Average Age of Entry

We’ve all heard the popular prohibitionist claim that the “average age of entry into prostitution is 13″.  And though we all know that’s rubbish, we’ve never had any kind of figures on what the REAL average age of entry might be…until now.

A friend of mine who is still a working escort recently conducted a poll of 100 escorts who frequent a message board of which she is a member.  She asked at what age they started the trade, and her results were as follows:

Younger than 15: 3%
15-17: 11%
18-20: 13%
21-23: 18%
24-26: 16%
27-29: 10%
30-32: 10%
Older than 32: 19%

She polled the “older than 32” respondents separately and the average age for that category was 42; she estimated the average for the “under 15″ category at 13.  Given these figures, the average age of entry into prostitution for American escorts is 26.46.

It’s difficult to know what percentage of all American prostitutes are escorts, but I would suspect 60% is a good guesstimate; the National Taskforce on Prostitution estimates about 15% are streetwalkers, so that allows 25% in brothels and massage parlors.  Estimating the average age of streetwalkers is tricky; I’m going to be really generous and pretend that HALF of all streetwalkers are underage.  Now, by all reasonable estimates that’s much higher than the reality but I want to err on the side of caution.  Let’s presume adult streetwalkers enter at roughly the same times as escorts (average 26); what’s the average for underage girls?  Well, guess what; it still isn’t 13 even for them.  As explained in this analysis, it’s about 16.  If we average the two figures (26 for adult streetwalkers and 16 for underage) we arrive at an average streetwalker entry age of 21, a far cry from 13 even if we assume HALF of streetwalkers are underage!  We have no stats on brothel or massage girls, so again I’m going to be incredibly generous to the liars and fanatics and estimate that the average for that group is the same as among streetwalkers, namely 21.

So let’s crunch the numbers:  if 60% start at an average age of 26 and 40% at an average age of 21, the average age at which American prostitutes enter the profession is 24, which I think everyone can agree is safely into the adult range.   Obviously, this is a rough estimate, but it’s a lot closer to reality than that ridiculous “13″ figure; maybe if we all start spreading these figures around we can combat some of the misinformation, at least in the minds of those who are willing to listen.

40 Responses

  1. Great info Maggie, perhaps I ought to poll Phoenix providers and we can add the info

    hugs

  2. Thanks, Kelly! The original poll was conducted on a national board, but since different boards have varying popularity in different parts of the country it couldn’t hurt to do another one on a different board and figure the results in. :-)

  3. Don’t they get their information from prostitutes arrested and wouldn’t it make sense that the older women would be smarter about not breaking the law ?

    I participated in that survey and it’s the only one that I have ever taken.

    Fact is, they will never get correct numbers on us until they stop abusing us. Who’s going to stand up and be counted if they just get ridiculed and arrested for it.

  4. Yes, JP, most surveys are indeed conducted among streetwalkers who have been not merely arrested but actually convicted, or else those in drug rehab; in other words, the least well-adjusted and least successful of the lowest stratum of our profession. And if you read the linked article, you’ll see that the ubiquitous “13″ figure was derived from a misreading of a report on child prostitutes, not all prostitutes. In other words, it was a misquote of a misinterpretation of a study of one small segment of the sex worker population. :-(

  5. I’m not in a position to say what the average age of entry into prositution is because I have no way of knowing for sure. Neither do the prohibitionists or any of us.
    I see that 13-year-old stastic sometimes when I ride the bus. An organization placed an ad in some of the buses saying that 13 is the average age children are forced into prostitution. They specified children, and didn’t apply this to all sex workers in prostitution. Yet, they didn’t name the source of the statistic.

  6. Maggie, you mention having no stats. about the average age of entry for brothel workers, so now you’ll have stats. for one person. I began sex work outside of prostitution at 20 and first worked in a legal Nevada brothel at 26.

