Red-light raids said to promote ‘online brothels’, Singapore

Calling escort websites online brothels is silly, a typical editor’s attempt to make a mildly interesting story sensational. Police raids are a widespread tactic for suppressing prostitution, but are often said only to move the business from one place to another (see, for example, a story about Goa and another about Italy and Switzerland. Here, the place is online, and some of the sex workers were mobile anyway, not originating in a red-light district. But referring to mobile businesspeople or vendors as ‘gypsies’ is also dumb. I also don’t care for the implication that mobile workers are inherently vulnerable just because they move! Still, it is plausible that, as policing increases, more sex-industry headquarters move online. The non-online, red-light kind in Singapore look like this.

Online brothels becoming more popular with Singapore youth

2 January 2010, The Temasek Review

Singapore: Online brothels offering girls from various nationalities are becoming increasingly popular among Singapore men looking for a quickie, especially the youth. Frequent raids on the red-light district of Geylang had forced the freelance prostitutes to retreat to cyberspace to solicit for customers. As many as five new websites have appeared in the last few months alone offering a myriad of “services” from sexy massage to discreet sexual encounters from freelance prostitutes. Some appear to be websites set up by organized syndicates while others are hosted by independent freelance prostitutes themselves who are here in Singapore to make a quick buck.

Online prostitution is not new in Singapore. Famous sex forum Sammyboy has a dedicated “freelance” section to allow prostitutes and pimps alike to post their services and contacts. One owner of such a site claimed he is a “landlord” who is helping his PRC tenants to earn some “extra cash”.

The photos of the girls are listed on the site including their “statistics”, prices, types of services offered and “field reports” from previous patrons. Propsective clients have to contact the pimp directly using the handphone number provided who will inform him of the time and venue for the “transaction” to take place. Such online brothels are seeing an increase in business lately as they offer customers the flexibility to choose their time and girl as well as a place outside the usual red-light district to pursue their pleasures.

When interviewed by the Straits Times, Dr Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services at the Singapore Children’s Society, said: “The scary part is prostitution has come to your doorstep – and it’s not just available to adults…..the scary part about the young is, they want to experiment. Now, they don’t need to go to Geylang…Prostitution can be more gypsy-like…In that sense, it’s risky.”

Unlike licenced prostitutes working in designated brothels, freelance prostitutes who ply their trade online do not have to go for monthly medical examation and blood tests to detect sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. With the two Integrated Resorts set to open this year, the demand for such online sexual services is likely to increase especially with Singapore’s lax immigration and travel restrictions.

Foreign prostitutes, especially those from China, often come to Singapore to “work” on a one-month tourist visa. Others come on a two-year student visa ostensibly to study in private institutions, but end up working in KTV lounges. Asked about the online brothels by the Straits Times, the police would only say: ‘Police will investigate reports made and take action if any offence is disclosed.’ The police did not say whether anyone has been arrested in connection with the online brothels which have been in existence for Singapore for a very long time already.

– Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

11 thoughts on “Red-light raids said to promote ‘online brothels’, Singapore

  1. Clarisse Thorn

    Did you hear about the flurry over Craigslist in America in … umm … I think early 2009? Basically, there was a section of the immensely popular networking site Craigslist that was widely used to facilitate sex work, and the morality police got it removed. Which, as always, had the effect of hurting sex workers more than anyone, because it significantly limited their online options for finding clients and forced them into less safe channels. This may have been a Chicago-local change or a national change; I’m not sure.

    Oh, here, I managed to find this post from a friend of mine that sums it up. Looks like the results weren’t as bad as I thought:

  2. Luna Minsky

    Hi Laura,

    I recently picked up and read a copy of your ‘Sex at the Margins’, so I wanted a drop a quick note to say how grateful I am to have read a book that takes a mature and rational view on sex work!

    I am a migrant sex worker, I have 2 University degrees and my own business, and certainly like to believe that I made my own, informed, decision to be in this line of work.
    I have read too many articles that start with ‘prostitution is always an act of abuse against women..’, and heard too many viewpoints that sought to convince me that I am a victim who has internalized the abuse and doesn’t realize it. What strikes me the most is that such views are disseminated through the academia as much as they are, and that many of those women who funded their degrees by engaging in sex work will later denouce it in their academic writing and take what you call the ‘fundamentalist feminist’ stance.

