BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – The Internet is crushing the job market not just by putting conventional enterprises like newspapers and the U.S. Postal Service out of business but cutting into the entrepreneurial realm and making obsolete venerable and long-standing public service professions like pimping.
Throughout history sporting girls needed to have a manager and protector to free them up to ply their trade without having to deal with the administrative side of the business. Thus the thriving pimp industry was born. It was hard work, overseeing hoards of harlots as they flaunted their wares on the streets or in hotel lobbies, beating up customers who came up short in the financial remuneration department, posting bail and keeping the working girls’ spirits and enthusiasm up with the occasional smack down.
But then Craig’s List – the free online classified advertising site – came along and all of a sudden the girls realized they could manage their own business. They didn’t have to have a pimp. Well, a pimp in the traditional sense, with the fur coats, gold chains and big hats. Their pimp was Craig and he didn’t cost a dime and never smacked them around.
Eventually Craig’s List came under fire for its adult “dating” ads, in which “dating” was code for “DATING!” which was code for “PAYING TO HAVE SEX!” Craig’s List toned down its sexual service ads, forcing prostitutes to learn the meaning of the word “euphemism.” Ads that used to say “I’ll date you for 30 minutes and date you real good, honey, for $25” became “I’ll give you a deep tissue massage, if you catch my drift ( nudge, nudge, wink, wink) for a voluntary donation of $100. I accept Master Card.”
But never fear, sensing an opportunity to step into the online pimp market, a new classified advertising service has arisen, BackPage.com. BackPage offers the usual advertising categories “automotive” and “computer/technical jobs” and “vacation rentals” but has an “adult” section that is more robust than Craig’s List which includes services like “escorts, body rubs, strippers and strip clubs, dom & fetish and male escorts.”
Many of the entrepreneurs posting the ads apparently are not dexterous enough in the use of euphemisms and just go for the gold. Like “$200 Special: Gorgeous Blonde Vixen – Outcalls Only – (Hawaii Kai/Aina Hina) – 22 – If you are looking for a professional experience I am here for you! My clients always say I look way hotter than my pictures. Come see for yourself. I am available for in or out calls. Recent photos!!! Call me now.” (Apparently, she’s a little more flexible on her “outcalls only” policy then she stresses in the beginning of the ad.)
BackPage has a Hawaii section, like Craig’s List, and also has a disclaimer to assure that nobody underage avails themselves of the commercial sexual services. And the disclaimer is legally ironclad.
No one under the age of 18 would dare click the “terms of service” thingy and illegally enter such a website offering sexual extravagances and marvels that they couldn’t dream of. So we’re lucky there. (I like the clarification in which the declar-ee says he’s at least 18 years old “or not considered a minor in my state of residence”, which I assume refers to Kentucky or Mississippi where the age of consent is, I believe, 12. I also like the fact that not only do those seeking entrance to this hedonistic virtual playground have to say they are at least 18, they have to agree to become Junior G-Men and rat out any advertiser they think is involved in human trafficking. That’s a pretty heavy duty for someone just looking to pay for a bit of whoopee.)
Unimpressed by such an impregnable legal firewall, Hawaii’s attorney general and those from 45 other states are asking BackPage to explain how they are making sure that the ads are not just fronts for prostitution and particularly want to know what BackPage is doing to assure that minors are not being trafficked through this site for sexual exploitation. While BackPage says it is trying to protect minors the attorneys general, in a stern letter to the website owners, charge that the company seems to be trying to ensure that “the revenue spigot provided by prostitution advertising remains intact.”
Now, in the old days, a state attorney general would send out a tassel of beefy sheriff’s deputies and arrest the pimp suspected of putting kids on the sex market. They’d drag him in by his fur coat and gold chains, maybe work him over with a heavy phone book under hot lights and the dude would get the message. This being the digital age, the pimp in this case is BackPage.com and the attorneys general have sent stern letter. Probably by e-mail. That should do the trick, so to speak.