While the taboo around escorts is as old as written history, it was by no means a universal taboo until the spread of Abrahamic religions by the west and middle east. Historically, in many cultures, escorts had a very public and accepted place in society.
In ancient Egypt, it was simply a side job most peasants did from time to time, to supplement their income (grain, as Egypt bartered up to the time Rome conquered them). This is actually a fairly recent discovery in Egyptology as writings by common people were unearthed in villages near temples, where the builders, their families and the gaggle of services to support a settlement lived.
In ancient Greece, escorts were actually revered and respected. They were in fact a sort of clergy in the classical Greek religion. The temples of Aphrodite would select only the most eloquent, intelligent and beautiful peasant girls to serve in the temples. They were not just accepted, they were revered and honored. It was a high station to achieve and coveted by many girls not of noble birth.
In Rome, which was an evolution of the Hellenic culture, the temples of Minerva hosted not just the most beautiful peasant women, but the most handsome peasant men not enlisted in the military. Their lives were in fact decadent in the way only Roman life could be. The provincial peoples in the far reaches of the empire often sought such positions for their children when they came of age, as it was a guaranteed better life than they could ever have otherwise.
In Asian cultures, escorts were a part of life, though it was far less egalitarian than in ancient Europe. On the mainland, most escorts were more or less indentured servants, which in such cultures made them temporary possessions of the nobility they served. In Japan, though, the refinement and classification of escort services reached its apex, and this remains mostly true today.
When thinking of traditional Japanese culture, geishas are sure to cross one’s mind. To be a geisha was to hold a very paradoxical social station in feudal Japan. They belonged to no man, but belonged to their house, which was dominated by an older matron (usually formerly a geisha herself). Geishas spent most of their time with their clients in public, eating, drinking and laughing at their bad jokes and drunken foolishness. They would sometimes play music or do fan dances for the entire group or read poetry. They often reached a sort of celebrity status in their town and sometimes even their entire prefecture.
Today, while geishas exist as a traditional cultural novelty, fÅ«zoku have taken their place, providing the same kind of good company both in private and in public. While laws regulate fÅ«zoku due to those western taboos contaminating the culture, the widespread engagement of fÅ«zoku is a fundamental part of modern Japanese culture.
In the American frontier of the 19th century, escorts were a widely-accepted part of life in town. There were guaranteed to be escorts in every bar happy to keep prospectors and hard-working homesteaders company for a little while. In such a bleak and oppressive time and place, there would likely have been a lot more shoot outs were escorts not around to lighten the mood on a regular basis.
The future will see a resurgence of this general acceptance of escorts as just another vital service as our society’s very shape changes over the course of this century and the next.