The Internet Is Terrible for the Sex Industry. No, Really

Illustration for article titled The Internet Is Terrible for the Sex Industry. No, Really

Sex workers are suffering in the age of the Internet. Once upon a time, when the first tech boom hit in the 70s, in San Francisco, tech and sex work shared a mutually beneficial, blooming relationship. From Silicon Valley flowed cash in excess, into the pockets of sex workers of all stripes.


But now? An in-depth look at the San Francisco sex industry from Buzzfeed shows that the boom times have gone bust.

The Internet, once happy host to early NSFW websites, has become a something of a false friend to the sex work industry. The proliferation of sites like MyFreeCams (where members exchange real money for tokens with which to tip cam girls for performing various sexual acts), free (often illegally) streaming porn, and social networking sites like FetLife have given many a potential client a cheap, easy alternative to the often costly option of visiting a dungeon or hiring an escort.

Why pay to be spanked by a stranger, when you can mingle online a bit and meet someone who'll spank you for free? Why pay for the Champagne Room, when you can sip champagne (or whatever else you prefer) from the comfort of your own bed and tip virtual tokens for a live online peep show? Why pay for what can be streamed for free?

As Reyhan Harmanci writes in BuzzFeed FWD:

The current wave of start-up entrepreneurs seems personally less interested in pushing social mores: sex used to drive commercial online innovation, but that's not true any more. And skittish new tech workers, scarred by the economic collapses of the past few years, are not spending big, at least anecdotally, on sex.


There is promise in the proliferation of ever more "smart" sex toys. But that flourishing market is of little help to the more old school, brick-and-mortar sex-work establishments, whose clientele is going the way of the World Wide Web. Be sure to check out Buzzfeed for the full, fascinating story. [Buzzfeed]

Image via jwblinn/Shutterstock



Nick Denton

Isn't this the same phenomenon that's transforming industries from book publishing to limo service? The internet lowers barriers to entry and makes viable a long tail of providers. A small limo company could offer its services through Uber, for instance, and avoid the cost of marketing that used to encourage mergers and consolidation. But it's not so much that the sex sector as a whole is suffering; more that income is distributed more widely and the functions of companies are being picked up by online marketplaces.