Late last month, the FBI raided and shut down MyRedbook, a website that allowed escorts to advertise their services and negotiate with clients.
Women in the industry relied heavily on MyRedbook to do background checks on their clients. Sex workers would post about instances of violence or circumstances in which they felt unsafe.
Without MyRedbook, prostitutes are having a difficult time vetting their clients.
“It’s like sex workers lost their Yelp,” said Bay Area sex worker and activist “Siouxsie Q.”
Male clients also used the site to review and discuss their experiences.
That’s why call girls say that the further underground sex work goes, the more dangerous it is for everyone involved.
I’m skeptical of people who say they want to ban prostitution out of some alleged concerned for the well-being of prostitutes. Legalized prostitution would free sex-industry workers and Johns to report abuse, trafficking and the exploitation of minors without fear of subjecting themselves to criminal liability. No, legalization won’t eliminate those problems. But neither has prohibition. Allowing sex workers to operate openly could only help.
It’s true that services like MyRedbook do facilitate the sex trade. But shutting such services down won’t eliminate prostitution, or really even slow it down. Human beings crave sex and need money. Parties who can offer one and who need the other, will always find a way to make an exchange, no matter what laws stand in the way. We have a couple thousand years of evidence for this. Shutting down MyRedbook only makes it more difficult for prostitutes to protect themselves. If you’re opposed to prostitution on moral grounds and want to shut sites down, go ahead and say so. But don’t pretend your efforts are benefiting women in the sex industry.
Related: Former call girl, legalization advocate (and guest writer for The Watch) Maggie McNeill talks prostitution with writer and scholar Thaddeus Russell for Reason.tv.