Good news for Second Life! Israeli legislator Zahava Gal-On has been so taken in by the illusion of sex offered in fake online worlds that she's proposing mandatory five-year jail terms for the operators of "virtual brothels" — websites "offering women for sale," she says. If only! Sites like Craigslist, The Eros Guide, MyRedBook, and The Erotic Review advertise real sex for hire, but law enforcers prefer to log on to track down working girls, rather than take the sites offline for pimping. If Gal-On took a moment to understand the economics of virtual vajayjay, she'd see her concerns were misplaced.
An outside estimate of how much a Second Life brothel owner may make is slightly less than $50K per year — in actual currency. One strip-club owner netted a quarter of a million dollars from her initial $4,000 investment. She's probably the anti-trafficking type's worst enemy, too: a single mom. Good thing she's conducting business Stateside.
Compared to online escort directories, that's chump change. Eros-Guide, for example, has been in business since 1997, and currently collects between $50 and $400 per month from approximately 5,000 escorts advertising, for an annual take of $500,000 even by the most conservative of estimates (not to mention the porn and sex toy ads they run). Review boards like TER and Redbook have a different business model, soliciting membership fees ranging from $100 to $180 per year from hundreds if not thousands of escort-seeking clients. With so many businesses profiting from just the lead-up to prostitution — from domain registrars to hosting providers — lawmakers may be left asking, who isn't a pimp here? The only crime Second Life is committing is not making more money off the business.