Technology has been reshaping the world we live in, making things easier or faster. The Covid19 pandemic made it clear that most professions needed to adapt to the digital way of doing things to survive. Sex work was no exception.
One of the oldest professions known to man experienced the same pinch many of us faced and like everyone else they lost business and couldn’t provide for themselves. Many sex workers in Zimbabwe risked severe beatings from military police during lockdown in search of customers.
The internet’s impact
They adapted to the curfew that forced most to operate during the day but many still struggled and I thought what about the internet. The World Wide Web and technology of cameras has been evolving this profession and creating new dynamics to it.
The name itself sex work has become this umbrella term that encompasses so many variations of sex work like poll dancing, cam girls, escorts and the popular prostitution amongst many others. For us, in Zimbabwe, a sex worker is a prostitute full stop.
The internet has created new avenues of sex work were sex workers don’t have intercourse with customers like webcam girls/boys. This type of sex worker posts pictures or videos on websites like Chaturbate and MyFreeCams where customers pay a fee to watch, no sex involved.
The internet way of sex work ensures the safety of sex workers since it can be done at home and with money exchanging over payment methods like PayPal there is no risk of a customer taking back money after the service is done. All these issues are commonly raised among Zimbabwean sex workers who have been abused, duped out of payment and forced to engage in sex without protection by customers.
How sex work can be digitalised in Zim
I know at this point many are thinking this only applies to developed countries that have easy access to the equipment and internet needed bla bla bla. Humour me; when you ask prostitutes why they do what they do, it’s usually because of poverty, they have no choice and most don’t like the job. Organisations like Pow Wow advocate for sex workers and grant aid in trying times like during lockdown. But is this way of assisting creating long-lasting solutions?
Organisations like Pow Wow could shift some of their efforts towards programmes that teach sex workers about this digital and most importantly safer way of conducting their business. This way of sex work also expands their clientele and lowers the risk of sexually transmitted infections or diseases for both customer and sex worker.
Some will ask what about their local clients who can’t afford Wi-Fi or data? Well in all honesty this is coming from a place of empathy for the vulnerable sex workers who with the kind of profit is online could finally go to school and leave the business altogether. Have options.