Business Insider’s Dylan Love recently had his expectations shattered when he visited a Nevada brothel, but he was actually only getting a glimpse into one type of prostitution.
The sociologist Ronald Weitzer identifies the six most common types of prostitutes and where they work in a fascinating book called “Legalizing Prostitution.”
Weitzer’s book looks at legalized prostitution in other countries and illegal prostitution in America, finding that some sex work is better for women than others. Here are the six types of prostitution, which Weitzer adapted from the book “Immoral Landscape: Female Prostitution in Western Societies” by Richard Symanski.
Independent Call Girl/Escort
Independent escorts work for themselves in hotels and private buildings like houses, charge high prices, and stay away from the public eye. They likely advertise their services online, and they get to keep their profits since they’re self-employed.
Escort Agency Employee
Like independent call girls, employees of escort agencies work in private locations or hotels and charge relatively high prices. (Ex-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer slept with an escort agency employee, Ashley Dupré, for $4,300 a night.) Weitzer says these employees face “moderate exploitation” since they have to give a cut of their earnings to their agencies.
Brothels are dedicated locations where people pay for sex and can include saunas and massage parlors, Weitzer writes. The prices they charge are “moderate,” and brothel workers endure “moderate exploitation” since they have to give part of their earnings to the brothel owners, he said. Licensed brothels are legal in parts of Nevada.
This type of prostitution is prevalent in Amsterdam, enticing passersby to enter houses of prostitution by prominently displaying the women in windows. Here’s Weitzer’s excellent description of window work, which pays women a low-to-moderate wage.
Almost all of Amsterdam’s window rooms are single occupancy, separating workers from each other. Some rooms are connected to a bathroom and kitchen shared by several workers, but the women spend most of their time by themselves in front of the windows. The situation contrasts sharply with brothels, where workers can enjoy a party atmosphere and regular social contact with other providers, staff, and customers.
Bar or Casino Worker
These sex workers make initial contact with men at a bar or casino and then have sex at a separate location. In bars in Thailand, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic, guys pay “bar fees” to leave a club with a worker and spend several days with her, Weitzer writes. The guys (often foreigners) pay the women’s expenses during that time, in an arrangement that often confers status on the prostitute. The women earn low-to-moderate salaries.
Streetwalkers earn relatively little money and are vulnerable to exploitation, Weitzer writes. Not surprisingly, they report less job satisfaction and get paid less than “indoor prostitutes” (bar workers, brothel workers, or call girls).
Streetwalking is also notoriously dangerous. One study found prostitutes in Colorado Springs were 18 times more likely to be murdered than other women of a similar age. Some experts say making prostitution legal everywhere — as it is in the Netherlands, parts of Mexico, and parts of Nevada — is the only way to make it safer and less stigmatised.
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