this, so I was taking a big risk.” Now she requires potential clients to fill out an online form that includes home and work phone numbers — which she calls to verify their identities.

One of STLASP’s most popular forums is devoted exclusively to discussing Craigslist’s “erotic services” pages. Hundreds of posts come from users asking their peers to verify that a particular ad isn’t a fake or a police sting. Another forum, “Alerts,” is devoted to pointing out “Robs” — escorts who show up intending to blackmail a client.

“I take all posts [on Craigslist] with a grain of salt,” one user recently wrote. “There is so much drama and cut throat [sic] practices on there that almost everything on it is BS.”

Mac says she has gone out of her way enforce standards to make her site different from Craigslist. Anyone who types in all-caps, can’t spell properly or relies too much on Web shorthand — all trademarks of the red-light section of the San Francisco-based classifieds site — is banned. (One of the longest-running threads on STLASP is devoted to the unintentionally hilarious misspellings and mistakes that appear on Craigslist. (Two highlights: “I’m available all mourning” and “Super Bowel specials.”)

As Craigslist, chat rooms and social-networking sites have skyrocketed in popularity, they’ve increasingly become the focus of academic research. Social scientists have begun to study how the anonymity afforded by the medium affects human behavior. Not surprisingly, some researchers have examined online communities that focus on sex.

In a paper called “The Gender Dynamics of Online Sex Talk,” presented last year at the European Gender and Internet Communication Technology Symposium at the University of Helsinki, Chrystie Myketiak writes that “[s]ocial expectations and norms work to keep sexuality and sexual topics that, though culturally ubiquitous, are considered bad taste to openly discuss. On the Internet, people face fewer consequences for deviating from dominant social norms and can explore topics in ways that seem confidential and anonymous.”

Myketiak, who is working toward a Ph.D. at Queen Mary University of London, reached her findings via “a qualitative analysis of more than two years of conversational [chat] logs” on an Internet forum.

Members of forums like STLASP have begun to shed the veil of anonymity the Internet provides. Many sites, STLASP included, host “meet and greets” where prominent personalities on the board gather at a local pub to match faces with screen names.

“It’s so odd that escorts and clients are talking and having socials,” says Internet Escort’s Handbook author Brooks. “That has no historical precedent. Honestly, it’s a new thing the Internet has spawned — and there’s nothing wrong with it.”

A thread on STLASP is devoted to a recent “happy hour” gathering at Flamingo Bowl downtown. The group reserved lanes under their “auto specialists” guise.

“The great thing about an event like this is that you get to talk to folks and learn so much more than we do online,” moderator “luvs2duit” wrote afterward. “The ladies get a chance to place a face and personality with the screen names and posts they have seen online. These events are a wonderful chance to break the ice.”

A user observed that many of the working women in attendance didn’t look much like mechanics:

“It was fun watching the non-associated males in the place and the ones walking on the street outside get whiplash from their double takes.”



Not all online escort reviews are as prim and proper as STLASP. One site,, features reviews of streetwalkers. There are forums devoted exclusively to “the strolls” of Brooklyn and Washington Park, Illinois, whose posts are littered with references to drugs, pimps and abuse.

On STLASP, in a January thread titled “How many providers did you see in 2007,” most members said they stuck with “professional providers” — including one man who estimated that he spent $13,000 on his “hobby.” Still, several users wrote that they frequently picked up women on the street.

For Mac, it’s a troubling reality that she says she wants to avoid. “I don’t even want to entertain the idea of reviewing streetwalkers,” she says. “It’s a whole different industry that I know nothing about. There’s been a lot of gripes from other ladies on the board saying they don’t want it either.

“I don’t want to make any negative remarks toward these women,” she hastens to add. “In fact, I have a lot of compassion for them. But the risks that they take are so huge that it’s scary to me.”

Of course, risk isn’t limited to street hookers. In addition to sexually transmitted disease, the threat of local law enforcement looms for online operators.

“Escort services, whether online or not, are basically prostitution,” asserts assistant United States attorney Howard Marcus, who is based in St. Louis. “Most of the women that end up working in this area are all, despite what they might say, victims. It takes a toll on your life, it takes a toll on your family life. Many have a history of alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic problems. There’s typically a traumatic event, some kind of abuse, that leads them into this line of work.”

Marcus says the most common charges stemming from investigations of online escort rings are money laundering and, because many sites are hosted on servers located in another state, the use of interstate facilities to promote prostitution. The latter crime carries a minimum five-year sentence and a $250,000 fine.

One St. Louis-area municipality, Maryland Heights, has gained a reputation for its tough stance on online prostitution. STLASP users report that the city frequently conducts stings on Craigslist and

“I don’t like to see anyone [provider or hobbyist] get popped,” one poster wrote last month. “But if a person is dumb enough to work out of/make an appointment in MH…it serves them right IMHO.”

