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.
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