lydia dupra

It’s no news to anyone that sex workers are an extremely marginalized group of people. As always, where there are isolated groups of people, there will be opportunists scheming to make a buck off the fear and insecurity felt by those outcast from mainstream society.

I recently observed the development of an app simply called “Heaux.” It has not gained much momentum at this point, having just launched in May 2017. However, the risks involved in using it are apparent on multiple levels. The app coyly walks the line of legality, claiming to not be promoting sex for money, yet enabling all other aspects of escorting—in fact you can pay to be assisted at every turn. The app features drivers-for-hire, promotions for the founder’s “guides”, and a store to help you look the part.

In order to sign up for Heaux through the app store, you’re required to use your personal information, so the app poses a threat to your security from the very beginning. However, the potential for danger doesn’t stop there.

Lydia Dupra, the app’s founder and creator, dubs herself variously as an “adult industry leader”, “the Steve Jobs of Escorting,” and “the Heaux Mentor,” and refers to her current work as “creating jobs.” Her website sells her series of books on escorting, provides information on her pricey seminars, and includes a store for purchasing products which Dupra claims everyone needs in order to be a successful high-end escort. Of course, what this store actually consists of are mundane items used by many sex workers over the ages without the Heaux App’s guidance, such as sea sponges, makeup, and self-defense gadgets—but Dupra’s marked them up by 50-100 %.

The Heaux App is available to the public through iTunes and Google play. There is no approval process whatsoever for joining, unlike safe spaces like where users are required to prove their identity to gain access to a private community and blacklist. On Heaux, anyone can join—sex workers and clients, but also pimps, gawkers, and law enforcement. The app features a timeline for “heauxs” to post and connect with one another, a mechanism for hiring personal drivers, a public blacklist of bad clients (which is also shared publicly on the platform’s active Instagram page, allowing bad clients the possibility of retaliating since they can discover they are listed), and of course—“The Heaux Shop.”

I gave the app a chance after seeing a pitch claiming that Heaux App was a “Safe Space for Sex Workers”. At one point I responded to an Instagram posting about users allowed on the site, expressing my privacy concerns. I was curious about how “safe” this space could be for sex workers when the community could include anyone with a smartphone. Heaux’s Instagram account responded to me and explained that the success of the app was determined by its number of users versus the integrity of its safe space. My hopes for the app very suddenly deflated.