Sex Essay

Sex work has long been described as “the worlds oldest profession” (Arnold, 2003). There has been much research in the past on many different aspects of sex work in regard to the legality and the psychological effects of the work. We are now entering a new era where research can no longer keep up with technological developments. This is also true in relation to sex work and technology. Jones (2015) has argued that literature on the topic of sex work and the online world has been too optimistic, and neglects some of the new dangers that the online aspect created. Similarly, Cunningham (2011) described some of the new markets created by moving sex work online and the differences it makes in the market. Arnold (2003) outlined data of traditional sex work and the stressors and strain sex workers face. While there has been substantial research on the subject of sex work, there has been less focus on the effects new technology, specifically the internet’s influence. This paper will describe some of the new advantages and challenges the industry as a whole face as well as challenges sex workers face as individuals. First I will examine how the internet is changing how sex is bought and sold. Second I will explore the increase in the safety of sex workers because of the internet. Third I will investigate possible risks the use of internet in sex wok brings forward, and lastly I will examine the cost change in the sex work market due to moving online. RESEARCH SUBJECT: TECHNOLOGY AND SEX WORK This paper will consider technology, specifically the internet, and its effect on sex work. Dictonary.com defined sex work plainly as “prostitution”, but urbandictionary.com gives a more urban, up-to-date definition for the purpose of this paper, defined as “a politically-correct word for the alternative to prostitution, cyber prostitution, or Premium Snapchats. A sex worker earns money through Premium Snapchats, Patreon, or other websites, as well as being paid to have sex with their clients. They are often found selling explicit nudes in exchange for money, typically through PayPal or Patreon. Decentralized pornography.” Jones (2015) defined online sex work from to range of exchanging money with a client for sex to a “webcam model who performs a masturbation show for a client or a pro-domme who skypes with a client for some set exchange value”. Traditionally, prostitution is thought as a person on the street soliciting for sex. This method made it difficult for buyers and sellers to find each other. Finding buyers on the street is not only illegal and sex workers face the threat of arrest, but they also face the possible threat of violence that came with being face to face with potential clients. Sex workers who advertised traditionally via newspaper advertisements risk arrest and prosecution. Moving soliciting sex online gave sex workers a way to easily reach buyers and vice versa, which gave protection in not only a physical barrier from their potential clients but also a way to screen them. The market for sex work before the internet was divided between low-end workers and high-end workers. Low-end workers typically participated in street and outside work which was aligned with a higher rate of violence. High-end workers usually referred to as “escorts” faced violence too but at lesser rates (Chacham, A. et al. 2007). Low-end workers are also victims of violence perpetrated by pimps, who may act as a middle man with transactions with clients and often take a large percent of the profit. Escorts were traditionally represented by agencies who also act as middlemen and took a percentage of the sex worker’s profits. Moving the sex work market to the internet created more of an overlap between high and low-end work. Internet-based work, like webcamming, and “premium” snapchat accounts, created more variety and avenues of sex work which wasn’t available pre-internet. This middle market caused the industry as a whole to be less segmented. 2. TECHNOLOGY INCREASING SAFETY Moving the industry of sex work online brings some benefits, including higher levels of safety. There are more avenues to verify the reputations of both sex workers and clients. Online apps and websites give workers a more efficient way to screen potential clients. There are “whitelists” being shared online of approved, non violent clients which are shared in sex worker forums and in sex worker circles to help protect one another. An example of a website used to help increase safety is the “Erotic Review” website. This website aims to provide a service where a client seeking to engage with a sex worker for the first time has another sex worker confirm they are not dangerous or violent. Reviews being posted about buyers/sellers also keeps both parties accountable in providing what they said they would. The internet created a place for people to safely and anonymously share information and tips, warnings about people and possible dangers they may come across. Opening up discussion on a topic that was previously kept quiet for the risk of being arrested, and also because of stigma these things have not been widely talked about. Now sex workers can find peace in anonymity and seek the information they are looking for online. Cunningham et. al (2017) reported lower incidences of violence, sexual assault and theft. In their study they surveyed 641 sex workers who utilize the internet in their work. They found out of the sex workers they had surveyed 91% had not experienced theft, 84% had not experienced physical assault, and 78% had not experienced sexual assault in the past five years. 3. TECHNOLOGY CREATING RISKS Though incidence of violence is down, the internet posses a different set of risks. Cunningham et. al (2017) reported 37 percent of sex workers said they have had their private information leaked online. Over 50 percent of the surveyed workers worried that their relatives could find out about their work through Internet. The study also showed increased levels of online harassment. Even with new ways to vet clients, there is the possibility of a violent person falling through the cracks. Meeting a stranger from online always posses a risk of violence, abuse, arrest and prosecution. Sex workers can be seen as “easy prey” to killers. One third of all homicides are committed by serial killers murdering sex workers (Cunningham and Kendall, 2016). Possibility of buyer being an undercover cop, though getting caught and arrested is a bigger threat in traditional street sex work. 4. COST SHIFTS DUE TO THE INTERNET Posting for services on websites allows sellers to gauge what other people are charging for services and gives them the information they need to not undercharge for their services. Ability to find out the cost in different places/different markets through the internet example: Hawaii is a smaller and more expensive market Borderless work creates new opportunities for earning (Jones, 2015)

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