What Slate got wrong about Internet prostitution

"Did Eliot Spitzer get caught because he didn't spend enough on prostitutes?" Slate contributor Sudhir Venkatesh deserves credit for reporting that Spitzer's alleged $4,300 date was not premium pricing. But his generalizations are far too broad for such a diverse industry as Web-powered prostitution. Were I his editor, I'd have sent back these redlines:

  • The Red Light District moving online didn't open up new markets. It gave existing businesses better infrastructure. Online escorting has gotten more sophisticated, but indoor prostitution isn't new. In modern times it has long made up the majority of transactional sex. Even some street-based prostitutes may advertise online and stay in touch with clients using cell phones.
  • $2,500-$10,000/session rates do exist, but ... A "session" in this case is, on average, at least two hours long, and at most a week. An on-call girlfriend is what's being bought here, not seven days and seven nights of straight sex. $10K for 15 minutes, as Venkatesh claims? Possibly — in a long-term arrangement, where a client is already paying a set monthly fee high enough that an in-office quickie runs at Daddy Warbucks rates.
  • 40 percent of clients don't want to fuck? Oh, come on. It does happen, but it's highly unusual for a regular client to never go all the way.
  • An escort will wear your ring, but that doesn't make her like a second wife. A client once gave me a wedding ring so I could pretend to be his blushing new bride when we saw one another. It was sweet. But at the end of the night, what do you think? The ring came off.
  • Physical abuse is not a necessary danger of working as a escort. The biggest fear all prostitutes share isn't their clients. It's rogue law enforcers.

(UPDATE: Original photo swapped out, Aug 21 2009)