BY ANA P. SANTOS
My friend inspected the inside of the men’s room, held the door open for us and then took his place standing guard by the door.
“Ok, no one’s in there. You can go in,” he whispered urgently. “Check out the back of the door of the last cubicle.”
My other (girl) friend and I weren’t in the men’s room because we badly needed the potty and the girls’ room was full.
We were on a research mission. Mario Balibago, from the UNFPA, our guard at the door had just finished telling us about how hooking up with someone was as easy as messaging a mobile number scrawled on the back of a bathroom door.
A random text, a simple exchange of pleasantries, and then a meet up which would almost always lead to an exchange of bodily fluids. (Hopefully, a condom made it somewhere into this consummation on high on fast-forward.)
To prove this theory, Mario took us to the men’s room where we could see the numbers for ourselves. He took us to this particular bathroom in one of the city’s hotels, saying it was a good example. “The doors are from floor to ceiling,” he said or rather showed, how this little design detail would hide two sets of feet occupying a single cubicle.
Where phone numbers scrawled in various parts of the bathroom used to be juvenile pranks you would play on your worst enemy or best frenemy, it was now a way of social networking.
It was unfortunate that there had been an obvious attempt to scrub down the numbers. We could no longer make out a complete 11-digit mobile number and test this theory further.
“But you can also check Twitter,” quipped Mario.
It turns out that bathroom doors were just the edge of this bed sheet.
#Hashtags as pick up lines
Twitter, apart from its other functions of crowdsourcing and breaking news, is also an online, more-direct-to-the-point “meet market.”
Unlike Facebook which censors photographs, you can locate photos of various body parts in turgid poses using explicit hashtags like #tigasxxxx.
Account handles like “@chupa_mo-ako” leave nothing to the imagination.
“Online has taken the place of bars and clubs. You can scour profiles, find someone interesting, PM, DM or tweet them without the fear of rejection. Your message can go ignored or may even be declined, but so what? No one really knows who you are,” explained C, a thirty-something corporate executive who says that going online has made dating easy, uncomplicated and convenient.
C has hooked up with people online for casual hook ups, some of which have turned into relationships.
The online meet market has obliterated the awkward moments of what to say after a face-to-face “no.”
There already existed ICQ and other chatrooms before, but now with the complement of smart phones where you can be online all the time accessing Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, you can hook up in 140-characters or less or get laid using a hashtag or clicking on “like.”
Facebook: Making friends with PSPs
Mitch is addicted to Facebook for another similar reason.
Mitch is a college student who moonlights as a personal services provider (PSP); she receives payment for going out on walks with “guests” or “Js.”
In the PSP world, those 3 words are euphemisms or jargon – depending on how you want to look at it – that guide business transactions.
“I do it because I need money to go to school. And because the money is easy,” said the 18-year-old, who began going out on “walks” at 15. “Mga one or two walks a week lang ako, makaka-P8,000 to P10,000 na ako.”
Advertising her services online saves her time, she said. “I don’t have to walk the streets or hang out at bars waiting for a guest. When I’m contacted, yun na yun.”
It limits the small talk to the essentials: how much, how long, and what services are offered. Terms and conditions like transportation subsidy (an amount paid to cover a PSP’s transportation to and from a meeting place) and a cancelation fee (a guest may be asked to pay a certain percentage of the contract price if he backs out to cover the PSPs transportation expenses and opportunity cost at losing other guests.)
It also serves as an avenue to get repeat guests based on the review from previous ones. “I ask my clients to post an FR (field report) on my profile if they like my service.”
The field report is how PSPs are rated by Js on a scale of 1 to 10 on areas like face, body, attitude and how well they are able to perform oral sex. These field reports are posted on their profile page or in the forums and serve as “reviews.”
For sure, the risks that surround the oldest trade in the book are still there. Mitch says she was once attacked by a J who thought she stole money from his wallet. The memory still angers her today, “xxx niya, alam ko ganito ako, pero hindi ako pinalaki ng nanay ko na magnanakaw.” (I know I’m like this but I wasn’t raised by my mother as a thief.)
For those who want a bigger share of the profit, it cuts out the middlemen and it saves time that could best be spent on other things…which in Mitch’s case, means going to school or hanging out with her boyfriend who has no idea what she does on the side.
Ah, the complexities of this virtual red light district created by this online environment. It has made connecting much easier, but it has also blurred the lines of online dating, casual sex, and prostitution.
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