Sex

Prostitutes Move Indoors, Get Comfy

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Prostitutes have taken their business indoors in New York, with interesting results, according to a new paper:

In the mid-1990s, changes to law enforcement strategies in New York City pushed many women working in the sex trade off of the streets and into the indoors. Increasing numbers of women began advertising sexual services in bars, over the Internet, and in print media, and conducting their work in their homes, hotels, and brothels. This study uses in-depth interviews and participant observation to examine the impact of this change on the life and work of women working in New York's indoor sex trade. A critical finding is that as women move their work indoors, they begin to conceive of sex work as a profession and a career, rather than just a short-term means of employment. This "professional and careerist orientation" may have significant implications for the length of women's tenure in sex work and ultimately, for their ability to exit the trade completely.

From the paper:

The decision to engage in sex work may be a fairly rational choice by women: namely, given their qualifications and the state of the market, they realize that they are able to earn more money in sex work than other available jobs. …Twenty-seven percent (27%) of the indoor women in our sample report sex work as being the best job they have ever had.

And this:

The women in our sample are demographically diverse and work in many different indoor venues. They range from home-based white ethnics who use the Internet and newspaper to advertise their services, to Asian and Latina immigrants who solicit their customers in nightclubs.

All of this, of course, raises questions about the possibility of a Debauchery Digital Divide. Are some prostitutes haves, and others have-nots? Should the government subsidize hosting and web cams?

Last year, Kerry interviewed a "have."

Via Marginal Revolution

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  1. I’ve always felt sorry for prostitutes. They provide a service, yet are treated as criminals.

    For example, in the Bible they make a big deal about Jesus’s willingness to break bread with prostitutes and tax-collectors. To smear members of legitimate profession such as prostitution by equating them with despicable scum in human form known as tax-collectors is absolutely beyond the pale.

  2. Kerry’s article is nearly impossible to read. It’s all run together.

  3. While I agree with Tracy Quan that the new Times Square is vulgar and unnatural, I have to say I very slightly prefer its current look to one where the streets were swarming with hookers and pimps – if only because I hate being advertised at to buy shit I don’t want. I’m all for hooking in small shops or on the internet, but not on the freakin’ sidewalks.

  4. A critical finding is that as women move their work indoors, they begin to conceive of sex work as a profession and a career, rather than just a short-term means of employment.

    I don’t think it’s about indoors/outdoors. Prostitutes can now operate anarcho-capitalistically. They aren’t being hunted down by the vice squads, and this interweb thing allows them to know a client by reputation before doing business. (kind of like the medieval merchants written about in this months Reason)

    If prostitution is a crime, then only criminals will be prostitutes.

  5. …Twenty-seven percent (27%) of the indoor women in our sample report sex work as being the best job they have ever had.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnS8Y4Qazhs

  6. While I agree with Tracy Quan that the new Times Square is vulgar and unnatural, I have to say I very slightly prefer its current look to one where the streets were swarming with hookers and pimps – if only because I hate being advertised at to buy shit I don’t want.

    That’s all the new Times Square does. If I wanted to shop at a national retail chain store or eat at a TGI Friday’s or Red Lobster I could’ve stayed in fucking suburbia and bought the same crap for a lower price.

    “Oooh, but these aren’t your STANDARD Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits–these are Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits served in New York City!

  7. “To smear members of legitimate profession such as prostitution by equating them with despicable scum in human form known as tax-collectors is absolutely beyond the pale.”

    All business people who are forced to conduct their business on street corners are equated with scum, yet we (here) know that what puts them on street corners in the first place is the War on Vice.
    Thus one of the unintended consequences of Joe Bible-thumper’s Vice Wars is to, in effect, rub his own nose in scum.

  8. If I wanted to shop at a national retail chain store or eat at a TGI Friday’s or Red Lobster I could’ve stayed in fucking suburbia and bought the same crap for a lower price.

    So what are you looking for that you can’t find better in suburbia? I contend that, unless you’re making six figures, the city is just a noisy festering pit of humanity and the burbs are the apex of civilization and culture.

  9. i’m all for indoor brothels, as long as the back of her business card has a script for getting the wife to STFU.

  10. “I contend that, unless you’re making six figures, the city is just a noisy festering pit of humanity and the burbs are the apex of civilization and culture.”

    does this include dragging one’s balls over broken glass or what?

    i contend that some people who don’t live here have no fucking idea of what they’re talking about.

  11. So what are you looking for that you can’t find better in suburbia? I contend that, unless you’re making six figures, the city is just a noisy festering pit of humanity and the burbs are the apex of civilization and culture.

