Charging fees as high as $25,000 for a two-day engagement, a successful high-end escort working full time can make an annual income of more than half a million dollars. High-end clients can spend more than a $100,000 a year in escort fees.
Escort advertising on the Internet has exploded in recent years. One study in San Francisco found that the number of ads doubled from 2,500 ads in 2000 to 5,000 in 2005.
The most popular item offered by escorts today is called the Girlfriend Experience, known by the acronym, the GFE. The definition varies but most agree that it involves some facsimile of real romance.
Many high-end escorts today consider themselves to be modern day courtesans, carrying on a role popular during the Italian Renaissance. Historically, courtesans were described as “a higher caliber of prostitute -- a woman who was not only young and beautiful, but who could grace with wit and charm.”
Prostitution laws vary enormously around the world. In the United States prostitution is illegal in every state except for Rhode Island and in 11 counties in Nevada. It is legal in 28 countries. In Sweden, selling sex is legal but buying sex is illegal.
An informal survey conducted by an Internet site for men who hire escorts found that 49 percent are married, 40 percent have an income of more than $100,000 and 38 percent hold a graduate degree.
As a high-end escort gains popularity, she is able to restrict the type of clients she meets. Some will only see men older than 35, many will not consider engagements with smokers. Such restrictions are made clear on the escort's web page.
Federal investigators who discovered that Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York, had hired a prostitute were not conducting an investigation into prostitution rings but rather tracking Spitzer's financial transactions.
The sex workers' rights movement in the US began in 1973 with a group called COYOTE, Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics. Today, national conferences for sex workers are held annually with workshops and speakers not unlike other professional meetings.
In determining their rates, high-end escorts consider the cost of photo shoots, web design, advertising as well as designer clothing. Personal upkeep is also a significant expense and could include hair and skin care, gym memberships and personal trainers.
Find Out More:
- Replay Slide Show
- Visit the "Dirty Money: The Business of High-End Prostitution" website for extras too hot for television
- Do you favor the decriminalization of prostitution? Take our poll!
- Watch Video: Vanity Fair Contributing Editor on the super-elite and their involvement in high-end prostitution
- Related Slide Show: "Prostitution Scandals of the Rich & Famous"