Sex Sells

As an unrepentant degenerate and fan of microeconomics, it should come as no surprise that I find the online sexual economy endlessly fascinating.

Most of what happens there isn't surprising to me, with the exception of pricing for online sexual services, which is much higher than I would have expected.

As an example, take private, one-on-one cam shows. Browsing, the going rate seems to be between $2.50 and $5.00 per minute, or $150 to $300 per hour.

This is mysterious to me.

Looking at ads on, offline prostitutes seem to charge $300 an hour. This isn't the amount advertised for a one hour session, but the marginal difference in price between a one hour and two hour session, and thus a reasonable estimate of the hourly rate, when preparation and travel are factored out.

Given that private cam shows are legal, can be done at home, and require minimal equipment; while offline prostitution is physically dangerous, illegal, unpleasant1, and highly taboo, it seems strange that they are priced roughly the same.

A priori, I would have expected a price difference of 10× or more, like $300 per hour offline and $30 per hour on cam.

Another interesting point is that girls often charge for things that are free or cheap, like saying the customer's name, or teledildonics.

These are certainly things that customers are willing to pay for, but in a competitive market, sellers that didn't offer them for free would lose business to others that did.

So, what's going on? Who knows, but here are a theories, in order of most to least dubious:

None of these theories feel like they explain everything, but in combination they likely explain a lot.


I have some predictions about the online sex industry in general, and since they might be of interest I'll include them here.

1 I am basing this entirely on the number of times I've seen prostitutes on Reddit entreat their customers to please wash their assholes before visiting them.

2 Lmaaaaaaao.

3 Murray Rothbard did not say this.