  7. Advocate, do you still know any of the girls you worked with there? Even though that wouldn’t help us with illegal brothels or massage parlors, some data is better than none. :-)

  8. I don’t want to post her research without permission but see if she will let you post the education level of the 100 escorts surveyed.

    I hope she gets her paper published soon.

    It was very hard for her to even get 100 escorts to participate, even though we could trust that the information wasn’t going to be used against us in any way, it still took awhile for her to get that many.

    So whatever the “experts” are saying isn’t based upon information from actual escorts.

    They know nothing about us and they never will because every time a girl has tried to be interviewed by the press, they always only want to focus on making her look bad.

    If ever the press let 1 girl stand up and present herself fairly, you know there would be 1,000 girls clamoring for the spotlight right after her.

  9. She says she didn’t ask about that educational level, but that there was another poll about it not long afterward. I don’t think she plans to publish it, except by letting others disseminate it as they wish (that’s what she told me, anyhow). Go ahead and ask her, but I’m sure she’d be OK with popularizing the data because that was her stated intention. :-)

  10. One of the women I worked with became a housemate for a while, and we used to live together outside of the brothel. She was in her late 30′s when I first met her at the brothel.

    I still have her phone number, but I would feel really weird asking her how old she was when she became a prostitute. That’s not something I’ve ever asked anybody. She’s also no longer in sex work to the best of my knowledge, though she expressed support for the right of consenting adults to engage in sexual activities and opposition to laws that criminalize such behavior.

  11. I actually read an article recently where an anti sex work type stated (mistakenly, I hope) that the MEDIAN age of entry into sex work was thirteen…. that is, that as many people enter the sex industry aged below thirteen as enter aged over thirteen.

    Beyond ridiculous.

  12. And by “mistakenly, I hope” I mean that I hope she mis-spoke.

  13. @ Hexy: Did you ever play the game “gossip” as a child? Everyone sits around in a circle and the first person whispers a sentence into the ear of the second. The second then whispers what she thinks she heard into the ear of the third, and so on; by the time it gets back to the first person it’s usually nothing like what it was when it started.

    That’s how fake “statistics” develop; a study of underage prostitutes reveals that many of them started at the age of 14; by distorted repetition that turns into “the average age at entry for underage prostitutes is 14″, which soon becomes “the average age at entry for underage prostitutes is 13″, which turns into “the average age at entry for all prostitutes is 13″, and now “the median age at entry for prostitutes is 13″. A similar series of distortions produced the common lie (repeated endlessly by news media in the ’90s) that the majority of female emergency room patients were treated for injuries inflicted by their husbands or boyfriends.

    All too often activists, especially feminist activists, play fast and loose with the truth (whether consciously or not) in order to advance their agendas. We as sex worker activists must therefore resist the urge to do the same thing; our message can stand on its own and need not be propped up by lies.

  14. Yes, when I was growing up it was called “Chinese Whispers”. Which is of course horribly racist and inappropriate.

    When I read it I burst out laughing. All I could think was “Do you even know what the words you are using mean?” I had to presume that she’d mistaken the word “median” for the word “mean”, because while I can accept people being wrong enough to believe the fake “mean age of entry is 13″ figure, believing that the MEDIAN age of entry to the sex industry is 13 is just… broken.

  15. “the least well-adjusted and least successful of the lowest stratum of our profession”

    …really? really?

  16. I think it’s fair to say that imprisoned, drug-addicted streetwalkers are the least successful segment; if you have another candidate for the position I’m all ears.

  17. I do, actually. I would say sex workers who perpetuate “hierarchy of whoredom” and “lowest stratum” bullshit are the least successful, particularly in terms of empathy, ethics, and commitment to social justice.

    FYI, when it comes to prostitution, arrest and conviction are almost always synonymous.

    As for “least well-adjusted” I would reference MLK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXEIYpnlxbw . I too am proud to be maladjusted.

  18. “FYI, when it comes to prostitution, arrest and conviction are almost always synonymous.”