    Good food is much easier to find in the city.
    Good theater, symphony orchestras, jazz bands – this list could get really long. I understand that some people prefer suburban life, but the culture can’t be why.

  12. highnumber,
    No I insist that it’s easier to obtain all those things in the suburbs. In the city, most of the stuff on offer is crap. If it isn’t crap it’s priced too high. If you can afford it and it’s good, you have it takes all fricking day and night wading through throngs of others (many with poor hygiene) for 90 minutes worth of entertainment. This years best city culture will be available in the suburbs, far more conveniently, next year.

  13. I understand that some people prefer suburban life, but the culture can’t be why.

    “Malls,” by Peter Bagge

    http://oldsite.reason.com/hod/cartoon.pb071902-1.shtml

  14. Prostitution should be legalised. It’s not legal in my country Ireland but, it should be.

    The Netherlands and Germany are examples of how legalisation should be done. In countries where the thing is illegal there is no real possibility for state oversight or indeed taxation.

    “Sex slavery” is a common theme in countries where the prostitution is illicit and criminal and whilst slavery/coercion is possible with legalislation it seems to me to be quite obvious that a designated red-light district and “licenses”/mandatory health checks remove the majority (probably) of the criminality surrounding the thing.

    It occurs to me that imposition of “morals” (that few people really subscribe to) drives “Vice” activity underground and in the final analysis harms people more then protects those same people.

    Legalise it, police it, tax it and stop the shutting of the eyes to reality seems to me to be the obvious choice.

  15. I was expecting more pictures and I am highly disappointed.

  16. One benefit the city holds for you, Warren, is that there is no broken glass twixt thine self and the tires of the garbage truck holding the dirty underwear of the young women who write for this magazine.

    I don’t live in the city, but I visit it often. Chain stores and restaurants are indeed more expensive, due to the higher rents they must pay, but I don’t go into the city for the chain stores anyway. There are plenty of great little cheap restaurants, and cool funky shops run by immigrants who sell things dirt cheap. To say nothing of the wholesale costume-jewelry district, just below Little Korea or Koreatown or whatever the Korean section of the city is called. The other ethnic neighborhoods are great, too. And many bands I like, such as Porcupine Tree, only ever seem to give concerts in cities, generally either Boston or New York. No suburbs for them.

  17. Jennifer,
    You cruel, unfeeling, she-witch. You know that the whispered mention of soiled unmentionables from your lip to my ears, can only result in exquisite torture, since I know you haven’t the slightest intention allowing me contact with any of yours.

  18. Warren, all I am saying is that if you spent more time in New York you wouldn’t HAVE to drag your balls through broken glass to sniff the tires of the garbage truck carrying Ms. Howley’s used underwear; the truck would be conveniently located right next to the curb on which you stand.

    New York is a wonderful city. And I liked Times Square better before it got Disneyfied.

  19. Um, Warren, you wanna turn down the creep factor a notch? I mean, yeah, Jennifer was the one who brought up the thing you said before, but you could have taken that as an opportunity to say “Yeah, sorry, I guess that was a bit over the top when I said it, huh? Well, I promise not to do that again.”

    Even taking her to task for bringing up things in the past, but not apologizing, would have been understandable. She’s the one who brought it up, maybe you’d just as soon leave it in the past and move on.

    But replying with a creepy comment? Not cool.

  20. Jennifer,
    I hear ya babe.

    thoreau,
    Are you serial? With all the argle-bargle that goes over the damn here at H&R, my (provoked) semi-quarterly creepy is harshing your buzz?

    I know I’m letting my freak flag fly here, but can’t you see the whimsy, the joi de vive? Please, just let me have my fun, and I’ll keep it to a minimum out of consideration to your delicate sensibilities.

  21. “Oooh, but these aren’t your STANDARD Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits–these are Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits served in New York City!”

    Are they really called “Cheddar Bay Biscuits” now? Holy crap, and that was the only reason to visit a Red Lobster in the first place. I found it amusing when I was living on the Gulf Coast that the “Red Snapper” served in the restaurant was caught fresh in Thailand.

    Prostitutes probably hate Red Lobster too! There, now it’s on topic.

  22. Are they really called “Cheddar Bay Biscuits” now? Holy crap, and that was the only reason to visit a Red Lobster in the first place.

    I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re called now. They kick ass no matter what their name is. I haven’t been to a Red Lobster for over a year, though.

