An Examination of Four Distinctive Online Escort Markets

Kristofor Burghart

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The first aim of this doctoral research is to analyse online escort advertisements posted by sex workers, in order to provide an understanding of what is ‘on sale’ to the client. The second aim is to gain an understanding of the lived experiences of selling sexual services via the Internet. The extent to which escort services are increasingly divided along class-structured gender lines is also considered. The final aim is to examine escorts’ perspectives on the risk associated with online escorting, and the risk avoidance strategies employed. This research draws on Bourdieu’s theory of social distinction and capital alongside Hakim’s model of ‘erotic capital’. Reference is also made to Giddens’ perspective on ‘intimacy’ and Bernstein’s ‘bounded authenticity’ with respect to the relationship between the escort and client. The theory of a risk society is useful here as it provides an insight into how the idea of risk influences our everyday perspectives as well as the policymaking process. The study concerns four distinctive independent online escorts markets - male and female heterosexual, gay and lesbian. A discourse analysis was conducted on ten online advertisements from each escort sample in order to analyse how different online escorts advertise their sexual services. Twenty-seven separate semi-structured interviews were conducted with online escorts in order to understand their experiences of selling sexual services and to examine the risk avoidance strategies they employed. The research revealed that discourses relating to social class were not an essential theme within the advertisements, but were an important background factor. Instead the emphasis was on the selling of intimacy and companionship, particularly when marketing to female clients. The study draws attention to the impact of the Internet in allowing these escorts a virtual space to advertise their services to the wider population, and in particular to female clients. Most escorts did not outwardly conceptualise themselves as at risk of client violence in the course of their work. Indeed, the accounts given by female to male and male to male escorts suggest that they hold a sophisticated level of control over the client encounter.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Denney, David, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

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