The trade as old as humanity is still evolving, and technology is now at its core.
Of course, the tried and tested, cash in hand method of doing business still exists. However, with cashless payment options, age and identity verification, and budding online networks of escorts, the industry is unrecognisable from its origins.
As we speak, the Online Safety Bill is passing through UK Parliament with implications for many businesses that operate in the adult industry and further afield.
- Payment Methods
Given the nature of the escort industry, payment can be a grey area in the modern day. Banks are tentative about supporting adult industry activity, but an endless list of alternatives step in to fill this gap.
A reliable adult payment processor can be hard to come by if you don’t know where to look. However, services such as PaymentCloud and Durango Merchant Services specialise in ‘high-risk’ users.
Durango Merchant Services offer another payment processing method which has now become commonplace: cryptocurrency. This skips out the possibility of banks blocking payments. Many adult and pornographic sites will just accept direct crypto payment rather than debit or credit card.
Direct exchange of cash or crypto isn’t the only way that technology has redefined the escort world though. Amazon Wish List allows clients to send any assortment of gifts to a designated P.O. Box. This keeps the escort’s personal address protected from both their client and Amazon.
We spoke with London Deluxe who vouched for many of their escorts using Amazon Wish List as an alternative payment method, as well as several reliable adult payment processors.
- Identity Verification
In the pre-digital era, the escort industry relied heavily on almost blind trust between escort and client. You had to trust that a client was who they said they were. You had to trust that they acted with decorum and respected boundaries. It was ultimately a transaction of good faith from both parties.
The introduction of the Online Safety Bill alongside numerous digital and online safeguarding measures has transformed this dynamic into a more trustworthy and verifiable procedure.
Escorts now have the freedom to carry out their own identity verification of clients before even meeting them face-to-face. Something even as simple as a client showing photographic ID over a video call is a luxury that wasn’t freely and easily accessible in earlier evolutions of the escort industry.
Carrying out some short research on a potential client’s social media accounts is also a game changer. From a Twitter or Instagram account, you can begin to gauge an individual’s personality. LinkedIn can give an impression of a client’s professional life and their working status, providing a mass of additional information that never would have been available pre-internet.
The trust and verification go both ways though. Escorts can use age-verified and identity-verified ads that build up trust between them and the client. For example, Vivastreet offers its own age and ID verification for independent adult industry workers. Along with the added legitimacy that this provides, verified ads stand out from the thousands on their website. The added safety is not only good for safeguarding, but also for business.
We are seeing age and ID verification spread to be more industry-wide now. Not only do escort services use verification effectively, the whole pornography world and beyond are seeing the benefits. Even from a child protection perspective, age verification is paramount. In compliance with the Online Safety Bill, companies will now have to demonstrate an effective level of protection across many industries – not just the adult industry.
- Peer Networks
Online interconnectedness has changed how we communicate and work, and this is no different in the escort industry. Where workers in the adult industry would have once been isolated and outcast, forums and support networks now operate to bring people together for the benefit of their mental and physical wellbeing.
For example, SAAFE (Support And Advice For Escorts) allows workers to review clients and enter their details into a shared database. If a client has been flagged as abusive or uncooperative, other escorts can check whether their potential client matches their description and avoid an unpleasant meeting before it happens.
On top of preventing countless unnecessary negative experiences, SAAFE connects escorts to people in the same world. The site allows you to become a ‘buddy’ with others in your area and expand into a network of like-minded workers. Whereas one might have thought they were the only escort in their area in times gone by, they can now fall back on a community and a support network.
- Support Services
Working parallel to SAAFE are a number of movements and charities that endeavour to create safer and more inclusive working environments. This ranges from legal advice to incident reporting.
SWARM (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement) currently campaign for and support the rights of all sex workers and the recognition of their profession as indeed that: a profession. SWARM varies their support methods from in-person meetings to updates on the ever-changing digital space. The rise of OnlyFans and similar adult industry social sites has demanded that they adapt with technology and use the internet to broaden their outreach.
NUM (National Ugly Mugs), on the other hand, uses online incident report systems and new client checker tools to provide a safer working base for the escort world. Automated alerts through email and text message can forewarn workers about incidents specific to their area, making the lines of communication that could save lives much more direct.
The presence of these multifaceted organisations has pushed, and continues to push, the escort world towards a more progressive future. Working with technology in the digital age makes prevention and reaction to the industry’s inevitable risks more instant and more actionable.