What is the difference between a prostitute and an escort?
The line between prostitution and escorting can be seen as blurry if you are not adequately informed. This article aims to clarify that line and identify each side’s intricacies and teach you how they differ.
While some aspects of prostitution and escorting overlap, they have many distinct differences. The two professions differ regarding the services provided, the environment in which the work occurs, the legality of the practices surrounding them and the reasoning behind getting into each line of work.
Typical images that may come to mind when thinking of prostitutes are drug addicts loitering on the side of the road in the dark, peering into car windows. Escorts conjure up an image of class, sophistication and beauty, extravagant events, and expensive gifts.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not that simple. A lot lies beneath these images, and each profession has complexities specific to its line of work. There are many reasons why a person may get into the escorting business over prostitution and vice versa.
Now, let’s look at the differences between prostitutes and escorts and sharpen up that blurry line.
Defining prostitutes and escorts is a good starting point in identifying their differences. What is the job description, and how exactly do they earn their money?
What is a prostitute?
The law defines a prostitute as “a person who receives payment for sexual intercourse or other sexual acts, generally as a regular occupation”. Essentially, a sex worker will provide sexual services to a customer, often through means of soliciting. The transaction is purely sexual and does not go further than this. Selling sex is legal, but illegal practices that surround prostitution put prostitutes in unsafe situations due to poor working conditions, dangerous customers and life-threatening management, to name a few.
What is an escort?
Since an escort’s legal definition is not so readily available, the Cambridge Dictionary defines an escort as “someone who is paid to go out to social events with another person, and sometimes to have sex.”
This definition is quite similar to that of a prostitute. However, they differ due to the expanse of services escorts offer outside of just sexual acts, such as companionship. Escorting is generally a safer, more respectable career, and there is much more money to be made – particularly when looking at the exclusive escorts.
As previously mentioned, the services provided by a prostitute are purely sexual. They may offer to perform a range of sexual acts in exchange for varying amounts of money, but not necessarily full sexual intercourse, though this is a ubiquitous part of the job. A prostitute, or sex worker, is looking to provide sex, and only sex. Most often, there is no emotional intimacy to the transaction offered from a sex worker.
While prostitutes may offer a wide array of sexual services to their customers, escorts will also provide these sexual services – and more. Being an escort is about more than just satisfying the client’s sexual desires, but providing a rounded, intimate, and personalised experience. A person may hire an escort to accompany them to a social event, take on business trips, be a travel companion, or have somebody to talk to emotionally.
This service is known as ‘girlfriend experience’ and is a considerable aspect of escorting as a career. While this term is heavily gendered, the service can apply to escorts of any gender. It just so happens that escorting is a female-dominated industry. A large percentage of an escorts client base are incredibly busy and do not have time to accommodate a real relationship, so they hire an escort to satisfy their need for intimacy and keep up appearances.
Girlfriend experience is a particularly prevalent part of the service provided by elite escorts since their clientele are often wealthy business people and have the funds to accommodate a lot of their time.
In short, escorts are companions. They may provide this companionship not just through sex but through any means requested by their client. The differences in services provided make for a dangerously low perception of prostitutes since they are generally far less respected and more objectified by their customers than escorts are.
The work environment
The workplace of a traditional prostitute is often inconsistent, unsafe, and illegal. Generally, the transaction occurs in a place not far from where the prostitute will solicit customers. A sex workers workplace could be a brothel, a public area such as an alley or public bathroom, or the customer’s car. These working conditions are unsafe. Not only is it illegal to have sex in a public bathroom, but getting into a customer’s car to provide services is extremely dangerous for any sex worker.
These customers do not receive background checks to ensure they will not cause the prostitute harm. Working in this public setting also puts a prostitute at risk of being reported to the police, which, if arrested, would cut off their income and potentially the income of other prostitutes connected to them. Prostitutes who work for pimps as part of a brothel may often be subject to moving their workplace to avoid being caught by police. These unregulated, unstable working conditions make prostitution a tough job to feel safe and settled in.
Working as an escort generally comes with a much safer working environment. The place of work usually varies to accommodate the specific services required by the client. Workplaces can include restaurants, hotels, event venues, clients’ residence, or even the escort’s residence since the escort is not hired to have sex, although they may offer this as part of the service.
If a client is paying for companionship only, the meeting place could be for a dinner date, an event, or anywhere the client would like the escort to accompany them. Though many of these locations are public, the escort provides their sexual services in a private space to keep things discreet and legal.
Having client meetings in public also ensures the escort’s safety since there are people around to witness their date. Exclusive escorts with wealthy clients will also have opportunities to work in classy, exclusive establishments. These factors make the work environment of an escort far less dangerous than that of a prostitute.
A considerable difference between a prostitute and an escorte is the types of customers each job attracts. If illegal activities surround a practice, it will likely attract criminals. As a result, the customers of prostitutes will pay less attention to whether what they are doing is legal, which endangers the sex workers whose service they are buying.
On the other hand, escorting is carried out lawfully. Customers will be screened and given a background check before meeting with an escort, which significantly reduces the risk of danger. However, this does not exclude an escort from harm, and disrespectful, criminal customers can also make their way through a screening process.
The main differences that occur between prostitutes and escorts concern the laws surrounding their line of work.
It is currently very difficult for a prostitute to operate within the law. While offering sex for money is not illegal in the UK, prostitutes struggle with the law is because most of the business elements surrounding the selling of sex are illegal.
For example, it is illegal for a prostitute to ‘solicit’, which means inviting potential customers to buy sex either verbally, or through gestures and suggestive expressions. It is also illegal for somebody to gain financially from another person’s selling of sexual services or control a prostitute’s work for their benefit, which criminalises their managers or pimps. Prostitutes often operate within brothels, which are illegal to own or manage. Though these factors do not directly criminalise the sex workers, it puts them at risk of losing their livelihood.
The escorting business exists as a sort of loophole to all of these laws. Yes, escorts often offer sex for money, but they do so in a legally acceptable way. Escort agencies are respectable, registered businesses that pay tax, just like any other. If executed correctly and carefully, the business practices surrounding escorting are not illegal.
If you want to learn more about how escorts can operate within the law, consider taking a look at our article Escorts and the law.
Reasons behind the work
Due to the differences within the nature of services offered and the legality surrounding the two professions, people tend to go into these lines of work for different reasons.
Whether to support a family, make rent payments or fund an addiction, prostitutes often end up in this line of work due to a need for money. This need makes them vulnerable and more likely to be coerced or forced into prostitution by another person. Once they are in this line of work, these factors can make it difficult for them to leave a situation that makes them feel threatened.
People generally become prostitutes because they think they have no other option. The uncomfortable truth is that many people become prostitutes through sex trafficking. They may have been recruited and transported to work and threatened or coerced into prostitution. A person who is sex trafficked will genrally work without pay or choice.
Generally, people decide to become an escort as an expression of their own free will. Escorts have more autonomy when making decisions about what they are comfortable with and what activities they will or will not engage in. Since elite escorts can make a lot of money, it comes as no surprise that this is a heavy influence in many people’s decisions to choose this career path. Like with most jobs, people do it for the money. However, the unparalleled experiences that come with the job are what sway many people towards it.
Sex work is sex work, and both escorting and prostitution are far from perfect careers. When comparing the two professions, escorting is a safer, wiser path for somebody interested in joining the sex industry. Since the escort business is legal, escorts are more protected from danger and respected by the law. Though escorting and prostitution fall under the same umbrella of sex work, hopefully, the differences are now a little clearer.