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Asymmetrical Information and Hooker-nomics.
March 16, 2009 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Asymmetrical Information and Hooker-nomics.
posted by chunking express (63 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
What was that Deadwood quote? Something like: As for pussy, we'll let the market set its own price.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:15 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


::makes mental note to raise my hourly rate::
posted by ook at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2009


There is not a complete lack of information.

A prostitute, like an architect or engineer, derives a majority of business from repeat clients. The clients have an idea what they are or will be getting at the prices demanded. Only first time clients do not know the quality of services to be provided.

The converse of this is that most clients for high end services have some experience with several service providers, and can therefore make an educated guess about the relative quality of services.

Also, there are sites on the internet that provide some feedback about the quality of "escort services". These are incomplete and probably should not be relied on, but they do exist, and probably will become more common over time.

Come to think of it, this is also a lot like the restaurant business. OMGZ I just had an idea for my own Zagat-style guide...
posted by Xoebe at 9:29 AM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


rates will probably remain sticky
posted by Burhanistan at 9:29 AM on March 16, 2009


$2,000 per hour

Nobody's that good. If we're talking sex, not love (and I think we are), in the dark, a wet hole is a wet hole.
posted by jonmc at 9:31 AM on March 16, 2009


I spy with my little eye some people who didn't read the article.
posted by DU at 9:34 AM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


If we're talking sex, not love (and I think we are), in the dark, a wet hole is a wet hole.

I think that $2,000 an hour hookers might be okay with leaving the lamp on.
posted by Benjy at 9:34 AM on March 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


in the dark, a wet hole is a wet hole

Actually, not as effective a pick-up line as you'd think.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:36 AM on March 16, 2009 [25 favorites]


I watched one of those stupid dateline/48hours/whatever "investigative journalism" shows about high end hookers once. They actually went through and hired one, apparently and used a hidden camera. They made a point of mentioning how the hooker had gained some weight since her profile picture had been taken, which I found hilarious.

Nobody's that good. If we're talking sex, not love (and I think we are), in the dark, a wet hole is a wet hole.

1) ew.
2) who decided we were talking about sex "in the dark"?
posted by delmoi at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting article. I wish I had read this when I was running my own English conversation school (or had at least taken a few courses in marketing and sales).

My favourite quote:

“Many clients have issues with women, and therefore do not, or can not, have normal healthy relationships with women. That is why they pay for your time and services. Keep this in mind and remember to not ever get involved, date, or marry your customers.” (So much for nursing "Pretty Woman" fantasies.)

posted by KokuRyu at 9:38 AM on March 16, 2009


A high end hooker just screams class. I mean screams.
posted by pianomover at 9:40 AM on March 16, 2009


So much for nursing "Pretty Woman" fantasies.

As for "Pretty Woman" nursing fantasies, that'll be $4000/hr, same as in town.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:41 AM on March 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


"Andrea considers working for an employer degrading."

I'm with Andrea. Taking facials from anonymous businessmen in hotel rooms for money is one thing, but you've got to draw the line somewhere.
posted by hamida2242 at 9:43 AM on March 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


OMGZ I just had an idea for my own Zagat-style guide...

Have you read The Crimson Petal And The White ? The 19th century beat you to that idea.
posted by The Whelk at 9:43 AM on March 16, 2009


/busted

Got about halfway through, then skimmed the rest. The article says pretty much what I said, so I probably didn't need to say anything at all :)
posted by Xoebe at 9:47 AM on March 16, 2009


I really am struck by the parallels between this pricing model and freelance web dev, design, and high-end consulting work. High price as an indicator of quality is not limited to prostitution, or to underinformed clients. (Think of the corporations who happily pay hundreds per hour to a fancy consulting firm, and often wind up with the same MBAs they could've hired directly for a fraction of the price.)
posted by ook at 9:47 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really am struck by the parallels between this pricing model and freelance web dev, design, and high-end consulting work.

In the dark, a wet hole is a wet hole.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:52 AM on March 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


So much for nursing "Pretty Woman" fantasies.

