NYC’s High-Tech Sex Workers Carry BlackBerrys and Advertise on Facebook

blackberry ho NYCs High Tech Sex Workers Carry BlackBerrys and Advertise on FacebookHow are the world’s oldest professions using the world’s newest technology?

Wired’s “How Tech Tools Transformed New York’s Sex Trade,” by Columbia sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh, describes how sex workers are using modern tools to protect themselves and be their own bosses.

Mr. Venkatesh studyied the sex industry in New York City by following 290 women for at least a year. He found that technology has significantly impacted the way prostitutes do business. Sex workers are making their own websites in favor of using pimps and using Facebook to find clients instead of Craigslist.

“No self-respecting cosmopolitan man looking for an evening of companionship is going to lean out his car window and call out to a woman at a traffic light,” Mr. Venkatesh writes. “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.”

BlackBerrys are the preferred brand among sex workers, because it symbolizes professionalism and suggests the worker is responsible and disease-free. Seventy percent of sex workers carry BlackBerrys, versus 19 percent for the iPhone and 11 percent for other smartphones. Sixty-one percent of the women interviewed for the story had used Craigslist to advertise, but 83 percent have a Facebook page. “I estimate that by the end of 2011, Facebook will be the leading on-line recruitment space,” Mr. Venkatesh writes.

There are other growing technologies that could make the lives of sex workers easier, mobile payments being the obvious example.

ajeffries [at] observer.com | @adrjeffries

Article continues below
More from Politics
STAR OF DAVID OR 'PLAIN STAR'?   If you thought "CP Time" was impolitic, on July 2 Donald Trump posted a picture on Twitter of a Star of David on top of a pile of cash next to Hillary Clinton's face. You'd think after the aforementioned crime stats incident (or after engaging a user called "@WhiteGenocideTM," or blasting out a quote from Benito Mussolini, or...) Trump would have learned to wait a full 15 seconds before hitting the "Tweet" button. But not only was the gaffe itself bad, the attempts at damage control made the BP oil spill response look a virtuoso performance.  About two hours after the image went up on Trump's account, somebody took it down and replaced it with a similar picture that swapped the hexagram with a circle (bearing the same legend "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!"!). Believe it or not, it actually got worse from there. As reports arose that the first image had originated on a white supremacist message board, Trump insisted that the shape was a "sheriff's star," or "plain star," not a Star of David. And he continued to sulk about the coverage online and in public for days afterward, even when the media was clearly ready to move on. This refusal to just let some bad press go would haunt him later on.
Donald Trump More Or Less Says He’ll Keep On Tweeting as President