Let's Talk About Rates, Baby

I've heard a lot of things about rates. Some from civilians, some from other sex workers, a surprising number from both:

"I'd never touch a dick for less than a thousand dollars."

"Most hookers* suck dick for $50."
*this is a slur and should NOT be used by people who aren't full service sex workers (FSSW for short, and the proper term for people who provide sex in one form or another for money), as are prostitute and whore. Ho/hoe/heaux is deragatory specifically to black full service sex workers and shouldn't be appropriated by white people and non FSSW. Please stick to FSSW or full service sex worker, escort if you absolutely must, for sex workers who provide sex. 

"I've never left the club with less than five hundred."

"I haven't made a grand in a night since 2008."

"Strippers make six figures."

"Every stripper I know is broke."

"Men pay thousands an hour for sex."

"No man would pay thousands an hour and not have sex."

"No man would pay that much, even for bareback sex."

"Successful sex workers often become millionaires."

"You'd have to be broke and desperate to have sex for money."

"If you aren't making 1k a night, step your game up."

"Top earners make $60k a year."

"It's easy money."

"You could get killed for $100."

"It's recession-proof."

"The recession ruined sex work."

Every single one of these is probably accurate for somebody, somewhere. They all sound like they are in the realm of truth, but come from a limited perspective, which is why they are contradictory. There are a few things I know to be universally true about rates in sex work though:

They are privilege, writ large-
We can't talk about rates without talking about privilege. Most of what I know first-hand about sex work is extremely privileged, because I am a (relatively) thin, pretty, cisgender, straight-presenting, (relatively) young white woman. Because of these privileges, even when I was doing survival sex work- which was up until fairly recently, I have been able to ask relatively high rates fairly easily and get consistent work.
Rates in any industry have a cap. That cap is the absolute maximum that a customer or client will pay anyone at all for that service. From there, any number of factors will impact each individual's cap (or glass ceiling): level of expertise, reputation, education, location, area of specialty, etc.
In any industry, gender and racial bias exists. Just look at the wage gap: white women make $0.86 on the dollar, and women of color make $0.60. Sex work is one field in which women (and people who can pass as women for work- I see and hear y'all, and everyone should be aware that non-binary and male sex workers do exist. Please forgive me some gender-specific terminology for the sake of simplicity) dominate and consistently make more than men, but this is not in any way equal among all women.
Trans workers and workers of color cap out at a lower rate. It's not fair or okay, and we should all be working daily to challenge racism and transphobia in the industry; but it's reality right now. Talking with clients about these issues, if possible, can help open dialogues about why they as a group feel that some workers' time is worth more than others based on how marginalized they already are. I'd also suggest donating to organizations that work with trans sex workers and sex workers of color, or directly to individuals who make less than you for these reasons.
This is also true in stripping and every other arena of sex work. Clubs hire fewer dancers of color or segregate, and rarely if ever hire trans workers. Customers are less likely to get dances and rooms from less privileged workers. Frequently they are relegated to the outskirts clubs where there is less money. Cam models of color and trans cam models make less or take much longer to get established or have to cater to fetishization to make money.
The same people who already have privilege in the world have privilege in sex work, especially when it comes to rates. The majority of the highest earning sex workers are thin, white, young, cis, straight presenting women who can afford to look "classy", and are already to some degree conventionally attractive. I'll talk in a bit about buying and performing class and beauty. The more privilege you enter the industry with, the higher your rates can be.

Low rates can have advantages, and disadvantages-
The business model I am talking about here was the one I started with and sometimes return to. Quick ad on Backpage (RIP), cheap hotel room, low rates, throw on some cute Target underthings and wait. This isn't a bad business model! It's quick money, low overhead, and high quantity of clients. You can (or could, back when CL and BP were around) see 10+ quick visits or half hours in a night at a motel. At, say, $50 for 15 minutes, that's $500+ in a night, minus the cost of condoms, a little makeup, one cute set of underwear, baby wipes, and the room. You can/could make a few grand a week that way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, and for some workers it's the only option. Again, privilege comes into play. It also involves significantly less emotional and invisible labor. Less talking in the booking process, less talking in person, lower expectations of being "on" at all times for clients, and more physical sexual labor. Most clients can afford these rates, so you are more likely to have consistent business.
The problem with this business model is that it can be unsafe. A lot of clients who prefer quick visits at discrete motels don't like to verify. I have no explanation for this other than they think they can get away with it, because they assume that anyone with this business model is desperate. (If you need help with this, please look at my post on how to screen, and my post on cut and paste replies to common problems, like this one. Feel free to shoot me a message, DM me on Instagram, or comment on this post if you have any questions, and I will do my level best to help.) It also seems more inherently dangerous, because of a couple of things: you see a larger number of men so you see a larger number of scary men, and scary men prey on sex workers and tend to choose the most seemingly vulnerable ones. Outdoor workers are most vulnerable, but motel workers are seen as extremely vulnerable as well. It can also be really exhausting dealing with that many men. So there are trade-offs.
In stripping, the business model itself can be exchanged for "outskirts club" or even for single dance hustling. The business model of getting as many cheap individual dances a night from as many different customers as possible is fairly similar.

