Should You Say Prostitutes or Escorts?

Should You Say Prostitutes or Escorts?

With all attempts to be respectful, this blog may contain some offensive terms or slurs used against sex workers – for example, there is liberal use of the word prostitute, as well as whore, hooker streetwalker and harlot. They are meant purely as a reference and not with malicious intent.

Prostitutes or Escorts - What’s the Difference? 

From an outsider or even a client’s point of view, it’s hard to know which terminology is acceptable when addressing sex workers. It seems to be that many working girls (and men) refer to themselves as ‘escorts,’ a term that was formerly used to imply a non-sexual companion. Is it passé to call escorts prostitutes? That is if it was ever really okay to do so.

It’s an old word, literally meaning to offer sex for money. So what is the problem? Perhaps now it’s a little dated, a little old-timey. It definitely does carry with it a negative stigma. While writing, I opened up a new browser tab and loaded the thesaurus website. This is not unusual by any means, but when I typed in prostitute to find some examples of similar words, I was taken aback by the synonyms and the very definition.

The noun: “person who sells own abilities, talent, or name for inferior purpose.” As a verb, it means “to put one’s talent to an unworthy use.” Inferior, unworthy – no wonder it’s not a favourite among escorts. I suppose this is the entire issue with the word; when you apply it to someone, no matter how respectful and polite you think you’re being – ding! Those brutal definitions are immediately there in our subconscious when we hear prostitute, as well as the words whore and hooker.

It’s unfortunate that even an online dictionary has such anti-sex work bias. We know, based on research published by the Scarlet Alliance in 2012, that sex workers have an incredibly low rate of HIV – less than 1%. The sexually transmitted disease rate remains at historic lows due to high condom use. I’d go so far as to say escorts practice safe sex religiously, more so than the general public engaging in casual hook ups. But the word prostitute isn’t just a person selling sex for money; it implies a certain social status, upbringing, level of education and sexual health. It’s not a stretch to say that someone’s drug habit is also assumed. It makes very little sense to be tarring a group of sex professionals with a dirty brush that science has proved to be clean.

If you’re an escort, you set the terms for what you find acceptable. As a client, always be respectful of an individual’s preference. You never know who will find what offensive, and there are plenty of terms for sex workers that aren’t polite. Strumpet, hooker, streetwalker, scarlet woman, lady of the evening, harlot – the list goes on. Don’t be that guy who throws the wrong words around and can’t get a booking with one of the lovely Australian escorts around.

What are your thoughts, is it offensive to be calling sex workers prostitutes? Tweet us @MyPlayMateAU and let us know your thoughts.



Janelle Eden

Generally, I refer to myself as a callgirl. However, I don't mind being called a prostitute or whore because that's what I am. Certainly, it's more descriptive and precise than terms like "sex worker" and "working girl". And, lest anyone think that there isn't a hierarchy within the sex industry, I think there most assuredly is. Some wives too should perhaps be included in the mix. After all, it's hard for most people to believe that very young women married to very rich old men have not prostituted themselves to some degree. Thus, I think there's a sort of pecking order in the sex industry that perhaps starts with those wives I've referred to and then includes courtesans who turn up in their finest to art galleries, product launches and exclusive country house parties; escorts who are available as theatre and dinner companions with or without a bedroom tryst afterwards; callgirls who provide incall and outcall companionship and guaranteed sex; and prostitutes who are unambiguously dedicated to hard-core carnal pleasure either as an independent provider or in a brothel. I can't speak for strippers, cam girls, parlour girls or streetwalkers, some of whom deny that they're in the sex industry at all, and others of whom claim to be more upmarket than perhaps they are. As an escort and prostitute, I'm not seeking to say that one is better than another but merely that they are different. It's also true that many of us find that we gravitate towards a certain type of sex work because of time constraints and natural inclination. Personally, I don't often have the time or inclination to be anyone's companion for a whole day or more and therefore prefer to prostitute myself for no more than an hour or two at a time. As such, I accept that I'm more a prostitute than a courtesan even though I'm capable of being both. As for what terms are generally acceptable, there are no rules as such although common sense dictates that one should tread carefully when opening any dialogue with a sex industry worker for the first time. Some are very sensitive to all this while others like me don't much care.

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