Wild, Wired World of online prostitution

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(CNN Philippines) — A friend on Facebook recently posted how prostitution and euphemism work in our culture.

According to him, in the 1960s, women who were in the business were called "hostesses."

In the 1970s, it was changed to "receptionists."

In the 1980s, "hospitality girls" clicked, but it did not last long.

In the 1990s, "guest relations officer," or GRO, was coined.

Today, more terms have emerged, like escort but one really stands out: PSP — or personal service provider.

It was regarded euphemistically as the world’s oldest profession, but prostitution is utilizing the power of the Internet to lure those who patronize it.

The Internet has radically changed many industries and the age-old business of buying sex is no exception.

These days, you will rarely see streetwalkers flagging down cars or hanging out in clubs and bars because most of them are now on the Internet. The underground flesh trade has become more wired and clandestine.

In the sphere of PSPs, there are websites — public, private, and personal — that allow them to advertise their services. There are chat-rooms — a euphemism for PSP marketplace — where one can find, talk, and negotiate with a PSP member.

For PSPs, online forums and chat-rooms achieve the function of a virtual workplace.

On these forums, PSPs are allowed to create profiles through which clients and potential clients could reach them.

Advertisements, however, are not limited to websites. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are also being utilized.

The Noob

Ashley, 25, disclosed that she uses her Facebook to book customers and negotiate a deal.

Ashley works full-time as a call center agent. She moonlights as a PSP to support her obsession with material possessions. She considers herself a newbie in the business.

She said her earnings as a call center agent go to her family. But the money she earns from being a PSP are spent mostly on gadgets and signature dresses.

She said she is obsessed with material goods. She always wants the best and latest gadgets and eats at fancy restaurants.

She claims that she does this to impress and to mask what was really behind her personality.

She said behind the gadgets and fancy dresses hide what is really beneath – the person she is often too ashamed for others to see.

The Veteran

While scouring the Internet, CNN Philippines ran across a blog that contains anecdotes on PSPs.

Its administrator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there are a fair number of factors that motivate some men to spend on PSPs.

According to him, he has been soliciting the service of PSPs for more than a decade. He said he engaged the service for personal and mutual satisfaction.

Asked what could motivate a man like him to take big risks in exchange for the thrill and the pleasure of sex with PSPs, he said: "Dating a PSP is way cheaper than supporting a relationship. It’s discreet and no strings attached. I can end it anytime I want."

"I’d rather have a PSP than maintain an exclusive and high-end girlfriend," he adds.

Unlike others who directly and personally get in touch with PSPs, he said he maintains a couple of handlers that assist him in arranging and sealing a deal. A date with a PSP, he adds, ranges from P3,000 to P5,000.

"I admit that it is also expensive, but I am also after the added bonus of a guaranteed happy ending," he said with a sheepish grin.

Behavior

Many experts believe that the digital age has spawned a huge increase in sexual exploitation.

According to psychologist Dr. Estrella Tiongson-Magno, women dabble into prostitution because it is easy money.

"Marginalized women, either single or married. Those who have no milk for their babies," Magno said. "No requisites. If she is pretty and good, definitely it’s for her advantage. She will earn more."

When asked why men spend on sex, Magno provides some answers: "Men of all ages, rich or poor buy sex. They're easy lays. No courtship, no hassle. They pay because they want a happy night with sex."

She also disclosed that some men buy sex as a way to escape problems or uncomfortable emotions.

"Pleasure of the senses and pleasure of the pocket. They need an outlet for frustration and disappointment. Others may go into drugs, alcohol, or casino. Others through sex," she said.

She said, however, that since the pleasure is not lasting, men have to do it over and over again.

"That’s why there are sex maniacs. Those who can afford it, they buy. Those who don’t, they rape," Magno added.

NBI on prostitution ring

Recently, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) confirmed collective published reports that social networking sites are being used to offer sex for a fee.

In a text message sent to CNN Philippines, lawyer Ronald Aguto, chief of the Cybercrime Division of NBI, said that self-advertised prostitution is rampant online.

"What we do, Aguto said, is we trace if there are organized groups or syndicates handling these women and operating the business. If there is, we will pursue them and charge them with human trafficking."

Aguto is referring to Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which states any person found guilty could face a jail term of up to 15 years and a maximum fine of P1 million.

Aguto added that once they identify a site operating as online prostitution ring, they immediately get in touch with its moderator or administrator to have it shut down.

He, however, admitted that some operators of these websites are based abroad and the NBI is helpless about it.

Aguto also asks the public to report shady chat-rooms and blog sites that promote prostitution to the Cybercrime Division of NBI.

He gave the following phone numbers and email address where people can report these sites: 523-8231 to 38 with extension numbers 3454 and 3455 or at ccd@nbi.gov.ph.