Five escorts wearing bathrobes and lying on a bed together during an escorting booking.
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“What is an escort?” The meaning of ‘escorting’ and ‘sex work’

Georgie Wolf
Georgie Wolf

Welcome! This article explains the meaning of escorts (and escorting).

Whether you’ve been considering seeing a hands-on sex worker or you’re just curious, you’ve probably wondered exactly what an escort is. Perhaps you’ve seen us mentioned on the news or on Netflix. Perhaps you’re looking to hire a sex worker and you want to make sure you approach the right kind of sexual service providers or escort service companies.

As an independent escort with 15 years of experience, in this article, I’m going to define ‘escorting’ so that you know exactly what an escort does and whether it’s an experience you’d like to have.

When it comes to sex work, there are many different definitions - and not all of them are accurate. You may have heard the words ‘prostitute’, ‘call girl’, or even ‘hooker’, and wondered if they’re the right terms to use. If you want to sound knowledgeable - and find the right workers - you need to know what it all means.

Definitions: sex work, escort, escorting

What is sex work? What is an escourt? What is the meaning of escorting? Here are definitions for all three of these terms.

What is sex work?

A sex worker is anyone who swaps sexual (or just sexy) services for payment.

If you’re thinking, ‘What is a sex worker?’ the answer is pretty simple. A sex worker is anyone who swaps sexual (or just sexy) services for payment. Sex work includes all kinds of sexy jobs such as phone sex operator, stripper, professional dominatrix, and porn performer. You may notice that not all of these jobs involve having sex with clients…some don’t involve physical touch with clients at all! It’s a big umbrella.

Basically, we’re very diverse in who we are and what we offer. The one thing we all have in common is that our work revolves around companionship, intimacy, and sexiness.

Sex workers aren’t always female - they can be of any gender. Sex workers come from all kinds of backgrounds: working-class, university-educated. They might be in their 20s, 30s, or older. And although we usually think of a sex worker as being a woman who provides services for male clients, some sex workers provide gay services or spend time with women clients.

Basically, we’re very diverse in who we are and what we offer. The one thing we all have in common is that our work revolves around companionship, intimacy, and sexiness.

What is an escort?

An escort is someone who provides hands-on, in-person services such as companionship and/or sex.

Next, what is a escort? An escort is a specific type of sex worker - someone who provides hands-on, in-person services such as companionship and/or sex. Usually, these services are charged by time - you pay an hourly rate and spend a pre-determined amount of time with that worker. This encounter can happen either at their place of work (this is known as an incall) or at your home or hotel (this is known as an outcall).

What is escorting?

Escorting is the work of being an escort.

As we discussed above, escorting is a service that involves meeting a customer in person for companionship and/or sexy activities (which might include sexual intercourse but can also include a range of other sexy stuff such as kissing, oral sex, hand jobs, or a massage.)

The work of escorting may look different in different places, depending on local laws and culture. In this article I’m sharing what escorting could look like in the United States and Australia (where I’m located) but please keep in mind that sex work happens slightly differently all over the world.

A female escort in lingerie standing by the window in her Las Vegas incall.
Got a question about escorts? Read on...

Common questions about escorts

  • ‘Are escorts female or male?’ Male escorting and female escorting both exist. In fact, it’s even more diverse than that - some providers are nonbinary, for example. Some male escorts see women, while others only see men. Some female escorts specialize in spending time with women or couples.
  • ‘Is it just about paying for sex?’ Some people assume that seeing a sex worker is just about paying to have sex. But in fact, you’re not paying for sexual intercourse, you’re paying someone to provide an experience for you over a set time. This experience could include sex, or it might just be about companionship. It could also include lots of other fun or sexy activities that aren’t specifically sexual intercourse. It all depends on what you and your provider agree on.
  • ‘Is an escort the same as a prostitute?’ It’s sometimes assumed that escorts only offer companionship, while ‘prostitutes’ offer sex. This is inaccurate. Escorts may offer a range of services that include companionship and/or sex. ‘Prostitute’ is an outdated term that most of us prefer you didn’t use.
Why we don’t use the word ‘prostitute.’ Depending on where you're from, you may have seen the word 'prostitute' used as a definition of someone who provides hands-on sexual services in exchange for money. But this word comes with a lot of negative baggage. The right term for people who offer sexual services professionally (whether it's hands-on or not) is 'sex worker'...and if you're looking for someone who specifically offers hands-on sexy stuff, we use the words 'escort' or 'provider'. Click here to learn more.

Types of escorting

There are many different kinds of hands-on sex work…and different kinds of escorting too. It’s important not to get them mixed up! Let's compare a few.

Comparison: escort versus brothel worker

A brothel worker is a hands-on sex worker who works set shifts at a larger establishment.

There are many different kinds of hands-on sex workers, including escorts, brothel workers, full-body sensual massage (FBSM) workers, and street-based sex workers. Clients often ask me whether it’s better to see a brothel worker or an escort, so let’s explore the difference between those two roles.

