Learning about The Other Board
When first starting this project, I had only a little bit of knowledge of sex trafficking and all it entailed. I gained an internship opportunity with The Avery Center inputting data from TheOtherBoard.com (TOB). I had never heard of this site before and had only a general idea of what it was. TOB is an online forum and review site where buyers of commercial sex can leave a review of the person they paid for along with the details of the encounter. It’s also home to a forum where TOB members can post about almost anything. My job was to search down active members on the site and gather as much information about them as possible. I looked for demographic information, preferences, geographic locations, careers, and even hobbies. All of this information is posted by the individuals on the public site, for anyone to find. Between the reviews they left and the posts left on the forum boards, I learned a lot about these anonymous members.
Who Uses TOB?
Many of those details I found a bit disturbing. Reading men rating women like they’re objects was hard and I never got use to it. I found that they seemed very comfortable and confident in what they said, which showed me that they felt they had all the power in the situation. It also showed that they had done this many times before and didn’t see the issue in what they were doing. I should also mention that I started this project in the spring of 2020, right when the COVID-19 virus struck the United States. For my project, I wanted to see how the pandemic effected the commercial sex trade through the lens of TOB. I found that many buyers and providers posted about ways the buyers could aid the providers during these hard times. The most frequent recommendations found were to prepay or send deposits for future appointments (assuming they’ll meet in person again at some point), and to send gift cards from various establishments. For example, grocery stores, clothing stores, or even generic gift cards that the provider could spend anywhere.
Behavior Changes Due To COVID-19
I was surprised to see that there weren’t as many online services provided as I had hypothesized. After reading Justin Euteneier’s article: Engaging Male Bystanders to End Demand for Prostituted People by Cultivating Belonging, I assumed there would be more services on TOB to make up for the lack of in person services. I expected this because, in this article, Euteneier makes the point that buyers of sex create a sense of belonging in online discussion boards (38). However, as he suggests, this sense of belonging was already present before covid surfaced. Therefore, it only got stronger after COVID-19, as forums on how to help started sprouting up. The fact that these frequent buyers of sex made an effort to support their favorite providers showcased a new level of the sense of purpose they find on TOB. Euteneier stated how these frequent buyers meet their needs through buying sex which just gives them the perception of satisfaction (38). Now, with in person meet ups being widely unavailable, they had to find that sense of satisfaction by gifting the providers with money. Even knowing the risk of not getting anything in return.
Care, or Dependence?
The whole TOB experience was weird for me. On the surface, it seems like these buyers care for the providers. However, after learning more and more about the commercial sex trade, I understand that this is just perpetuating the patriarchal ideals of men needing to feel fulfilled by sex with women they treat as objects. Along with the need to send money just to get their fix even though it’s not resulting in physical satisfaction. The dependence buyers have on the providers is a result of deeper issues within themselves and our society.
THE AVERY CENTER INTERN
Sociology Major - University of Northern Colorado
Euteneier, Justin (2019). Engaging Male Bystanders to End Demand for Prostituted People by Cultivating Belonging. Kilns College.