Well, in "Pretty Woman," the prostitute was a streetwalker; not a $500/hour, iCal-using businesswoman. So your main worries in acting out a "Pretty Woman" fantasy are scabies, chlamydia and the hooker shooting up in your penthouse suite's bathroom-- getting attached is pretty far down the list.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:52 AM on March 16, 2009


> If we're talking sex, not love (and I think we are), in the dark, a wet hole is a wet hole.

You could say that in certain businesses discretion is a line-item expense. In this light, Eliot Spitzer paid too little for his consorts, not too much.
posted by ardgedee at 9:54 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


i actually drank at a bar called 'Spitzer's Corner,' the other day. They had a good selection of microbrews and they were selling them at $3 each during happy hour. Éphémère, the new one from Unibroue, is really delicious.
posted by jonmc at 9:58 AM on March 16, 2009


In places where prostitution is illegal, discounts are frequently granted to repeat customers for obvious reasons: there is less risk of law enforcement to both sides and the quality of the buyer and seller is more accurately known. Repeat customers are less "information asymmetric". I'm surprised this point wasn't made.

Then again, Allison Schrager is a macroeconomist and I guess she is a journalist now so peer review isn't on the cards to the same extent.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2009


In the dark, a wet hole is a wet hole.

I call double standards! Jonmc says this and no one blinks an eye. Whenever I say this I get labeled a "predatory homosexual" and have to leave the frat after a few "incidents" and I can't go to the gym anymore.

HYPOCRITES!
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


sorry, xoebe made my point before I was able to.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 10:02 AM on March 16, 2009


VIP distinction is quite pervasive in the industry

Nothing like pimps with marketing degrees.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:03 AM on March 16, 2009


A high end hooker just screams class. I mean screams.

Am I the only person to note a general tone of misogyny among those commenting on this post?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:08 AM on March 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


The write-up is interesting, but I would suggest that they're talking about the top 20% of sex work (in terms of income). Simply put, these 'rules' - don't have nudity on your site, haggling is poor form, etc. - do not apply to the vast majority of sex work. Of course, as always, YMMV.

The Toronto Erotic Review Board (TERB), for instance, has recently introduced a new section focusing on Craigslist. Why? Because so many johns are interested in the dirt-cheap possibilities offered there. As a rule, 'you get what you pay for', but anyone who lurks on these sites will quickly discover that this is not always so. Sometimes the $200 lady is a way better time than the $2000. Or so I read.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:17 AM on March 16, 2009



i actually drank at a bar called 'Spitzer's Corner,

Spitzers Corner is named after the old clothing store that was there before it was turned into a bar, no connection to our infamous white collar crime fighter.
The real shame on that particular corner is that right across the street was Paul's Boutique, and when the little cafe opened up there, rather than keep the sign , and have an awesome name for their shop, they tossed it out, yes they did.
posted by newpotato at 10:22 AM on March 16, 2009


Sometimes the $200 lady is a way better time than the $2000.

Of course, for a lot less aggravation, you could probably hit a few bars and find a woman who wants to have sex with you for a reason other than money which would be a far bigger turn on, dontcha think?
posted by jonmc at 10:22 AM on March 16, 2009


In this light, Eliot Spitzer paid too little for his consorts, not too much.

Spitzer got busted because his large cash transactions led his bank to tip off the feds, who thought he was being bribed, and the feds tapped his phones.

So, actually, Spitzer should've been paying less for knob-polishing services, not more.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:25 AM on March 16, 2009


A high end hooker just screams class. I mean screams.

Am I the only person to note a general tone of misogyny among those commenting on this post?


Because, as we all know, there's no such thing as male hookers.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:26 AM on March 16, 2009


Of course, for a lot less aggravation, you could probably hit a few bars and find a woman who wants to have sex with you for a reason other than money which would be a far bigger turn on, dontcha think?

