Sudhir Venkatesh, the sociologist who collaborated with Steven Levitt on the Freakonomics chapter on why drug dealers still live with their mothers, now writes in Slate about how the world’s oldest profession is faring in these tumultuous times of financial crisis:
But bad times seem not so bad either, at least in the short run. After the dot-com bubble burst and again in late 2006 when the housing market began to flatten, the high-end women I interviewed in New York and Chicago reported upticks in business. Their clients were coming to them for a mix of escape and encouragement. As Jean, a New Yorker and a 35-year-old former paralegal turned "corporate escort" (her description) told me, "I had about two dozen men who started doubling their visits with me. They couldn't face their wives, who were bitching about the fact they lost income. Men want to be men. All I did was make them feel like they could go back out there with their head up." (Like most of the sex workers I interviewed, Jean was concerned about her participation in an illegal trade and asked that only her first name be used.)
That's probably not all Jean did for her clients. But, as I reported in Slate a few months ago, about 40 percent of high-end sex transactions do not involve a sexual service. It's not difficult to imagine that a man's need for positive reinforcement is amplified when a pink slip lands on his desk.