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Prostitution and the internet (economist.com)
208 points by dbcooper on Aug 9, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments



This led me to do loads of Googling and stuff. I ended up spending ages reading this forum http://www.saafe.info/main/index.php. Really interesting to get a totally genuine insider's perspective. Seems to me that most of these girls are at the higher "escort" end of the spectrum though as they are mostly charging more than the prices I found on AdultWork (which is kind of like Just Eat but for prostitution. Browse at your peril: http://www.adultwork.com/). Fascinating.


There's lots of online resources to find sex workers. What website you use, is probably determined by what country you're in. I've never heard of adultwork.com. There are even review sites where users can review - often in unnecessary & very creepy detail - their misadventures.

Twitter is also a very useful resource for sex workers and clients. It's a useful way for a worker to promote themselves and for potential clients to get a feel of the person before making a booking.

Even in a country where sex work is legal, I feel there is still quite a bit of opportunity to create a better online resource. Especially one that caters to the sex workers more. I feel a lot of websites are too client-centric and not as useful as they could be for client or worker.


    > There are even review sites where users can review -
    > often in unnecessary & very creepy detail - their 
    > misadventures
Do you find detailed reviews of stereos to be creepy? How about a detailed review of a guitar teacher's services? Why is the detail for sex work creepy?


"Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far much more bitter, cynical sense of humor."


A lot of men go into unnecessary graphic details most of which are not really useful and unnecessarily objectify the women they review. It would be like reviewing a guitar tutor by describing how they placed their fingers on the fret board or how they turned the pages of their song book.


  "unnecessarily objectify the women they review"
I'm not commenting on whether or not the reviews are "creepy", but c'mon; these women objectify themselves for a living. Once you go down the road of selling your body I think you lose the right to complain about objectification. They are literally selling themselves as an object.


Well no, they are literally selling a service. If they were selling themselves as an object, the purchaser would actually own them.


Well, yes, they are selling their body for a short period of time, and the type of "service" they are selling is not irrelevant. If you want to play semantics then fine; they're _renting_ their body. It all amounts to the same thing and doesn't change my point. They are objectifying themselves, so I think we can cut the PC nonsense.


I don't disagree with the notion that they're objectifying themselves. I do still think your phrasing was inaccurate. Nothing political about it - it was plain incorrect.


People would judge a guitar teacher on their finger placement and general technique.


However they'd only mention it if, for some reason, something were wrong about that specific piece of technique. Otherwise they'd never mention it.


I don't think that's true. People are complimentary of others' proficiency and fingerwork (or whatever it might be called) often enough. And I think a parallel to sex work is probably music performance as much as education, in which case technique is discussed by patrons all the time.


Because you're objectifying a person?


Objectfying a person is admissible when the person is selling itself as an object.


How does that differ from the guitar teacher example?


It doesnt matter, because whiteknighting.


Slightly related: the adult business is being rejected by Google play and the app store. I think some big co should sell a modified android phone (like telcos do) with a preinstalled adult app store. Plus it could work for other adult materials such as strong-language comedies and such.


The engineering team from PornHub was at GoogleIO this year wearing shirts that said, "10,000,000 downloads and they still won't list us in the Play store."

Interestingly, they mentioned that they are now moving all servers and content to Google infrastructure.


>'I think some big co should sell a modified android phone (like telcos do) with a preinstalled adult app store.'

I expect that selling a porn phone would be like selling vibrators. If you really want to move the later you need to call it a neck massager.

I think plausible deniability / actual versatility is key in selling anything for which a big unstated selling point is enabling 'sex'.

Porn undoubtedly helped speed the adoption of VCRs and later Internet connected PCs, but they were sold as a way to watch Bambi with the family or for the kids to do homework.


I'd call it the phone for grownups, who don't need a nanny appstore or company deciding for them what they can or can't install.


Why its not as if anything is stopping people from installing 3rd party apps already.


iPhones make it almost impossible for regular users to install apps outside the store.


True but you also can't do what the op said and sell jailbroken iphones with your own appstore included. That's got to be some sort of violation of ToS with Apple.


I read today that there is already an "adult" store: mikandi (Highly NSFW)


You can download other app stores that are usually less strict on the requirements.


Com'on Windows Phone!


"Yeah I'd like that porn phone please"

"Sorry, I didn't quite catch that, a torn phone?"

"No, the porn phone"

"The what phone? We have a great new Samsung Galaxy-"

"THE PORN PHONE ALREADY!!"


Only, that's not how it would be bought. People would buy their porn phone online, just like they buy they porn, and their hookers, and their erotica from Amazon. Nobody (almost) walks into a Walmart to buy porn or hookers - they do so online, where it's all nicely anonymous.


Imagine how disruptive would be for porn, if Amazon decided to enter the business (as a producer).