A spokesman for the Maryland Heights police department did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

The STLASP community takes several precautions when it comes to dealing with law enforcement. Most women require at least two “references” from fellow escorts before seeing a new customer. Some ask their clientele to use the online identity-verification services at or

Mac looks forward to the day prostitution law is reformed and references become aboveboard. “I think that there should be some regulations,” she allows. “But I do think that it should be legal. I think that people should have to get a license to do it. I think that they should have regulations on health checkups and have certain guidelines so people are safe and healthy and make sure that they are not working on the street.”

In the meantime, Swimme, who once marched topless around San Francisco’s federal building in protest of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s strict policies on prostitution, says women will increasingly turn to sites like STLASP as a means of protecting themselves:

“As long as prostitution is illegal, people will be dependent on these types of forums to stay safe.”

Mac agrees. She and others on STLASP keep a blacklist of men who have hygiene problems or who they feel might be dangerous. One of the features on the site she’s most proud of is the “Ladies Only” forum.

“We have what we call the ‘woman to woman,'” Mac explains. “We talk amongst ourselves about any topic — it could be about the business or not. We’re just helping each other out. If we can stay together and inform each other, there’s a lot of power in that. It’s like social capital.

“To me, that’s what this is: We’re building social capital.”

Original Link on River Front Times

UK: To fight prostitution, some say target clients

Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:13pm EDT

By Peter Graff

LONDON (Reuters) – Would the hundreds of men who paid to have sex with “Alicia” have cared if they knew she was being held captive by a trafficker who raped her and pimped her, and that she was infected with HIV?

“I don’t think they would have come back. If they really knew,” says the Rwandan woman, who was brought from Africa to a south London apartment and forced to have sex while her captor collected her earnings.

“But it’s not their concern at the end of the day: you’ve paid your money, and you got what you are paying for,” she told Reuters, asking that a pseudonym be used in place of her name for fear those who exploited her would track her down.

The rise of international sex trafficking is causing many countries to rethink their laws on prostitution and re-examine legal frameworks that for decades have treated the purchase of sex as a social nuisance or “victimless crime.”

Norway’s government proposed last week to fine or jail clients of prostitutes for up to six months in a bid to stamp out human trafficking, saying the rule would apply to its citizens in Norway and abroad.

British government research shows that during 2003 there were an estimated 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in Britain. The figures have risen at least threefold since 1998, according to Home Office figures.

The customers who paid for sex with Alicia broke no British law. Men can be prosecuted for “kerb crawling” for prostitutes, but paying for sex in a private apartment is not a crime. To prove rape, police would have to show that a customer knew Alicia was unwilling.

Fiona MacTaggart, a former government minister and member of parliament from the ruling Labour party, wants to change this.

“Men who pay for sex with a woman who has been trafficked are basically paying for rape,” said MacTaggart.

She is among a group of Labour MPs who would like to replace criminal penalties for street prostitutes with counseling programmes to get them out of the trade, and criminalize paying for sex.

Britain’s Home Office is studying laws in other countries as it carries out a short-term review to see what can be done to tackle the demand for prostitution.

The debate moved into high gear after the killing in late 2006 of five drug-addicted prostitutes around the town of Ipswich by a forklift truck driver, who was sentenced to life in prison in February.

MacTaggart’s proposals mark a radical shift from previous thinking. A few years ago, she was part of a Labour government that suggested it might move towards legalizing prostitution.

And despite losing an initial battle to get fines for street prostitution replaced with mandatory counseling in a draft law, MacTaggart says her war goes on.

“We don’t criminalize people who sell kidneys. We criminalize the buyer.”


Those who support efforts to penalize men for buying sex want to reduce prostitution by tackling demand rather than supply. If men knew more about the violence associated with the sex trade and faced more credible risk of punishment, they would be less tempted to pay for sex, the reasoning goes.

“In 15 years of interviewing prostitutes, I don’t think I have ever met one who didn’t at some point have a man’s hands around her throat or a knife pointed at her or was beaten or raped,” said Roger Matthews, criminology professor at London South Bank University and author of “Prostitution, Politics and Policy.”

Sweden set the trend in Europe by outlawing paying for sex in 1999. British Home Office officials have traveled to countries including Sweden to study the laws.

Across Europe, laws vary: In the Netherlands, famed for Amsterdam’s “red light” district, prostitution is legal and street prostitution is confined to managed zones, although the city wants to partially reverse full legalization introduced in 2000, because it has not achieved its aim of bringing the profession out of the shadows and protecting sex workers.

Denmark legalized prostitution in 1999; prostitution is legal in Germany on and off the street, but coercing prostitution is an offence. In France, like in Britain, prostitution is not illegal, but touting on a public highway and pimping are offences.

