Pink Chat: Networked Sex Work before the Internet

Nagy, Jeff
Technology and Culture

New network technologies were often seen as contributing to a feminization of labor. Early online sex work complicates that argument. The early online sex work examined in this article masculinized what was traditionally women's work, while training workers and clients in the fluid, feminized communication skills that became a cornerstone of technologically-mediated office work. In the 1980s and 1990s, France's state-run videotext network, Minitel, connected millions to a wide array of public and private services. Its erotic chatrooms were among the most popular, profitable, and prominent. Throngs of citizens paid by the minute to chat anonymously with each other or, unwittingly, with mostly male professional hosts who tailored their digital personas to indulge their clients' sexual proclivities. This article reconstructs the chat hosts and their labor at the nexus of gender ideologies and emerging network technologies. These online self-presentations provide instructive parallels to today's shadow labor on digital platforms.