Category Archives: Escorts

Sex Workers Embrace Obamacare

Why sex workers are celebrating Obamacare

Why sex workers are celebrating Obamacare

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

A burlesque dancer dressed as a nurse taunts her co-performer with a toy syringe, dangling the medicine seductively in an act that’s meant to reflect the cat-and-mouse game of U.S. healthcare. They shimmy and eventually end up topless.

The risqué performance was part of an Obamacare registration drive last week in San Francisco, dubbed the “Healthy Ho’s Party.”

Organized by “Siouxsie Q,” a Bay Area sex worker, the event was meant to encourage other sex workers to enroll in the new insurance exchanges. It was a rousing success: Nearly 40 men and women attended and almost all of them filed enrollment paperwork.

In the all-cash, off-the-books sex industry, workers can be particularly high risk and insurance is often out of reach. Many sex workers — a broad term that can refer to a number of services, including sexual massage, prostitution, and escort and dominatrix work — consider themselves self-employed entrepreneurs who can’t afford to purchase healthcare. But that could all change with the Affordable Care Act.

Siouxsie, 28, has shopped for plans countless times since 2008, coming up empty each time. She and her partner recently reviewed their healthcare options and found that a joint plan would have cost between $400 and $500 a month — an unaffordably large chunk of their incomes.

“We just couldn’t swing [insurance] in the Bay Area — we’re lower middle class, recent college graduates, in Startup Land trying to make our way,” she said.

But come January 1, when the new law goes into effect, she and her partner will be looking at a monthly bill of between $175 and $200. They’re deciding between two plans on the California exchange and will receive a tax credit of about $275 a month (without the credit it would have cost nearly $500).

California’s exchange site was down the first few times Siouxsie tried to navigate it, but she was able to successfully browse policies several times. (She nevertheless arrived at the party with stacks of paper applications so the night could continue even if the website was disrupted.)

Related: Top 4 Obamacare complaints

Volunteers from Siouxsie’s weekly podcast, The WhoreCast, staffed the event. “Jolene,” another sex worker who had already enrolled through the California exchange, was also on hand to talk users through the process. A key detail for the crowd: Enrollment doesn’t require users to report their employment.

“I am here mostly to put my skill at filling out bureaucratic forms to use,” Jolene joked.

Through the California exchange, Jolene will receive a $211 monthly tax credit, which will bring her payments to just $36 a month.

Individuals making less than $46,000 are eligible for a tax credit to offset their monthly costs. Many of the sex workers at the event file W-2s for their legal work, whether it be a part-time job or sex work that falls within the law. Sex workers interviewed by CNNMoney estimated this income to be less than $45,000 a year.

The Affordable Care Act will cover contraception, screening for sexually transmitted infections, and violence counseling at no additional charge, which the sex workers said would make a big difference in their community. The legislation will also make it more difficult for insurance companies to deny coverage based on gender identity and HIV status.

For Jolene and others in her line of work, it’s cause for celebration.

“I really do think access to healthcare should be a human right, and I’ve been so brainwashed to think it’s such a privilege,” a sex worker and activist known as “Maxine Holloway” said.

Related: Obamacare pricier for individual buyers

Holloway played the nurse in the evening’s performance. She’s also working on a master’s degree in public health.

“Through my studies, I have looked at a lot of different countries and how they take care of their people,” Holloway said. “We are one of the only countries that does not take care of our citizens in that way.”

The women at the party recognize that taxpayers might not be enthusiastic about their dollars subsidizing healthcare for sex workers.

“Their tax dollars are going into other programs that deal with the aftermath of not having healthcare,” Holloway said. “We’re paying for it anyways, and we’re paying for it in a way that people still get sick and still die.”

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LinkedIn’s Red Light District

The networking site tried to clamp down on the oldest profession earlier this year, but sex workers are still operating on Linkedin and have no plans to leave, finds Theo Merz

One London agency says LinkedIn helps it come to the top of Google results

By 

Log on to a social network “for professionals” and you can meet Emma, the self-employed escort and travel companion from London; or Matt, who offers “gay male sensual erotic massage” in New York; or Charlotte, the transexual Latina escort who visits clients across the globe.

This is not a specialist ‘pay-for-play’ listings site, but rather LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking platform. And among the 238 million lawyers, management consultants, journalists, PRs and others with profiles, there are hundreds like Emma, Matt and Charlotte using the network to further their professional interests.

