SPECIAL REPORT: Cybersex Trade Thrives in Time of Crisis
SPECIAL REPORT: She works hard for money to help her family and to earn enough savings for her “dream” business.
Her work schedule depends upon her mood—if she wants to earn more, she has to start working at 3 a.m. for her European clients, or at 11 p.m. to service her loyal American patrons. All is ready before she hits the red button—her lingerie, panty host, makeup, and her dildo.
She has the looks, feminine body and wits, but the only difference is that actually, she is “he.”
Today’s technology allows anybody like her to explore the many opportunities in the cyberworld. When the right time strikes, she transforms herself to “LovelytsJanet,” her account name, to service clients online for a fee.
“Money is what we all need today,” LovelytsJanet says, adding that with the current financial crunch, everybody must be creative enough to live.
In these trying times when many Filipinos lost their jobs, 27 jobs, LovelytsJanet says her income remains stable. Her home-based work lets her escape the necessity of shelling out money for transportation, daily snacks, and other expenses.
LovelytsJanet, who prefers to call herself “pre-op transgender” (the term they used to call members of the third sex who have not yet undergone sex transplant operation), is just one of the uncounted ‘underground’ workers in the country.
Asked about her job, LovelytsJanet says—“I’m a cam girl.”
Cam-show for money
As a ‘cam girl’, she is paid according to performance.
“Kung masipag ka saka lang papasok ang pera [If you’re hardworking you will earn more],” she says, adding she usually has the salary of a call center agent of a high-paying contact center company. The only difference is, she is her own boss, as she is not compelled when and where to work.
LovelytsJanet, who stands 5’7” with a vital statistics of 35-24-35, can be mistaken for a real woman, as she resembles sexy actress Francine Prieto. She says ‘cam girl’ is simply synonymous to the term “cybersex performer.” With the use of computer and a web cam, LovelytsJanet performs inside the comfort of her bedroom to online clients for money—and she gets paid for every movement she makes and for every second she spends in front of a tiny lens designed to transmit detailed, intimate images to the cyberworld.
LovelytsJanet is working as a performer for an adult website for about six hours a day. “Sa ganitong trabaho, bale ako na rin ‘yong boss kasi saka lang ako nagwo-work kung gusto ko [In this kind of work, I am my own boss since I work only if I want to],” she says.
LovelytsJanet is a master account holder of livejasmin.com, an adult website that features online performers around the world. The website is a ‘performer center’ that allows viewers across the world to view on-cam performers for a fee. Livejasmin.com, which offers services such as “live sex video chat”, “live dating video chat,” and adult videos, has the following on-cam categories—girl, couple, boy, lesbians, group, gay, mature female, fetish, and transgender. Janet is just one of the more or less 100 transgender performers from different countries.
The website also allows its members to sign in, work, monitor their accounts, and earn more money by increasing their rates. As what LovelytsJanet says, all members are bound by the same creed—“the more and better you perform, the more money you earn.”
LovelytsJanet, who entered the business three years ago, also tried other performer centers like cams.com and iamlive.com, which both offer the same services as livejasmin.com. She says that livejasmin.com is one of the most visited adult websites in the cyberworld.
“I work six hours a day,” says Janet, who did not finish her computer course at a well-known computer university. She tells Vincenton Post that she was forced to drop out because her parents could no longer support her studies.
Asked about her shift, LovelytsJanet says it depends upon her “target.” “Minsan kung ang target ko Europeans, I start to work from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m.” LovelytsJanet said that among her loyal patrons are Europeans, adding if she wanted to service Americans, she has to log in at 11 p.m. and work until 4 a.m.
$1.99 pay per minute
LovelytsJanet, who takes three contraceptive pills a day to maintain her feminine figure, tells Vincenton Post that livejasmin.com asks only two requirements—a scanned copy of applicant’s passport and a whole body picture of the applicant holding his/her passport.
“All you need to do is complete the requirements and of course, you must have a computer and other gadgets like web cam, head set and Internet connection,” says Janet as if she was talking to a would-be applicant.
However, she clarifies that working as an online performer is not easy, saying one must be “very patient and “conversant.”
“Nung una nangangapa pa lang ako. Hindi ganung kadaling kumita ng pera dito. You need to be very visible to viewers para makita ka at kumita ng pera,” said LovelytsJanet, who only gets 35 percent out of her rate of $1.99 per minute.
