Rick, 28, is a real estate agent by day and hustler by night. Three years ago, he started selling sex when he was the manager of a clothing store. He got into it because between student loans and car payments he barely had enough money for food.
“After taxes, I was making less than $30,000 a year and had a hard time paying for a beer when I went out with friends. I was more than $50,000 in debt. I had to do something or I was going bankrupt,” says Rick.
Ruggedly handsome, 6’3″, and weighing a solid 200 pounds, Rick felt he could make some money on the side in sex. He now has a regular roster of clients that he sees part-time.
Matt says it took him two years to become debt-free after becoming an occasional hustler. He doesn’t have a moral problem with what he’s doing; he has a professional day job and says he enjoys doing both types of work.
“If I felt I couldn’t be myself, I wouldn’t [be a sex worker] in the first place,” says Matt.
Rick and Matt are part of a cadre of sex workers who are smart, middle class and web savvy. While part-time hustling has always been part of the spectrum of sex work, a combination of technology, lowered inhibitions and tough economic times are tempting a new generation of young urban professionals into the trade.
Erin, 26, is a university student. She started escorting three years ago. It’s now her primary money-making focus, replacing a part-time job that might otherwise pay for school. She has no student loans.
“I’d been thinking of doing it for a while. I wondered why people thought it was a problem because I thought it was a legitimate way to make money. When I found out how easy it was, I was sold,” says Erin.
Erin has been involved in a steady polyamorous relationship for more than five years with a man, but her clients include men and women, both cis- and transgendered. Before she takes on new clients, she screens for compatibility and safety.
“I don’t have time to see everyone who comes across my path. So I pick and choose who I see. I prefer to see people who genuinely want to see me or the alter ego I’ve created. And my romantic partners have no issue with what I’m doing. I wouldn’t date them if they did. It goes back to weeding out assholes,” says Erin.
Erin charges $200 per hour. Her rates do not change and she won’t do piecework, charging by the act.
“I started doing by the act and got too many guys taking 45 minutes to come during a blowjob. A lot of guys don’t know blowjobs take more effort and skill [than intercourse],” says Erin.
But because Erin prefers the less mechanical side of her job, she says she doesn’t like two-minute quickies either.
“I enjoy my job. I meet people I would never come across in my daily life. And I don’t have to explain my schedule when I get bogged down with assignments,” says Erin.
Erin, like all the part-timers we spoke to, says she isn’t being forced to do sex work. Her parents are still together; she wasn’t abused and didn’t grow up wanting. She comes from an upper-middle-class family, and her parents paid for her entire education and living expenses during her first university degree. Her mother also knows what she does for a living.
She says a lot of her clients have no problem finding sex for free.
“Clients come to see me and it’s not always straightforward. Some people think the only people who pay for sex are losers or disgusting freaks. I see tons of people who don’t have problems getting sex but don’t have time. Or they travel too much,” says Erin.
To be safe, Erin screens clients before seeing them. She requires a first and last name and a phone number where the client can be reached discreetly. She verifies the number and asks for a reference from another provider, who already knows they’ll be contacted. She doesn’t say whether she’s had to cut off a client because he or she was becoming emotionally attached.
“I’ve had to explain the nature of the relationship before. I had one client who wanted to date me, and I had to remind them that it is a business relationship, and while I enjoy their company, it is nothing more than that. You have to be firm sometimes,” says Erin.
Maeve, 26, finished her master’s degree last year. She’s an administrative assistant with the federal government. On weekends, she’s a prostitute. She got into hooking four years ago, and she didn’t do it out of desperation: her parents paid for both her living expenses and schooling. She had money in the bank. She wanted something different and higher-paying than retail. She thought about stripping, but she didn’t want to risk the possibility of her father dropping in with his friends. Her ex-girlfriend from high school told her she could make more in a week as a sex worker than in a month of folding clothes.
“The first week I made $700 for what was really only five hours’ work. And it was easy,” says Maeve.
Eventually, Maeve excelled at marketing herself via a website and professional photo shoots. She got a separate cellphone and began to take security measures. One summer, she focused solely on being an in-call sex worker with a separate apartment, driving to and from work.
“I had 10 clients and I was making about $4,000 a month part-time,” says Maeve.
Maeve says the only bad part of her job is when clients try to make deals.
“I just tell them rates are ‘as is’ and they’re welcome to go elsewhere. They always agree,” says Maeve.