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From: Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Date: Wed Feb 02 2000 - 15:10:30 PST

>like other combinations of money, technology, and human nature that
>start in California (fast food and cell phones, for example),
>cyberprostitution is probably going to flourish anyway.

"I will admit to having been pretty impressed with
<http://educatedescort.com/>, although $11,600 is a little pricey for 48
hours. Of course, some of my commitment-phobic friends might argue it is
the cheapest female company you can find."

Supply: very low; Demand, due to .com stocks: very high -> public
price = very high.

Might even be worth it :-)


Hookers.com--How e-commerce is transforming the oldest profession.

By Scott Shuger, SLATE.com

In the 1990 movie Pretty Woman, high roller Richard Gere is able to
secure six full days of Julia Roberts' sexual services for $3,000.
Nowadays, (at least here in Los Angeles, where the movie was set) a
first-class hooker costs considerably more than $500 a night. One
big reason is that, like all other businesses, the oldest one is
being utterly transformed by the Internet. And it's changing in
ways that ought to transform the way we think about it as well.
Recently, I had the experience of escorting "Veronica" through the
main dining room of Spago. She is a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty,
and heads turned as she poured across the room, her dress speaking
to every man there in the international language of bugle beads.
Veronica is apparently no stranger to Spago. She and the maîtresse
d'hôtel exchanged knowing smiles as we were seated. And when she's
not there, she says, she's often at the Peninsula, the Regent
Beverly Wilshire (the Pretty Woman hotel), the Four Seasons, and so
on. She lives at the beach. She drives a Mercedes S420. She doesn't
ask what you're having before she orders foie gras.

Actually, Veronica was "escorting" me. In her early 30s, Veronica's
been an "escort" for four years now but only recently listed
herself on the Web. Her ad featured a picture of her more or less
in a black pantsuit, along with this text:

Professional intelligent and sexy
I'll make a great impression on your behalf
All with the elegance and grace of a true lady
Available for intimate evenings and corporate affairs
Shopping or a round of golf, I also ride and fly
Whatever your pleasure
I'm happy to be by your side

There was no mention of price. A day or so after I e-mailed a query
to the address listed, I got back this e-mailed response:

Hi Scott,

Let me remind you that I am an escort, I require a one time
introductory fee of $500.00. $500.00 per hour and $2,500.00 for the
If this is acceptable to you we can set up an appointment.


Within a few days we were at Spago.

(A note on method: Slate paid Veronica's $500 introductory fee in
return for an interview, conducted in public, and nothing else.
She's a businesswoman who gives men what they want for a price. I
wanted an interview. In fact, I was being paid to conduct it. Why
should she give it away for free?)

I discovered Veronica's ad on a site called LA Exotics, one of the
most active and extensive in the Web's burgeoning Rent-a-Woman
world. When you go there, you find, superimposed over a photo of a
naked woman getting ahold of herself, an exquisite menu of options:
Massage Outcall [they come to you], Massage Incall [you go to them]
(Blonde), Massage Incall (Brunette), Daytime Delicacies, Afterdark
Angels, Escorts (Blonde), Escorts (Brunette),
Entertainers/Strippers, Fetish/Alternative, and Personals. (The
difference, if any, between a "massage" and an "escort" is beyond
the scope of this article-let alone what "personals" could possibly
be in contrast to the other offerings.) There is no category for
"interviews," but there are separate listings for redheads, women
of color, and tantric sex. To reassure wary horn-dogs, many of the
clickable thumbnail pictures carry a little badge indicating that
the site has verified that the woman in the shot is really the
woman you'll meet. (Except for the digitally blurred eyes,
Veronica's picture looks almost exactly like her.)
Veronica paid LA Exotics $100 to list her for a month. She says she
got more than 250 phone calls off that, which produced three new
men who've hired her at least once, and who, she predicts, will be
added to her stable of regulars. In business terms, three out of
250, or 1.2 percent, is her "yield." Apparently prostitution is
like the magazine business, where a low yield from solicitations
can nevertheless be profitable, depending on renewals. Veronica
claims that the ad produced several other qualified customers who
are now on her waiting list. She says her regulars are all married,
all over 35, and all "high-end corporate," except for some NBA
players. Of the newbies, she says, one lives in San Francisco; one
in Portland, Ore.; and one in New York. If they come to her, they
spring for everything, including one of L.A.'s deluxe hotels and
her omnipresent clothes and jewelry needs. If she goes to them,
it's more of the same, plus a first-class plane ticket for the
trip. She says she only works two nights a week. If true, and if
she gets her posted rate, that's $200,000 a year for less than
half-time work.