The trade thrives under a hotchpotch of restrictions that evolved over years: in Britain, brothels are illegal, but “saunas” and “massage parlors,” many of which are fronts for prostitution according to police, operate with licenses issued by local authorities.

British society has been tolerant of prostitution for so long it will take time to make men understand that the trade is harmful to women, Matthews said.

“The UK has a very long established tradition that paying for sex is OK, it’s a man’s right,” he said. But he said new research shows many men who visit prostitutes are not highly motivated, and could be dissuaded by penalties or education.

“They said it was like buying a curry at the grocery shop. The motivation is actually a lot lower than many people assume. They would buy sex if it was there — if it’s not there, they would go do something else,” Matthews said.

“You could actually have this shift where people no longer think paying for sex is a legitimate activity.”


The fact that so many trafficked women are forced into prostitution has injected the debate with fresh urgency.

The United Nations says a revolution in affordable transport and instant communication has increased trafficking over the past decade, with the trade now worth an estimated $30 billion.

Some 85 percent of women found working in British brothels are estimated to be from outside Britain, a reversal from 10 years ago when 85 percent of them were British citizens.

There are women who argue that they deserve the right to sell sex, and that prosecuting their customers would only make the trade more dangerous.

Amanda Brooks, a Texan former call girl and author of “The Internet Escort’s Handbook,” is among these who oppose any attempts to criminalize her trade.

“I understand why feminists want to reduce demand. I’m very sympathetic. I just think you need to be a little realistic. Even in the U.S. which has been heavily criminalizing both buying and selling sex, it’s still a thriving industry.

“There’s always going to be the demand. The question is how do you regulate it so it’s safest for everyone involved? I don’t think the best way is to criminalize consenting adults.”

There was no consent involved for Alicia. Free now after months of abuse, she is trying to come to terms with her experience.

“You always think: if I had been stronger, if I had talked out, if I had screamed to the outside world, maybe they would hear,” she says.

“My thoughts were I wanted to just kill myself. But now I’m thinking it’s worth it to be alive.”

Spitzer’s alleged Dallas tryst puts focus on city’s escort scene


Area not a hub for high-end services, insiders say

07:45 AM CDT on Thursday, March 13, 2008

By JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News
The revelation that outgoing New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is accused of having one of his career-ending trysts in Dallas may leave the impression that Big D is a hub for pricey escort services.

Not so, say those familiar with the local scene.

“We haven’t seen a significant number of high-end escort services in the city,” said Dallas police Deputy Chief Julian Bernal, commander of the vice unit. “They could exist, but they might be so exclusive we wouldn’t know about it.”

He said that the Emperors Club VIP, the prostitution ring Mr. Spitzer is accused of using, “had not come across our radar.”

The New York Times, citing unidentified sources, reported Wednesday that in addition to Washington, D.C., Mr. Spitzer is accused of having sex with prostitutes in Dallas and Florida.

The Emperors Club employed more than 50 hookers in several U.S. cities and abroad. A criminal complaint outlining the sting does not mention Texas.

Most of Dallas’ escorts, many of whom advertise in local weekly magazines, are independent operators who charge well below the $5,500 hourly fee of the most-sought-after Emperors Club girls, police said.

Amanda Brooks, a former independent escort and stripper in Dallas, said Wednesday that she is unaware of any elite high-dollar agencies based here. Ms. Brooks, author of The Internet Escort’s Handbook, said she knows a couple of local women charging $500 to $800 an hour.

The city also is not a routine stop for high-dollar touring escorts, she said.

“Dallas is very much a one-hour town” where clients tend to prefer “a girl next door,” she said

Even with the blatant advertising in papers and online, call girl operations are not a priority for Dallas vice officers, Chief Bernal said.

Street prostitution “is the focus” because it’s visible and garners community complaints, he said. Undercover agents occasionally answer an ad and work a case to keep the call girls “on their toes,” the chief said.

In late 2006, nearly two dozen dancers at the Penthouse Key Club in Dallas were busted after they agreed to have sex with undercover agents.

In the past, the vice unit has received complaints discreetly from security staffs at some of the city’s higher-end hotels where call girls were plying their trade.

“Clients of the hotels were being robbed by reportedly high-end prostitutes,” he said.

The practice is probably more rampant, but moneyed clients “are not going to be doing reports on thefts of a watch,” particularly if it will document their activities, he said.

Staff writer Paul Meyer contributed to this report.

Googling Johns

An ex-escort tells sex workers how to be savvy and safe online. The abridged version: Don’t use Craig’s List.
by Bonnie Ruberg

December 11th, 2007 2:07 PM

Amanda Brooks has been a stripper, a bikini-bar waitress, and a professional escort. But her most recent title she earned with all her clothes on. Brooks (her “professional name”) is the self-published author of The Internet Escort’s Handbook Book 1: The Foundation, the debut chapter of a four-part series that the author is hoping will become a canon for online escorts.

