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But our discussion of the online sex trade requires frank language, and some may find the topic distasteful. FOR those seeking commercial sex in Berlin, Peppr, a new app, makes life easy. Type in a location and up pops a list of the nearest prostitutes, along with pictures, prices and physical particulars. It plans to expand to more cities. Peppr can operate openly since prostitution, and the advertising of prostitution, are both legal in Germany.
But even where they are not, the internet is transforming the sex trade. Prostitutes and punters have always struggled to find each other, and to find out what they want to know before pairing off. Customers knew little about the nature and quality of the services on offer. Personal recommendations, though helpful, were awkward to come by. Sex workers did not know what risks they were taking on with clients.
Now specialist websites and apps are allowing information to flow between buyer and seller, making it easier to strike mutually satisfactory deals. The sex trade is becoming easier to enter and safer to work in: prostitutes can warn each other about violent clients, and do background and health checks before taking a booking. Even in places such as America, where prostitution and its facilitation are illegal everywhere except Nevada, the marketing and arrangement of commercial sex is moving online.
The shift online is casting light on parts of the sex industry that have long lurked in the shadows.
They are more bothersome for everyone else—and, because they are the most vulnerable, more likely to come to the attention of the police and of social or health workers.