We’ve all seen the Craigslist ads in “Adult Services.” These days, 99% of them have the stench of pimp and/or bullshit on them: “~~~~~~SuPeR SpEciALS THiS Week CaLL Me~~~~~~~~~ ,” capitalizing on the whore monger’s love of a good bargain. (Are you sure a whore’s the thing you want the lowest price on?)
Ah, but back in the day, back when Craigslist glowed with all the promise of the interweb, before it was hijacked by the stupid, greedy, and downright nasty, back when the boom had gone bust and San Francisco found itself filled to the brim with educated 20-something women who were now broke and who felt empowered by their sexuality, back then Craigslist was a veritable bounty of for-sale erotic possibility. There, young women could hock themselves and men young and old could peruse and purchase with confidence. And the internet seemed to fulfill its promise of connecting people.
But Craisglist is so Web 1.0. It’s the Web 2.0 of online sex shopping that gets interesting. There are sites — MyRedbook and The Erotic Review are two of the better known ones — where not only do women advertise their services in templated format that lays out age, race, breast size, and status of pubic hair but where customers review said women in exacting detail.
I am not making this up.
Let’s take Redbook (myredbook.com) because it is a truly amazing phenomenon and where you might very well be pleasantly surprised by what happens there. First of all, the site is broken into several sections — Female Escorts (they go all the way), Female Massage (they don’t go all the way — this is sensual massage), Female Asian Massage (this is the robust if somewhat disturbing world of Asian prostitution), Female BDSM/Festish (Get spanked! Tied up! Your balls kicked!), Female Dancers (not sure quite what that entails), and TS/TV. These categorical distinctions are important because they let women signal johns their limits from the get go — and let johns who have limits find what they’re looking for.
Yes, not all johns want to fuck. Some — many — just want the sensual ministrations and company of a loving woman, even if only for an hour or two.
The review format is smart, at once prescribed and open. Reviewers, 99.99% men, rate the woman’s looks and service on a scale of 1-10. The review asks for basics about the woman’s body, the status of her location, her timeliness, if she smokes, has tatoos, is clean or not. And then there is an open text session where the reviewer can indulge as many details as he chooses about what happened between him and her.
And then there is the list of acronyms and terms, a vertiable explosion of linguistic creativity, at once hilarious and impressive. To wit, here are a few of my favorites:
- ATF — all time favorite, as in this woman is my all time favorite provider
- GFE — girlfriend experience, as in she treats me like a boyfriend which means she kisses and performs fellatio sans condom
- DFK — deep french kiss
- YMMV — your mileage may vary, as in she she gave me DFK but might not you
- DATY — dining at the y which, it turns out, refers to cunnulingus — more on this later
- CBJ — covered blow job, as in a condom is used
- FIV/FOV — finger in vagina vs. finger on vagina — a fair an important distinction
- MSOG — multiple shots on goal, as in you get to cum more than once
There are many amazing things worth noting. One thing that I found surprising in my stroll through these reviews is how much men enjoy performing cunnulingus on women they don’t know. It’s a little surprising, don’t you think? Hobbyists — that’s what men who buy sex are called, hobbyists, buying sex being their chosen hobby, as distinct from stamps or electric cars or Civil War paraphenalia — love going downtown.
But what’s really surprising is the community that seems to have emerged from MyRedbook, a community that supports itself and rigorously polices itself. Providers help providers with issues around business, safety, and etiquette. Johns help each other avoid getting mugged, arrested, and of course help each other find the perfect provider. And johns help providers and providers help johns on all of the above. It is a flourishing community of support facilitating livelihoods and pleasure.
MyRedBook, for the most part, seems to proffer all the promise of Web 2.0 applied to sex shopping — an interactive, online community that is sex positive, where the crowd tends to its own for the best possible good. Are there pimps and bullshit? Of course. Is there violence and greed? No doubt. There are such things everywhere and in much more mundane businesses than prostitution. Is there something unsettling about women being reviewed as commodities? Well, sure, but in this case it’s not the women who are commodities but the services they provide.
Watching the community here work together to contain and control these factors while simultaneously working together to bring pleasure, goodness, and delight is, well, inspiring.