Asked about her monthly income, she said, “It depends upon her mood.”
“Minsan mga $500 [a month] at tinatamad pa ako nun,” she said.
To last in this kind of business, LovelytsJanet says transgender performers only need to have the following—beauty, femininity, and wits.
“Hindi naman lahat dito live show lang. Actually sa mga naging clients ko, some of them just wanted companionship. Minsan nga mas kumikita pa ako sa companionship [setup] kasi may mga clients na nagpapadala talaga ng pera.”
But LovelytsJanet says that in companionship, she has to maintain constant communication with clients. “If they sensed that you’re not interested in them, they would stop communicating with you. Goodbye ang datung.”
Despite the global financial crisis, LovelytsJanet is surprised that her income was never affected during the first quarter of the year.
“Nagulat nga rin ako kasi sinasabi nila krisis sa America at sa Europe. Pero mas malaki pa nga kita ngayon. Sabagay ganun yata talaga pag libog ang pinag-uusapan,”, LovelytsJanet, who plans to invest in business, says, adding her income even peaked in January.
As thousands of Filipino workers were pushed out of their jobs early this year, the appeal of cybersex seems to have hooked on young people.
“Patricia,” a 17-year-old transgender, says she plans to enter the business before she turns 18 on May 27. She tells Vincenton Post that she already talked to her “Mamasang,” a master account holder of livejasmin.com and who agreed to lend her account. A master account allows the member to lend his/her account to anybody or hire new performers.
Patricia, an incoming third-year mass communication student of a college in Manila, was promised to get a per-minute pay of P45.
“I already talked to my mom and she is also excited about my future job. All we have to do is fix our computer if it complies with broadband requirements,” she said in Filipino.
“Tinanong pa nga ng mommy ko kung may category daw na pang nanay magwo-work din daw siya.”
Patricia also tells Vincenton Post that her father just lost his job. “Wala nang work ang father ko at third year na ako sa susunod na sem. Kaylangan kong mag-work talaga at kaylangan ko ring bumili ng digi-SLR para sa photography class ko next sem,” she says, adding she also plans to buy “cybersex props” such as wig, lingerie, and a dildo.
Patricia was the one who informed Vincenton Post that this kind of trade is already an open-secret in their place. “Bulong-bulungan ang ganitong work dito sa amin. Siyempre sa hirap ng buhay, kapit sa patalim.”
She also says that because of this kind of job, a lot of members of the third sex in her place were able to buy motorcycle and were able to furnish their houses. “Sagot yan talaga sa kahirapan,” she adds.
This was confirmed by “Nicole,” 28, a transgender, who also plans to work for Patricia’s “Mamasang” for P45 per-minute.
“Siyempre sa hirap ng buhay at sa hirap maghanap ng work, kailangan mo talagang pumasok sa ganitong work. Menus sa pamasahe at iba pang klaseng mga gastusin,” says Nicole.
Because of technology and the ingenuity of cybersex operators, people of all genders and ages can now work in their own home, making it harder for government authorities to crack down on cybersex activities. Performer centers like livejasmin.com, iamlive.com, streammate.com, streamray.com, and cams.com are just some of countless of adult websites in the Internet today. This means that performers like Janet can choose to work for as many performer centers as they want.
Unlike before when cybersex den operators had to recruit ‘online performers’ in slum areas in the city and in the provinces, performer centers like Jasminlive.com now allow anybody to work at home.
In the past few weeks, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and police authorities raided suspected cybersex dens in Metro Manila and the provinces.
In a tipped operation on April 23, operatives of the NBI raided a purported cybersex den fronting as call center in Causwagan National Highway, Barangay Carmen in Cagayan de Oro City. Two Swedes identified as Emil Andy Solemo, 29, and Bo Estefan, 33, who reportedly owned the place, were arrested by the NBI for human trafficking, or violation of R.A. 9208. Also arrested were Junaina Ciella Omping, Andrea Garcia, Amindoing Lomangcolob Rangaig, Raymund Tupac Sabila, alias Tiger, at Arvy Doe.
NBI operatives also seized computers, sex toys and gadgets, web cameras, a cable antenna and a satellite dish. At least 18 women aged 19 to 25 years were rescued and sent to a counseling facility of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The NBI also said that the owners earned at least $10,000 a month.