That's too much work, and the good hookers are too expensive. I gave up and took option three: I got married.
posted by Willy Wombat at 10:27 AM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]



Of course, for a lot less aggravation, you could probably hit a few bars and find a woman who wants to have sex with you for a reason other than money which would be a far bigger turn on, dontcha think?


I'm gonna guess that you have better luck than must guys in bars if you think that this is less aggravating.
posted by newpotato at 10:29 AM on March 16, 2009


um, most, not must
posted by newpotato at 10:31 AM on March 16, 2009


Yeah - must guys don't usually have much luck in bars, even if they're tall, dank, and handsome.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:35 AM on March 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


@KokuRyu The rap enthusiast in me agrees but dudes totally hook too and get pimped less, so they probably enjoy it more.

There is a great deal of cross-gender, intra-gender and self contempt for prostitution but if humans are made for anything it is as sort of a walking, talking, killing(surviving?) fuel tank for sex, and as much of it in as high a calibre as possible. Prostitution just makes it more of a commodity.

Certain STDs have changed the nature of the game, therefore I wait for my beloved.

And on preview, Cool Papa Bell beats me to the point.

Shifting focus on the topic: Thai brides and arranged marriages anyone?
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 10:37 AM on March 16, 2009


Didn't Mr Rogers already cover this subject?
posted by crapmatic at 10:38 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course, for a lot less aggravation, you could probably hit a few bars and find a woman who wants to have sex with you for a reason other than money which would be a far bigger turn on, dontcha think?
You don't pay a prostitute for sex; you pay her to leave you alone afterwards. For married men, this is a valuable service.
posted by pupsocket at 10:39 AM on March 16, 2009


newpotato: I'm far from a matinee idol, but I've managed. (Seriously though, some guys may regard a high priced whore as a validation of their masculinity in a "I'm such a man I can afford this,' way, but that's a sad way of asserting your manhood. I'm just saying.)
posted by jonmc at 10:40 AM on March 16, 2009


in the dark, a wet hole is a wet hole

All right Bukowski, enough out of you.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:44 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


arranged marriages anyone?

What? Arranged Marriages are a bit more nuanced then "OMG foreign ladies prostitute themselves in marriage."
posted by chunking express at 10:45 AM on March 16, 2009


In outlining her value, Andrea boasts that she does not merely provide sex, but also a vital service. She prides herself on being in tune with the desires of her clients, and maintains that she enjoys the experience. For her single male customers, she provides needed intimacy. For married ones, she says filling an “emptiness” in their lives can enhance their relationships with their partners.

Some people have needs they have trouble fulfilling. There's sex, and there's everything associated with sex. The intercourse is a small part of all that, and the glory hole doesn't do it for everyone. What's wrong about taking pride in one's own sexuality? The public view of sexuality is a mix of desirability and promiscuity, with celebrities being shown in positive light, while unknown people who dress similarly might be called out for apparent promiscuity.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:46 AM on March 16, 2009


Am I the only person to note a general tone of misogyny among those commenting on this post?

A classy high end john enjoying the services of a high end hooker just screams class. I mean screams.

It screams class all the way around to me Kokuryu. I mean screams.
posted by pianomover at 10:47 AM on March 16, 2009


@chunking express

Significantly so but I don't think my point is invalid. Even "love marriages" may evince some degree of prostitution. But dowries and forced consummation decidedly clear that check.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 10:51 AM on March 16, 2009


Yes, we get it. Screaming. Ok.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2009


I call double standards! Jonmc says this and no one blinks an eye. Whenever I say this I get labeled a "predatory homosexual" and have to leave the frat after a few "incidents" and I can't go to the gym anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 1:00 PM on March 1


Note to Whelk: an eye socket is not a hole.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:52 AM on March 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Significantly so but I don't think my point is invalid. Even "love marriages" may evince some degree of prostitution. But dowries and forced consummation decidedly clear that check.