Unlike Veronica, Anne Marie (not her real name either), a late-20s
5'9" blonde with cover-girl cheekbones, had never worked as a
hooker pre-Internet. She has only recently taken up the escort
game, as a way of supporting her graduate studies at a top Los
Angeles university. Anne Marie pays $100 a month to list with
another large Los Angeles-based site called Cityvibe. And she pays
a Webmaster about $1,000 a year to maintain a Web page of her own.
She also has the San Francisco market on an Australian-based Web
site called Worldwide-Escort.com, which gets almost all its traffic
from Yahoo's "Adult Services" listing. From all this, she figures
she gets about 700 cybervisitors a day. She started out charging
$4,500 a day, with a two-day minimum, but the response was so good
that she has since given herself a raise to $5,800 a day, still
with a two-day minimum. When I met her, she was wearing an
expensive-looking man-tailored gray suit and occasionally consulted
her brand new Sony Vaio.
Like Veronica, Anne Marie markets herself as providing a complete
high-end experience. She's like Woody Allen's "Whore of
Mensa"-except that she also puts out. She calls her Web site
"educatedescort.com." The pictures of her there are pretty but
fully clothed. Her text is well-written and laced with humor. Her
FAQ ("Frequently Asked Questions") page includes: "What are your
services for the $5,800 per day? I sit and read Thoreau and eat
plums and fresh cherries in the hotel."

Going cyber helps immensely with the process of sifting through
those 250 prospects for the three good customers. An offline hooker
spends much of her vertical day on the phone, tied up with weirdos
and hang-ups and prank calls and people who are trying to grind
down her price. "I prefer e-mail for the initial contact," says
Anne Marie. It's a less awkward first move, she says, and people
show a bit more of themselves when they write, which helps her
avoid undesirables. And her Web site contains a lot of information
about rates and conditions that automatically deflect lots of men
who (in Veronica's haughty phrase) "only thought they were
serious." Even with these efficiencies, cyberhookers still spend a
couple of hours a day working the phone-but with a higher rate of
return than their offline counterparts.
Anne Marie gives good stories, some of which may even be true. She
says that before she ever met her very first client, a married
Australian decamillionaire in Los Angeles for a few days on
business, she got a FedEx package from him: $9,000 in cash. And
there's the German investment banker who, unbidden, sent her a gift
certificate for a Los Angeles day spa while they were still nailing
down the logistics for her weeklong trip to see him in Europe. She
played me a message left on her voice mail from a self-described
Silicon Valley geek about to retire, who wanted to know what her
annual fee is.

Just as Amazon.com has gotten people buying hardcover books who
previously stuck to paperbacks or didn't buy books at all, the
Internet is expanding the high end of the prostitution market, both
relative to streetwalking and in absolute terms. It has done this
in several ways. First, many of the buyers in this market are
spending cybermoney. Anne Marie says that it's not unusual for the
initial call to her to come from a woman-the executive assistant of
some "dot-com baby"-who proceeds to ask her about her bra size and
her height as if she was ordering the boss a new hard drive. It
turns out that computer zombies with tons of money and zero social
skills are a natural clientele.
Second, Internet marketing promotes an aura of quality: It feels so
much more "classy" than cruising on Sunset or thumbing through the
"adult services" ads in the free weeklies that litter the floors of
video stores and 7-Elevens. And men will pay a premium for
perceived specialness.
Third, there's what you might call the eBay effect. Before the
Internet, there must have been people who wanted to sell Scooby Doo
lunch boxes and Star Wars phaser props, and people who wanted to
buy them, but how could they connect? Likewise, 10 years ago, even
if I'd had the inclination and the $2,500 to spend on vaginal
variety, I wouldn't have had the faintest idea where to turn. But
now, thanks to the Web, exchanging dead presidents for live girls
couldn't be easier. And if, as I tend to believe (don't you?) there
are more men who would pay to be "escorted" than gorgeous women
willing to provide that service, then the Internet will pull more
buyers than sellers into the high-end market, thereby inflating

