“Prostitutes have turned to the Internet and small, independently operated message boards as a means of empowerment.”

Oldest Profession 2.0: A new generation of local “providers” and “hobbyists” create a virtual red light district

An escort herself, the site’s creator says she founded STLASP in June of last year after moving to the St. Louis area from Southern California, where she’d been involved in a nearly identical online community. She found that the message board not only made her job safer by allowing her to screen her clients, it also created a tight-knit network of the region’s online escorts, providing a forum for them to share knowledge, including concerns about potentially dangerous johns.

“I’m trying to educate the women and give them a chance to feel safe and feel a connection with others that are in the same industry,” says the woman, who agreed to be interviewed for this story on the condition that she not reveal her real name and that she be referred to as “Mac.”

“There’s a lot of power in numbers. I’m trying to educate them to be as independent as they can and make smart choices.”

The idea of escorts on the Internet is nothing new — the oldest profession has long embraced 21st-century technology. But according to Stacey Swimme, co-founder of
sex worker-rights organizations the Desiree Alliance and the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Mac’s site is part of an emerging national trend: Prostitutes have turned to the Internet and small, independently operated message boards as a means of empowerment.

“From what I’ve been researching about the sex industry over the past 25 years, that is the biggest change,” Swimme says. “Providers are talking to each other. That is a force to be reckoned with. That is where political power comes from, is that sort of community-building.”

4 Responses

  1. That was an interesting article, and they quoted Amanda several times! ❤

  2. It’s laced with the usual classist crap like:

    For Mac, it’s a troubling reality that she says she wants to avoid. “I don’t even want to entertain the idea of reviewing streetwalkers,” she says. “It’s a whole different industry that I know nothing about. There’s been a lot of gripes from other ladies on the board saying they don’t want it either.

    “I don’t want to make any negative remarks toward these women,” she hastens to add. “In fact, I have a lot of compassion for them. But the risks that they take are so huge that it’s scary to me.”

    Of course, risk isn’t limited to street hookers. In addition to sexually transmitted disease,

    (they just say this like it’s true!)

    “Escort services, whether online or not, are basically prostitution,” asserts assistant United States attorney Howard Marcus, who is based in St. Louis. “Most of the women that end up working in this area are all, despite what they might say, victims. It takes a toll on your life, it takes a toll on your family life. Many have a history of alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic problems. There’s typically a traumatic event, some kind of abuse, that leads them into this line of work.”

    “I don’t like to see anyone [provider or hobbyist] get popped,” one poster wrote last month. “But if a person is dumb enough to work out of/make an appointment in MH…it serves them right IMHO.”

    (The above statement makes it sound like the worker has control over conditions)

  3. Sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice, the escort message boards are all too often affiliated with john boards In the bay area we have my pink book, which is operated by red book, an escort review site. Pink book used to be private, and escorts could only join by proving they had online ads. I used to feel safe posting there. But a few years ago they stopped screening and anybody signing up “female” could join, and that included several johns who wanted to read what we were sharing. There are some private areas on the site that you can only see if you log in, but they don’t screen who joins anymore, so anybody can look at it.

    In my experience with “hobbyist” sites and boards, the “empowerment” most often goes to the customers, as they offer a way for them to intimidate and pressure working girls to give more service (for less money of course) through writing reviews about their looks and sex acts they’ll perform and whether or not they had a positive attitude about it.

  4. The antidote to the mediocrity has been to develop and expand my own sexual experience in my personal life as well as my professional life. Attending Tanta kinds of workshops and fabulous experiences hosted by the Body Electric School of Massage based in Oakland have been some of the touchstones for me in imaging what kinds of peace and freedom is possible for myself and the world. I have the ability to be totally present regardless of who I’m with, what we’re doing, how they are treating me, or what they are paying me.

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