    “Convicted” and “sent to jail” are two very different things, especially when it comes to misdemeanors. I consider drug addicts maladjusted; if you don’t that is your business. And as for the rest…you seem to have a chip on your shoulder, and since I don’t think it’s appropriate or productive for two people who are on the same side to argue about minutiae, I’ll leave it at that. :-(

  19. Minutiae, eh?

    We are not on the “same side.” I am working for sex workers rights, you are working for holier-than-thou “courtesan” rights.

  20. You are incorrect and clearly haven’t read any of my writings. As for “holier than thou”, you seem to be an expert on the subject.

    If you feel the compelling need for the last word, you may have it. Good evening.

  21. All right then, “snobby.” Though I do think both apply.

    I don’t give a flying fuck about the “last word.” In perusing your blog, all I’ve seen is that you use the term “streetwalker” in a derogatory way in just about every post, that you use deliberately convoluted language to try to appear more intelligent than you are, that you have MRA-like ideas about child support, that you are super classist and whore-phobic when the whores in question aren’t “your kind” of whore, and a number of other things that really don’t make me like you any more than I did when all I knew about you was what you wrote here.

  22. I’m not going to argue with you, because this is not the place for it; furthermore, it would accomplish nothing since by your own statement your mind was made up about me before you actually read my blog. I can’t answer your opinions because it is your right to have them, just as it’s my right to have mine. I do, however, feel the need to make three factual points for others who may read this:

    1) I don’t use language to “try to appear more intelligent”, but rather to appeal to my own sense of aesthetics (which was largely honed on 19th and early 20th century literature, a time when a more florid style was typical).
    2) I’m not sure what you mean by “MRA”, but it’s neither fair nor useful to discuss my ideas on child support without also discussing my ideas on child custody and marriage in general, and this is hardly the place for that.
    3) No, I am not remotely afraid of any kind of whore; the very idea is absurd. As for “classist”, I guess you missed the part where I use words interchangeably, the criticism of “platinum pussy syndrome” and the recent column where I talked about all whoring being a continuum.

    I’m sorry you have a personal dislike for me; in the interests of solidarity I think it best we not communicate any further. I will therefore not answer any additional posts from you on this or any other thread, no matter how deliberately provocative you choose to make them.

  23. The problem is lumping all sex workers together is like lumping taxi-cab drivers, long distance truckers and pizza delivery boys into one category of “drivers”.

    Massage parlor girls, escorts and street-walkers are 3 vastly different worlds, none necessarily better than the other but each having it’s own set of pros and cons and depending upon how individually define “success” will determine which end of the success stratum you put each.

    streetwalkers actually make a shit-ton more money than escorts and have little to no overhead but it just doesn’t make sense to compare them to escorts anymore than you would compare a pizza delivery boy and a truck driver.

    Just because we provide the same service, doesn’t mean it’s the same job.

  24. Drug addiction is a life threatening medical condition and not a “maladjustment.”
    Drug addiction also includes alcohol and prescription drugs and is not just street drugs and street based workers. Indoor workers get it too and so does the woman who checks out your groceries at your local Safeway store.

    Ms. McNeill, it’s street based workers, not streetwalkers.

    And Jenna, street based workers don’t make tons more money, they make tons less and they deal with the most bullshit.

    SWOP Colorado, thanks for standing up.

  25. Lisa, I am well aware that lots of people outside our profession are addicted to drugs; I’ve made this point in my own blog many, many times. You’re not talking to an outsider here. As for “correct” terminology, I prefer not to use it myself; it changes too often and it has a tendency toward polysyllabication. IMHO we need to be more concerned with the laws used to oppress us and the misinformation used to support those laws than with euphemisms; that’s why I wrote this column. You’re certainly welcome to disagree with me, but I’m equally allowed to disagree with you.

