Can the world’s oldest profession survive the age of social distancing?


(CNN)Don’t kiss. Tell clients to wash their hands before they touch you. Wear a mask. Avoid face-to-face positions. And even: Put on a nurse costume and pull out a thermometer — if his temperature is normal, make it part of the game. If he has a fever, end the session. These are real tips that advocacy groups and health authorities around the world are sharing in the age of coronavirus, hoping to protect workers in the vast and often overlooked sex trade. Armchair advice would be to stop all so-called “full service” sex work altogether, but as UNAIDS warned in April, many sex workers are being forced to weigh what’s safe against what will put food on the table. An old economics axiom claims that investments in “vice” and “sin” like gambling, alcohol, drugs and sex trades weather economic downturns well, because people turn to them whether they’re sad or happy. Some vices are even thought to be countercyclical, rising when economy takes a nosedive. Whether that’s true for America’s estimated millions of full-service sex workers is hard to definitively disprove — sex for pay is illegal in most of the country, so large-scale data is scant. But sex workers, aid organizations and the lawyers who work with them say that the pandemic has been devastating. “Prostitution is supposed to be inelastic and recession-proof,” says Caty Simon, a self-described “cheap escort,” writer and activist in a small town in Western Massachusetts. “But there’s never been a recession where in-person contact with people was dangerous before.”


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