Bullshit. I know many people who have met their spouses through the aegis of their respective families "arranging" the meetings and approving/disproving of carrying forth with the marriage. It makes sense, especially in traditional societies like Pakistan, when the family is such and important and central influence for the parents to be comfortable with each other before tying the knot. To call that prostitution is insulting to people who live arguably happier and more productive married lives than people I know who have met in bars or yahoo chat windows or the other modern means.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:55 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


@Burhanistan
You're right to call bullshit at someone blindly labeling arranged marriages as prostitution. I don't think that I did, though. So don't be so defensive.

Even "love marriages" can be annulled for lack of consummation. Dispute this claim if you'd like: arranged marriages that do not produce offspring are considered unsuccessful(especially by the families under whose aegis the arranging and meeting takes place).

Forgive the pun but you will have a hard time divorcing marriage from sex.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2009


To disambiguate my point, arranged marriages don't necessarily require dowries or blood stained sheets or someone watching the consummation.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 11:10 AM on March 16, 2009


Wow I had no idea the economist had a lifestyle magazine. Her other articles are pretty awesome too. I love the poker story in this one.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:19 AM on March 16, 2009


To disambiguate my point, arranged marriages don't necessarily require dowries or blood stained sheets or someone watching the consummation.

True, but they can be more fun that way. Certainly more fun than the Chicken Dance and having to listen to Aunt Edna.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2009


Of course, for a lot less aggravation, you could probably hit a few bars and find a woman who wants to have sex with you for a reason other than money which would be a far bigger turn on, dontcha think?

Yeah, like Willy Wombat, I'm married so this is all academic. I just find it interesting to read about how the other half lives.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:44 AM on March 16, 2009


Are escorts not Veblen goods? Doesn't that explain it pretty simply?
posted by GuyZero at 11:49 AM on March 16, 2009


I don't think so, GuyZero. If they were, their rates wouldn't be so uniform based on geography.

Some of them may be, but most "Veblen good" prostitutes probably exist primarily in the realm of fiction. Or New York, as the article seems to assert.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 11:58 AM on March 16, 2009


Bullshit. I know many people who have met their spouses through the aegis of their respective families "arranging" the meetings and approving/disproving of carrying forth with the marriage. It makes sense, especially in traditional societies like Pakistan, when the family is such and important and central influence for the parents to be comfortable with each other before tying the knot. To call that prostitution is insulting to people who live arguably happier and more productive married lives than people I know who have met in bars or yahoo chat windows or the other modern means.

My in-laws were introduced via a professional matchmaker (what someone in a Western country would call an "arranged marriage"), as were many people of their era. Back then (about 1960) people didn't date, at least not to get married. In small-town Japan outside of the bigger cities (Tokyo, Osaka) that at least provided some anonymity, young men and women did not date, period, back then.

Arranged marriages were a necessity. Anyway, most people are able to reject a potential suitor or partner introduced by the intermediary, so the process is not unlike dating.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2009


Is information ever symmetric? What this article seems to argue is that with asymmetric pricing you introduce a level of uncertainty which adds some sort of unknown price quantity (1 + x). As others have noted, this looks like all sorts of service industry work. But I'd also counter that situations that are supposed to be symmetric, commodities for example, experience similar bubbles as uncertainty is transferred from any sort of qualitative properties of the item itself, to future availability, or more basically, what someone else is likely to pay in the future.

Underground economies interest insomuch as I believe that laissez-faire capitalism is the best economic system, if it weren't natural for a group of large entities to create a sort of static monopoly. To put it another way, wealth is more evenly distributed when competition is highly segmented in geography or along the supply line. It would be interesting to see the wealth distribution of prostitutes and lawyers stacked up next to each other. I have a feeling that you'd see the wealth fattening up and the middle and the extremes tempered greatly. Same with commodities. In oil you see a lot of wealth at the very the top, and a slope down the line, where cocaine smuggling, while producing wealthy individuals all along the spectrum, you're unlikely to see a few players making 10-15x than the next one down the line.

