When thinking about prostitution or human trafficking, the United States may not be your first association. However, prostitution is one of America’s largest and most profitable industries, even though it is underground. It is estimated that there are over 42 million prostitutes in the world and 1 million of those are living in the United States. Do not assume most of these girls chose their career paths as many of these sex workers are forced into the industry and feel as though they have no way out.
Since it is illegal, prostitution is also unregulated. With most of it happening behind closed doors, there are many facts you may not know about the American sex trade industry. Here are 14 things you probably didn’t know about prostitution in the USA.
14. Reasons why men hire prostitutes
Most people assume that men claim to have sex with prostitutes because they are not sexually satisfied at home but that is actually the third most common reason. The most popular reason is that they had a sudden urge to have sex and needed that to be fulfilled immediately. The second most popular reason is that they had a sexual desire for a specific race or just a specific fetish they needed fulfilled.
13. There are big bucks involved
If you thought that guns and drugs were America’s biggest problems, think again. There is more cash flowing through the sex industry than drugs and guns combined in many American cities, according to The Urban Institute.
Atlanta leads the way in terms of income with a sex trade net worth of $290 million. Miami and Washington D.C. took the silver and bronze with $235 million and $103 million respectively.
Some pimps are coming home with wads of cash as well. In Atlanta, a pimp makes an average of $32,833 per week, with Denver not far behind with a weekly pay of $31,200.
12. One of America’s most dangerous professions
Prostitution is more dangerous than logging, fishing in Alaska or working on an oil rig. The death rate for prostitutes is 204 for every 100,000, whereas the death rate for fishermen is almost half at 129 for every 100,000. Moreover, prostitutes get attacked physically on average of once per month. With no legal recourse without finding themselves arrested, prostitutes are easy prey.
Female sex workers also constitute the majority of arrests with only 20 percent of arrests being pimps or male prostitutes and only 10 percent Johns (customers). It’s a lot easier for undercover police to pose as paying customers rather than posing as prostitutes luring customers in.
11. Not all prostitutes hang out on street corners
More and more sex trade deals are made over the Internet. The reasons for this are numerous – more anonymity, security for the business and employees, and just ease of service. Online forums also attract a different clientele that often has deeper pockets.
Rather than stepping out onto the street, jobs now often come directly from a John to the sex worker with a time and a hotel room via coded instant messages that are used to avoid being detected by the police.
10. Pimps capitalize on vulnerabilities
Recruitment is a large part of a pimp’s job, and he often starts by lending a listening ear to runaways and the homeless at transportation hubs.
Even though pimps avoid sending out underage workers onto the streets, they are still their primary recruitment targets. After identifying whatever void a young girl has, the pimp will seek to nab her by showering her with whatever is “missing” in her life.
The pimps know that some girls aren’t so naïve either, so many masquerade as legitimate businesses like record labels and modeling agencies. Some of these businesses also serve as covers for tax purposes and to avoid detection.
9. Craigslist isn’t the top site for advertising sex work
Craigslist makes up about 13.9 percent of “adult services” listings. However, the site is easily trumped by Backpage.com, which is a paid service that has an extensive adult services section for posting classifieds. Back in 2012, Forbes noted that Backpage.com was making an average of $22 million a year from just their adult personals alone.
8. Many prostitutes are just trying to get by
The majority of sex workers have at least earned a high school education. Many have even attended a university. A motivating factor for many entering the sex industry is providing for their families when they have exhausted all other options.
An investigative report by the Justice Department and The Urban Institute found that many sex workers return to the industry after leaving, just because they need more money to make ends meet or to support their family.
7. Prostitution is a family affair
More than a quarter of respondents in the study knew a family member who was pimping or prostituting before they entered the trade. More than 30 percent entered the trade for the same reason.
Those who saw their parents, aunts, uncles or siblings participating out of love for their families had similar views toward the industry and saw it as a way to provide.
6. The customer base may surprise you
The respondents in the Justice Department survey couldn’t identify just one profile as the typical client. While close to 40 percent are white, people of all races participate and come from many walks of life. Professions include lawyers, judges, teachers and even law enforcement officers.
Not everyone pays in cash either. About 10 percent of pimps accept credit or debit cards. According to Business Insider, ‘Company CEO’s and bankers often use company cards to pay for prostitutes.’ Other forms of payment include drugs and merchandise.
5. The sex trade is not as underground as you think
The sex industry would fail if it weren’t for its relationship with other legal entities like lawyers, law enforcement officers and places like hotels.
One pimp behind bars spoke of Holiday Inn where employees not only knew what was going on but were active agents who, according to the pimp, also wanted to “make a little money on the side.” So in other words, more people are in on the business than you think.
4. Prostitution is NOT legal in all of Nevada
One of the most famous brothels in the world is in Nevada, The Moonlite BunnyRanch houses sex workers, and this is a legitimate business, but prostitution is not legal in all of Nevada. Regulated brothels are allowed in just eight counties in the state of Nevada but prostitution as in street workers is certainly not. This doesn’t mean you won’t get some offers from a prostitute walking the streets of Vegas but be aware that she is working illegally. To put it carefully, according to Business Insider ‘In Nevada, prostitution outside licensed brothels is a misdemeanor.’
Licensed brothels do not have set prices as we would assume they do, in fact they tend to get pricier the closer they get to Las Vegas. But the fact of the matter is, most people who show up to get lucky at a brothel will pay whatever price they are told. For more info, here are some prices according to Business Insider:
$200.00 for 40 minutes
$300.00 for one hour
$500.00 for two hours
$700.00 for an hour of a couple’s party (one hour minimum)
$2,000.00 for overnight stays
According to bunnyranch.com prices are set but can be negotiated.
2. The girls can’t refuse you
Imagine the type of people that show up looking for a good time. Even if the customer is dreadful looking or creepy, the women at the brothel cannot refuse them unless given permission from the person ‘in charge’. As Business Insider reported, a former legal prostitute admitted that she was not allowed to refuse clients. The working girls at brothels will line up once a customer enters, allowing them to choose their girl and whoever is chosen has to graciously accept.
1. Undercover police officers don’t have to identify themselves
Urban legend and many TV shows and movies assume that police officers have to tell the truth if they are asked if they are officers. This is a far cry from the truth.
The truth is that officers wouldn’t be able to gather the necessary evidence to make arrests if they were under an oath of truth every time their profession was questioned. This is the same type of procedure that would be used to catch a sex worker. Sometimes deception is the only way to bring down underground activities.