August 27, 2014

Banging For Bucks? There's An App For That!

Temptress and businessman

By Elizabeth Shore

Maybe I’m late to the party, but I had no idea there’s an app that will put virtual condensation on my phone screen so I can doodle on it like a steamy bathroom mirror. So useful! Or an app that’ll make fart noises I can play for my friends. Sure to make me the envy of all! Yet for all the crazy apps out there, I came across one the other day that made my Lady Smut antenna perk up with interest. It’s called Peppr, and it allows potential johns to easily hook up with available “ladies of the night” in their area. It provides pertinent info such as physical descriptions and price lists for offered services, and then for a small booking fee the appointment can be made. It’s simple, it’s discreet, and … oh wait. Only available in Berlin.

Prostitution, and the advertising of it, is completely legal in Germany. Whatever the underlying circumstances, if one chooses it as a profession there are methods in place to try to make it safer than, say, just turning a blind eye to women walking the streets and hoping for the best. Germany’s Prostitution Act of 2002 was designed to make it possible for prostitutes to get health insurance and social security, along with improving conditions under which they work. The idea was to treat it like any other job and allow the workers measures of protection as well as the ability to save for retirement by paying into pension schemes. And legal apps like Pepper ease away from the sex trade the need for pimps.

Given that there’s no way we’re never not going to have hookers around, why not try to regulate it, right? Or so goes the thinking. After all, estimates have been made that the German legal sex trade is worth a staggering 16 billion euros a year. But is the approach there working? Depends on who you ask. Human rights advocates estimate that 90% of sex workers are forced into the trade. Yes, you read that right. 90 percent. Women from poorer eastern block countries like Bulgaria and Romania have flooded the German sex trade market and caused prices to tumble. Many of them are also willing to undertake risky sex acts – such as not requiring condoms – making it tougher for those who balk at it to get business. Yet there are women who willingly enter the business and who hunger for the opportunity to do so legally.  Hmmm. So what’s a prostitution-supporting country to do? Perhaps try the Swedish approach.

In Sweden it’s not legal to sell sex, but it is illegal to pay for it. So if a john gets busted, it’s only he who’s in trouble, not the one offering the services. This approach is gaining traction in other European countries, most notably France. But see, here’s the problem. Germany’s building huge mega brothels right along the German/French border. So if France gets tougher on those in the sex trade, willing clients just make a quick trip across the border and presto-chango! German workers willingly – and legally – await them.

With prostitution, as with many things nowadays, the internet has changed the way business is conducted. The Economist recently published an interesting article about the business of the sex trade, citing the app Peppr that I referenced earlier, as well as talking about chat forums where sex workers can ask questions of one another about anything from cleaning sheets to finding quick childcare. Prostitutes are maintaining their own websites, learning about SEO, and for the most part functioning like any other freelancer. Their expertise just happens to be sex.

Sex is going to happen, and people are going to pay for it. Are new ways of thinking about the sex trade industry and available opportunities on the ‘net for those in the biz a positive step forward or a path toward disaster? Sound off below and follow us at Lady Smut. We’ll keep you thinking.


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  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    It’s interesting that Germany is trying this, because this is what most liberal prostitution advocates are gunning for in the U.S. — legalization. But what if legalization doesn’t work? At least if there’s some statistical evidence that it doesn’t work then the people who want to help prostitutes in the U.S. can move on to trying something else.

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorElizabeth Shore

      Haha! Yes, they can all become developers of pointless apps.

      The Swedish approach is interesting and apparently gaining traction. Germany, meanwhile, is being labeled the “bordello of Europe.” Mein Gott!

      Reply to Elizabeth Shore
  • Post authorMegan Morgan

    This is so interesting, I didn’t know anything about this! I think regulating it is a good thing though, because like you said, there will always be prostitutes and people willing to pay for sex. Why not make it safer and more accessible? I think it’s definitely a step forward. Bravo technology!

    Reply to Megan Morgan
  • Post authorKel

    This is hard, because again… desperation makes people sell things they don’t really want to sell. If you legalize the selling of things people don’t really want to sell (sex, blood, body parts) people who might otherwise never consider it start thinking about it when they’re getting desperate.

    If there was a way to keep people from getting into prostitution because they’re desperate, then sure.

    • Post authorElizabeth Shore

      You and Megan both raise interesting points. On one hand, it’s going to happen so let’s at least try to make it safer. On the other, does this encourage people to do things they otherwise may not have?

      No matter which way you lean, I think it’s an interesting topic of discussion.

      Reply to Elizabeth Shore
      • Post authorKel

        I’ve read some very interesting studies that have been done with minimum living wages. Not a huge amount of money, but enough to mean the difference between starving in the street (or turning to an unwanted profession in prostitution) and being able to go to school, find a job one likes, build a future…

        And while people rail against it, it’s had excellent results in the areas its been tried in. People don’t actually want to be poor.

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