The term prostitution refers to the act of having sexual intercourse, or performing other sexual acts explicitly for material compensation—normally money, but also other forms of property, including drugs, expensive clothing, jewelery, or real estate. Having multiple clients at the time is not required for being classified as prostitute, but normally is included; a woman who engages in sexual intercourse with one man for support may be distinguished as a mistress (but should not be confused with the Mistress, who is a Dominatrix. The term may be used, loosely, to indicate someone who engages in sexual acts that are disapproved of -- whether acts outside of marriage, or as a means to an affluent life style or the status associated with the customer (sometimes inside marriage). Cultural usage varies widely, and the use of the term as a pejorative means that it is used to indicate many acts that are not formally considered prostitution in a cultural context.
Most prostitutes are women who offer their services to men, although there are male prostitutes as well.
The English word whore, referring to (female) prostitutes, is taken from the Old English word hōra (from the Indo-European root kā meaning "desire") but usage of that word is widely considered pejorative and prostitute is considered a less value-laden term. The French euphemism grande horizontale is sometimes used; on the other hand, in Germany most prostitutes' organizations deliberately use the word Hure (whore) since they feel that prostitute is a bureaucratic term and an unnecessary euphemism for something not in need of euphemisms. See also: call girl, courtesan, escort agency, female companion.
Male prostitutes offering their services to male customers are called "escorts", "hustlers", "rent boys", "trade," or "boy toys." Male prostitutes offering services to female customers are comparatively rare and are known as "escorts" or "gigolos."
Organisers of prostitution are typically known as pimps (if male), madams (if female), and mama-sans if female and Asian. More formally, they practice procuring, and are procurers, or procuresses.
Prostitutes are stigmatised in most societies and religions; their customers are typically stigmatised to a lesser degree. The sexual counterparties of prostitutes are known as clients in Quebec, Canada, johns in the United States and either clients or punters in the UK, whilst in Sweden they are known as "Torskar", which means cod or loser In some places, men who drive around red-light districts for the purpose of soliciting prostitutes are also known as kerb crawlers.
Prostitution occurs in many varied and different settings.
In street prostitution the prostitute solicits customers while waiting at street corners or "walking the street".
Brothels are establishments specifically dedicated to prostitution, often confined to special red-light districts in big cities. Other names for brothels include Bordello, Whorehouse and Cathouse. Prostitution also occurs in some massage parlours, and in Asian countries in some barber shops where sexual services may be offered for an additional tip.
In escort prostitution, the act takes place at the customer's place of residence or more commonly at his or her hotel room (currently referred to as "out-call"), or at the escort's place of residence or in a hotel room rented for the occasion by the escort (called "incall"). This form of prostitution often shelters under the umbrella of escort agencies, who ostensibly supply attractive escorts for social occasions. While escort agencies claim never to provide sexual services, very few successful escorts are available exclusively for social companionship. Even where this prostitution is legal, the euphemistic term "escort service" is common. (See call girl) In the US, escort agencies advertise frequently on the World Wide Web and example advertisements can be readily found on any major search engine and on open forum sites such as [[Craigslist]. In the case of prostitutes using the internet to place ads, or prospective customers advertising for a prostitute, a long list of abbreviations and "code words" are used to describe how much a service may cost, or what specific act is being requested (see List of prostitution-related jargon terms).
Some escorts may work independently of an agency (indies). This is achieved by advertising the services on offer directly in newspapers, magazines or the internet. Communication with clients is usually made on a telephone and appointments are negotiated without any third party involvement. In some cases advertising may not be necessary if the prostitute sells her services only within a select group, such as a female university student prostituting herself to her male classmates out of economic necessity 
In sex tourism, travellers from rich countries travel to poorer countries such as Thailand in search of sexual services that may be unavailable in their own countries, or simply too expensive there. Other popular sex tourism destinations are Brazil, the Caribbean, and former eastern bloc countries.
