Sensual Massage Bay Area
Until last summer, pretty much anyone buying or selling sex in the San Francisco Bay Area used myRedBook.com. For more than a decade, the site commonly referred to as RedBook served as a vast catalog of carnal services, a mashup of Craigslist, Yelp, and Usenet where sex workers and hundreds of thousands of their customers could connect, converse, and make arrangements for commercial sex. RedBook tapped into the persistent, age-old, bottomless appetite for prostitution and made it safer and more civilized. The site was efficient, well stocked, and probably too successful for its own good.
Launched in 1999 by a Mountain View, California, tech entrepreneur named Eric “Red” Omuro, RedBook began as a modest hub for mongers (Internet slang for johns) to discuss the local scene and post reviews of escorts. As it grew, the site expanded beyond the Bay Area, adding sections for Southern California, the Central Coast, Phoenix, Nevada, and the Pacific Northwest. Omuro also added a key functionality—he made it possible for sex workers to advertise their services.
RedBook may have been full of racy talk and the promise of erotic assignations, but the site itself was anything but sexy. Its ugly, bare-bones design was straight out of the early 2000s. It resembled a web page you might use to find a new job or a secondhand bike. If you were careful to stay away from the sections where photos automatically displayed, you could easily browse potential sex partners at work and your coworkers would never suspect a thing.
RedBook was made up of three main elements. The site's naughty classifieds section contained the sort of ads that used to be the sole domain of alt weeklies' back pages: “*College Girl Gone Wild* (BUSTY SMART BLONDE), ” “Sexy & Sweet Asian Here to Please Your Needs, ” and “Morning $pecials Daddy Let Me Blow Your Mind.” While ads were free to post, advertisers could opt to pay for premium placement.
Then there were dozens of message boards. While the site's most popular forums had names like “Escort 411, ” “Street Action, ” and “Domination Station, ” RedBook also hosted conversations on topics ranging from baseball to bondage, music to massage parlors. Bruce Boston, a data scientist who works for one of Silicon Valley's major tech companies, initially came to the site to find out which strip clubs had the best dancers. He ended up sticking around for four years to join what he describes as the intelligent, provocative, and honest conversations on the site's forums. “It was great, ” he says. “You could have an open discussion about your beliefs and thoughts.” Boston participated in conversations on RedBook about everything from Libertarian politics to swinger sex parties.
But the most valuable part of the site was its reviews section. You could pay $13 a month for access to the section, where VIP customers shared detailed write-ups of their experiences with escorts, BDSM providers, and erotic masseuses. As part of their reviews, users listed the services they received, as well as details about the provider's physical attributes. Looking for a well-reviewed Latina under 30 who provides full-body sensual massage in Oakland? Just filter to narrow down your search.
Then, on June 25, 2014, visitors to RedBook got a rude shock. Instead of a directory of links to sexy ads, forums, and reviews, they saw a dire-looking alert from the Department of Justice, FBI, and IRS stating that RedBook's domain had been seized. The Feds' message, still up today, asserts that there is probable cause that the site was involved in “money laundering derived from racketeering based on prostitution.”
Federal agents arrested Omuro, 54, along with Annmarie Lanoce, a 41-year-old bespectacled mother from Rocklin, California, a suburb of Sacramento. (Lanoce worked for Omuro, helping to moderate RedBook and manage its operations.) Their homes were raided and their computer equipment confiscated. In July, Omuro was charged with using the Internet to facilitate prostitution and 24 counts of money laundering. Lanoce was charged with using the Internet to facilitate prostitution. Released on bond, they were prohibited from going online or associating with former users of the site.