Sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh, at Wired, summarizes an interesting finding from his research on a non-random sample of prostitution in New York City. The solicitation of prostitutes, he explains, has increasingly entered cyberspace. Prostitutes are now significantly more likely to be solicited on the internet than they are to be picked up in person or referred by a mutual acquaintance. Facebook, in particular, is now a primary way that Johns find prostitutes.
If solicitation is shifting, with more and more Johns finding prostitutes online, then sex workers don’t have to be physically find-able. And if sex workers don’t have to be anywhere in particular, then we might expect sex work to spread out throughout the city. This is, indeed, what Venkatesh finds. The side-by-side maps of New York City below show that, between 1991 and 2010, there are fewer highly-concentrated areas of prostitution (in red) and more moderately-concentrated that spread out further across the city.
So here we have an excellent example of how technology is changing work, leisure, and crime in interesting ways.
UPDATE: A reader sent in a Salon articlestrongly criticizing the conclusions outlined above, so take this post with a grain of salt.