Prostitution moves on to Facebook
NEW YORK ― Just five years ago prostitutes in Manhattan had to work the streets, hide from cops and confront everyday problems of rival street walkers and pimps. But now, they’re avoiding all this and taking care of business in the “comfort” of their homes ― thanks to Facebook. The world’s oldest profession has finally jumped on the Facebook bandwagon, meaning sexual rendezvous are becoming more discreet and convenient.So how popular is the online social tool?
A new survey of 290 sex workers in New York City found that 83 percent of them relied on Facebook to book clients.
The study conducted by Columbia University sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh shows that the popular site provided at least 25 percent of their regular clients.
Venkatesh says emerging technology has completely transformed the rules of the trade.
“No self-respecting cosmopolitan man looking for an evening of companionship is going to lean out to a woman at a traffic light,’’ he revealed in his findings in the February issue of Wired Magazine. “The Internet and the rise of mobile phones have enabled some sex workers to professionalize their trade.’’
“Today they can control their image, set their prices and sidestep some of the pimps, madams, and other intermediaries who once took a share of the revenue,’’ said Venkatesh.
As the study indicates, a quick search on Facebook can land users on dozens of pages providing professional services.
Some sites use the “wall’’ to disclose up front all the information potential clients would want to know including prices per service, while others direct users to a separate website. Either way, access to prostitutes is literally only a few clicks away.
And all of this reliance on technology means hookers need to stay savvy and stay connected around the clock.
Sex workers carrying around a BlackBerry not only helps to get business done, but also sends off a positive image.
“To clients, this symbol of professional life suggests the worker is drug- and disease-free,’’ said Venkatesh.
He estimates that, given all the benefits, more prostitutes are going to turn to Facebook, something authorities will increasingly keep an eye on.
“I estimate that by the end of 2011, Facebook will be the leading online recruitment space,’’ said Venkatesh.
Observers say this spike may become a problem for Facebook as it was for Craigslist, a popular Internet classified site, until it was ordered to completely shut down its Adult Services section last year after a flurry of controversies.