“This is the first time that a cybersex den like this had been busted in Mindanao. Based on our initial investigation, we believe this is a big-time operation because they were using high-tech equipment and most of their clientele are foreign nationals,” Jaime Justo Yap, NBI regional director, was quoted as saying.
“Some girls said they were told that they would be working for an Internet café in Singapore. It was at the airport where they were told that they needed to go through practical training first and were given airline tickets to Cagayan De Oro.”
In a separate operation, the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) raided a suspected cybersex den in Barangay Talipapa, Quezon City, and arrested one John Paul Alcantara who was said to be the owner of the place.
Lack of cybercrime law
According to Chief Inspector Cherry Lou Donato of the QCPD-Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, Alcantara allegedly “hired people and used them for pornography and prostitution.”
Alcantara, who posted P200,000 bail, was charged with violation of anti-human trafficking law. Four male performers were rescued from the operation.
Donato says they received a tip from one of the relatives of those who had been recruited. The shop is connected to an adult website, www.adultfriendster.com.
In an interview with Vincenton Post, Donato says the rising incidence of poverty and unemployment are the main reasons why cybersex dens continue to proliferate.
“Some people see it as a way out of poverty,” Donato says, adding police authorities are doing their best to protect those who might be victimized by cybersex operators.
Donato said one of the main problems they usually encounter during operations is the absence of a law that would penalize cybersex operators.
“Because of the absence of a cybercrime law, we have to depend on existing laws in catching violators.”
Donato tells Vincenton Post that besides human trafficking, some of the legal bases they use in catching violators are city ordinances like lack of Mayor’s permit.
“Wala pang batas na nagpe-penalize sa mga [suspected] operators ng mga cybersex. And we just rely on the tips of the victims’ relatives. I think these are some of the problems that we encounter. It’s hard to prove in court ‘yung cybersex operation.”
The country has no law against cyber pornography, which makes it hard for police authorities to arrest cybersex den operators and rescue performers. It will be recalled that after the “boybastos.com” issue in 2007, the Congress passed a bill defining cyber crime and at the same creating an agency that will run after cyber criminals.
Mark Verzo, the alleged operator of the controversial adult website, was freed due to the absence of cybercrime law.
Last year, the Commission and Communications technology (CICT) endorsed to Congress the Anti-Cybercrime Bill, entitled Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2008, which consolidated four bills pending in the House of Representatives. The bill defines various forms of cybercrime offenses and prescribed corresponding punishments thereto. Cyber offenses include hacking, identity theft, phishing, spamming, website defacement, child pornography, cyberprostitution, denial-of-service attacks, and spreading of Inter virus. However, the status of the bill is still unknown at presstime.
A few clicks away
Besides adult websites, countless of messengers and chatrooms are now rife in the web. These messengers and chatrooms allow users to connect with millions of chatters across the world. By simply signing in, one can already communicate with anyone from anywhere at any given time.
Vincenton Post met with a number of chatters online to know why they chat. In the chat-world, one only needs to be familiar with the different chat lingo, such as ASL (age, sex, location of the chatter), CS (cybersex), SEB (sex eyeball), CTC (care to chat), C2C (cam-to-cam), among others, including the room category where one wants to chat.
LaDyGeGe, 23, single, says she’s a chat addict. “I chat because I wanted to and because I really enjoy chatting,” she says in the usual chat lingo.
LaDyGeGe says that she met her boyfriend of four years in the MIRC, a popular chatroom for Filipino chatters. MIRC has a lot of chatrooms where chatters can meet thousands of chatters worldwide. But for Filipino adult chatters like LaDyGeGe, some of the top chatrooms are ‘manilasex,’ ‘kantutan,’ ‘himasan,’ among others. Adult chatters who are looking for some fun besides pure chatting usually visit these chatrooms.
LaDyGeGe admits that she had been asked to go for SEB many times already. “Dami na,” she says, adding “minsan minumura ko.”
For DANAH29F, her MIRC user nick, chatting is one way to meet friends and—hopefully a boyfriend.
“I only meet professionals,” says DANAH29F, who has been chatting for more than 10 years.
Another female chatter Vincenton Post met in an MIRC chatroom is GurRLtHiNG, 26 from Rizal.
