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Approximately 40 percent of high-end sex worker transactions end up being sex-free. They pay you to listen -- and to tell them how great they are." Indeed, the high-end sex workers I have studied routinely see themselves as acting the part of a counselor or a marriage therapist.

Even at the lower end of the market, about 20 percent of transactions don't ultimately involve sex. They say their job is to feed a man's need for judgment-free friendship and, at times, to help him repair his broken partnership.

But the population of women choosing sex work has changed dramatically over the past decade.

High-end prostitutes of the sort Eliot Spitzer frequented account for a greater share of the sex business than they once did.

These women have little in common with the shrinking number of sex workers who still work on the streets.

In a 2001 study of British prostitutes, Stephanie Church of Glasgow University found that those working outdoors "were younger, involved in prostitution at an earlier age, reported more illegal drug use, and experienced significantly more violence from their clients than those working indoors." When it comes to the sex trade, police officers have in recent decades functioned as quasi-social workers.

As a result, pimps' role in the sex economy has been diminished.

In addition, the online trade has helped bring the sex business indoors, with johns and prostitutes increasingly meeting up in bars, in hotels, in their own homes or in apartments rented by groups of sex workers.In my own research on sex workers in New York, women who in 1999 worked mostly outdoors said that by 2004, demand on the streets had decreased by half. I've been studying high-end sex workers (by which I mean those who earn more than 0 per "session") in New York, Chicago and Paris for more than a decade, and one of my most startling findings is that many men pay women to not have sex.Well, they pay for sex, but end up chatting or having dinner and never get around to physical contact.And as a result, most people's perceptions of the sex trade are wildly out of date. In the late 1800s, as Northern cities boomed, the sex trade in America became synonymous with the seedy side of town.Men who wanted to find prostitutes combed alleys behind bars, dimly lit parks and industrial corridors.And as Barnard College's Elizabeth Bernstein has shown, sex workers today tend to make a conscious decision to enter the trade -- not as a reaction to suffering but to earn some quick cash.

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