Myredbook.com, a sex industry directory and online community connecting prostitutes and their clients, was taken offline by federal authorities on June 25th. The operators of the site were arrested for facilitating prostitution and money laundering.
According to a press release posted by the San Francisco FBI, myredbook.com purported to provide users with reviews of escorts, strip clubs, and massage parlors – all legal businesses. The reality, of course, is that the site was used to exchange information about prostitutes and their sexual services.
The website hosted advertisements for prostitutes, complete with explicit photos, lewd physical descriptions, menus of sexual services, hourly and nightly rates, and customer reviews of the prostitutes’ services. The website used acronyms for numerous sex acts, which were defined in graphic detail in the website’s ‘Terms and Acronyms’ section. Although the website could be accessed for free, myredbook.com advertised fees for premier placement of prostitution advertisements and for ‘VIP Memberships,’ which purportedly allowed customers access to ‘private forums’ and heightened capabilities to search reviews of the prostitution services.
There are numerous online resources catering to the prostitution industry that are similar to myredbook.com. Many of these websites have been around for over a decade and they have significantly shaped the modern business model of illegal sex work. examples include:
- Adult review communities like theeroticreview.com, bigdoggie.net, and naughtyreviews.com, yelp-like services where potential clients can read first-hand accounts written by customers who had sex with prostitutes.
- Verification companies like date-check.com and preferred411.com, where working girls can vet potential johns through a third party service.
- Erotic directories where prostitutes post sexy promotional ads, eros.com and the adult section of backpage.com being the most notable.
- “Sugar Dating” sites like Seeking Arrangement.com and ArrangementFinders.com where young prostitutes solicit wealthy men behind the veil of a dating platform.
These tools were designed to provide vital information to both sex workers and clients so that they can conduct business safely and satisfactorily. These websites were also designed to make a boatload of money for the owners, through membership fees and advertising.
An Illusion of Standards
The issue, obviously, is that while these online environments may provide some assistance and support to people involved in money-for-sex transactions, they create an infrastructure for illegality – because prostitution is a crime in most parts of the USA.
Review communities, verification companies, escort directories, and related businesses attempt to manufacture prostitution standards, models of effective professional behavior that can purportedly be maintained through the use of these online tools. But these standards are illusory. Without legislation to validate and regulate an industry, standards of safety and quality cannot be adequately enforced. Additionally, as the myredbook.com incident shows us, unlawful support mechanisms can disappear in an instant, so their dependability is severely in question.
Nevada, the only U.S. state where prostitution is legal in the form of brothels, has concrete laws dictating how money-for-sex transactions are to occur. These laws represent true, enforceable, legitimate standards for prostitution services. If a Nevada brothel does not meet these legal standards and violates prostitution law, the brothel will be shut down.
Sex trafficking and child prostitution does not occur in Nevada brothels. All women work willingly, without being coerced, as legal sex providers in a secure facility. Weekly STD testing and safe sex practices ensure that Nevada brothels are healthy, disease-free establishments. Happy clients walk away satisfied from bawdy houses teeming with professional women who delightfully and profitably practice their titillating trade.
The Next Step for California
Illegal prostitution, and the infrastructure that supports and promotes it, will continue to be targeted by law enforcement. But what about all of the adult women who want to willingly provide sex services in California? What about all of those randy Californians who are looking for a safe pay-to-play sex experience? Certainly, the demand for sex is never going away.
Perhaps the Golden State needs to look at the bigger picture of prostitution. Maybe it’s time to take a hint from the hookers next door in Nevada and consider legalization as a viable option for California.