I never expected to learn insider information about the U.S. sex trade from the New York Times -- I stick to some of my favorite blogs for that. But today, I learned that, as the Times put it, there's an Amazon.com for prostitutes. I thought: A Web site for ordering sex online with … free delivery for purchases over $100? But, no, TheEroticReview.com is for rating prostitutes' performance; it's like Yelp.com, except reviewers evaluate women's sexual services.
Customers appraise a woman's appearance (did she post her real photo and is it accurate?), describe her personal grooming habits (natural or shaved?) and check off the services she offers from a standardized list that is comically blunt (for instance: "multiple pops, "no rush session" and "will bring 2nd provider"). Users have to first become a VIP "supporter of the site" to gain access to "the juicy details," but "general details" are offered up for free. Judging from the general tone of anonymous Internet postings, you might expect the reviews to be harsh -- but the ones I came across were actually breathlessly flattering. (Now, the uncensored VIP section might be another story.)
There's also a restricted section of the site where prostitutes can chat with one another and review customers (which, by the way, the Times doesn't mention). As the Times puts it, "the country's prostitution scene … is increasingly migrating from the street corner to the Internet." Along with that move can come greater protection and an ability to better vet customers.
The focus of the Times piece, though, is that the fate of TheEroticReview is uncertain -- and it isn't, as one might expect, because of questions about the legality of the site. Site owner David Elms is in jail awaiting trial for unrelated parole violations and could face four years in prison. Elms has been accused of demanding sex and money to promote certain women on the site (suggesting pimps exist on virtual street corners, too), and is considered "the most influential man in the prostitution business." The Times notes that with Elms potentially being locked up for several years, some workers worry that the site and their careers hang in the balance; after all, many rely on positive reviews to drive customers their way. If the site is taken down, though, something tells me that someone will be quick to pick up the slack.
On a related note, Nerve's Scanner reports that Nevada's infamous Bunny Ranch has come up with a way to draw business during tough economic times: They're "offering a recession special: The first 100 customers who show up with their tax rebate checks receive twice the 'services' for the price of one."