Aimed at already-established escorts and women considering the job, The Internet Escort’s Handbook tackles questions that are existential (“Is This Something You Really Want To Do?”), medical (“What If Your Client Has an STI?”), and practical (“What’s the Best Way to Clean Up Condoms?”). The book also includes entire sections addressing an escort’s personal appearance (“Misconception #9: I have to be blonde and have big boobs, or be model-thin, to make money. Honestly: No.”) and conveys Brooks’s attitude about the differences among escorting, prostitution, and, well, dating. “If you are selling your time… and the unspoken offer of sexual entertainment, you’re an escort,” she writes. “If you won’t have sex with the man you’re dating unless he buys you an expensive dinner, you’re a relatively cheap prostitute.”

Unlike traditional escorting, online escorts use the web to advertise their real-life services, independently advertising on sites like, as well as using public-information databases to screen customers. Here’s how the screening process works: after seeing an escort’s ad on a site, the would-be client emails or calls her with his name, address, even license number. Then the escort can read up on him via sites like Google and to make sure nothing looks suspicious. “If someone’s information doesn’t match up, that’s a definite red flag,” says Brooks over the phone from the West Coast, where she now lives. Once she got a call from a customer who, as a little research revealed, shared a house with a police officer. “I definitely didn’t meet that guy.”

Brooks’s escorting days weren’t some sex-tourist gonzo experiment. (“Amanda Brooks is not a journalist who became an escort in the hopes of a ‘big story,'” reads her press bio.) Originally based in the South, the self-billed “provocateur” worked in the sex industry for nearly a decade, two and a half years of which she spent in the Dallas area as an independent escort. On her blog, she describes how she tried to break into the industry again and again while attending a “well-known Texas university,” struggling against the odds of seedy bars and unsupportive boyfriends. “I knew next to nothing about the possible dangers I was facing back then,” she recalls.

Brooks persisted because, as someone who was “determined-to-be-deviant,” she thought of sex work as “a glamorous and free way of making a good living… It was something I thought only the strongest and most amazing women could do.” Even after doing it for years, she still feels sex work can “make you into a strong woman. Done the right way, and with the right person… it can be a very, very good thing in your life.”

Then why did Brooks stop? “It’s the oldest story in the book,” she explains in a slow, sweet Texan drawl. “I met a man. I was increasingly distracted by my feelings for him while I was with clients, so I needed to make a decision.” Nowadays, it’s her boyfriend who helps support her while she works on her books, and the one-woman company (Golden Girl Press, LLC) she founded to publish them. Brooks also keeps busy as a safe-sex activist with the organization SWOP East, running a condom donation program for sex workers in Chile.

Back in 2002, Brooks had the idea for The Internet Escort’s Handbook. “When I was a stripper, I always wanted to write a stripper book. But frankly I wasn’t a very good stripper. Then, as an escort, I kept trying to read about other people’s experiences.” So she decided to write the books she always wanted to read.

“My best estimate is [that] there are 100,000 escorts working in America today,” says Brooks. Obviously, clients outnumber them, so she guesses that the population of people involved in the escorting industry could be over a million. That’s a lot of potential readers—and Brooks says volume one of The Internet Escort’s Handbook, already available online, has been selling steadily since its release earlier this year. “Girls appreciate my level-headedness,” she says. “And men are really curious to see what escorting is like from the other side.”

But first and foremost, her books are about safety. “No matter how much they pay for your time,” Brooks warns in her introduction, “A certain type of guy will always want to take off the condom. Just because he’s safe from you, doesn’t mean you’re safe from him.”

Safety isn’t the only advantage of internet escorting, says Brooks. “Men really like the ease of checking out women online, reading their blog, their reviews.” The internet also lets sex workers communicate better among themselves. “I can talk with girls who make thousands of dollars a day, or with girls who essentially work the streets.” Then there are the new ways sex workers can make the money. “You can set up ads on your site, or you can sell your lingerie on an online auction,” Brooks explains, listing the merits of being an internet-savvy escort. Of course, for escorts trying to be discreet, search engines and internet caching can make life hard—but Brooks says escorts shouldn’t be worried if they keep personal details to themselves and stay away from police-patrolled sites like Craig’s List.

After years spent as her own boss, bodyguard, and now publisher, Brooks isn’t worried. She knows she’s her own best watchdog. “I’m always going to be far more concerned for my well-being than anyone else,” she says, “except maybe my mother. Now that would’ve really calmed my customers down. ‘Hey, did you know that’s my mom out in the parking lot?’”,ruberg,78561,24.html