500 Years Of Fun Facts About Sex Workers and Escorts


Since the 15th century, laws and social acceptance of sex workers have come full circle.  From being valued members of court and advising royalty during the renaissance, to outright banned in following centuries, and now legalized in many areas around the world.

Let’s take a look at some of the interesting events and trends the over the past 500 years.

Elite Renaissance Courtesans in Italy

In the 15th century, they were part of a thriving culture of women who were learned, witty and wealthy. They wrote and performed music; they painted and danced. They provided elite men with intelligent conversation, artistic pleasure and sex.

Martha Feldman, associate professor of music and the humanities at the University of Chicago, states: “Courtesans maintained salons “where there was elevated conversation about philosophical issues, intellectual issues, theories of life and beauty. Some were among the best-educated and most literate and cultured women of their time.”

Japan Creates Red-Light Districts

The red-light district Yoshiwara [Good Luck Meadow] was established in 1617 on the edge of the city [Edo now known as Tokyo] to gather all legal brothels in an out-of-the-way spot, the Yoshiwara was relocated in 1656 following Edo’s rapid expansion.

Regulation of Prostitution in Colonial America

Prostitution was not an offense in either English or American common law, and, prior to World War I, although being a prostitute was not an offense, prostitution was generally regulated as a specific sort of vagrancy. When prostitutes were punished as sexual deviants, it was under laws against adultery or fornication or for being ‘common nightwalkers’–women who strolled the streets at night for immoral purposes.

Prostitution Flourished in Colonial New York

Colonial New York was preeminently a seaport, and prostitution flourished in the streets and taverns close to the docks… New York, remarked John Watt in the 1760s, was ‘the worst School for Youth of any of his Majesty’s Dominions, Ignorance, Vanity, Dress, and Dissipation, being the reigning Characteristics of their insipid Lives.’ For much of the eighteenth century, ‘courtesans’ promenaded along the Battery after nightfall. On the eve of the Revolution, over 500 ‘ladies of pleasure [kept] lodgings contiguous within the consecrated liberties of St. Paul’s [Chapel].’

New Orleans’ Storyville

Sex Worker at New Orleans Storyville Brothel

New Orleans’ first anti-prostitution ordinance was the 1857 Lorette ordinance which prohibited prostitution on the first floor of buildings but was soon after declared unconstitutional. In July 1865, after the Civil War, more regulations were made leading up to the creation of the red-light district of Storyville in 1897. It ended legally in 1917 due to concerns over health risks to US soldiers.

The Mann Act

The Mann Act or White-Slave Traffic Act  became law on June 25, 1910. Named after Rep. James Robert Mann (R-IL) it created federal law against “prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” It dealt with forced prostitution, harboring immigrant prostitutes, and the transportation across state lines. “As of April 1912 the white slave investigations overshadowed the entire balance of the Bureau’s [the future Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)] work.”

The Mann Act came at a time when the prostitution debate and the white-slave trade were high-profile issues. “In the twenty years between 1890 and 1909, thirty-six entries [in Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature] appear under the heading ‘prostitution.’ Forty-one entries appear in the ten years, between 1915 and 1924. But for the mere five years between 1910 and 1914, ‘prostitution’ carries no less than 156 entries.”

Japan’s “Comfort Women”

Comfort Women
Japanese Comfort Women

“Military brothels were created all over the occupied areas of Asia during the war for the use of Japanese soldiers: the first were set up as early as 1932 [in Shanghai, China], but most were created after the outbreak of full-scale fighting in China in 1937. Some of these were managed by civilians for profit, but frequented by members of the Japanese armed forces; others were established and run directly by the Japanese military…. The number of women recruited to work in these places is unknown – estimates vary from 20,000 to 400,000, though a careful study by historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki suggests a narrower range of between 50,000 and 200,000.


Netherlands Legalizes Brothels

In Holland, brothels  were illegal until 1 October 2000, when articles 250 and 432 were removed from the Criminal Code and the ban on brothels and pimping lifted. It is now legal to run a business where men or women over the age of consent are voluntarily employed as prostitutes. The person running the business must satisfy certain conditions and obtain a licence from the local authorities.


Male Prostitutes Legalized in Nevada Brothels

male escort
Now For The Ladies – Male Escorts

As of 2009, men were allowed join the ranks of Nevada’s brothel prostitutes, after a unanimous decision that added language to health codes so male sex workers could be tested for infectious diseases. Men were previously barred in Nevada from the oldest profession because codes specified that prostitutes must undergo ‘cervical’ testing for sexually transmitted diseases, which ruled out men. Bobbi Davis, owner of the Shady Lady Ranch, a small brothel near Beatty, wanted to add male prostitutes to her stable of sex workers. Davis has said the men could start working at her five-bed brothel starting in the New Year. The male prostitutes will decide for themselves whether to accept male or female clients, she said, just as the female prostitutes do now.”


Thunder Down Under – Australia Escort Industry Blossoms.

“College student. Aspiring lawyer. Activist. Daughter, sister, sex worker. I don’t need rescuing.”

These are the kinds of statements that hundreds of Australian sex workers are making about themselves using the #facesofprostitution hashtag. It was started last year on Instagram by 21-year-old sex worker and history graduate Tilly Lawless. She was responding to an blog post re-published in the popular online Australian women’s magazine, Mamamia. The blog was written to mark the 25th anniversary of the prostitute-meets-prince-charming film Pretty Woman.

In the Australian states where escorting is legal, many very high quality services have come online such as Dirty Playbook which presents a vast array of beautiful escorts with stunning photography and detailed information about each escort listed.