How the Internet has Changed the Face of Sex Work

Nowadays it seems you can do anything on the internet. From buying groceries to organising school runs and sending birthday cards, it’s hard to remember what life was like before smart phones and Google was the automatic go-to for anything and everything . Recent studies have shown that sex work is following the same trend, with websites offering ‘escort services’ and apps where clients and workers can rate or report each other growing rapidly. In this digital age it is much easier, and seemingly more secure, to advertise sexual services and for potential clients to make contact.  

Most people might assume that street sex work accounts for the highest number of women in sex work, but in reality this makes up only a small percentage in wealthier countries. This disproportionate view probably comes from the amount of focus given to street prostitution as local authorities focus on tackling it more, as it occurs in public places. Also as women working on the streets can be more vulnerable as they draw more attention from police and other government agencies than those working online, skewing official figures.

As online ads for sexual services make potential transactions more anonymous and fewer women leave cards in phone boxes with their phone number on, many would be forgiven for thinking sex work is getting safer for working women. Thankfully there are apps like Ugly Mugs that aims to connect sex workers in an online network in order to share information about dangerous clients and therefore increase women’s personal safety. It can help improve the safety of sex workers, but only after a client has been abusive or violent, not before so online sex workers should always remain vigilant.

Whether it be online or on the streets, sex work is still high risk occupation. Services like Doorway provide support and advice for women involved in sex work in Norfolk. The support Doorway offers is not about encouraging exiting or life style change – it is about meeting peoples needs practically and emotionally. This may be supporting with benefits, legalities, safety information and so on as well as reducing feelings of isolation. From a cup of tea to one-to-one support women can contact us for help, no matter what kind of work they might do. Our drop-in services run three times a week and our free phone number, 0808 800 1030, is confidential. And just like the rest of the world, we’re online too, with confidential live chat. If you need support, we’re here.