Silk Road

Government War on Online Vice Purchasing is a Continuing War on Citizen Safety

The shutdown of sex-sales site Redbook made life more ignorant and dangerous.


A few months back in Reason I reported on how federal law enforcement, in shutting down Silk Road (an online forum and source for buying and selling sometimes illegal items), made the world of drug purchasingand sales more ignorant and dangerous than it needs to be. I reiterated that argument more sharply after Silk Road's inventor Ross Ulbricht was found guilty on seven counts in a New York court last month.

This month Wired magazine tells a similar story making a similar point, about another website that allowed for the spread of both information, community rating, and commerce relating to something the state has decided is illegal to buy or sell: sexual services, in the saga of the shutdown, and aftermath, of the site MyRedBook, colloquially known as just Redbook.

Some excerpts nailing the point home about how the FBI shutdown of the site has made the world a worse place. The author, Eric Steuer, gives a vivid picture of the sketchy life of a San Francisco Tenderloin neighborhood streetwalking prostitute who laments the inability to do business more safely via the Internet because RedBook was shut down; and notes what:

Siouxsie Q, a sex worker in Oakland, misses most about RedBook. "We lost a critical resource for building community," she says. "And building community is already tough enough when you've been marginalized and your work is criminalized." Women used RedBook's forums to share everything from jokes to medical and financial tips that were useful to people in the sex industry, she says.

Steuer's story ends with a narrated visit to the crummy residential hotel of a 45-year-old streetwalker named Rachel:

"It's been like starting over," she says of RedBook's shutdown. For years most of her clients were guys on RedBook who got her phone number through other users in the forums, "guys who knew me and could vouch for me," she says. Although she did encounter a few jerks over the years, she says, she almost always had good experiences with the men she met through the site. "They were nice and normally kind of shy," she says. "Nerdy, to be honest."

Recently Rachel's customers have tended to be men she meets offline, guys just milling about or driving around the neighborhood, looking for action. She doesn't like walking the streets, because it's tiring and scary, and she especially hates doing car dates because they're dangerous. But the reality is that she's had to do more of both since RedBook closed. "I still have a couple friends from the site who get in touch, but not many," she says. "I hope another RedBook comes around at some point. It made life a lot easier."

Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote about the Redbook takedown when it happened last year, under the telling headline "How the FBI is Enabling Violence Against Women While Silencing Speech."

NEXT: Snowden Is Talking About Coming Back to U.S., Says Russian Lawyer

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  1. but selling sex is icky. icky things should be illegal.

    1. Selling things is icky because ZOMG PROFITS!

      1. especially if it’s something that can be sold over and over again on the same day!

  2. Stupid broads just don’t know what’s good for ’em. See you on the streets, Toots.

    1. what we’re going to find out is that PIMPS have pooled to hire lobbyists to keep their women in stock.

      1. Pimps and preachers coalition.

      2. Upgrayedd agrees!

        1. A pimp’s love is a very special kind of love.

  3. The government does not give a shit about the safety of its citizens except insofar as it has to care due to officials not being able to win elections without a certain bloc feeling safe. It must be even more frustrating to the writers than ut is to me how little impact this has on people who already are in the feeling safe bloc.

    1. And the 1% for campaign donations and the 50-99% to pay for it all.

  4. my neighbor’s step-mother makes $79 an hour on the computer . She has been out of work for 7 months but last month her income was $16877 just working on the computer for a few hours. pop over to this site……


  5. So sue the government under VAWA. That’ll work right? I was talking with pancakes about the ulbricht trial the other day and she told me the biggest offense of the silk road was taking the danger out of black markets. If black markets are no longer scary dangerous places to do business then it makes prohibition illegitimate. I agree.

    1. Wait, you guys are two different people?

      1. Yup. Either that or I’m out of my mind.

        1. I guess I just misremembered a conversation from several years ago. Not a surprise.

    2. I fail to see what makes prohibition legitimate to begin with.

      1. Oh that’sa good quibble.

  6. Never forget that many conservatives want immoral behavior to be dangerous.

    1. I’d say keeping the drug market dangerous is more about keeping the police state’s coffers flooded w/ loot derived from the WoD (taxes, seized assets, etc). SoCons are just useful idiots in this fiscal process.

      1. I think the alliance between moralistic scolds and authoritarian jackboots has a long history in the Christian fundamentalist tradition.

