WNYC: The Economics of Sex Work

The Department of Justice released a massive study earlier this week about the sex trade, with a focus on pimps and human trafficking. On WNYC's "The Takeaway" today, I talked with host John Hockenberry and author Melissa Gira Grant about what the study does and doesn't reveal.

"I think [the sex trade] is fundamentally different—it's as different as the book industry has been over the last 10 years," says Kolker. "The internet has disrupted sex work, in my opinion, almost as substantially. There are a lot of people that aren't working walking the streets anymore, they aren't working with a pimp anymore, they aren't working with an escort service anymore, and they're just using the internet—BackPage or formerly Craigslist—to be solo practitioners or freelancers."

Kolker says while this report sheds light on some aspects of human trafficking, he says this report ignores this substantial change in the sex trade.

"Anyone new who might be getting into the business, if they're not being trafficked or coerced, they're probably doing it on their own," he says. "This study seems to focus more on pimps than the high-end escort services or the freelancers."

Kolker says that the internet as a vehicle for casual sex work has grown since 2007 and believes that the report may have had an heavier emphasis on this if it were commissioned slightly later. 

"This study was commissioned in 2007, and in 2009, something like 30 different attorneys general got together and called Craigslist the new Times Square," he says. 

 Click below for audio from the segment.

"The Economics of Sex Work," THE TAKEAWAY