Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brave New World, Part 2

A While back, I posted a story about porn on cell phones and mulled over the new issues that it would pose for society. Now, out of a very timely example, we have cell phones assisting the sex industry.

Prostitution in a wired world
How technology has changed the world’s oldest profession

It may be the world's oldest profession, but prostitution is using some 21st-century tricks.

Do tell.

The prostitution scandal involving New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer lays bare some of the inner workings of modern-day sex work: text messaging to clock in the client, electronic fund transfers, a Web site featuring color photos, prices and rankings.

Lays bare. Mheh. I guess someone learned something at j-school.

There's always been a distinction between indoor and street-level prostitution, and advances in technology have increasingly separated the two, said Ronald Weitzer, author of "Sex for Sale: Prostitution, Pornography and the Sex Industry."

You mean how one is frowned upon, and the other leads to a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more."?

Not only can prostitutes and escort services now run more efficient businesses, but they can leverage word-of-mouth advertising in new ways to build their brands and troll for clients. Online social communities built around the escort and sex worker industries can solidify customer loyalty.

Crawly must be so proud of himself. Something new to brag about at his weekly meeting with Arazaphel. (See Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman.)

"It's commercial, but it's also social, so people do really form relationships," says Audacia Ray, author of "Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads, and Cashing in on Internet Sexploration" and a former sex worker.

"Clients become buddies," she said.
Who loses the most in this arrangement?

There are a host of online message boards where clients or potential clients can discuss, rate and exchange information about individual women.
"Screw the little black book! Give us the bandwidth!"

A recent rating of one woman on the escort-review site http://www.bigdoggie.com reads: "She is the real deal. She's bright, funny, enthusiastic, beautiful, flawless body, really loves what she does."
"It isn't about the money. She loves me. She really loves me."

Another woman got a bad review — not for her physical shortcomings, but for her communications etiquette: "... didn't return calls or e-mails. Irresponsible."
"Because I need to be the focus of her attention at all times, even when I am not paying her."

Such sites are natural places for escorts or prostitutes to advertise, linking to their own Web sites, a technique many sex workers use, Ray said.
Low overhead, broad reach, and interactive. It was only a matter of time.

Technology also eases the business-end of things, Weitzer says. While clients are surveying potential companions, escort-service managers can look into clients with a background check or even a simple Google search.
Perhaps making a great blackmail potential for the pimps...and lets call them what they are.

Payment is easier, too.

"It's often convenient to have an account established with a balance, so if you have the last-minute urge, you don't have to worry about getting money into the account," says Norma Jean Almodovar, executive director of the sex workers' rights organization COYOTE ("Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics") in Southern California.
"When will people realize that the 'old tired ethics' are around for a reason?"

Emperors Club VIP, the high-end prostitution organization Spitzer allegedly was involved with, was brought down when banks noticed frequent cash transfers from several accounts and filed suspicious-activity reports with the Internal Revenue Service, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.
Something that he should know about.

The accounts were traced back to Spitzer, and public-corruption investigators opened an inquiry.

It's a long way from leaving cash on the dresser.

Cell phones are handy, too. According to court documents, some details of the alleged appointment Spitzer had with a prostitute were arranged via text message. She was even instructed by her home office to send a text message when he arrived so the office could start the clock ticking on his allotted time, according to court papers.
Is it too late for an "I told ya so."?

Devices such as Web cams also have created new opportunities, Almodovar said.

For instance, if a customer is traveling and wants to talk with a prostitute, "he can just go on the Internet and she can be in her home, and he can be in Europe, and they can have long-distance sexual dalliances," Almodovar said.
Wow. Expensive cybersex. PT Barnum was right.

But even with so much electronic evidence, authorities permit a lot of prostitution to happen without repercussions.

"On the one hand, they're advertised, openly. So you know it exists, and you're letting it go. But then they're not taxed, or prosecuted, unless it becomes a quality-of-life issue or (involves) a public figure they happen to run across. Think of all that cash," said Assistant Philadelphia District Attorney Rich DeSipio, who is assigned to the sex-crimes unit.
Because that is all they would do.

And sex workers also can use high-tech measures to avoid getting caught.

High-end call girls might use bug- and camera-detection equipment to look for surveillance devices, said Jimmie Mesis, editor in chief of Professional Investigator Magazine.

Police often don't find the equipment until after they make an arrest, Mesis said. "They realize, 'Look at this. She has a bug detector. She has a hidden-camera detector. This is a pretty sophisticated set-up here.'"
Yeah, with that kind of money at stake, I'd invest in ECMs too.

But for every client who is revealed, no one knows how much prostitution remains hidden.

"The surprise should not be that (Spitzer) was a client, but that he got exposed," Almodovar said. "Despite the technology we have, 99 percent of them will never get discovered.

"If we didn't have so many clients, we wouldn't be prostitutes."

Here it is. I see the brave new world pushing back the boundaries of this kind of behavior and the shameless people being exposed then keep trying to 'mainstream' this kind of behavior because they engage in it. I have watched a significant erosion in society's norms and mores over my short lifetime, and raising my own children has allowed me to appreciate this slide. The era when society would let kids be kids is gone. Now, we have to hawkishly guard our children's innocence because people have rejected a certain decorum that once central in our nation. And we are the poorer for it.