12.2.15

THE CLEANSING POWER OF MARKETS.

There is a great deal of money to be made in Marshallian entrepreneurial districts.  Land rents adjust, and land uses change.  And thus do markets reallocate resources, yes, even markets that traffic in goods and services better not mentioned in polite society.
Monied men in Silicon Valley create a demand for highly-compensated sex work that can easily be coordinated using the same apps and services they create at their desk jobs. As a narrative, it contains the holy trifecta that has come to replace sex, drugs, and rock and roll: sex, tech, and the hollow optimism of neoliberal capitalism. There’s just one problem: it’s not exactly true.

For the last two years, the media has been fixated on the idea of a mutually beneficial arrangement between Silicon Valley employees and sex workers.
Plenty of time to invent the Next Big Thing (or, perhaps to debug it) but no time to cultivate human interaction.  The article focuses on how the high-rollers behave badly toward comfort women (insert your stereotype of choice here) but the backstory is pure Ricardian rent theory.
The tech industry may have brought plenty of overworked men with disposable income to the Bay Area, but not only is that new wealth failing to trickle down, it’s also putting tremendous pressure on the working class—sex workers included—to either take on more work or move out.

As the anonymous former escort told me: “It feels like an exclusive society filled with spoiled children who up our rents.”
But the oldest profession is all about negotiating over price. If the rent goes up, the fee for service goes up. No reason a Silicon Valley comfort woman can't take a page out of Harvard's book, and raise the rates.

That is, if she's willing to cater to mainstream tastes. There's a simpleminded view of markets that invokes "one dollar, one vote," and the Silicon Valley money evidently isn't going to the freakazoids.
Maxine Holloway adds that there is a painful irony to the way in which income inequality is transforming the historically diverse San Francisco from “the perfect location to create movements for social justice issues such as queer, trans, and sex worker rights” into an economically homogenous space.

And Siouxsie Q recalls: “In my career as a sex worker, the cost of living in San Francisco has gone up double or more. Have I doubled my prices? No.”
Perhaps Ms Q considers herself an inframarginal seller, or perhaps the horny geek market pays better than the alternatives.  Unfortunately, because it's the Bay Area, the sellers' minds are clouded by culture-studies bafflegab and freakazoid privilege.
The anonymous former escort I spoke with did acknowledge that “they were still totally clueless about their economic and male privilege,” recalling that a client once told her, much to her chagrin: “If I was a woman, this would just be my perfect job!” But when asked if they were generally good clients in terms of respect, payment, and behavior, she eagerly replied, “For the most part, yes!”

But they don’t have to be particularly stingy clients on a personal level for their industry as a whole to make sex workers’ lives more challenging on a systemic level.
A closer reading of the article, though, suggests that as the comfort women seek affordable locations to conduct their trade, they run afoul of zoning and quality-of-life laws enacted by municipalities seeking to shed their hardscrabble or ghetto reputation.  Those laws, the article suggests, sometimes are at the urging of the very tech workers who are also the comfort women's clientele.

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