Silicon Valley has always been the epicenter of technology, which has attracted some of the world’s most brilliant minds in one place to develop some of the most technologically advanced gadgets of our times. However, this week Silicon Valley has been in the news not for the latest technology boom, but for the area’s prostitution boom.
With the discovery of Forrest Timothy Hayes’ death surrounding sex, drugs, and prostitution, a light has been shone on Tech Valley’s emerging sex industry, and the impact that Hayes’ death will have on sex and technology.
“I do worry that people are going to think that this is something that’s normal and happens, but it really doesn’t,” said “Maxine Holloway,” a high-end prostitute speaking to CNN Money through the use of a pseudonym.
Other sex workers in the area also expressed worry as well, although business had not yet slowed.
Forrest Hayes, 51, was found dead last November aboard his 50-foot yacht, Escape. Alix Tichelman, who police say is a high-priced call girl who charged $1,000 to perform sexual acts, is facing manslaughter charges for her role in his death, and is being held on a $1.5 million bail.
Police say Tichelman had an “ongoing prostitution relationship” with Hayes that began when she met him on a popular website, SeekingArrangement.com, a service that touts a mutually beneficial “sugar daddies” and “sugar babies” relationship.
Since the incident, the FBI has cracked down on popular websites that matched sex workers with clients in the Silicon Valley area.
Late last month, the FBI raided and shut down MyRedbook, a website that allowed escorts to advertise their services and negotiate with clients.
Women in the industry relied heavily on MyRedbook to do background checks on their clients. Sex workers would post about instances of violence or circumstances in which they felt unsafe.
The FBI indicted the founders of MyRedbook on charges of using the Internet to facilitate prostitution and on multiple charges of money laundering.
According to USA Today, a grand jury indicted Eric Omuro of Mountain View, California and Annmarie Lanoce of Rocklin, California on charges of profiting from MyRedbook.com, which had reviews of escorts and strip clubs, explicit photos of prostitutes, and “menus of sexual services.”
The website used acronyms to refer to sex acts and sold VIP memberships so customers could access private forums and search reviews of services offered by sex workers.
“It’s like sex workers lost their Yelp,” said Bay Area sex worker and activist “Siouxsie Q.”
“Before the Internet, clients didn’t know where to find the prostitutes and prostitutes did not know where to find the clients. If you think about it in an economic sense, the Internet has removed a lot of the friction from the market,” said Scott Cunningham, an associate professor at Baylor University who studies the economics of prostitution. “And when you reduce search friction, you get a lot more searching and a lot more of that activity.”
Cunningham further alleged that Hayes’ indulgences would have gone undiscovered had he not overdosed on his yacht.
A prostitute, who chose not to provide her name, told CNN that she’s made nearly $1million over the 10 years that she’s been working in the area.
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