The exact number of sex workers are hard to find, especially since LinkedIn clarified its ban on all prostitutes and escorts having profile pages on the site earlier this year. In an update to their user agreement terms, the company wrote: “Even if it is legal where you are located, [users cannot] create profiles or provide content that promotes escort services or prostitution.”

LinkedIn ‘essential for SEO’

But it seems like the move has had little practical impact. Searching ‘escorts’ on the site brings up more than 19,000 results – and while a large proportion of these relate to white-collar jobs which happen to have the word somewhere in their description, there are still dozens of agencies and individuals in each of the world’s capital cities offering “nude massage” or “adult entertainment” in their profiles.

The company recently announced it was lowering its minimum age from 18 to 13

With its recent announcement that children as young as 13 are going to be able to create profiles from September, down from a previous minimum age of 18, LinkedIn’s owners may now be especially concerned their updated T&C’s are enforced. A spokesperson for LinkedIn offered no details on how they would make sure the user agreement is adhered to, saying only: “If we become aware of profiles and other activity on the site that may be in violation of our policies, we will take appropriate action.”

The escorting agencies on the site, however, say they have no plans to leave, and that – while they may not get much direct custom through the network – social networking platforms like LinkedIn are essential for their business model.

One of the businesses listed is the ”high class escort agency” So Secret London. Its owner – who asked not to be named and naturally insisted the agency was no more than a matchmaking service, with any sexual element being decided between client and escort – said his biggest concern was SEO, or search engine optimisation, which companies employ to ensure their brand comes to the top of Google results.

“You filter out the random types that could be on Facebook”

“The weight of social media within SEO has increased,” he said, adding that the agency also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. “The majority of this is window dressing [getting customers to call the agency or into their main site]. However we have had some enquiries through LinkedIn. And you can see through Google analytics that we do have traffic through there.”

The owner claimed that most of the clients that came through LinkedIn were tourists, and said he could see no reason why agencies such as his own should be kicked off the site. “It’s where professionals meet, it’s a good filter to filter out the random types that could be on Twitter or Facebook. You give the perception of your business being legitimate. It shows it doesn’t have a hidden agenda, it can be something you transact.”

Sheri’s Ranch is another agency listed on the site. This one is different, though, as it is based in Nevada, where prostitution itself is legal. The owners of the ‘ranch’ openly refer to their business as a brothel and were enraged when LinkedIn said it would be clamping down on sex workers earlier this year – but seem heartened that no action has been taken against them so far.

‘Sheri’s ranch’ is one of hundreds of pages for escort agencies and brothels

“In 2013 most legitimate businesses benefit from a presence on social media. Having a Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn company page, and even a YouTube account for interactive video is pretty much standard practice for any company worth its salt,” a spokesman for Sheri’s Ranch said. “The legal sex work industry is no exception.”

Despite prostitution being legal in the state, brothels are unable to advertise in the mass media and so social networking sites are especially important for sex workers, he said. “SEO is absolutely a concern for us, as the adult industry is highly competitive and maintaining key positions for certain search results is of paramount importance. I can’t go into the details of our online strategies, but we do have a full time SEO team on staff.”

Today’s critic is tomorrow’s client

The spokesman added that individual women at the ‘ranch’ were also active in a professional capacity on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, occasionally using the platforms to change people’s perception of prostitution.

“Ladies using social media do receive abuse on occasion,” he said. “But the ladies often approach criticism as an opportunity to debate the topic of legal prostitution and start a conversation. Often, people who are abusive don’t have all the facts about our industry and social media provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the realities of sex work. Our ladies can be very convincing and persuasive; today’s critic is tomorrow’s client.” Sheri’s Ranch, like So Secret London, said it would not leave LinkedIn until it was ejected.

Sex workers are concerned about their online profile as any other professional, and sites offering tips on how to make yourself stand out in the marketplace are available on the internet as they are for any other industry. “Stay true to your escort brand,” one reads. “You’ve worked hard to create and maintain an image for your escort career.” It will take more than a change in T&Cs to stop escorts and their agencies developing their brands on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Slixa: The “Facebook” for Escorts

This Startup Has Created A Facebook For Escorts

slixa

Dylan Love, provided by

You’re never more than a few clicks away from all kinds of adult entertainment online – pictures, erotic movies, whatever your heart desires.

Now a site called Slixa is trying to harness the power of social media for the world’s oldest profession.