It'd be an interesting theory to test, but data is hard to come by. I think at the very least, it seems that information does not always lead to efficiencies. Sure a hooker can produce me an Excel chart indicating her repeat customers increased 9% last year and her mean time until orgasm decreased by 4%, but it is not as if I can bundle up my orgasms like a CDO, making money by picking up all the little orgasmic variations, that'd be like picking up penises in front of a steamroller, a risk greater than I can stomach.
posted by geoff. at 12:38 PM on March 16, 2009


I think Xoebe makes a good point that a large proportion of 'visitors' are actually recurring individuals. Any single sexworker may have relatively few clients but whom they see regularly although more or less frequently. I would suppose this differs depending on what the person is offering, in that more specialised sexworkers will hold a clientele much easier and longer than one who offers more 'basic' or everyday services. In the former case, the idea then that price acts as a signal is not necessarily true, because other factors have a greater influence in setting price.

Familiarity/loyality means that a client already knows their 'product' well, and also may feel some attachment making them more willing to absorb price increases. Speciality makes the commodity non-fungible as well as of potentially rare type, again leading the higher prices. In addition, some sexworkers can operate for long long periods of time with effectively closed lists, meaning that they take on no new clients thus removing the need for any price signals whatsoever. I would be careful to apply the price signal idea to all sexworkers, because it probably only works for a certain section - non-street, non-brothel, and non-specialist.

Of course, I'm talking partly about the UK here where sexwork is legal (with caveats), and my knowledge is derived from a probably unrepresentative range: pissplay specialists, to sexagenerians humiliators, to a latex-fetish trans dom. I really don't know which profession is most like that of sexworkers: definitely self-employed with particular skills, probably something like personal language tutors? I would surely have to pay more for learning Elamite than French, and I might pay well for a Finnish tutor I liked. I don't know though.
posted by Sova at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2009


All I have to say is it's a good thing I was born ugly because I now know how much me and my round heels could be making.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:09 PM on March 16, 2009


I don't recall the link ATM, and can't think of a work-safe set of search terms to re-find it, but there was a link on the blue at one point, to some city that posted pictures of the johns and hookers busted each week. Suffice it to say, it is unlikely that Foam Pants couldn't get work.
posted by nomisxid at 1:35 PM on March 16, 2009


Yeah - must guys don't usually have much luck in bars, even if they're tall, dank, and handsome.

Speak for yourself.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:01 PM on March 16, 2009


Yeah - must guys don't usually have much luck in bars, even if they're tall, dank, and handsome.

Speak for yourself.


You're right. My apologies to all the musty, dank guys out there who are lucky in bars. I'm sure you're fun gis.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:13 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


"if humans are made for anything it is as sort of a walking, talking, killing(surviving?) fuel tank for sex, and as much of it in as high a calibre as possible."
*jumps into thread*
... sorry, thought you were talking about me.

There seems to be a more select client base for this sort of thing. Some folks, myself included, you're never going to convince you're $1000 or $300 better than my hand.
I think in some ways though, it's not the hole, or not just the hole, you're paying for the illusion, or for an experience. Perhaps the illusion of intimacy without the entanglements.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:34 PM on March 16, 2009


You're right. My apologies to all the musty, dank guys out there who are lucky in bars. I'm sure you're fun gis.


MUSTY DANK ESCORTS! TOTALLY MILD MEN FOR SALE FOR YOUR INTEREST! AS ARGUMENTATIVE AS YOU LIKE LIKE!!! HOT!!! OR NOT!! COMPLETE WITH NERVY INSECURITIES AND GRUMPY OUTLOOKS! YOU CANNOT RESIST!
posted by The Whelk at 7:07 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Significantly so but I don't think my point is invalid. Even "love marriages" may evince some degree of prostitution. But dowries and forced consummation decidedly clear that check.


Well, it's not like you don't get to choose, you just have a more limited pre-arranged set of choices.
Ah! You say, but surely then you're restricted to partners of the same class/caste and family background.
Indeed. Americans have a more efficient way, a multi-billion dollar fashion industry to allow us to spot these indicators from a distance, no marriage broker required!
posted by atrazine at 3:28 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


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