  7. The knee-jerk condemnation of prostitution (from both sides of the political spectrum) has always baffled me. Women have sex for many reasons, but if they do it for cash (expensive gifts, fancy dinners, and wedding rings are acceptable forms of payment though) they’re marginalized, jailed and their lives destroyed. I truly live in the Bizarro World…

    1. Doing it for cash on a short term basis is exploitation while doing it for cash, gifts, dinners, housing, etc., on a long term basis is encouraged by the state.

      1. But isn’t it actually the GUY who gets exploited in these cases? He’s the one who loses his hard-earned money paying for something that he could get for free if he were willing to lie and play the game. Just like in most relationships, the women have all the control here. Unless they have a pimp who forces them to work I don’t see how they can be considered exploited, or victims.

        1. No, women can’t freely choose to have sex when money is involved.

          /end liberal

          1. Actually, modern feminists support the right of women to do whatever they want–unless, of course, what they’re doing happens to please men.

  8. You don’t understand! By making it less safe to do sex work, the government is making it more safe! This is because the more dangerous it is, the more women will be deterred from doing it! The ones who do anyway who are harmed or killed because of government policies are just making it safer for everyone else! Eggs… omelets…

    Or something.

    1. Deterence should follow as a consequence of the effective punishment of crimes, not be the reason for making actions criminal in the first place.

  9. She doesn’t like walking the streets, because it’s tiring and scary, and she especially hates doing car dates because they’re dangerous. But the reality is that she’s had to do more of both since RedBook closed.

    But somehow this can’t be characterized as a “War on Women” because “women shouldn’t have to subject themselves to such degrading lines of work.” Nevermind the fact that the woman seems to enjoy this line of work, at least when it is relatively safe.

    1. False consciousness.

      The fundamentally illiberal nature of “social justice” movements ought to condemn them to the margins, but apparently most people don’t really believe in liberalism after all.

      1. Progressives were never liberals. The movement started as a third-way, expressly anti-liberal socialist movement. Conservatives of the day saw them as at a minimum allies against the forces of liberalism (which is how a right-wing warmongering elitist dickweasel like Churchill actually ended up being Labour for a decade or so) and much more palatable than the Marxists and anarchists (who were really just burn-it-all-down Marxists).

        That both in the US and UK progressives succeeding in co-opting the “liberal” label is one of the greatest Jedi mind-fucks in history.

        The current generation of progs is just so poorly educated as to their own past and the definition of liberalism that they genuinely believe themselves to be liberals.

    2. Who decides what work is degrading? Is providing companionship and sexual release for a shy, nerdy guy anywhere near as degrading as wearing a uniform and flipping burgers? My girlfriend was a stripper when I met her, but these days she works the graveyard shift at a laundromat for minimum wage. And I can assure you she misses the days of making her own hours while dancing, talking to lonely guys and earning good money. It’s the people who dismiss ‘sex work’ as degrading who have the real issues. Unfortunately, they’re in charge…

      1. I can’t think of a greater type of benefactor than someone whose work is directly making people happy. It really makes me sad, close-to-sobby sad, that some people are trying to keep other people from making yet other people happier.

  10. Silly Reason, sex workers aren’t citizens. Why, they’re not even people!*

    *unless We need them to be for social justice purposes

  11. 1. That the state can shut down a site is enraging enough, but that it shut down this site is really enraging. What’s the point? So you hate prostitution. You think sex work is icky. What is gained by shutting this down? If you’re in vice, why not keep it open and use it to gather intel? If you’re a prude, are you so stupid not to realize this just makes the job worse? And if you’re vice or a prude, go fuck yourself.

    2. Why do I never know about these services until they’re shut down!? 🙁

  12. What, she couldn’t do the full “Souxsie Queue”? Or does she not want to suggest customers lined up for her

  13. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do,

  14. The entire concept of “vice crime” is absurd. Free country – yeah, you’re free to anything that the state approves of you doing.

  15. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I’ve been doing,

  16. Sex workers, I suspect, are the group most opposed to the recommendation in:

    “The Sexual Harassment Quagmire: How To Dig Out” http://malemattersusa.wordpres…..-quagmire/

    This may be the most exhaustive look you can find at what I think is the sexes’ most alienating and destructive behavioral difference, which is responsible for much of what is called sexual assault of women.

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