Is Sharing Safe?
As interest in the economics of sharing grows, it’s vital to question how such practices affect different portions of the population, such as women, as this article in Shareable examines. Undoubtedly, there are certain safety risks (sexual assault/violence) that women face when using platforms such as CouchSurfing, where people offer their spare bedrooms or couches to complete strangers.
The CouchSurfing website boasts that they aim to “create inspiring experiences,” transforming couchsurfing from something broke teenage travelers do into a viable, exciting, global lodging option. However, several incidents of inappropriate and sexually violent behavior have occurred across this network. Some people criticize CouchSurfing for putting too much emphasis on personal safety tips without taking any responsibility as a company for these attacks, such as looking into people’s profiles or making it mandatory for people to supply personal information. It’s also hard to take CS’s “safety tips” seriously when confirmed sexual offenders who are CS users have hundreds of positive references on their online profiles as well.
Another website, Airbnb, is similar to CouchSurfing except users charge those who stay in their house. While there has been one known case of severe property damage, allegedly Airbnb took full responsibility and was exceptionally caring and supportive when dealing with this case. Some suggest that because there is a financial exchange with Airbnb, it seems more legitimate and so this may be a safer service for women. While this may be true, it’s a troubling consideration because it seems to suggest that women cannot be involved in a pure-sharing trust-based economy like Couchsurfing because it’s too dangerous.
It seems vital that platforms such as CouchSurfing and Airbnb actively look for ways to make their services safer for women without focusing on these risks and fears so much that they lose the true spirit of sharing, which is trust and generosity.
Image by Daniel*1977 courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing on Flickr.