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.