One of the biggest tech platforms in sex work has flown under the radar for years
- Eros.com is one of the most popular online platforms for escorts.
- Despite government regulation that's targeted sex-work-adjacent platforms,
Eroshas flown under the radar.
In the last year, OnlyFans has loudly increased the visibility of online
Three sex workers who spoke to Insider said the site is preferred for its simplicity and discretion and explained how it works.
Eros is an advertising platform used by escorts
Eros acts as an advertising platform where many sex workers sell their services, but unlike OnlyFans, the company does not handle transactions for workers. Users can scroll through page after page of escorts who can cater to almost any niche interest imaginable — from the girlfriend experience to the edgier, kinkier part of the spectrum.
The website offers listings in nearly all fifty states, as well as Canada, Italy, and the UK. At the top of the homepage, Eros provides major categories like Escorts, BDSM, and Massage, but also includes a search function that allows for more specific queries.
Escorts will oftentimes list their rates per hour on their page, without explicitly stating what services would be rendered. Sometimes they'll personalize these — for example, "Unwind & Relax 2hr" or "The Jewels Experience 3hr" — and frequently they'll include an overnight or traveling rate as well.
Sex workers must enter their credit card information to purchase an ad on the platform, but beyond that, Eros has no financial involvement with transactions that take place between workers and clients. Eros provides the ability to link to social media, and encourages users to place banner ads linking back to their Eros pages on other personal websites. They don't provide the means to link directly to external websites from Eros profiles, however, which could potentially contain incriminating information.
For users, contacting an escort is free and simple, with the mode of communication left up to the discretion of the provider, oftentimes text or email.
Sex workers say they use Eros because of its simplicity, discretion, and customizability
Two sex workers told Insider they like Eros for its simplicity and discretion. A Toronto-based escort who goes by Ella Blaire professionally told Insider she made an OnlyFans during the pandemic for the sake of maintaining connections with existing clients and replacing lost income, but has never felt comfortable posting explicit content online, so as she returns to more in-person work she "prioritizes OnlyFans less and less."
"Some people think in-person work is safer because there's more discretion, because you're not posting things online," she explained in an interview with Insider, "whereas some people think online is safer because you don't have the risk of meeting unsafe clients."
To maintain privacy, some sex workers will blur out their faces in their public-facing photos. Some use screening procedures in an attempt to stay safe. For example, Blaire requires a valid form of ID, a recent reference from a past provider with contact information, employment verification, and good standing on the website P411, a screening and verification platform for sex workers.
Justine*, a NYC-based escort, likes Eros and in-person escorting because she doesn't have to use content strategies employed by OnlyFans influencers.
"It's just a lot more work than the straight up 'one hour for x amount of money,'" she said.
Eros and other platforms that host sex workers operate in a tricky legal landscape
Eros, OnlyFans, and other platforms that host content and ads from sex workers, operate in tricky legal territory. SESTA/FOSTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act), was signed into US law in 2018 to fight human trafficking, but sex workers and platforms that host their content and ads say the laws are harmful because they target the safer, online spaces where sex workers can connect with and vet clients.
The law used vague language to ban "assisting" or "facilitating" human trafficking, and made websites liable when third parties use a platform to engage in human trafficking. The law has been used to take down huge online sex work platforms like Rentboy, Backpage, and Craiglist personals.
Eros uses a strict ID verification system in an apparent attempt to avoid adverse legal action, and states plainly that they "assume no responsibility or liability for any content on any of our websites." They say they have a zero-tolerance policy for prostitution or other illegal activities. A representative for Eros.com declined to comment for this article.
While Eros describes itself as the "Ultimate Guide to Escorts and Erotic Entertainment," trademarked at the bottom of the page, it makes abundantly clear upon entering the site that it is not an escort agency, meaning it does not act as a middle-man between the provider and consumer. Given the demise of similar websites, it's unclear how Eros has managed to evade a similar fate, despite their explicitly hands-off approach regarding liability for what content is published on the site, like hourly and overnight rates.
There is little written about Eros, save a smattering of articles detailing a raid on their North Carolina headquarters by the Department of Homeland Security in 2017 (before SESTA/FOSTA). According to these 2017 articles, Eros was affiliated with a company called Bolma Star Services, operating out of Youngsville, North Carolina. But the site itself lists a Luzern, Switzerland contact address.
According to a source close to Eros, the company was founded in the Bay Area in the late nineties, originating in the BDSM community. The source said that the owners sold Eros because of the hostile legal environment in the US that eventually led to SESTA/FOSTA. One source close to Eros said federal agents asked questions regarding the company's finances and said they had been investigating Eros for about seven years leading up to the raid. The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.
At the time of the raid, the company was in transition after it was sold to a European company, according to the source, and contracted the North Carolina company as a customer service call center. Prior to the sale, the source said Eros prided itself on hiring an alternative, oftentimes queer team with deep empathy for the day-to-day minutae of sex work. Sex workers who spoke with Insider said that recently the company has become far more opaque. Two escorts we spoke to said it was impossible to get a real person on the phone.
NYCLU (New York Civil Liberties Union) attorney Jared Trujillo said that the increasingly mysterious approach could come back to SESTA/FOSTA. "The reason people are saying that they're hands off, that they're just a platform doing whatever, they don't want to be involved in anything, is because no one knows how broadly SESTA/FOSTA will be used," he explained. "And no one wants to be that test case."
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