What eBay has done for the proud American swap meeter, AdultWork aims to do for the independent British sex worker. Five minutes browsing its cheerfully worded listings for freelance hookers, webcammers, and phone chatters (“NEW!!!!!!! Gangbang parties—£100 for 3 hours of mass pleasure!!!” advises featured escort Kelli O, from Ashford, Kent; “my soiled panties just for you!!” promises alice382226 of Bristol, only eight quid a pair) helps somewhat to understand why our pilgrim ancestors barely distinguished between dear old Blighty and Sodom.
Setting aside the fact that the U.S. stands practically alone among non-Muslim countries in criminalizing the act of prostitution itself (the U.K., for instance, prohibits only ancillary acts like brothel keeping and solicitation), it’s hard to explain why AdultWork seems so strikingly un-American a phenomenon. In most respects, the site is, like eBay, an altar of devotion to that all-but-official American state deity, the free market. Putting unprecedented marketing power in the hands of small-time and casual entrepreneurs, AdultWork lowers barriers to entry, cuts out middlemen, fosters trust between sellers and buyers, and otherwise serves the shag trade in ways both COYOTE and the Heritage Foundation might applaud.
In the end, then, it’s probably our native romanticism as much as our puritanism that makes AdultWork seem so foreign. Look at enough lists of available services (“DOMINATION,” check; “ORAL WITHOUT PROTECTION,” check; “ADULT BABY MINDING,” check) and peruse enough standardized fee tables (“IN CALLS: 1 HOUR, £180, 2 HOURS, £220; OUT CALLS: 2 HOURS, £250”), and the sheer market-friendly banality of it all can eventually overwhelm. Are there really places in the world where the beast with two backs is at last no scarier or weirder than anything you could buy at Petco? AdultWork seems to say so, and I suppose we should hope it’s true.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 8, 2005