Cityvibe's Alex (I don't know his last name) is one of the
Webpreneurs hoping to be the Jeff Bezos of all this. Like his chief
competitor, LA Exotics, his three-person company, operating
inconspicuously from the same Los Angeles block as a private grade
school and two religious academies, lists about 300 women a month
in Los Angeles and maintains sites in several other cities around
the country. A 30-year-old Cal State Northridge biz grad, Alex
drives a 1999 BMW M3. When I meet him, he volunteers the names of
several celebrities who've called escorts via listings on his site.
He says he gets about 11,000 visitors a day. He recently spent
$14,000 for a one-month campaign of spots on the Los Angeles
broadcast of the Howard Stern Show. The ad was read by Stern
himself. (The Stern ad rep I spoke to vehemently insists that the
show believed the ad was for a dating service and explains that it
was pulled after show staffers belatedly went to the site.) Alex's
plans for the site include adding streaming video and a search
function. "You put in that you want to find a blonde in the 310
area code, with blue eyes, between this and this height ..."
Another advantage of cyberhooking: Since going online with his
service two years ago, Alex has never heard from the cops. An LAPD
vice officer tells me that his division, which covers the West Los
Angeles locale of many e-hookers and of at least one major listings
site, has never conducted an investigation of e-prostitution. Nor,
as far as he knows, does it plan one. After all, Alex insists, his
service is like the Yellow Pages or the LA Weekly, or New York, all
of which run page after page of ads for obvious sex-for-money
outfits. "We're an advertising agency," he says. "We're getting
paid for placing ads. That's all we do."

In the business world, this is called "disintermediation" or,
colloquially, "cutting out the middleman." Somewhere between Alex
and his girls, the traditional roles of the pimp and madam have
disappeared. There is no violent control of the women, and they
don't have to fork over most of their profits. The physical
security that the traditional pimp used to provide to his girls has
been replaced by the physical security provided by high-end hotels,
the traceability of e-mail, and by the generally less
violence-prone clients to be found toward the top of the economy.
Neither Veronica nor Anne Marie has ever been ripped off or hurt by
a client. And neither, by the way, is particularly worried about
STDs or AIDS. They get regular checkups, always use condoms and,
besides, they both point out to me, at these prices they're seeing
a lot fewer men than many of their single "amateur" girlfriends.
Indeed, both say that more often than you'd think, the "date" is
all about companionship, and they don't even have sex with the guy.
In short, e-hooking can bring women the autonomy, control, wealth,
and lifestyle that all Webpreneurs lust after. It is far safer than
its unwired predecessor. It is far less socially obnoxious to those
of us not in the market-cyberhookers do not crowd my sidewalks,
cyberjohns do not cruise my streets. No pimps or madams means no
prostitution rings controlled or fought over by crime
organizations. This adds up to a form of prostitution much less
vulnerable to many common criticisms. And maybe the law should
reflect that reality-although laws against traditional pimping,
pandering, and street solicitation should remain on the books (and
be more vigorously enforced), maybe we should think about making
cyberhooking legal. The law already makes similar distinctions:
Smoking is illegal in most public places but legal in your own home
and elsewhere. By drawing lines like this, society gets the biggest
payoff in reducing undesirable behavior for the smallest costs
arising from limiting freedom, enforcing the law, promoting
corruption, and so on.
If the expansion of cyberhooking came only at the cost of
traditional prostitution, this would be an easy case to make. But
it's harder because, obviously, some percentage of cyberjohns would
not otherwise visit prostitutes at all. That is, legalizing
cyberhooking wouldn't just draw more people to the high end-it
would also increase the total size of the prostitution market. The
only answers to this point are: 1) like all voluntary transactions
in a capitalist system, the trade of sex for money gives both
parties something they want; 2) cyberhooking's harm to society, as
explained, is far less than in traditional prostitution; and 3)
like other combinations of money, technology, and human nature that
start in California (fast food and cell phones, for example),
cyberprostitution is probably going to flourish anyway.

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