Brian Palmer in Slate:
The Village Voice is under attack for its classified advertising service Backpage.com, which includes an adult section with listings for body rubs, strippers, and escorts. Critics say that these advertisements are thinly veiled offers of prostitution, which sometimes involve child sex workers. Are there any escort services that don’t peddle sex?
Yes, but they’re rare. Strictly platonic escort service pop up every now and then on the Internet and in classified ads, but people inside the industry say they rarely stay in business for more than a few months. Part of the challenge is that they’re confusing to both the clients and the employees: The term escort is so universally euphemistic that people don’t believe agencies that advertise as nonsexual. In addition to this small handful of true companionship services, some well-established agencies offer escorts for fetish activities and sensual (but nonsexual) massage, which would not satisfy legal definitions of prostitution. The overwhelming majority of escorts, however, are at least open to the idea of trading sex for money, even though few would consider themselves prostitutes. An escort offers an evening of companionship that may include sex, while a prostitute sells sex itself.