This would ultimately end up in a dispute between Amazon and a major talent agency over pricing. More than 900 prominent porn stars would take out a $100,000 full-page ad in the New York Times to raise awareness of how they are being financially disadvantaged by Amazon's actions in the ongoing dispute.


Or Netflix.


There's a lot of erotica on the Kindle store


I doubt that Amazon's classic strategy (Your margin is my opportunity) would be that disruptive to pornographic content.


Robot sex?


You have a very curious mind.


I think I'd have to reassess my opinions of Walmart if they started to carry porn and hookers in-store.

I still wouldn't shop there though.


Maybe, but you're still walking around with a porn phone in your pocket or next to your ear, marking you out to everyone in the know as the sort of person who is so into internet porn that they're willing to invest money in a device that makes getting internet porn even easier than it already is.


Why are you assuming it'd be recognizable? They would just take a popular device model and load it up with a different ROM.


Walmart hookers? That's gross.


I'm just imagining what an app/website would be like, if prostitution was legal.

You would probably select hair color, bust, age, ethnicity, body type, and see recent test results for STI tests. Then you'd probably get an estimates time when they'd arrive to your place.

It would be extremely interesting to see anonymous user data from such a service.


That sounds quite close to what the article describes as already available.


Besides Adultwork (which is mostly UK), Europe also has http://www.callgirl-list.com/ (mostly Germany and Hungary). USA has http://theeroticreview.com/ pity Canada, New Zealand, Australia does not have one or I am unaware of such.


Look at hook up sites for gay men. It's as close to that as you can get. Dick size, etc


Isn't prostitution legal in Germany? I wonder why it isn't happening there.

That said, I think the market for GFE and escorts is the future since legal prostitution means a general depression in prices so its no longer worth it to engage in what's actually a pretty physical activity.


From the article:

> FOR those seeking commercial sex in Berlin, Peppr, a new app, makes life easy. Type in a location and up pops a list of the nearest prostitutes, along with pictures, prices and physical particulars. Results can be filtered, and users can arrange a session for a €5-10 ($6.50-13) booking fee. It plans to expand to more cities.


It's kind of re assuring that religion and prostitution have such shitty representation ---- kinda says something about those things eh?


There's a dark half of this market that wasn't mentioned in the article-- as prostitution moves online, so does human trafficking. Here's a report on the topic: http://technologyandtrafficking.usc.edu/report/


Which is why prostitution needs to be legalised and regulated and people need to stop stigmatising it. It becomes much less of a problem when the people involved know they have rights and can safely go to the authorities if they need help.


That's not enough. There's the consideration that trafficking often involves underage participants, and as long as demand for sex with minors exists, then so will trafficking. Also, the law enforcement units in the US that are dedicated to fighting trafficking are already specialized enough to ignore "regular" prostitution, so it's not like the fact that prostitution is illegal is distracting them.


Prostitution is legal and regulated in The Netherlands. That doesn't seem to help with human trafficking. In fact, it's the top destination for human trafficking according to the UN ODC and it keeps rising. I am not sure, but have a strong feeling that's the case in the other countries where prostitution is legal and/or regulated.

Do you care to back up your claim with some evidence or at least shed some light how you came up with it in the first place?


(Some) people in the Netherlands have also been pushing hard to get prostitution marginalized again, largely under the banner of human trafficking.

Do you know for example that most human trafficking number includes every prostitute that has paid someone for assistance with moving to the Netherlands? Like finding a house, opening a bank account and things like that?

Human trafficking is to prostitution what child porn is to online privacy.


At least some of the UN's figures on human trafficking are based on the amount of news reports about it - which, given all the activist groups with good press contacts using it to argue that prostitution should be banned, is not a terribly accurate measure.


The question is how well it is regulated. I don't know anything about the business. But I'd assume that with the right kind of regulations it can be controlled. E.g., require prostitutes to register. Registering should include a short course about basic rights and hygiene. They should have to go to regular health checks (maybe once a week), which should also provide access to social and legal counselling. The brothels should be required to keep track of anyone who works there and make sure that anyone working there has done those checks. This should be _regularly_ checked by the authority. Violations should be harshly punished.

Of course there is a risk if you over regulate it that there will still be black market prostitution happening. Especially if those regulations result in a price increase. Which regular health checks and access to social/legal counselling would certainly do.


It's pretty well regulated. Quite close to the degree you're describing but based on fairly comprehensive spot checks rather than regular checks if I'm correct.

The fact that they are so well registered is also one of the reasons why we feature so high on the UN's numbers. In very few other countries can you just survey all registered worker and then label them as trafficking victims whether they agree with that label or not.


