Control Tower

How to Keep Your Sex Business Humming Without Craigslist

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A moment of silence, please, to mark a passing. The love child of free speech and free enterprise that was the Craigslist Erotic Services section is no more. State attorneys around the country have been hounding Craigslist for over a year to censor sex-work ads. On September 3, the site, facing massive lawsuits and a firestorm of bad press, bowed to the pressure and removed the ads.

I understand why Craigslist did it, but from a First Amendment standpoint, this is bad. The notion that censoring Craigslist makes people safer is a canard; it's simply a sad example of political scapegoating. Any traffickers in children and unwilling women will go about their business, undeterred, while politicians praise themselves for being tough on pedophiles. However, other people can address that issue far better than I can. I want to teach a brief lesson in Sex Worker Business 101, because on that subject, I am an authority.

My dear colleagues, I had a career as an independent sex worker before the internet existed. Do you know where we used to put ads? The Yellow Pages. I'm serious. Phone books were printed once a year, and if you missed the deadline—well, too bad. Try again next year. Thus, I have little patience with e-mails and blog posts and message- board threads where sex workers wail, "Omigod, how can I possibly make a living now that Craigslist doesn't have the Erotic Services section?"

You can get off your lazy butts and market somewhere else, that's what you can do. Look, no one enjoys spending lots of time (and money) placing ads. It's tedious and often frustrating. However, if you're an independent sex worker, you must be a salesperson as well as a service provider. You must do all the same things any business owner does, and you must do it while coping with a repressive legal and social environment. I'm sorry—did someone tell you being an outlaw was going to be easy?

Stop thinking like an employee. If you were still totally dependent on Craigslist to get clients, then you ignored warning signs and created a single point of failure for your business. This time, diversify your advertising, so if one forum folds, you're not left hanging. (For the inevitable cries of "I don't know where to put ads," try "escort ads" + your city in Google. Plus, a rap with the clue stick.)

You've all gotten to vent, so it's time to stop whining that it's not fair. No, it's not fair that consenting adults cannot sell their time for any amicable activity they choose. It's unjust, and we should work to change it. But whining won't pay your rent, so if you want to make a living in the sex industry today, you better toughen up, buttercup. Besides, the best revenge against tyrants is finding ways to flourish despite their best efforts. So get going. recommended


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shuvoff 1
As Danah Boyd so eloquently explains in this article, the motivations of those prosecutors to help victims of sex slavery is honorable, however the lack of comprehension for the real-life effects of this policy is lacking.…
Posted by shuvoff on September 22, 2010 at 1:59 PM · Report this
Wow, the beginning of this is so incredibly stupid it defies belief. OF COUSE craiglist made it easier for pimps and pedaphiles to exist as it was practically free advertizing. Make it harder and more expensive for folks to advertize and you're obviously hurting their business, duh. And no person who has, you know, READ the U.S. Constitution thinks the 1st amendment trumps EVERYTHING else in the U.S. justice system (you obviously can't advertzie for burglars, arsonists, forgers, or murderers either, to name just a few illegal acts where you have no freedom to advertize your skills). So, I have no sympathy for those whining about their free speech rights being violated. As for those too stupid to figure out how to otherwise market their business, well, that's evolution in action (and perhaps a prime reason why they're in the sex business to begin with?).
Posted by olderwithmoreinsurance on September 25, 2010 at 3:24 PM · Report this
@olderwithmoreinsurance You're missing the point. If Craigslist wants to refuse to allow sex ads, they are perfectly within their rights to do so. But when the government threatens and pressures Craigslist into ceasing to publish them, that's censorship and a violation of the 1st Amendment. And that's what happened. CL even had a big black bar saying CENSORED on its site for a time.
Posted by Larkshead on September 26, 2010 at 2:07 AM · Report this
"Make it harder and more expensive for folks to advertize and you're obviously hurting their business, duh."

So you think prostitution will decrease now that it won't be advertised on Craigslist?
Posted by kungfujew on September 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM · Report this
@kungfujew But of course! Also, now that prostitution can't be advertised on Craigslist pedophilia has ceased to exist.
Posted by Zuulabelle on September 27, 2010 at 1:16 PM · Report this
I'm so glad that sex workers won't be able to post on a moderated forum like craigslist. Now, they (and their customers) will be much safer on the remaining "anything goes" listings that are still out there.

Because its so much better for the prosecutors to go after a forum that makes a good faith effort to note and report suspected underage/trafficking exploitation than to actually, you know, go after the people doing the exploiting.
Posted by djheru on September 29, 2010 at 9:26 AM · Report this

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