Sex for Sale: American Escort

Type the words “the girlfriend experience” into your favorite search engine. Within seconds, you’ll find ads promising companionship by the hour. Much of the sex industry has moved online. Today, an entire workforce of women is just an internet connection and a phone call away. National Geographic’s Mariana van Zeller journeys to the heart of the American escort industry and uncovers the gritty reality behind the supply and demand of high end sex work.

Mariana heads to Las Vegas, ground zero for the escort underworld. Here, high-end escorts like Sarah explain how they cultivate their illegal business online. As an independent escort, Sarah calls the shots and commands big money from clients. Yet for many women, a much different reality awaits.

Las Vegas Vice Detective Chris Baughman is on his way to investigate another pimp. He says that the image of glamour and luxury that high-end escorts project is a part of the problem. For the majority of men, “what they’re getting isn’t some knockout that lives in a penthouse, that saves all her money and has the little toy poodle. It’s the same girl that’s getting beat. That’s being threatened.” His mission: to dismantle the Las Vegas sex industry – one pimp at a time.

Not far from the bright lights and bustle of the Las Vegas strip, Mariana sits hidden in a van in a parking lot beneath a highway overpass. She is investigating an office building that houses call centers for dozens of escort agencies. These agencies send girls to hotel rooms for private lap dances, and as long as they don’t advertise prostitution, they’re protected by free speech laws. We can’t get the agencies to talk to us, so we go undercover to learn what’s really going on behind closed doors.

Join us for the premiere tonight, 9 PM ET/PT!

Comments

  1. TEG
    Alamogordo NM
    February 23, 2012, 2:47 am

    Really, your “Escort Service Owner”. Please, if he was an escort service owner I am King of Siam. I think you got played or you are trying to play us. The guy was wearing about $150.00 in clothing, $10 Sunglasses, no jewelry, no watch, probably had white sox and “Payless” shoes on. Probably was a john pretending to be an owner. He didn’t really have anything insightful to say. You guys are better than this.

  2. Lee
    New Jersey
    February 23, 2012, 3:27 am

    I think there’s a real danger of emotionally locking some of these women into a “victim” mode, by labeling them as such and expecting society to fix their issues. If you’re a victim, you’re no longer responsible for your life — it’s actually either some else’s fault or society’s.
    The people that actually end up making forward progress are the ones that say, “regardless of how I got here or into this situation, the buck stops here and with me — I am ultimately responsible for my life and happiness..”.
    The show was interesting but I think it would benefited from a more balanced perspective. For example, you blame the escort agencies for not taking action when they know that many of their girls are being managed by pimps — when it comes right down to it, the onus is on the girls themselves to get themselves away from these pimps.
    Frankly, I don’t understand how pimps work — if someone said to me, “you’re going to give me all the money you earn and I’ll take care of you..”, I’d tell them to go to hell..

  3. Ed
    Virginia
    February 23, 2012, 7:14 pm

    I saw the show.

    Lee from NJ is right, it INACCURATELY portrayed the hookers as victims. They’re not. Most of them eagerly sought out the lifestyle, knowing the risks. It’s very easy money once you get used to it. Many of the women probably are in love with their “abusive” pimp. Women have a DEEP SEATED need for a strong, dominant man their life.

  4. Stacey
    Las Vegas
    February 23, 2012, 7:54 pm

    I was one of the girls interviewed but unfortunately I was only leg shots in the show due to me working for a brothel I had different views and opinions the same and different I loved the show but feel that there were things left out still wondering why brothels weren’t allowed to be included in the show? It was shocking to see that agencies are hiring girls that work for pimps it really disgusted me actually. These agengies are supposed to be safer for escorts but why would they put other girls at risk of being in contact possibly abducted by pimps outside their buildings. But the girls are the one choosing to do so with their life. Unfortunately most are scared for their lives after they get the i am going to take care of you promises and life is going to be great. 90% of the girls working on the strip have pimps. why weren’t other parts of vegas filmed lots of aspects of this industry were left out that would have been very eye opening to society about how it works all over at all levels.

  5. Client #9
    Florida
    February 23, 2012, 11:18 pm

    This was one of the worst documentaries I’ve ever seen.

    What they never mentioned, NOT ONCE, is the fact that the vast majority of escorts, call girls, hookers, prostitutes, whores, street walkers, sex workers…whatever you want to call them are DRUG ADDICTS.

    It’s that simple.

    Also, the money they were stating these gals make was laughable, $1,600, $10,000, $600…to turn one trick…that’s total BS.

    Go to backpage.com look under adult services for escorts and I think you’ll find the average rate is about $100 bucks.

    By the way, and I don’t want to get too graphic….but you don’t get a better blow job because you spent $2,000 rather than $200 bucks.

    Also the “pimp” thing. Give me a break. Inner city, severely drug addicted women and perhaps young females are exploited that way. NOT the vast majority. Most work independently.

    Nat Geo did a horrible job telling the real story.

  6. 666-777
    SoCal
    February 24, 2012, 5:34 am

    The description of the show says it that it “examines the sex industry in America”. At least 90% of the show took place in Las Vegas. Vegas is representative of all of America? The program was only slightly interesting. It didn’t explain in depth why a girl who has a pimp has also works with an agency? these girls must be idiots to give a cut to an agency and a pimp. At least they are not actors who have more people to share a piece of the pie with.

