Around the world, sex workers are charging less per hour for their services than they were a decade ago, according to an analysis by the Economist
. Last year the Economist
compiled 190,000 sex-worker profiles from review forums. They found that the average price per hour for sex had fallen from $340 in 2006 to $260 in 2014. Street-walking prostitutes typically charge a lot less for their services and their customers don’t rate them on persnickety review sites, so they would likely not be included in the average. The Spokane Police Department's ongoing enforcement efforts along East Sprague allow a peek at what sex sells for locally:
Officer Caitlyn Anderson was working decoy duty May 8. "My duties were to pose as a prostitute working the area in front of Pete's Auto and being available for any potential customers," writes Anderson in her incident report. At 8:40 pm a man pedaled by on a bicycle.
"You working?" the guy on the bike asked.
Anderson ignored him; he came closer.
"How much for a BJ?"
"What?" said Anderson.
"I'll give you $5 for a blow job."
Anderson agreed to meet him in the alley and signaled for the backup team to take the bicycle-riding cheapskate into custody.
An hour later, Officer Marie Rosenthal was pretending to be a prostitute in front of Pete's Auto when a Ford Mustang cruised by, slow. The driver nodded at Rosenthal, circled the block and stopped in the middle of the road. Rosenthal walked over to the car.
"You want a date?" she asked.
"I opened the passenger door and asked him if he wanted a blow job or were we going around the world," writes Rosenthal in her report.
"A hundred fifty for a BJ," said the driver. He then refused her invitation to meet in the alley and sped away to be taken into custody.
At 9:49 pm, Anderson was back in front of Pete's Auto waiting for customers. A dark blue pickup stopped; she asked the driver if he wanted a date. "Yes, and a blow job and some sex," he said.
"I said okay, give me $20," writes Anderson in her report.
She signaled for backup; he was arrested.
An hour later Rosenthal made an agreement to provide the driver of a red pickup truck with a blowjob for $20, concluding the second special enforcement action along East Sprague.
Same location, same day, VERY DIFFERENT RATES. Street-based sex work is done essentially for day-to-day survival along East Sprague, says the Spokane Regional Health District's Lynn Everson. The widely variable rates are likely part and parcel to the worker's need to earn whatever men are willing to pay that day.
So what determines the rate for purchased sex?
"Prostitutes’ personal characteristics and the services they offer influence the prices they charge; niche services attract a premium," according to the Economist
article. On Spokane's backpage.com, age appears to be important, weight matters (many posters boast a weight of 105 lbs), blonde hair commands a premium, and, in Coeur d'Alene, services are discounted in the morning. In the backpage.com community, the base rate appears to hover somewhere around $100, though it is unclear what that includes in terms of time or activity.
“Most escorts here are charging $200 for an hour, some will do $140 for a half hour," says Bella (professional name), a sex worker who is active with the Spokane chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project.
Bella says that over the 15 years she has been a sex worker, the amount she makes per hour has remained about the same. The nature of the work she does and the way she finds it has changed a lot, though. "It's almost not even worth it for me to see clients in real life," says Bella, who has mostly switched over to web-camming. Bella says she can make that same money camming and it's a lot safer than doing, say, in-call escort work. Online review forums and communities have also made it easier to vet clients and share wisdom with others in the industry.
"The people that work on the street are more prone to addiction and violence," says Bella. "Many are homeless, so they're selling to survive and charging the absolute lowest rate."