The Price of Sex in South America: A Guide for Secret Service Agents

Heading to South America to protect your head of state? Avoid potentially embarrassing conflict with this handy region guide to the price of sexual services prepared by a team of trained economists.

Researchers have created a nationally representative data set that includes the per-transaction prices charged by 3,000 sex workers in Ecuador (2004). From that data we can back out the per-transaction price of sex workers who are specifically selling sex to wealthy foreign men in nightclubs, bars and brothels.

Given that sex work is not illegal in Ecuador, or in its neighboring countries, and that there is fairly free trade within the region, the price of sexual services in Ecuador should be representative of the price of sexual services in neighboring countries (like, oh…let’s just use Colombia as an example).

Sex workers operating specifically out of bars, nightclubs and brothels (unlicensed for sex work) in Ecuador earn an average of $5.20 per hour and $105 per week (with an average of 19 clients per week).

Sex workers who work on the street, which is unregulated and much riskier, in Ecuador, earn an average of about $4.20 per hour and $67 per week (with an average of 13 clients per week).

To calculate the price of an individual service we need to start with the average per-transaction price of $5.41 and then add to that depending on which services are wanted and the nature of the client.

The following services as a guide for those buying sex in nightclubs and bars:


  • Sex without a condom adds between 9% and 15% depending on the regulation of sex workers in that venue.
  • A rich client can expect to pay a 12% premium.
  • A foreign client can expect to pay a 6% premium.
  • Wanting anal sex (instead of vaginal sex) increases the price by 40%.
  • Wanting oral sex (instead of vaginal sex) increases the price by 11.5%.
  • The attractiveness of the sex worker has very little effect on the price paid, but younger sex workers do charge slightly more than do older sex workers.

    Using this guide we can see that a rich foreigner who wanted to have vaginal sex with a condom could expect to pay a whooping $6.40 for that service. The same client wanting anal sex could expect to pay about $8.50 for that service. The same services without a condom would be about $7.20 and $9.36.

    In this market, $30 should provide enough sex to exhaust the most virile of men.

    Of course these results include no controls for how much you will have to pay if the sex worker realizes that you will probably lose your job if it was found out that you spent the night with her. Recent estimates have placed that cost in the $250 - $800 range. However, as we seen, it is best to pay that fee without putting up too much of a fuss.

    References:
    Gertler, Paul and Manisha Shah (2009). “Sex Work and Infection: What’s Law Enforcement Got to Do with it?” 

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