Feds Hurt Sex Workers' Bottom Lines by Shutting Down Prostitution Website
The world’s oldest profession has been transformed by the Internet, and many sex workers say that it has made their jobs safer and more independent, according to a report by SFGate.
"The Internet has been the most widely used form of sex work advertising for the past 10 years now, maybe even longer than that," said Jolene Parton, 26, who advertises herself online for providing sex for hire. "It's where the clients are, it's where you get business, and it's just so much easier to go into it for yourself and not have to pay somebody else to do that work for you."
However, SFGate reported that the June shut down of MyRedBook and the arrests of its owners, who allegedly were getting rich operating the site, infuriated many of the sex workers, because the website allowed them to advertise their services for free. Law enforcement sees things differently, claiming that such websites minister to human trafficking and the continued exploitation of women and children by forceful pimps.
"The behavior remains illegal," said Casey Bates, an Alameda County Deputy District Attorney who leads the office's human exploitation and trafficking unit. "There's danger associated with prostitution. It's unfortunate, but that's the reality of it. When people say it's a victimless crime, that's not true."
Bates’ point seems to be validated by the recent death of Forrest Timothy Hayes, 51, a Google executive who was left to die in his yacht after a prostitute, Alix Catherine Tichelman, allegedly shot him up with heroin. She is now being charged with manslaughter, and SFGate reports that she was connected with Hayes through the adult website Seeking Arrangement.
All of this has taken a toll, according to Parton. The shutdown of MyRedBook seems to be pinching the sex workers, many whom have seen a drop in business. "Right now, everyone I know is noticing a pretty solid down-tick in how many new clients are contacting them, because they're scared," she said. "I have the privilege to be able to turn down clients. I'm not desperate for money. But a lot of people don't have that ability and maybe have to see more dangerous clients."