Sex Workers Suffer After MyRedBook Website Shut Down by FBI (CA Penal Code 647(b))

Prostitution is still considered a crime in most of the nation, but not everyone agrees with this estimation.  Not long ago, the website MyRedBook.com (run by a now jailed husband and wife team) was shut down by federal law enforcement officials.  SFGate reporter Vivian Ho’s recent article on the subject focuses on a sex worker in the Bay area who has seen her client base decrease by approximately 80% after MyRedBook, where she met and made arrangements with most of them, was closed.  What Ho’s article brings to light is that, despite what law enforcement officials believe about the sex trade in SF and surrounding areas, some women and men are simply conducting professional business transactions in a trade that they enjoy being a part of.  They aren’t forced into it and, at least as far as the worker’s perspective in the article is concerned, MyRedBook (which used ratings systems and alerted sex workers to potentially dangerous clients) was a useful tool in what can be a difficult trade.

California Penal Code 647(b) is the law that makes prostitution illegal in the state. It defines prostitution as simply the exchange of money for sexual acts.  It’s not only illegal to take money in exchange for sex acts, it’s also illegal to pay someone for the same, creating criminals, some say, out of consenting adults entering into an agreement with one another.  Prostitution is a misdemeanor in California and, if you are convicted, you may face a $1,000 fine and 6 months in county for a first offense.  However, if you are arrested and convicted of prostitution multiple times, you will face harsher fines and penalties.  For example, a second offense requires a judge to sentence you to a minimum of 45 days in county and a third offense will end in a required minimum of 90 days.  In addition to this, in certain situations your driver’s license could be suspended or restricted.

Making and keeping the act of prostitution illegal is, in theory, an attempt to protect women and men from becoming victims of the sex trade, from dangerous situations and from violence.  However, in speaking with Ho, the worker seems to seek to represent the many sex workers who are not oppressed.  They use websites such as the former MyRedBook.com in order to take control, meaning that such a site makes pimps and other antiquated means of setting up meetings obsolete.