Behind the Screen: Commercial Sex, Digital Spaces and Working Online, Technology in Society

Stewart Cunningham, Teela Sanders, Jane Scoular, Rosemary Campbell, Kathleen Hill, Matt Valentine-Chase, Camille Melissa, Yigit Aydin, Rebecca Hamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The rise of the internet and related digital technologies has had a profound impact on many aspects of people’s working and social lives, including the buying and selling of sexual services. In addition to providing new ways to advertise for sex workers who provide services to clients in person, the internet has also seen the development of completely new forms of commercial sex (like webcamming) that take place entirely in an online environment. Using the largest datasets created in the UK/Europe, this article explores how sex workers use the internet and digital technologies to facilitate the range of different services that they offer. We identify the ways in which the internet has improved the ability for sex workers to organize and professionalize their services, with increasing profit and safety being core objectives. At the same time, we explore some of the challenges and potential (new) harms that arise for sex workers working online.

In this paper, we aim to explore the diversity of ways in which sex workers interact with online and digital technology. This paper advances knowledge by: a) demonstrating how the shift to online working developed for sex workers and their views on the importance of the internet to their working lives; b) exposing the different marketing strategies adopted by sex workers, including the use of social media and personal websites in building an online brand; and c) discussing the impact of online reviews and the wider culture of reviewing commercial sexual services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-54
Number of pages8
JournalTechnology in Society
Early online date29 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

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© 2017 The Authors

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