About 83 percent of prostitutes have Facebook pages, and many turned to the social network before Craigslist got rid of the “adult services” category, according to Columbia University sociology professor Sudhir Venkatesh.
Venkatesh found that only one out of every four prostitutes get regular clients from Facebook in 2008, while escort agencies provided about 31 percent. However, the professor had no data analyzing possible synergy between social media and the other sources of clientele — studying this area might uncover the possibility that Johns research these service providers online and then book appointments through other channels.
The professor’s revelations about Facebook and prostitutes appears as a sidebar to a larger Wired report on New York City prostitutes, based on more than a decade of research. His studies began before the advent of social media, so he incorporated Facebook into the research after it was well under way.
We’d love to see additional studies zeroing in on sex workers’ use of social media as compared to how law enforcement uses Facebook to police this trade.
In case you’re scratching your head about how this profession is able to tout itself online, take a look in the back of your local alternative weekly and you’ll see more such advertising — deliberately understating these providers as simply companions. The law specifically prohibits the exchange of sex for money, and if the ads avoid saying that’s what’s going on, they’re not technically illegal.
Readers, what do you think about the fact that 83 percent of prostitutes have Facebook pages but only 25 percent of the clients technically come from the social network? Do you believe there’s a higher, unmeasured incidence of Johns researching the providers socially and then making appointments through other channels?