Escorts say TheEroticReview.com founder's arrest could change paid-sex industry

Private sex-industry message boards are buzzing with stories of how Dave Elms, the now-jailed founder of TheEroticReview.com, removed reviews of escorts who refused to offer him free sex in exchange for maintaining their good standing on his influential site. In an interview with Valleywag, Nancy, an escort in California who says she relies on TheEroticReview for the bulk of her clientele, says she continues to use Elms's site even though she has "seen his 'work' of persuading girls to come and service him" to maintain the presence of the reviews critical to their business.

Independent traveling escort Ashley is one of the thousands of providers whose services have been reviewed on TheEroticReview. She had a run-in with Elms two months ago, when she asked that he change her name on the website to throw off a stalker. Elms took this opportunity to make his own pitch: "He said I'd make more money if I flew to Los Angeles," says Ashley. "He said I should come work out of the Sheraton LAX, and then come and see him at his home." She says Elms continued to call her every day for a week, insisting he knew how to run her business best — and that meant sleeping with him. She declined, and later found her reviews removed from TER.

Last week, after she heard that Elms had been jailed, she attempted to post a warning to escorts and clients on the board, but it was blocked by administrators and her account was disabled. "Those moderators, they do it for free to get to the girls," says Ashley. "They sit there all day on the site and bash you and then say if you want to post there [to advertise] you have to pay them!"

Elms is unlikely to face charges over these allegations of abuse. "He is versed in what the law says," Nancy explains. "He knew exactly what he could get away with and did it for a long time. In fact he could have continued getting girls to service him," had he not been jailed.

Of the escorts who came to me with their stories, none were nearly so concerned with retaliation from Elms as they were with the scrutiny of law enforcement and the safety of online escort advertising services. One former escort described what it took for her and her business to survive: Having sex extorted from her, not by Elms, but by police claiming to be investigating her. Nancy believes Elms will never be investigated for his business built on advertising prostitution: "I think that our society and our court system is much too conservative. The fact is we are talking about some scumbag who owns a website and a bunch of hookers who want 'justice' for being sexually extorted and mistreated. I don't know that the good 'ol boys would go for that myself."

And the fate of TER? In the last week, since Elms has been in jail, Ashley says she's seen three new clients — two from San Francisco — for $1,000 dinner appointments. She says they all found her through years-old message posts remaining on TER, even though she is currently not allowed to post herself. "One of the San Francisco guys was so smart and unbelievable ... I emailed him to say, you have too much going on for you, stay away from TER." Wishful thinking: "TER is the industry standard for men seeking providers," says Nancy. "There is no other that comes close. Reviews are what fuel the industry."

Will Elms's arrest change that? Not so long as other clients-turned-entrepreneurs can start their own escort-review sites. "I don't advertise anywhere," says Nancy. "All the business i get is solely based on reviews. Keeping this in mind you can imagine what kind of power Mr. Elms has had."

And what power there may to be grab, if this arrest spells the demise of his career in the sex trade. When Elms told Ashley, "I can show you the business if you come stay with me," she replied, "I don't need you to. I'm going to start my own website for the girls so we didn't need boards like yours."