High rates, too-
If a sex worker can and does choose to be "high end", they can't just throw up an ad with some selfies and get a $50 motel room. For $400+ an hour, or at clubs with $500+ rooms, you are providing an entire experience of luxury. That means that you need to brand yourself and stick to that brand. Whether that's classy upscale GFE, tattooed porn star, MILF, or whatever else that's highly marketable to certain people (in these "high end" scenarios you are looking more at being some specific clients' cup of tea- not everyone's, like with other business models). It also means having a well appointed incall or a nice hotel to work in (or "high end" club), makeup and grooming has to be on point (hello expensive fillers and lingerie), you have to have toys etc. in the room...
Ads are also much more expensive on the "high end" sites. Backpage used to cost $0-$10 an ad, whereas Slixa and Eros can cost hundreds. Clients require quite a bit more hand-holding leading up to appointments, cancellations are expensive since you often pay for the room out of pocket and only see 1 or 2 clients each time you get a room, the expectation of conversation on a wide variety of topics is high,  and the pressure to provide an entire experience rather than quick sexual fulfillment is also quite high. Reviews tend to be harsher, as well as it being much more difficult to find people willing to pay that much. Most workers I know with very high rates see 4-10 clients a month, as opposed to as many as 15 a day. It can be hard to create regulars, as many clients will see you as a one time "splurge" or see you only when traveling. I would also estimate that 3-5 hours of invisible labor (answering messages, discussing appointments, booking, confirming, grooming, setting up, etc.) go into each appointment at the higher rates, and cost over $200 total per day of actual work in terms of ads, room, beauty products, toys and tools etc.
Clients are slightly more likely to be willing to verify at this rate, and you do have the luxury of turning down more potential customers, since rates are higher and you need to see fewer clients. It's more intimate and personal, and you're likely to accumulate some reliable regulars who see you every week or month. It's less physical time with clients, as well. So you trade more prep time for more time alone. The obvious advantage is more money for less one-on-one time with clients and getting to be more selective.
Again, this applies to stripping as well. This would be the model used by dancers in many "upscale" clubs, where rooms are $400-$3,000 an hour and individual dances are really only sold to upsell to rooms. This was my most profitable method of dancing, but it definitely required a ton more emotional labor between rooms, and a lot of rejection. Selling one dance to each guy in the room could net the same amount, but I liked being able to chill between rooms. The big downside was always the fact that everyone probably has $20 for one dance, but selling someone on spending hundreds on a room is more challenging, and not everyone can afford it. Customers are also much more particular about the dancer they are spending that much money on. That meant not working on nights I felt "off", because I knew I wouldn't sell rooms.

Rates aren't static-
Rates change. A provider might offer a discount, different rates on different ad platforms, new or repeat client perks, etc. Just because someone sometimes charges $600 an hour doesn't mean that's what they get every single hour with a client. Just because someone does a lot of $400 VIPs doesn't mean that they don't also have a lot of two lap dance nights. I know a number of FSSW who would put an ad up on Eros for $400+ hours and an ad on BP for much lower rates and shorter times, and see what shakes out. As a dancer sometimes I sold hours in VIP at full pice, and sometimes I gave away free single dances or offered slight discounts on rooms.
Also, just because someone gets $400+ an hour doesn't mean they get consistent work, and just because someone does $50 quick visits doesn't mean they don't make bank some days. In dancing, if someone sells rooms regularly, that doesn't mean they don't have $0 nights, and if someone never sells a room, that doesn't mean that they never leave with a bunch of money.

They can be stressful to think about- 
A lot of the dialogue about rates, as I pointed out in the intro, can be confusing and contradictory. Coupled with rates being something we don't often talk openly to other sex workers about and internalized shame, there can be a lot of stress and confusion surrounding how much we can and do charge. The truth is that a hundred and ten small variables impact rates, and it's going to be different for each person. You, to some degree and depending on privilege, can decide if you want a ton of low paying clients ($20 lap dances all night, or 2-for-1 dances all night) or a few big spenders (hours in VIP with more intensive hustling between). One tip that I've found useful is to look at ads in your area and base your rates on those. You should be able to pick out who seems similar to your sex work persona, and look at how they advertise and how much they charge. Watch other dancers and see who sells what and how. Take some money and go to a different club, to watch other dancers hustle. Go to cam sites and snoop (and tip, of course). It's also nice to have friends who you can talk openly about money with. Everything great that I know about how to do sex work, I learned by watching and talking to other sex workers.

Rates are deeply personal, and nobody should ever feel ashamed of how much they charge or their business model. Don't make other workers feel bad about their rates, and ignore anyone who tries to make you feel bad about yours. 

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