Are There Any Escorts Who Aren’t Prostitutes?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Oct. 31 2011 5:47 PM

Seriously, I Just Want an Escort

Are there any who aren't prostitutes?

Screengrab from Villiage Voice's classified section.
Screengrab from Villiage Voice's classified section.

The Village Voice is under attack for its classified advertising service, which includes an adult section with listings for body rubs, strippers, and escorts. Critics say that these advertisements are thinly veiled offers of prostitution, which sometimes involve child sex workers. Are there any escort services that don’t peddle sex?

Yes, but they’re rare. Strictly platonic escort service pop up every now and then on the Internet and in classified ads, but people inside the industry say they rarely stay in business for more than a few months. Part of the challenge is that they’re confusing to both the clients and the employees: The term escort is so universally euphemistic that people don’t believe agencies that advertise as nonsexual. In addition to this small handful of true companionship services, some well-established agencies offer escorts for fetish activities and sensual (but nonsexual) massage, which would not satisfy legal definitions of prostitution. The overwhelming majority of escorts, however, are at least open to the idea of trading sex for money, even though few would consider themselves prostitutes. An escort offers an evening of companionship that may include sex, while a prostitute sells sex itself.


Operators of escort agencies flatly deny that they are in the business of selling sex. They charge a fee to connect a client with an escort, and whatever happens between them is up to those two consenting adults. (Technicalities and legal fictions pervade the sex industry. Some Islamic countries have a longstanding, if controversial, tradition of temporary ad hoc marriages known as sigheh, which can add a veneer of religious legitimacy to prostitution.) Most escort agencies maintain plausible deniability by collecting a fixed payment that does not vary based on what services were provided. The escort negotiates that independently. Smart agency owners hang up on clients who mention sex during the booking process, because such calls might be part of a police sting. For the same reason, escorts themselves often walk out on clients who talk too much about sex before it happens.

Escort agency owners are also quick to point out that many encounters don’t involve sex, even if the escort herself has engaged in prostitution in the past. Operators say that men hire escorts for business functions, high school reunions, or even the prom. In those cases, the clients may just want to impress their friends and colleagues, and aren’t interested in sex. Drug users may also hire escorts to accompany them while they get high.

High-end prostitutes report that, more often than not, their clients are more interested in their companionship than sex. Wealthy clients typically hire escorts by word-of-mouth referrals rather than going through an agency, but those who do the latter often pay thousands of dollars for nonsexual affection.

Got a question about today’s news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Melissa Broudo of the Sex Workers Project; Michelle of; Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl; Dan Sytman of the Washington State Office of the Attorney General; and Ronald Weitzer of George Washington University.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.