The setting common in Russia and other countries of the former USSR takes the form of an open-air girl market. One prostitute stands by a roadside, and directs cars to a so-called "tochka" (usually located in alleyways or carparks), where lines of women are paraded for customers in front of their car headlights. The client selects a prostitute, whom he takes away in his car. This leaves the woman (often very young girls) particularly open to abuse. Prevalent in the late 1990s, this type of service has been steadily declining in the recent years.
A "lot lizard" is a commonly-encountered special case of street prostitution. Lot lizards mainly serve those in the trucking industry at truck stops and stopping centers. Prostitutes will often proposition truckers using a CB radio from a vehicle parked in the non-commercial section of a truck stop parking lot, communicating through codes based on commercial driving slang, then join the driver in his truck.
In street prostitution, the prostitute solicits customers while waiting at street corners, usually dressed in skimpy clothing. Street prostitutes are often called "street walkers" while their customers are referred to as "tricks" . The act is performed in the customer's car, in a nearby alley, or in a rented room (motels that service prostitutes commonly rent rooms by the half or full hour).
Escort agencies typically advertise in regional publications and even telephone listings like the Yellow Pages. Many maintain websites with photo galleries of the employees. An interested client contacts an agency by telephone and offers a description of what kind of escort they are looking for. The agency will then suggest an employee who might fit that client's need.
The agency collects the client's contact information and calls the escort. Usually, to protect the identity of the escort and ensure effective communication with the client, the agency arranges the appointment. Sometimes it may be up to the escort to contact the client directly to make arrangements for location and time of an appointment. If the agency does not supply transport to and from the client, the escort is also expected to call the agency upon arrival at the location and again upon leaving to assure his or her safe completion of the booking.
The purpose of these details is to attempt to protect the escort agency (to some degree) from prosecution for breaking the law. If the employee is solely responsible for arranging any illegal aspects of their professional encounter the agency could try to maintain plausible deniability should an arrest be made. However in practice, the use of undercover police evidence or the use of links to reviews of the agencies escorts usually results in this failing.
Typically, an agency will charge their escorts either a flat fee for each client connection or a percentage of the prearranged rate. In San Francisco, it is usual for typical heterosexual-market agencies to negotiate for as little as $100, up to a full 50 percent of an escort's reported earnings (not counting any gratuity received). If they work independently doing either incalls or outcalls, prices can range from $200 to over $5,000 for more exclusive services. Most transactions occur in cash, and optional tipping of escorts by clients in most major US cities is customary but not compulsory. Credit card processing offered by larger scale agencies is often available for a service charge.
Independent escorts, also known as providers, have differing fees depending on many factors. For example; different seasons bring about different costs (and differing levels of demand), as do regular and semi-regular customers. Some may charge by the hour, half hour or even in 15 minute blocks. Time extensions (if offered or requested) are usually priced at the same rate as the original booking. Some escorts pay another individual to act as their personal security, thus providing a level of protection to themselves from violent or abusive clients.
An escort who works less often may be able to command a premium for his or her exclusivity. One who sees several clients each day may charge less, but earn more in the end. A female university student working as a prostitute might charge less for sexual intercourse with male classmates in her dorm room, and more for clients from off-campus . Independent escorts might see clients for extended meetings involving dinner or social activities, whereas escorts who work through agencies generally provide only sexual services.
Whilst the vast majority of escort agencies are sex related, there are some non-sexual escort agencies, where escorts provide companionship for business and social occasions.
Sex tourism is travelling for sexual intercourse with prostitutes or to engage in other sexual activity. The World Tourism Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations defines sex tourism as "trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination".
Often the term "sex tourism" is mistakenly interchanged with the term "child sex tourism". A tourist who has sex with a child prostitute possibly commits a crime against international law, in addition to the host country, and the country that the tourist is a citizen of. The term "child" is often used as defined by international law and refers to any person below the age of consent.