The site functions as a localized directory of escorts, erotic masseuses, dominatrixes, fetish workers, and the like. Each one maintains her own personalized profile page of autobiographical information, pictures, and rules on how customers should behave.

It’s got a clean, modern design. It’s incredibly intuitive to use. And it doesn’t look anything like the cheap-looking text-only ads of Backpage.com, where many escorts migrated after CraigsList banned hookers.

It works like this: You browse the site by city, reading the profiles of local escorts. When someone catches your eye, all you have to do is reach out to her. Entertainers’ email addresses and phone numbers are publicly visible to anyone browsing the site, so this is a pretty straightforward proposition.

In a roundabout way, this is the Internet’s picture menu of sex.

User registration is free, but not required. The only impetus to have an account would be to follow your favorite escorts’ status updates, like a sexy Facebook newsfeed.

If you’re a prospective customer looking to hire an escort, you pay nothing to use the site. You have unlimited access to entertainer profiles and their contact information. Escorts obviously make money from their clients while Slixa gets its share by charging the escorts for their presences on the site. All standard pages are free right now, but entertainers can buy ad upgrades for a small fee to get increased publicity throughout the site.

Escorts use “credits” to buy a page (also called an ad) on Slixa, with each credit costing $1. To get your ad some exposure on a given city’s page, Slixa charges 30 credits per month. To get it listed on the main homepage for some serious site-wide exposure, it’s 375 credits for a 14-day period.

Spokesperson Lee Ann Jennings told us that “Slixa has signed up more than 3,000 entertainers in seven months with no signs of slowing down. Escorts and other adult entertainers continue to join at a rapid rate, which of course we’re very happy about. The really significant thing is that we’re more interested in quality over quantity.”

The site is completely bootstrapped, run without any venture funding – “Just the way we like it,” said Jennings.

And how much use does the site get? Jennings revealed that the company has “a strict privacy standard we adhere to, so we don’t share any of our traffic stats with third parties. As for what percentage are hiring from the site, we don’t track that information, as those discussions take place off-site, between the consumers and the entertainers for privacy reasons.”

If you’re into the idea of Slixa as long as your privacy is protected, this appears to be a non-issue.

In interviews, the only feedback we got from escorts using the site that even came close to constituting a “complaint” is that Slixa is still slightly under the radar and hasn’t hit critical mass yet. One entertainer in New York City who requested to remain anonymous said that she would like to do much more business over the site in the future, but acknowledges that “it takes time to build a new brand. So, I believe in the site very deeply. I know it has a great future ahead of it, as it’s specifically addressed issues that are a problem for other sites.”

And what problems do these other sites have?

They “are either so poorly designed or have such low-functioning capacity that entertainers get lost in the shuffle (and if they don’t want to be, they have to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars just to get any attention to their ads). Slixa does a fantastic job of creating a space where entertainers who invest in their business with high quality photos and ad copy have a chance at getting attention, without having to compete with cam sites or pornographic advertising,” this escort said.

We had all kinds of legality questions. What’s the difference between an escort and a prostitute, and how is Slixa able to operate in the clear?

We reached out to Adrianna Carter, an escort using the site to publicize her wares, who told us that “escorts are high-end companions. Prostitutes sell sex for money.” This appears to come down to the subtle difference between selling your time and selling your body.

We also spoke to Lisa Love, an escort operating out of Dallas, Texas, who explained it the same way: “Well, an escort has companionship for sale. A prostitute has sex for sale. I personally like to be described as a ‘provider’ because I provide the combined services of a therapist, girlfriend, best friend, and ego-booster, you could say. But as a provider, I sell my time. Now, how we choose to spend our time – that’s all up to the client.”

However, if you’re going to use the site, be smart. Atlanta lawyer David Schnipper told us that ads for adult companionship will dance around the specific details of what to expect, instead using keywords like “massage,” “time,” or “companionship” to stay in the clear. But law enforcement obviously knows what’s happening. They’re just far less likely to care until someone complains or gets injured.

We were obviously curious about the financials here, and Slixa pages readily tell you the rates you can expect to pay. As the site caters to a clientele that is often of some means, encounters can get expensive quickly. Each escort sets her own price, but as an example, here’s how much one New York City escort charges:

  • Two hours “get to know you” – $1,800
  • Five-hour dinner engagement – $6,000
  • Overnight bliss – $10,000

We interviewed one such high-end escort (her name is being withheld at her request), who said that really enterprising and hardworking women can make as much as $400,000 a year, and six figures a year is common income for escorts in general.