    Damn. Now I want some cheddar biscuits and a big plate of crab linguini alfredo. Just not in Times Square, as a matter of principle.

    I suppose I could move this post back on topic with a vulgar snark about the crabs in the linguini, but I wouldn’t want to upset Thoreau.

  23. What the heck is a “white ethnic”?

  24. With all the rulings on privacy rights that have been used to protect gay rights, such as happened here in NJ, (wish I could find a link to that decision…), I wonder if they could be used to force some relaxation on prostitution laws…

    Follow my logic, (based on what I believe ar NJ Sup, Ct, rulings), twisted as it may be:

    The state has no authority to to interfere in peaceful, private consensual behavior. (As in various rulings on gay rights in private).

    But the state does have authority to police the public morals.

    The state also has the authority and a duty to protect the public health.

    The state also has the authority to regulate business.

    Illegal prostitution is notorious for spreading diseases like HIV, hepatitis, not to mention syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, etc., whereas legal prostitution, as in Nevada, Netherlands, and other areas, has been shown to greatly curtail disease transmission, and in the case of Nevada, so far at least, to completely halt it the last I read.

    Ergo:

    While the state can ban public prostitution as an affront to public morals, it can not ban private prostitution.

    But the state CAN regulate it as a business and to protect the public health. Indeed, by banning it, the state violates its duty to protect the public health by encouraging the spread of disease through lack of regulation of safe practices, a safe working environment and regular medical checks.

    Therefore the state can ban public prostitution, (streetwalkers), but is actually REQUIRED to regulate private prostitution, as a business, in a manner that protects the public health, which requires that it be legal, safe and medically monitored.

    Discuss.

  25. According to the paper, 75% of the hookers decided to go into the profession because someone recommended it – and in 8% of those cases, Mom recommended the carreer. I think I will fax it to Dr. Laura just to hear her have a cow on the air.

  26. That’s all the new Times Square does. If I wanted to shop at a national retail chain store or eat at a TGI Friday’s or Red Lobster I could’ve stayed in fucking suburbia and bought the same crap for a lower price.

    Good point… But there is more left in Times Square than just chain shit. I actually fucking despise Times Square because of the overcrowded tourist trap that it’s become but, for example, right around the corner from Red Lobster is an excellent and relatively inexpensive Chinese restaurant that I went to with my boyfriend a lot because he worked around there. And of course some of the chain stores are very convenient. Anyway some of the sex business has moved over to 9th Avenue and it’s kind of run-down. I prefer clean streets and lots of activity to run-down red-light districts.

  27. The state has no authority to to interfere in peaceful, private consensual behavior.

    But the state does have authority to police the public morals.

    Here lies the problem. In the case of prostitution the state has decided that they can and should “interfere in peaceful, private consensual behavior” in the very name of the “public morals” you mention. To the uptight bluenose, there is no border between “public” and “private” behavior.

    But the state CAN regulate it as a business and to protect the public health. Indeed, by banning it, the state violates its duty to protect the public health by encouraging the spread of disease through lack of regulation of safe practices, a safe working environment and regular medical checks.

    I could agree with that so long as the state doesn’t use the tax/regulation scheme as a means to create a de facto ban, or force the sex worker to raise their fees to the point where a second tier of cheaper, yet illegal unlicensed prostitutes are created which will put us right back at square one.

    Of course, that is exactly what the state WILL do.

  28. Heh… Funny you should mention Times Square and prostitution. My sister got me The Venture Brothers DVD set for Newtonmas, and just last night I was watching the original pilot where the boys are solicited by a skanky New York hooker who has to wear a “Bizzie Bee Club Hat” to blend into the Brisby (the VB-universe’s version of Walt’s company) dominated Times Square.

    Fun-ny.

  29. In one Southern city, a building which once housed a Red Lobster restaurant now is used for a lesbian bar. Someone has a sense of humor.

  30. Prostitution is a viable career, it shouldn’t be criminalized or marginalized by society. re: tarran’s comment … not sure what the Bible or Jesus has to do with prostitution, but the religious minded should always keep their salivating opinions out of others crotches.

  31. Prostitution should be legalized, but only for hot brunettes who look like Anne Hathaway.

    Given some of the crappy jobs that are out there for the unskilled, the “best job I ever had” thing isn’t that difficult to believe.

  32. Do you think that prostitution should be legal?

    http://www.pollburner.com/takePoll.php?id=9f1c34ec134f

    Take the poll and see what your peers think!

  33. Take the poll and see what your peers think!

    Um… there’s only one vote. Presumably, mine.

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