The business of sex went online very early. In the meantime, there are numerous opportunities on the Internet for anyone who wants or needs to make money from it – and with them new kinds of threats. This is Prostitution 2.0 – in the sense of a new version of prostitution.
INTERNET FOR THE PEOPLE
Even in the stone age of the Internet, when people began to communicate with each other via computer networks, sex and eroticism were also considered important content. The photo upload we know today did not exist back then, so the first pornographic images were created using keyboard characters – “ASCII porn“. A little later, photos began to be collected and distributed in so-called “news groups”.
When the Internet became accessible to the general public in the mid-90s, two women, among others, did pioneering work: Danni Ashe with “Danni’s Hard Drive“, a highly successful porn site programmed by Danni herself; also Jennifer Ringley, who installed “JenniCAM” at her home in 1996, is considered the first camgirl. She used it to broadcast her entire life, including nude and sex scenes, on the screens of interested viewers. Ad portals such as Craigslist and today’s eBay also went online, ideal platforms for offering sexual services.
With the rapid development of the Internet, the opportunities for prostitutes also increased. There are now countless websites, platforms, forums and apps offering sex at the click of a mouse, making prostitutes a commodity to be ordered.
THE INTERNET GOES SOCIAL
One of the great advantages of the Internet is that you can fulfill paying viewers’ sexual desires from a safe distance. While there are special studios where camgirls can rent space, with the right technology – i.e. a computer with Internet access and a webcam – you can also go online in your own home. Since cam sex does not require direct physical contact, women and new customers feel more secure. The entry is much lower-threshold than directly over the red light milieu. Women can “try it out” quite easily, but they almost always leave digital traces. When you use commercial platforms, you usually transfer the rights of the images to the operators.
The Internet also offers some advantages for initiating contact with prostitutes. Instead of meeting directly in various establishments, on the street or by phone, prostitutes now have the opportunity to research the customer and network with each other to exchange (negative) experiences. If one then rejects the customer, this is also done from a safe distance without the possibility of putting oneself in danger.
On various platforms and forums, prostitutes can create their profile with photos and a description of their services. They can also draw attention to themselves via entries in social media, their own websites or, as in the past, with ads on advertising portals. One app, for example, lets potential suitors select a woman according to the Tinder principle – only when the answer is yes does the man see the woman’s profile and decide whether it will be a “match.”
Some clients, on the other hand, exchange information in various “whore forums”, where the tone is usually obscene and contemptuous of human beings. These users – who remain anonymous – create posts about the individual prostitutes. By means of photos, contact data and (artist) names, the women are presented in a recognizable way. In addition there are partly very detailed descriptions of the exchange, evaluations of the willingness, the orgasm credibility, the appearance, is she fatter than on the pictures? Does she smell? Does she swallow? One site even calls itself the “Whore Test Foundation.” On another platform, men can keep “Already-f**ked albums,” or whore scrapbooks. https://www.vice.com/de/article/kbvkqz/stiftung-hurentest-im-tripadvisor-der-deutschen-freier
INTERNET MAKES PROSTITUTION SAFER, ACCORDING TO A UK STUDY
A study was conducted in the United Kingdom from 2015 to 2017 with over 600 prostitutes who use the Internet to initiate contact. Nearly 80% of the participants said that the Internet had led to an improvement in working conditions. Self-determination at work had greatly increased, while acts of violence had decreased – only 5% reported physical or sexual assault in the previous year.
Working without third parties, such as pimps or rooming houses, women were able to work more independently and leave with more of their earnings. On the other hand, they would lack the protection and support of other prostitutes in case of emergency.
However, not every prostitute has the opportunity to use the Internet. For example, women from poverty or forced prostitution sometimes lack language skills or a smartphone, or even internet access.
THE INTERNET ALSO POSES RISKS
Since brothels and clubs had to close due to the work ban caused by the Covid epidemic, many prostitutes turned to the Internet to initiate contacts. Hardly anyone could afford the loss of earnings; some, with suitable equipment, could at least continue working as cam girls. Showing one’s face on the World Wide Web, however, often means shedding anonymity, which can bring new dangers.
This is because crime does not stop at the Internet – it is quite the opposite. The feeling of anonymity lowers the inhibition threshold. Camsex performances, for example, can be filmed secretly, making women vulnerable to blackmail. “Doxxing“ refers to the publication of personal data, for example by sending a sex video to family or friends. The psychological and social consequences of this can be devastating. Prostitutes can also be affected by cyberbullying, including name-calling, insults and being humiliated, or cyberstalking, which is the repeated spying, stalking and terrorizing of the victim. In these cases, victims should not hesitate to contact the police or a counseling center.
Technological progress means that more and more of our activities are also being carried out virtually. Artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, the metaverse – some of this is already a reality. What this means for prostitution in concrete terms remains to be seen. In any case, business with sex will continue to be done in the future, perhaps even more so than now.
Translated by Emily Schiffer
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