Tier 1, Tier 3, and the Perp Walk Between

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 3:50 PM EDT

Spitzer is teaching us a lot about the habits of men who pay for sex, the savvy of the tech-age women who provide it, and about the super-rich and their...hangers-on. Who knew Econ 101 would come in so handy?

According to Slate, when Giuliani drove hookers off the streets, he just drove them inside. There, the savvy ones, the ones who'd never populate street corners, saw their prices skyrocket; middle class men could cruise the personals and escort ads, rather than stroll in vice squad territory. Though figures are obviously difficult to come by, Bob from Accounting seems to be venturing online for sex a hell of a lot more often than he was willing to go down by the docks, and today's computer-savvy working girls are making him pay through the nose for greater invisibility. Did any of Giuliani's whiz kids see this coming?

Of course, once the average guy started ponying up for call girls, the super-rich had to up the ante. Now, it's not unusual for men to put their favorites on $10,000 per month retainers, or pay $10K per "session." Apparently, paying a year's worth of private school tuition for an hour of sex is the new diamond-encrusted yacht. Let's see Joe Average get one of these! According to the Wall Street Journal:

"...a sizable percentage of the super wealthy use escorts. [Researchers] surveyed 661 people who owned private jets, and found that 34% of males and 20% of females had paid for sex."

"The most popular reason was "unique experiences" (71%), followed by "higher quality experiences" (57%). Conventional wisdom says that the rich visit escorts to avoid messy break-ups or extra demands for cash. But the study shows otherwise: "No strings attached," ranked last as a reason."

"With the wealthy," Mr. Prince says, "it's all about power and control and new experiences."

Or maybe it's just about conspicuous consumption, since sex seems to be an afterthought. Writes the Slate sociologist, who's studying high-end prostitutes in New York:

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What high-end clients pay for may surprise you. For example, according to my ongoing interviews of several hundred sex workers, approximately 40 percent of trades in New York's sex economy fail to include a physical act beyond light petting or kissing. No intercourse, no oral stimulation, etc. That's one helluva conversation. But it's what many clients want. Flush with cash, these elite men routinely turn their prostitute into a second partner or spouse. Over the course of a year, they will sometimes persuade the woman to take on a new identity, replete with a fake name, a fake job, a fake life history, and so on. They may want to have sex or they may simply want to be treated like King for a Day.

His analysis? Spitzer got busted not because he spent too much, but because he spent too little. Kristen, you see, is only Tier 1:

"Fees usually range from $2,000 to $5,000 per session; women come in all ages and ethnic stripes; they rigorously guard their health and watch for STDs; and most have a high-school degree but have limited work experience. They can promise you discretion, but most work through escort services that are routinely under surveillance. In practice, this means buyer beware."

Tier 3-ers, the $10k girls, "date" their clients for long periods before agreeing to sex, rely on references from other escorts, tend to have a stable of a few "regulars," and avoid relationships with those highly surveilled agencies. Also, they're mostly white.
In short, you're much less likely to end up perp-walking if you pay more.