    That having been said, I’ll use “street-based worker” on this blog in the future so as to avoid causing unnecessary controversy and thereby distracting us all from what we really should be concentrating on. :-)

  26. Lisa, you’re welcome and thanks for backing me up.

    So I just want to point out (partly because a lot of people from here seem to be visiting our blog) that I personally am not the entire organization of SWOP Colorado. I was signed into that account when I first commented and then didn’t change it because I think that’s considered rude. That said, I doubt any of my fellow members will care too much or even disagree, but just in case I’ll apologize in advance.

  27. Maggie, before we can convince “outsiders” that the negative propaganda is false, we do have to stop using it against each other ourselves.

    Since there is really no way to determine if it’s true or not, it was unfair of you to say that the streetwalkers are drug addicted or maladjusted, just as much as it’s unfair when people say that about escorts.

    In reality, I actually don’t know very much about streetwalkers at all, however, it seems to me like they would make alot more money since the number of guys they could see in a day wouldn’t be as limited as an escort who has a static incall location. I can only see 1 or at most, 2 guys a day but if I didn’t have to worry about the neighbors, I’d happily see 10-20.

    I have no problem with women trying to appear smarter and wish more of them would as it is the best way to convince others that we are capable of intelligent thought.

    Would like to thank the ladies who spoke up and defended the status of street based workers, because I have been guilty of whore-snobbery as well and you have every right to be pissed about it.

    Agreed that fighting amongst ourselves only results in all of us losing while the real enemy sits back and laughs at the ease in which they can defeat us, however it is important to realize that looking down upon each other defeats our purpose as well and just because it’s a common misconception, doesn’t mean it’s fair to the girls that it applies to.

    Maggie, “we need to be more concerned with the laws used to oppress us and the misinformation used to support those laws”

    And we need to be more aware of our own role in reinforcing that misinformation .

    We make the same mistakes as the normal humans make. When we don’t have any actual experience, we tend to form opinions based upon what we’ve “heard” so I think she made a mistake because she’s human, not because she’s a villian.

    If it teaches us to be more sensitive to each other as well as more forgiving, then we can all come out of this battle, and similar ones, stronger for the war.

  28. “Since there is really no way to determine if it’s true or not, it was unfair of you to say that the streetwalkers are drug addicted or maladjusted, just as much as it’s unfair when people say that about escorts.”

    Careful, Jenna; you seem to be projecting feelings into my statement. If I used the sentence “She only likes red-headed men,” nobody would claim that I was saying all men are red-headed. But if I say “prohibitionists only interview drug-addicted streetwalkers,” people want to claim I’m painting them all that way when in fact I’m doing nothing of the kind. Prohibitionists find their interview subjects in jails and drug rehab facilities (most of whom are understandably very unhappy with their lives) and then extrapolate the answers they extract from those women to the entire whore population. I’m sure there are happy, clean, well-adjusted street workers, but I doubt many of them are in jail or rehab telling social workers whatever they want to hear.

    “We make the same mistakes as the normal humans make. When we don’t have any actual experience, we tend to form opinions based upon what we’ve “heard” so I think she made a mistake because she’s human, not because she’s a villian.”

    I completely agree. :-)

  29. @Jenna — Any sex worker will tell you the math never adds up the way everyone thinks it should. Street workers have been moving online because it makes them more money — most online escorts do not make the change into street work because it’s less money with usually a lot more danger (in the US). There are plenty of online providers who do a high-volume, low-rate business, much like street workers, but with fewer risks.

    This is not saying working indoors or out is better, though indoors is usually safer in the US. And not saying that indoor and outdoor workers don’t mix their working situations, because there are some sex workers who simply work the way that’s most comfortable for them at the moment.

