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Want a Ride? Use Uber. Want a Prostitute? Use an App

In today’s world you can find pretty much anything with a smartphone.

Key points

  • It is now possible to use an app to find an escort.
  • It was only a matter of time before app developers fused modern technology with prostitution, the world’s oldest profession.
  • Though they may present some concerns, these apps could be a somewhat safer venue for finding an escort.
iStock, Purchased and Used with Permission
Source: iStock, Purchased and Used with Permission

In today’s world, you can find pretty much anything if you just know which smartphone app to use. Looking for a nearby restaurant? Try OpenTable, UrbanSpoon, LocalEats or Yelp. OpenTable is especially cool because it tells you which restaurants have open reservations and lets you view their menus, and if you choose one of their suggested restaurants it will even book a reservation for you. If you need a ride to that restaurant? Try Uber or Lyft. Both apps let you request a “ride-share” car and driver at the touch of a button. You can even track the driver’s progress as he or she approaches your location. And if you want to finish off your evening with a paid-for sexual encounter? Well, there are apps for that as well.

Yes, that’s right, there are hire-a-hooker apps!

As a therapist who specializes in the treatment of sexual compulsivity and other intimacy disorders, this doesn’t exactly surprise me. After all, adult friend finder (i.e., casual sex finder) apps like Tinder and Grindr have been around for several years. Furthermore, the Internet, in general, has long been an open-source supplier of porn and sexual adventuring, with websites like Craigslist and Backpage blatantly catering to the sex industry. Heck, I even remember (far too vividly) the pre-Internet era when “escort ads” appeared in the personals sections of certain newspapers and magazines. But now we have smartphone apps that let you order up sex-for-hire like sandwiches from Jimmy John’s, and somehow I can’t help but feel we’ve crossed a line.

Prior to writing this post, I did a quick online search for “escort apps” and several popped up. So far it appears these apps are geared primarily toward straight men seeking sex with female prostitutes, but products designed for straight women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, fetishists and the like will certainly be here soon. Until then, we’ve got Utoopi, SugarSugar, The Gentlemen’s Navigator and a few others. (Don’t blame me for the bad branding. I didn’t name them, I just found them.) So below, I’m sorry to say, are a few of the latest prostitute-finder apps.

  • Utoopi offers access to “local escorts.” This app is the most sexually inclusive of the bunch, offering female escorts, male escorts, and shemale escorts. The app boasts, “Everything you want is waiting for you in one click on Utoopi.” To avoid surprises, the app separates escorts into sections: female, gay, and shemale. Profiles contain pictures, personal data, approximate location, pricing, and even a “call now” button.
  • SugarSugar’s tagline reads: “Where romance meets finance.” You can’t get much more direct than that! The company says its app is for “generous men looking to spoil, and dynamic women looking for financial support.” So it’s heterosexuals only. SugarSugar also says it “provides a staff of sugar dating experts to help you find the perfect mutually beneficial arrangement.” However, searching appears to occur just as it does with most other apps geared toward sexual encounters (i.e., by viewing and clicking on photos).
  • The Gentlemen’s Navigator, for heterosexual males, is more than just a prostitution app. In addition to pointing users toward nearby “girls,” it geolocates strip clubs, massage parlors, bars, and nightclubs. Such a deal! To initiate an encounter, you simply open the app, enter your location, scroll down the listing of places and people until you find what you’re looking for, and click the “suggest location or service” button.

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing these apps skim a percentage of any payments received by the sex worker (a la Uber and Lyft, where the app automatically deducts a percentage of the ride-share driver’s fee). So voila, we now have digital pimping! And it’s hardly a leap to envision a rating system similar to those used on restaurant apps, ride-share apps and all sorts of other apps.

Honestly, I don’t know why I’m troubled by the advent of prostitution apps. After all, prostitution has been around since man first discovered the joys of sexual activity. It was only a matter of time before app developers decided to fuse modern technology with the world’s oldest profession. Perhaps I’m just old-fashioned. Or maybe I’m worried that my sexually compulsive clients will now go even further off the rails with their behavior – even though I know they’re no more or less likely to be hiring prostitutes now than they were a few years ago.

So how are we really affected by the fact that that prostitutes now hang out on smartphone apps instead of street corners? For one thing, there is much less hue and cry about the world’s oldest profession. Out of sight, out of mind, it seems. As such, both prostitutes and those who hire them are much less likely to be arrested. Certainly police can still run stings by posing online as either prostitutes or johns, but for the most part, it seems as if law enforcement has realized this task is a losing battle that’s not worth fighting. So I suppose all this really means, in the big scheme of things, is that prostitution has, like pretty much everything else, gone digital, resulting in a new and somewhat safer venue.