In the early 90s, anyone looking to hire an escort or track down an erotic massage parlor started by flipping through the Yellow Pages.

Maxine Doogan, a Bay Area–based sex worker, activist, and founder of the Erotic Service Providers Union, remembers placing print ads for her services in the back pages of “girly magazines” and alt-weeklies.

“We were the economic engine for those newspapers and those entities that paid the wages of the journalists,” Doogan told me. “They were making thousands of dollars off us.”

In the late 80s, California cracked down with stricter laws against “pimping and pandering” that targeted sex workers and punished anyone who accepted their money. Many print publications refused to print sex workers’ ads, and without ads, many had trouble finding work. “It’s under that experience that people started to think about building their own websites, and how to advertise on your own website,” Doogan said.

These sex workers populated early chat rooms, fueled the rise of e-commerce that began with online porn, and later adopted cryptocurrencies as a means of survival long before they hit the mainstream. Though they were some of the first to use the internet commercially, legislation against sex workers continues to push them further into the margins. Women in the adult industry pioneered the early internet and made it profitable, until eventually, it screwed them over.

Kristen Diangelo, co-founder and executive director of the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) Sacramento chapter, told me over the phone that the internet spurred sex workers to explore other methods of advertising their services. “When the internet came up, we thought, ‘okay, there’s another way to tell people we’re around, and we don’t have to deal with all these rules that they’re making,’” Diangelo said. “We saw another opportunity.”

Read the full article:

Sex Workers Pioneered the early Internet – and it screwed them over by Sofia Barrett-Ibarria

Oct. 3rd, 2018