Apps / Legal Lex / Sex & Hooking Up

Apps and Genero$ity

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#apps

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#gen-only

For the many of us who have spent time on apps like Grindr or Scruff, we are familiar with the periodic profile requesting guys who are “generous.”  In gay hook-up slang, “generous,” the use of a “$” as a substitute for “s,” or that emoji with the dollar sign tongue generally mean one thing – a person is expecting money in exchange for sexual services.  I was recently messaged by a follower who noted that these “generous only” profiles seemed to be more frequent as of late.  He mentioned a profile that just had the guy’s Instagram handle and Venmo account – probably one of the more direct “generous only” approaches.

My follower noted that he has no disrespect for sex workers, but the trend of “generous only” on apps was concerning him.  He posed the question, are we using this kind of casual language or emojis to disguise prostitution?  And is Grindr the place to do so?  I asked several other followers for their opinions.  One follower comments that he has accepted money for sex on apps a few times, and he is in favor of it.  He says that it is not a sin and at the end of the day, he is just using what he has to help himself.

Another follower notes that although he has never accepted money for sex, he would not have been opposed to it when he was younger.  He thinks that since the generosity and sex are consensual, it is different than prostitution which some people are forced into.  He once met a guy who made “generous only” a full time job, claiming that he made almost $100,000 a year off of paid sexual favors.  On the flip side, one follower noted that the “generous” scene on apps was offensive.  He said that people shouldn’t be allowed to “buy” others just because they look a certain way.  Several others commented that if both people are into it – what is the harm?

So is this a trend that is getting out of control?  To confirm, prostitution (sex for money) is illegal in almost all of the U.S. except some areas of Nevada where it is regulated.  Sex trafficking (using force or fraud to obtain some type of commercial sex act) is completely illegal.  “Generous only” seemingly falls into a gray area – if both people are consenting, it is not technically trafficking.  Further, there are a number of sites for “sugar daddies” or “sugar babies” that claim to be for dating rather than sex, getting around the prostitution element.  If you are meeting a social companion for money, that is ok – even though sex may often be the outcome.

One recent legal event may explain why you’re seeing more of the requests for generosity on apps.  In April 2018, Congress passed (and Trump signed) into law FOSTA-SESTA aka Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA).  The purpose of these bills are to reduce online sex trafficking, which is an amazing goal.  Unfortunately, they have some unintended consequences.

Some of you may have heard that Craigslist and other sites shut down their personals sections in response to FOSTA-SESTA.  That is because these bills amended a longstanding Internet safe harbor law known as “Section 230.”  Section 230 basically said that websites were not liable for the questionable content that their users post.  Thus, sites like Craigslist did not get sued left and right for posts potentially aiding in sex trafficking.  FOSTA-SESTA changes this safe harbor to say that websites will be liable if not vigorously enforcing the new FOSTA-SESTA laws.  Given the amount of posts that sites like Craigslist receive in a day, it was easier for them to shut down their personals section than to risk potential lawsuits.  This is sad for the many of us who used M4M and missed connections as an early foray into online dating.

Many argue that FOSTA-SESTA is not helping sex trafficking, but pushing it underground and making it more dangerous.  They claim that at least sites like Craigslist were a filter for those engaging in sex for money.  It allowed them to assess how safe they felt to meet someone before actually doing so.  Now people will have to meet under sketchier circumstances, use foreign sites, or who knows what else.  But what about apps like Grindr?  Since the whole premise of apps like Grindr is technically dating, they are not going to shut themselves down and go out of business due to fear of FOSTA-SESTA liability.  Time will tell if and how Grindr will enforce potential claims of aiding in sex trafficking.  They may need to police profiles for “generous only” claims more vigorously.  Or, they may take the legal position that “generous only” is consensual, similar to “sugar baby” dating apps, and therefore not trafficking.

What is clear is that the pay for sex industry has been jolted, and we may be seeing more “generous only” guys on the apps because they have been shut out of earlier resources.  I personally see all of the points my followers made as valid.  Consensual acts seem to be ok, but the argument can be made that when consent is being given out of financial need, it is not actually consent at all.  Furthermore, pay for sex arrangements strike me as having a higher potential for danger or abuse than two people meeting consensually with no money involved.  When one party has expectations for their payment, it troubles me.  All eyes will be on the apps to see how this trend continues and what roles companies take in the wake of FOSTA-SESTA.  I’m sure I’ll be discussing this more in the future.

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