I was also relating this topic with the truck drivers discussion[1], where it was pointed out that the drivers themselves ignore the safety rules of their job. Cracked[2] has a similar gem:

> Plus, there's a logbook to keep, and regulations that demand that truckers don't drive for longer than 11 hours a day and spend at least 10 hours sleeping. So another big part of trucking is, of course, lying about all that s..t.

So it doesn't seem to me that laws are the definite answer to the problem.

As a side note, even if there were a legal framework, would a trafficked person have access to it? I doubt traffickers allow their "employees" to have private, uninterrupted talks with the customers (or anyone). Hell, I don't even know how to say "Help, I'm being held against my will" in Dutch.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8158076

[2] http://www.cracked.com/article_21488_5-terrifying-things-onl...


I am quite sure there's a lot more trafficked farm workers than prostitutes in the US. This is a simple question of supply and demand of work and workers, has very little to do with sex.


I'm in AU where prostitution is legal and regulated, but laws vary from state to state.

As far as I can tell trafficking is not a huge problem. There is certainly no incentive for the majority of clients to seek out trafficked workers when the legal options are very easily available.

I've also heard a couple of stories where there have been violent clients or clients refusing to pay, and they worker just went to the police to help sort it out. So at least here the system is ok.


While I agree with your thrust the UN numbers are a joke. They have little factual basis.


Maybe we showcase our sideproject one day on hackernews. Created on a weekend last year... Created with Django

international sex database isexdb.com

http://www.isexdb.com/

[Sorry, throw away account, as you may imagine...]


Women are not commodities and the only disruption we should think of in relation to prostitution is how to abolish it. I think anyone who benefits from prostitution should be regarded as a pimp, and that includes programmers who write code to make prostitution "available anytime, anywhere."

If you are serious about gender equality and about human rights, please stop for a minute and educate yourselves in relation to the following questions: * Can a teenager truly and freely choose prostitution? Does she have an alternative? Should we allow people to become slaves if they choose to? Should we allow the selling of human organs in the free market? * What are the mortality rates and health risks facing women and men in prostitution? Is it like any other occupation? Does it bear any similarity to a guitar teacher? * Cui bono? Who benefits from prostitution? * Are there any happy stories of people in prostitution? When they share their experiences, what do they tell? How does it feel like to be penetrated 12, 15, 20 times a day?

Here are some links to abolitionists sites: http://prostitutionresearch.com/ http://www.veronicasvoice.org/ http://abolishprostitutionnow.wordpress.com/ http://www.antipornography.org/ex-porn-star-Vanessa-Belmond.... http://www.enddemandillinois.org/


How are "relationships" based on money or "sugar daddies" any different than what you describe I think you mean well but you are naively trying to treat prostitution as a simple issue and not see it as a spectrum.

Also the arguments are a bit weak, the mortality rates may be higher than a guitar but what about a crab fisherman or police officer? You can be extreme on both sides. You could be so myopically libertarian as to neglect how certain forms of prostitution will affect society but you are on the other side of that extreme.


There are some forms of sugar-daddying which are not so different than prostitution. However, women who marry or date wealthy and elderly men do not necessarily commit themselves to prostitution. You are right to argue that there is a spectrum. I do not see how it negates a moral statement against punters.

You are also right to argue that I'm on one side of the extreme, it is radical to call for the abolition of prostitution. I do not consider it as a pejorative description. I would just like to remind you that the faction in the antebellum Republican Party who called for the abolition of slavery was called the radical wing, and was considered extremist by Lincoln himself as well as many other northerners who could not imagine the emancipation of the slaves.


So you are calling for complete abolishment and criminalization transaction that can occur between consenting adults and you liken your position to that of the slavery abolitioners?

It's very easy to take a radical position and just appeal to "well these people thought the world was flat, but look how silly they are now" type observations but I don't think it strengthen to position. Slavery was the forcing people to work and leave their families against their, amongst other things.

When people argue against the criminalization of prostitution, they are not in support of traffickers. It's not radical to say people should not be forced to have sex, even if you think this makes you like Lincoln.


I'm calling to the criminalization of the client, meaning prostitution would not be held illegal but buying sex would be prohibited by law.

My argument was not prostitution equals slavery per se. My point was that the term radical refers to the abolition of a phenomena and therefore should be considered in relation to that phenomena and not by itself. If you believe that prostitution, or even some forms of it, is a wonderful thing that promotes human dignity then I can see why my radical stand against it seems bad to you. I think prostitution harms the people in it and harms us and therefore taking measures like legislation in hope of a radical change seems to me to be reasonable and positive, even if there is a very tiny minority among the people in prostitution who claim to have chosen freely with their eyes wide open.


So you believe prostitution harms the people in it, so your remedy is to cause further harm by sending the clients to jail?

If there are women being forced into sex then there are laws already to protect them.

Why do you feel its necessary to tell other people how to live their lives?

Who are you to decide whether a woman and a man can agree to exchange money and sex?