    It was a treat to read a work that did not objectify and victimize sex workers.
    Thank you for not denying us our agency.


  3. inder kumar jain

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  4. praneethkumar

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  5. Plead

    I like to share another side of story.

    I am 30s well educated Singaporen pregnant with a child, it is sadden my heart that i recently find out my husband was engaged deeply in online prostitution become the ultimate outlet to satisfy his no longer enough indulgence in Pronogaphy. I have to cry in the toilet instead of confronting my husband to prevent a broken family of the unborn child.
    It become do easily accessible in Singapore website and public places in that online prostitution is such easily available.

    I plead every man to even think to click on the website to think how much risk they had exposed their wives and unborn child, loved ones on potential STD with a total strangers.

    I plead that police will had more effort to look into nipping these trends in the bud, rather than paying lip services that they will try. I hope Singapore government to look into this seriously.

    I plead every able ladies whom had a beautiful faces, a well educated personnel, able hands and legs to think before stepping in this trade to do something which is more dignify to look back into when one aged, rather than thinking about making quick bucks.

    Do all the prostitues or pimps ask about the background before even tempting the men to go into these much broken family and heart they had broke for just mere 200 per services?

    What is the point of having a beautiful elite society, while high divorces rates, broken family , empty hearts in this society whiel all these vices are around.

    why not nip these at the bud, dun even allow your child to start pronography or even yourself as it is the end of no return.

    I ponder?

  6. anrec

    To: Plead

    Yes, accessibility and affordability of sex services is not a great thing for sure. However, if this is a part of the reality there in Singapore and it entered or affected your relationship, that needs pragmatic assessment and actions IMHO rather than locking yourself and crying.

    I understand that you would like to retain this family, from your words, for the kids, and therefore choosing not to do anything about it. However, I encourage you to understand the longer term implications of this choice.

    It looks to me that your husband is not so strong personality to handle his addiction and seek help with it. Let’s answer this question – is this family important to him enough to start dealing with the issue?

    Let’s focus on YOUR feelings about this first. How do YOU feel about it – neglected, disrespected? If so, what will the kids see? Their Mom allowing to be disrespected by not-so-strong father? They will sense this for sure. Is this really good for them to see every day? Will this help generate the respect to you from them?

    Or would they rather see a stronger mom who gets the respect she deserves, even though the father is not in the same household?

    Next point – today you allow him to disrespect you by calling girls, even though you clearly do not like this. What will he do tomorrow, since he got this sense of freedom? Is there a confidence that he will not start applying brute force?

    This is not-so-uncommon thing really, that can happen and does happen in almost any country. Hope that gives you some sense as to where the real problem is here.

    About myself: 29 yr old single male professional.

    Please feel free to email in private if you like.

  7. Mint

    Beware that some pimps or mdm will use “escort girls or whatever escorts” in their online job ads to recruit pros…..must know the job scope and rates first….i was duped once……….after realizing that….soc….was only required to provide short session of compulsory sex service at a budget hotel…OH NO…thats NOT what social escort do …..rite? REjected the any deals immediately….after knowing…..

  8. Ali Akbar al'Rashid

    Welcome to the first world Ladies and Gentlemen! Everything has its price. Why, did you think you will still enjoy your humane freedom while being a first world country? London, NY, Paris, HK have this fair share of first world issues, so there is no escaping from it. If you think your government will listen to you, try broadcasting it to the rest of the world and people will just stare at you, thinking that you might have come from a third world country.

  9. Ali Akbar al'Rashid

    @Plead… I guess the solution here would be to emigrate to an Arab or other Asian country where prostitution is severely penalised. There, your husband will behave and he might turn into a gay himself due to lack of women. Joking aside, you need to accept it and look for a way to fight over it. I guess divorce is an option, and definitely legal in your country. Otherwise, you can already start voicing out your angst to the UN.


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