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The Sex Business Is Getting a Boost from the Government Shutdown

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It’s been seven days since the US government shuttered its doors in an act of unprecedented bullheadedness, and things are getting bleak—not least because some 800,000 furloughed federal employees haven’t seen a paycheck in a week. But you know what they say: When the going gets tough, the tough get sexy.

OK, that’s not exactly what they say. But in Washington, DC, its the direction some people are turning to make ends meet, or simply pass the time, as the shutdown drags on.

According to a recent NPR report, two online escort services say they’ve seen a big boost in business since the US government shuttered its doors. The biggest is SeekingArrangement.com, an elite “sugar daddy” site that deals in so-called Mutually Beneficial Relationships. Generally the deal is young women (or men) agree to accompany wealthy and powerful men (or women) to swanky events in return for cash.

The “dating” site’s PR manager Jennifer Gwynn told NPR that it saw a 50 percent jump in sign-ups since last Sunday, which is particularly out of the ordinary because September and October are usually slow months. Another dates-for-cash site, WhatsYourPrice.com, said it also saw unusual growth during that time.

Gwynn said that considering the timing and the fact the new registrations are all coming from the US, it’s a safe bet the bump is a direct result of cash-strapped furloughed employees searching for alternative income. “Half of the new members are single moms, so we’re thinking that it’s tied directly to the government shutdown, since programs like WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), that help more than 9 million moms, have been stalled. It would make no sense for growth otherwise,” she told NPR.

If that’s true, that’s one consequence Congress probably didn’t see coming. Or, maybe the escort sites are just taking advantage of the political confusion to draw attention to their services.

Which is exactly what Vibrators.com has been doing. In a brilliant, if distasteful, marketing ploy, the e-commerce site announced last week it will provide free sex toys to sidelined employees to keep them, er, occupied during the shutdown. “We know you have some free time, why not try something new?” the site advertised.

Apparently, the axed workers were happy to comply. In an update yesterday, the company wrote that the promotion’s been well-received so far: “I guess that giving away free vibrators makes you quite popular. As of Sunday night we have hit our quota for the evening. We will be allocating 200 more free vibes on Monday.”

And naughty entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones capitalizing on the nation’s political crisis. A handful of publications recently pointed out that the DC Craigslist casual encounters section has been flooded with shutdown-themed solicitations.

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