Every so often, provocative clickbait appears, claiming to expose the “most expensive” high-end escorts and companions and attempting to shock readers with astronomical (read: unverifiable) rates. Usually, this is the territory of dubious sources like Toronto Buzz, The Maple Leaf Post, or judgmental blogs claiming to “focus on women and celebrate what makes us so wonderfully unique” (evidently by shaming women who successfully leverage social media for sex work). But sometimes, even respected publications like The Toronto Economist get in on the act.
One thing you can be sure of: if an article’s headline begins with “you won’t believe…” or – worse – a dollar amount, you probably shouldn’t rely on the veracity of anything that comes next. And that isn’t to speak poorly of escorts or companions who have been interviewed or profiled for articles like this. This is almost entirely due to writers and websites trying to amp up the “wow factor” to get clicks and shares, off the backs of sex workers.
In response to these misleading stories, we spoke to three premier Toronto companions who could genuinely claim the “highest paid” and “most exclusive” titles. They focus on managing their brands and businesses rather than boasting to the media.
One of the first myths to dispel is that these numbers aren’t necessarily fictional, but they don’t take into account the realities of the job. Sophie Tremblay explains, “News stories focusing on how much a provider charges tend to go for shock value when broaching the subject because they talk about rates without explaining the economics of escorting. For example, a story will say something to the effect of, “Sophie, who earns as much as $5000 for an evening, has been in the industry for 2 years and claims things have not been the same since…” That statement, “$5000 for an evening” does not take into account how much of that will be reinvested into Sophie’s business, nor does it mention that Sophie may only have one $5000 date every 6 months.”
It’s worth mentioning that there is also little baseline for what even constitutes a shockingly high or shockingly low rate. “There isn’t an “industry standard” among independent escorts and the experiences one has largely depends on how much the escort knows about running a business, their social/economic class, their skin colour, and a myriad of other factors,” concludes Tremblay.
Jessica Martin suggests that the more recent versions of these money-focused content fillers are actually part of a feedback loop amongst adult entertainers and companions themselves, fueled and fostered by curated social media feeds and envy. “I see all of us reflected in that… we’re the ones clicking on said articles because it’s our values and envy and awe of the extreme outliers (the very wealthy companions) that provide insight into why these articles are written. We’re all obsessed with status and wealth, and every companion entering the business learns early on that they’ll make more, travel to more exotic locales, eat better food, and be able to work less if they’re able to charge more. They learn that the more conventionally beautiful and sensually skilled one is, the more income she’ll command. The money becomes the yardstick by which we measure success, while we ignore that happiness doesn’t necessarily come through maximizing earning capacity.”
Martin posits that there are more interesting and valuable stories being overlooked in favor of the money stories, too: “We’re all different, and other stories should be told more often. What about the companion who funds great art? Raises her children? Contributes to society in other ways? All the wonderful stories that could be told if we weren’t forced to be closeted to survive.”
But, is it all negative to focus on the earning power of a successful woman? Martin, again: “The phenomenon of a truly independently wealthy woman is a relatively recent one (for almost all of human history, the only wealth that came to women was through husbands or fathers), so a self-made, free, physically liberated woman is inherently fascinating because it’s quite rare. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be interested in such a unicorn!”
The income endgame metric aside, there is a tremendous amount of ‘behind the scenes’ work that goes into professional companionship before shocking rates and exciting dates ever take place. And there isn’t a training course or certification in how to do it well. Emily Richards suggests that, beyond physical beauty, a focus on quality and self-care will return more in the long run: “Beauty is wholly subjective, approach delivers results. A companion’s two biggest non-carceral or violent threats are poor service and burnout. Delivering a consistently excellent service every single time and developing the skill (yes, the skill) of stating and enforcing your boundaries will keep you happy, healthy, and paid.”
She notes too that companionship is widely individuated and that no two stories need to match up to be considered successful, “excellent isn’t always going to look or sound the same because there are as many ways to approach this industry as there are people in it, but find your niche and run with it. If it doesn’t work, switch some things up. Just don’t stop running.”
“Looks alone will not yield long-term success,” adds Martin. “To do well over time, one also has to be intelligent, reliable, honest, and have a great personality.”
Another issue created by articles that reduce companions and escorts to “you won’t believe” dollar amounts is a type of one-dimensionality that can be difficult to overcome. Emily says, “We have many other things going on (school, job, creative pursuits, families, etc). This work is but one aspect of our lives. This is why booking us last-minute is almost always rejected. We don’t exist inside your computer, naked except for Loubs and La Perla, waiting to get onto your plane in an hour and be there for your sudden urges. Try emailing Rolex and demanding the newest Baselworld watch be sent to you immediately, and let me know how that goes.”
“A lot of people conflate high-end and high-paid,” adds Richards. “To me, a high-end escort is one who provides a consistently excellent experience to their clients. Rates are an amalgamation of so many factors that it’s difficult (impossible?) to meaningfully compare them from one business to the next. And that’s really the point, right? We’re running businesses, and our businesses are primarily impacted by the market in which we’re operating and the availability that we have to work with. That’s it. That’s all rates tell you.”
A fascinating dichotomy to consider, particularly to industry outsiders, is the idea that many escorts insist on hiding their identities and obscuring their face in their photos, using a stage or performer name, and removing all traces of their personal life from their social media streams and websites. This can be for a variety of reasons, but at its core is often about maintaining some degree of privacy (and beyond privacy, safety). As laws become increasingly strict and put providers and directories at greater risk, it makes little sense that anyone would be running around publicly flaunting how much money they earn from their work. Again, Emily Richards: “In my experience, the industry has required us to have an increasingly intimate public presence at precisely the time when it is most dangerous for us to do so. Every month it seems like the walls close in a little bit more on our right to even exist in public spaces. It’s required of us to be (even more) inventive and adaptive in our approach and to rely (even more) heavily on one another.”
So when confronted with a narrative about “so-and-so charges OMG NUMBER per night!” consider the fact that this person likely doesn’t really roll around on a big pile of money each night, but instead (if they are interested in long-term and sustainable success) invests it in their website, photos, administrative staff (if they employ a screener or personal assistant), and all of the other unsexy overhead involved in being an independent contractor. At the core of long-term success in companionship is often a deep-seated pleasure and enjoyment of the work. Tremblay concludes, “I love meeting new people. Especially those with similar interests to my own, but there is something to be said for cultivating long-term relationships with a small number of really special suitors.”
This work is work, and clickbait that strives to delegitimize that fact through shock or condescension isn’t worth the strain of your fingers to tap that mouse. You’re better off following women like Sophie, Emily, and Sarah on social media for a glimpse at what “exclusive” really looks like.