One might reasonably assume that for a legitimate massage business, taking down websites such as Backpage. For the most part this is true, however there are perhaps some unintended ripple effects that may be felt by legitimate massage businesses like Body Well along with some independent practitioners who might have heretofore advertised legitimate services there.
This article takes a brief look at how these actions and results impact the greater world of massage therapy, including some unfortunate and unintended consequences. One view sees these illegal services as an affront to true massage professionals that damages it by causing people to lump them together, and also raises prejudicial suspicion of those therapists who would never think of doing anything sexual.
On the same side are those who simply view it as an illicit or immoral activity and simply dislike it for one of these reasons. In either case this view would argue that these kinds of sex services should be eradicated if at all possible. These are more or less ideological arguments. Many have argued for as long as I can remember that prostitution is a victimless crime.
Actually, by making it a crime, we are probably causing there to be more victims of sex trafficking using a supposedly legitimate licensed massage business as a bit of a shield from scrutiny. That means for companies like mine, we do occasionally have to field some questions from people who are obviously testing the waters to see what we might reveal or hint to them about what may or may not happen for them of a sexual nature. We have to act out this charade with people who are barking up the wrong tree.
We are already seeing more of these types of calls as those who used to use those classifieds websites are now trying to find alternatives in all the wrong places. To me this is not helpful at all. It only further blurs the lines between the professionals on the non-professionals. Or what could be worse for some of these providers or sex workers is forcing them out onto the streets or into less organized and potentially more dangerous situations in order for them to continue to try to earn their living doing what they do.
The changes to laws governing online posting — cheered by anti-trafficking organizations, and decried as a dangerous overreaction by tech companies and free speech advocates — have prompted websites like Reddit and Craigslist to swiftly shutter pages that might have filled the void left by Backpage.
The Backpage indictment included the horrific tales of a dozen women and five underage girls who had been sold for sex by violent pimps or brutalized by johns. But Sarah tells a different story about the business transacted on the website — that of a single mom who has led a largely stable, comfortable suburban life with money she earns by having sex.
Around , Sarah started out working for an escort service that was supposed to screen clients for safety — an arrangement she considered safer than walking the streets. On one of her early bookings, she arrived at a house to find not one man waiting for her but three, who chased her to her car when she balked at going into the house, she says. Backpage launched as an online classified ads site — charging only to post ads in the various sections that, prosecutors say, were more or less explicitly selling sex — and Sarah says it was a massive improvement.
A single ad might net her queries from prospective clients, allowing her to be selective. The site also allowed her to contact clients initially without having to provide any of her personal contact information. Additional websites sprang up, creating online communities where workers could blacklist customers deemed dangerous. Many sex workers migrated onto more elaborate websites with detailed listings.
A search for a few common euphemisms like escort or even backpage on Twitter will show that even mainstream social media websites now are platforms for sex-industry marketing. Not every person posting ads on Backpage was charging hundreds of dollars an hour for their services, and as federal indictments and advocacy groups have pointed out, the far more sordid side of the sex trade took advantage of technology as well, concedes Alexandra Levy, a Notre Dame University law school professor who supports decriminalization of sex work.
Jessica, a graduate student at a Chicago university who was a sex-trafficking victim in her early teens, said she doubts changes to the law or even the shutdown of sites like Backpage will do little to stop the ugliest aspects of the sex trade.
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