    XX

  30. If sex trafficking is so common in the U.S. , why does the Polaris Project

    1. have to list each step of each case under different headlines to make it look like 3-4 different cases when it’s all the same one case.

    http://actioncenter.polarisproject.org/the-frontlines/recent-federal-cases
    Just looking at the first page of headlines,

    A. “Montgomery County Man Convicted In Sex Trafficking Conspiracy”
    B. “Maryland Man Sentenced on Federal Sex Trafficking Charge”
    C. “Defendent Pleads Guilty In Human Trafficking Conspiracy”
    are all the same case, but you can’t tell that from the headlines.

    Also, please notice that in *C* they mention that the trafficker told the underage girls to lie about their age to clients, which would be very odd if there really was such a high demand for underage girls ??

    2. have to falsely accuse a guy and his employee of human trafficking, just because his seafood company bought more than it’s allowed share of sea bass ?

    http://actioncenter.polarisproject.org/the-frontlines/recent-federal-cases/431-distict-of-columbia-seafood-company-owner-and-employee-plead-guilty-to-federal-human-trafficking-charges-

    I don’t think that is an honest error, based upon their tendency towards misinformation and wow, no life is spared in their “quest for justice”.

  31. My guess is that since the Polaris Project makes money off trafficking victims, it behooves them to make the most out of any victims they can possibly get their hands on.

    Not that they think that’s exploitation! Oh heavens no!

    XX

  32. a couple quick points:

    1) drug addiction is 100% about maladjustment. Any N.A. member will tell you so.

    2) A is A, man is man, and whores are whores. I’m the last thing from classist and I have hung around every kind from street based sex workers to the most elite of courtesans. There are some maladjusted outdoor sex workers and some maladjusted indoor sex workers. The biggest difference? The outdoor ones smoke crack while the indoor ones shove mounds of coke up their noses.

    So yeah, no major difference.

    However, my personal observation has been that street based workers are in fact among the less fortunate in the profession, at least in the US. Again – not classist. It simply is what it is.

  33. I wouldn’t look to NA for diagnosis, treatment or medical management of addiction just as I wouldn’t look to them for diagnosis, treatment or medical management of diabetes, high blood pressure or hepatitis C.

    Addiction is a chronic medical illness* and that means it requires medical management. The view that addicts are simply “maladjusted” or “defected” is the backward view of the State, law enforcement and the prison industry.

    * 2000 Journal of American Medical Association, “Drug Dependence:A Chronic Medical Illness”

  34. While I concur that addiction is in fact an illness, I most certainly do not share any common views at all with the State, law enforcement, or the prison industry.

    Although I do really like how you refer to the “prison industry” :-)

    “Maladjusted” and “defective” however are two totally different words. As someone who has smoked my fair share of crack, shoved God knows how much coke up my nose, attended plenty of N.A. meetings, and lived to tell about it, I would never refer to a drug addict as “defective”, yet we are all “maladjusted” to an extent.

  35. Kelly,

    Didn’t mean to imply that you share any views with the State, law enforcement or the prison industry. Just didn’t write that statement well enough to make that more clear. Sorry.

    In any case, we agree more than we disagree and it appears we have even more in common.

    Lisa

  36. Hi Maggie,

    I know this is an old post but I just wanted to share the results of a similar poll that was done on a Canadian forum a year or so ago. I read your results and remembered about ours so I just went back to dig it up and thought you might be interested:

    ———————————————————————————-

    The question of the poll was when was her FIRST paid sexual encounter with a client (126 replies) :

    Under 18 = 16%

    18-22 = 31%

    23-34 =36.5%

    35+ = 16.5%

  37. Hi, Mlle. B! That generates an average of about 26, very similar to the average initial escort age my friend’s poll found! Thank you for sharing it. :-)

  38. [...] and their published figures don’t back it up; the actual figure is 16.  As I explained in a December essay, the true average for all prostitutes is about [...]

  39. [...] escorts and massage girls rather than only underage street workers) starts at 24. Take look at ( http://dee­pthroated.­wordpress.­com/2010/1­2/04/avera­ge-age-of-­entry/ [...]

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