Fifty-thousand people are expected to pour into Tampa for the Republican National Convention.
By day, they’re expected to attend meetings, patronize shops, and fill restaurants.
By night, high-end escorts hope some convention goers will be spending their time with them.
"Mary" is a professional escort in Tampa, but she specializes in selling more than just sex. She sells "experiences."
And she expects that the RNC will bring her big business.
“They're out there. They're looking for me,” she says of potential clients. “If I can just be there and be ready, then that's what it is.”
She's just redone her website in preparation for the RNC. It now talks about “creating an experience” and “escaping the pressures and limitations of reality.”
She says she carefully chose the language to appeal to a political audience.
“Think about what type of people are coming. Who are republicans? Where do they go? How do they speak?” Mary asks.
“I kind of immerse myself in stuff like that," she said, "because you start using language like that and those type of people understand.”
The type that can afford to drop $500 an hour -- some sessions last several hours or even days.
“Creating experiences with someone, talking about how the real world is so draining sometimes and you just need a time and space to relax,” Mary says.
“When you say that to a workaholic, type of person, business, high power type person, they understand that language."
The Girlfriend Experience
An escort who calls herself "Susan" speaks that same language. She offers what she calls "the girlfriend experience."
“A girlfriend experience is basically allowing somebody to be exactly who they are when they are with you,” she says.
“You’re there to comfort them and allow them to release the stress from their day.”
Unlike Mary, Susan isn't doing anything special to advertise for the RNC. She prefers to stick to clients she already knows.
She gets most of her work from a secret invitation-only web site and her clients are always pre-screened. She's willing to miss out on some quick cash to avoid legal trouble.
"I really don't want the exposure," she said. "I'd like to stay in my comfort zone, because when you do get greedy is when you increase your chances of being arrested."
Besides, the competition is supposed to be fierce.
“I know that ladies will be flying in from across the country to visit Tampa, it’s going to be insane," Susan says.
It’s not terribly unusual, Mary says. She’s done it.
"Oh yeah, we travel all the time. We follow different conventions around, sporting events, whatever it is. Political events, people will fly in and travel," Mary says.
The Prostitution Study
But really, how big is the demand for prostitutes surrounding political conventions?
Two researchers made it their mission to find out. In 2011, they released a study called Men- in- Transit and Prostitution: Using Political Conventions as a Natural Experiment.
Scott Cunningham is an economics assistant professor at Baylor University. He and his co-author Todd Kendall studied prostitution surrounding political conventions.
Cunningham and Kendall monitored ads on the now-defunct Craigslist erotic services page during the 2008 Democratic and Republican national conventions.
“We’re looking at Denver on the day of the conventions as opposed to Denver when there is no conventions, we sort of are able to isolate the unique effect the conventions have on prostitution advertisements,” he said.
Depending on the city, there was a 29-77 percent increase in prostitution advertisements during the convention.
But does increased advertising during the convention mean there was more prostitution? Cunningham says that's tough to measure.
“What we don’t find, or what we don’t look at, we don’t have data on prostitution transactions,” Cunningham says.
Mary says she doesn't need any data. She's confident she will see an increase in "transactions" during the RNC.
So confident, she's taking some special steps to prepare.
“I'm redoing my breasts and I timed my surgery around it because I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to be recovering during that time”
And instead, focus on the mental aspect of the job.
“I think in order to be prepared, to embrace people like they are and hold space for them. I have to really go within myself and I have to take care of myself,” she says.
“So I can be there and hold that space for other people.”
She won’t know how much space until the Republican National Convention actually arrives in Tampa.
To hear about how both high-end escorts and the health dept. is dealing with the health hazards of 50-thousand people coming to Tampa for the RNC, click here.