GurRLtHiNG is aware of the ins and outs of the chat-world, saying most male chatters seek sexual relationship with female chatters. Like some chatters, GurRLtHiNG says she joins grand eb (eyeball) wherein chatters from different parts of the country meet together to get know with each other or to establish more than chatroom relationship.
A member of “edad25up,” a group of MIRC chatters who go for grand eyeball, GurRLtHiNG says she knows of some chatters who ended up getting married. According to her, edad25up just celebrated its 8th anniversary on May 1.
There are some chatters who utilize chatting only to meet people in person, and this is no longer an open-secret in the cyberworld. If survey would be conducted, the results would show that SEB is more prevalent today among the members of the third sex—gays, transgenders and bisexuals.
“Nap,” 20 and a mass communication student, confirms this, saying he himself usually flirts with male chatters online for sex.
Nap is a member of downelink.com, a social networking that allows its users to chat, post messages and blogs, and upload and watch videos. Unlike other popular networking sites like Facebook and Friendster, downelink.com is more appealing to young adults like Nap. The site features clickable options like messages, blogs, flirt, chat, groups, photos and contests.
Nat, who agreed to show his downelink.com, says he met at least two male members for sex.
“Marami dito hanap sex lang,” he says, showing his personal account peppered with photos of male members who either half-naked or showing a piece of their private parts.
Nat says that he had “whirlwind romance” with a member whom he identified as “Rain,” 29, from Kamuning. He even boasts that Rain works as a choreographer for a popular TV show.
He also had an SEB with another member named “Earn,” 31, who works at an international organization.
Asked if he’s into safe sex, Nap, a confessed “bottom,” says he is more comfortable if his partner would not use condom.
Top or bottom
For gay/bisexual chatters, the following chat lingos are rife in the chatroom—t/b (top or bottom), versa (meaning the chatter can be either top or bottom) and versatop (a versa more on top).
“Mandaledmore,” 28, from Binondo, is a bisexual who frequents MIRC and Yahoo Messenger.
A seaman by profession, Mandaledmore says he usually chats whenever he feels the urge. ‘I get attracted to guys,” he said, adding he is also attracted to girls.
Unlike Nap, Mandaledmore is not willing to commit to a relationship to avoid trouble.
Asked about the last time he had SEB, Mandaledmore said forthrightly—“Yesterday I met a guy and then we made sex.”
A top, Mandaledmore says he always used condoms to avoid getting sexually transmitted disease.
YuPpY, a 30-year-old businessman from Batangas, had the same experience and intention when it comes to chatting.
YuPpY, based on his description on the MIRC massage board, is “30, M, 6’TALL, BROWN EYE, MESTIZO, DRIVES AND VERY DISCREET.”
A “seldom” chatter, YuPpY says he already met and had sex with “over 50 girls and guys.”
Asked if he already met the guy to complete his night, YuPpY said “may mga nangungulit lang sa room.”
As adult chatrooms and adults sites are now on the rise, the number of chatters and porn site visitors also escalates to undetermined proportions. As a result, some enterprising individuals see this trend as a way to earn buckets of money.
More ‘LovelytsJanet’ to come
According to Ruth Tabuniar, Sociology-Anthropology instructor at Ateneo De Zamboanga University, people have their individual reasons for chatting. She explains that the best recruiters of ‘chat-for-money activities’ are poverty and unemployment.
“For some people cybersex is one of the means to get out of poverty,” Tabuniar says, adding that with the use of Internet, the usual mail-order bride scheme has been transformed into a new level, whereby Filipino men and women now have easy access to foreigners in the hope of getting out of poverty.
For people like LovelytsJanet, the motivation, according to Tabuniar, is money.
“They go for this kind of activity because they think that sex-chat is a better alternative to prostitution,” Tabuniar says.
LovelytsJanet says that she sees nothing wrong with her job as long as she helps her family and the country. “I think through the dollar remittances that I receive, [in some ways] I also help the country. Saka wala naman tayong sinasaktan na iba. Ba’t naman nila ito gagawing krimen,” she adds.
However, for others like Nap, Mandaledmore and YuPpY who are only after quick fun or sexual relationship, chatting is a way to meet sex buddies and one-night stand.
Really in the cyberworld, chatters have their individual purpose. Meanwhile for girls like DANAH29F, GurRLtHiNG, and LaDyGeGe, their purpose is to look for heterosexual relationship.