- "so your remedy is to cause further harm by sending the clients to jail?" - The goal is not to imprison men, it's to change the cultural environment which permits and supports prostitution. The sanctions vary and incarceration is not the first priority, other sanctions include fines and participation in workshops in which the clients hear about the damages that prostitution inflicts on the people in it.

- "If there are women being forced into sex then there are laws already to protect them" - According to a comprehensive study held in numerous countries, "71% of respondents had been physically assaulted while in prostitution, 63% had been raped, and 68% were said to meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. ... 89% of the respondents wished to leave prostitution, but lacked the means to do so."[1]

- "Why do you feel its necessary to tell other people how to live their lives?" Liberty is the freedom to live your life however you choose as long as you do not harm others. Clients harm people in prostitution.

-"Who are you to decide whether a woman and a man can agree to exchange money and sex?" I'm someone who cares about the women, men and children in prostitution. Who are you and who do you care about?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melissa_Farley#Studies_of_sex_... [there's a link to the full study]


Not that I necessarily disagree with your points but, I'm sure you're aware the wiki article you referenced also mentions:

"Her prostitution studies have been criticized by sociologist Ronald Weitzer, for alleged problems with their methodology. In particular, Weitzer was critical of what he viewed as the lack of transparency in how the interviews were conducted and how the responses were translated into statistical data, as well as the sampling bias toward highly marginalized groups of sex workers (such as street workers) and for the way the findings of Farley's studies have been more generally applied to demonstrate the harm of sex work of all kinds. A 2002 study by Chudakov, et al. used Farley's PTSD instrument to measure the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder among sex workers in Israel. Of the fifty five consenting women interviewed, 17% met the criteria for PTSD, compared to Farley's 68% figure. Farley's critics also claim that her findings are heavily influenced by her radical feminist ideology.

Farley has also been criticized for accepting significant funding from anti-prostitution organizations. She has acknowledged that 30% of funding for a prominent research project into prostitution was provided by the United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, an agency with an outspoken policy which conflates sex work with human trafficking. However, Farley has stated that such funding has not in any way swayed her research, in particular its methods or conclusions."


What an idiotic comment. I am so serious about gender rights that I have talked to an actual prostitute and treated with her as much respect as I would do to a mother, sister or friend. Especially in my country where the average people are so regressive that if they hear that a girl has kissed before marriage, they look down upon that girl. However, like a lot of professions, I think the best way to tackle prostitution is to legalize and regulate it. It's only in poor places where it is illegal that human trafficking is rampant, whereas it is very easy for some humans to take advantage of the situation. And yes, there are people who are in prostitution by choice. As long as it is regulated by the government (sorry American libertarians, the government actually has a lot of use in countries like mine, irrespective of what you like to think) with proper medical check-ups, strict laws against abuse, it is a very important part of civilization which should never be allowed to become "extinct". In fact, I would argue that prostitution is what keeps a natural lid on male aggression and violence and helps society in more ways than people give it credit for.


There is no need to argue about the issue of legalizing prostitution since it has been tested and failed to produce better conditions for the people in prostitution. Just look for reports on the results of legalization in Germany for example, where the legalization increased demand, expanded the "market," and increased human trafficking.

Regarding your conviction that it "keeps a natural lid on male aggression and violence." I would argue that it is completely false and degrade men, but if you insist I would urge you to volunteer to the joy division and keep the lid on male aggression and violence yourself before volunteering other people to do the nasty job.


Interesting about Germany and the increase in human trafficking. When they chose to legalize, I thought may be this is a good thing.


So you disagree by insulting and bullying. "What an idiotic comment", was that line necessary.


> * Can a teenager truly and freely choose prostitution? Does she have an alternative?

In Sweden, there are more teenage boys that have prostituted themselves than teenage girls. The majority of these are middle-class kids who use this extra income to buy themselves status items such as clothes, gadgets, or jewelry.

This issue is very nuanced, and you should be skeptical of anyone making definitive claims about all prostitutes, or all prostitution.

So one answer to your questions would be 1) Yes, see above, and 2) Yes, these kids could get any number of legal part-time jobs, but they freely choose this. They're not stupid, they're not poor, they're not forced, yet this is the choice they make knowing, or thinking they know, the full consequences of it.


Not just in Sweden, it's a global phenomena, some call it Designer Sex. In many cases there are predators involved who seduce the children, predators who have developed some very sharp sensors to detect the child who will consent because it's not always just about the money. What do you consider the appropriate age of consent to this kind of proposition? 17? 16? 14? why not 10?

One of the major obstacles to leaving prostitution, and not just for kids, is the addiction to money. However, it is not an easy money and it does not bear good memories and in many cases people in prostitution would get rid of it very quickly and spend it on stuff they don't need.




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