Whatever your choice, it’s important to know that both kinds of work are valid. Both brothel workers and escorts can provide an excellent experience.

As we discussed earlier, an escort is a hands-on sex worker who can come to visit you, or allows you to visit them at their place of work. Escorts are usually booked directly - you might see an advertisement for that particular person, and get in touch to arrange a session together.

On the other hand, a brothel worker is a hands-on sex worker at a larger establishment. This establishment will often have several workers ‘on shift’ at once, and when you visit you’re able to meet everyone and decide who you’d like to spend time with. Your session then takes place on the premises.

Brothels sometimes (but not always) offer slightly lower rates than escorts, which can make them appealing if you’re on a budget. However, the timing of the session is usually very strict (a buzzer will go off when it’s time for you to leave). For this reason, some clients prefer to see escorts. Whatever your choice, it’s important to know that both kinds of work are valid. Both brothel workers and escorts can provide an excellent experience.

Comparison: independent escort versus agency escort

It’s important to distinguish between independent escorts and agency escorts. Independent escorts work for themselves, arranging their own advertising, choosing their own clients, and keeping 100% of the money that they make. They might employ a driver, personal assistant, or security person, but they’re running the show.

On the other hand, agency escorts are workers who are employed by another business, such as escort agencies or escort service companies. That business manages the workers’ schedules, books clients, and takes a percentage of their fees as payment.

Agency or independent escort? Here at the Satisfaction Project, when we talk about escorts we usually mean 'independent escorts' (people who run their own businesses, providing hands-on sexy services to their clients). Unless we specifically say so, we're not referring to 'agency escorts' (people who work for a business that arranges their dates).

So, how do you tell an agency escort service from an independent? Usually, you’ll know by who you’re speaking, texting, or emailing with when you arrange a session. Unless they have a personal assistant, you’ll always be speaking directly with the escort if they work independently.

A male escort and his female client share glasses of wine during a dinner date.
Escorting is sometimes simply about companionship and intimacy.

The legality of escorting

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice - please seek your own counsel.

You may be wondering, ‘Is having sex with an escort legal in the United States?’ California-based law firm Summit Defense says that ‘it is illegal for an escort to provide any sexual act or sexual penetration in exchange for money.’ In Ohio, law firm Suhre agrees. If you’re thinking of hiring a Las Vegas escort, the website for the offices of Benjamin Nadig, CHTD, says that ‘escorts are not permitted to offer sexual services for money, nor are escort services allowed to advertise that sex is being offered’.

What about sex work laws in Australia? In Australia, sex work is decriminalized or regulated in many states. The laws vary from state to state - you can find out more by checking the website of Scarlet Alliance, Australia’s national sex worker organization.

In the United Kingdom, sex work isn’t prohibited, but there are a lot of other laws that might affect the process of seeing a sex worker. Find out more here.

If you’re in another part of the world, you can view a map of international sex work laws by visiting the Global Network of Sex Work Projects.

A female escort and a male escort client embracing in a hotel room incall.
Many people fantasize about hiring an escort but aren't sure what it means.

The experience of hiring an escort

If you’re new to all this, you might be wondering what the experience of paying for an escort service is really like.

In my opinion, hiring an escort is a bit like going on a date - it’s a chance to spend time with someone attractive, and perhaps experience intimacy and sexual pleasure. But, just like a regular date, none of this is guaranteed. In order to have a great experience with a sex professional, you need to know the etiquette and treat them respectfully.

A typical escort booking will include these stages:

  • Booking the session - you find an escort near you, contact them, and plan a session together. You may be asked to provide screening information and/or pay a deposit.
  • Preparing for your session - as with all dates, you’ll need to be prepared. That means being clean and well-presented, having the payment prepared, and turning up on time.
  • Arrival and payment - once you meet your escort, you’ll need to pay up-front. This is done differently depending on your location, and the local laws. Read more about payment etiquette here.
  • Connection - getting to know your provider, even if it’s just a quick chat, is essential.
  • The sexy stuff - when it’s time for the sexy stuff, your worker will usually guide you along. At this stage, it’s important to follow their directions and respect their boundaries, or you may be asked to leave.
  • Winding down and finishing up - every escort date allows time at the end for cuddling, small talk, and washing up. Once that’s done, and your time is up, you’ll need to leave (or your escort will leave if they’re visiting you).

Click here to read more about the experience of seeing an escort and find out what actually happens during an escort booking.

Escorting is a useful service…

…and if you’re considering seeing an escort, you now know the essentials.

We’ve talked about what sex workers and escorts provide, and why it’s important to know the difference between escorts and other hands-on workers. You also know the difference between agency and independent escorts and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect when you hire an escort.

If you’re interested in trying this out, you now have the information you need to start looking for your perfect provider.