    I expected more from the show and certainly didn’t expect so much of it to be centered in and on Las Vegas. I wonder why Las Vegas wasn’t part of the title of the program? It was a poorly thought out show and sadly laughable as it merely scratched the surface of the profession and the industry itself. It should have been a 3 or 4 party series (ratings!) that delved more deeply into the psyche of the business and the people in it.

    It’s almost not worth watching.

  7. me
    vegas
    February 24, 2012, 8:12 am

    So, where can i see the whole episode? I want to see how falsely this is being portrayed.

  8. MacKenna
    February 25, 2012, 8:21 am

    LMAO at “Ed” and “Lee” who know absolutely nothing about women or their experience in the industry. A couple of lowlifes who think women need to be dominated and controlled. There are prostitutes who are in control of their game, as the documentary clearly shows, and there are many women at the lower end of prostitution who are in it because they are addicted to hard drugs. Many women who are addicted to drugs and involved in prostitution were also sexually abused as children. Statistics show one in four girls and one in seven boys is sexually abused. The best thing that can happen for a women who is a victim of sexual abuse and later gets into the trade is to become empowered to get out. Not to find some scumbag of a guy who wants to dominate and control her. Like Ed and Lee.

  9. Miss Dior Dandridge
    beverly hills
    April 4, 2012, 5:18 pm

    to client #9: i am an escort, i do not do drugs, & i make at least $1,000 per client

  10. Client #9
    Florida
    April 26, 2012, 6:29 am

    Dear Miss Dior Dandridge,

    If you go back and re-read my post I never said ALL prostitutes are drug addicts I said,…” the vast majority of escorts, call girls, hookers, prostitutes, whores, street walkers, sex workers…whatever you want to call them are DRUG ADDICTS.”

    …the vast majority..

    The Nat Geo program never, not one time, mentioned this fact.

    ….and on a personal note I have more respect for a street walking heroin addict than I do for someone like you…the street walking heroin addict isn’t really turning tricks for money or to get high…they’re turning tricks to keep from going into the misery of drug withdrawals.

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    July 21, 2012, 1:01 am

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  14. James
    indonesia bali
    August 6, 2012, 10:48 am

    All the girls who work as escorts I have encountered are professional business women with educated backgrounds who simply want to make more money. The is alot of glam and hype about this industry but is all fictional. The girls are not victims, not abused, not on drugs. They are normal, very normal. You probably know a few and don’t realize it.

  15. James Johnson
    California
    August 18, 2012, 3:11 pm

    I hate to burst National Geographic’s and Det. Baughman’s bubble, but high-end escorts aren’t the problem. Making prostitution illegal is the problem! A large majority of these women CHOOSE to do this, they are not victims. They are professional, educated, and business minded women who have taken responsibility for their lives and their decisions! Consenting adults who provide a private, and invaluable, service.

    Way to go NG, people actually thought you were doing a positive piece on the industry and you are yet another entity that has screwed these women over! What nobody wants to understand or admit is that these women play a big role in our society and society would have a difficult time functioning without them.

  16. moisa cosmin
    romania
    October 16, 2012, 4:55 pm

    foarte bun articolu. va urmaresc mereu.

  17. Soulmate London Escorts
    London
    October 17, 2012, 2:56 pm

    Legally escort means female companion. Any other things happens should be count as adult consents. No one can force the girl if she doesnt want to do any extra stuff. Its completely her discretion.

  18. Sandra
    London
    November 17, 2012, 9:14 am

    Nice stuff….Escorts business now become legal and according to their own will only peoples are doing such business.And I love reading a post that will make men and women think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

  19. Orangepink
    England
    January 14, 2013, 4:28 pm

    CLIENT#9 I am an escort too and rest assured no escort needs your respect or approval to validate their existence. Guess what we are still normal women and many of us are middle class and have worked for years in other industries. this is not all we can do, this is what we CHOOSE to do, happily for many of us.
    You are a punter eh? …so you know all about women and escorts in every walk of life…sorry I’d no idea of your authority on this one. Idiot

  20. Yellow Fever « The Honest Courtesan
    February 7, 2013, 3:30 pm

    [...] watched it in horror.  The title alone let me know this was not a serious documentary examining criminalization in the US.  In fact, they barely mention criminalization or its effects. [...]

  21. [...] and programs like this one called Sex for Sale, which is about “high-end sex [...]

  22. Vivaescort
    usa
    February 21, 2013, 5:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing the post

  23. GNDSF
    San Francisco
    May 17, 2013, 8:02 pm

    I have friends, and I include myself here, who work as highly-paid escorts. None of us use drugs. We barely drink. We were not sexually abused as children. Many of our clients become our friends. Sometimes they become husbands.
    We’ve all attended top universities and no doubt are smarter than people like Client #9. We love sex and choose who we want as clients. There is no victimization going on here, but I am not surprised to see, once again, that sex work is pathologized. But as OrangePink said, we don’t need your approval, respect, or validation.

  24. Jason
    October 9, 2013, 3:01 pm

    This programme was very biased. It is very politically correct to be critical about prostitution and praise the illegality, but the illegality is part of the problem. It shows only a one sided negative view about prostitution, avoiding any kind of controversy.