Diary of cyber-sex virgin

The Internet is widely used as a tool to meet people, for a date, or simply for sex. While there is no law against this, there is against prostitution, which is becoming increasinly popular online

By Diana Freundl  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Sun, Jun 06, 2004 - Page 17

"Ted," a well-dressed 34-year-old Taiwanese businessman, responded to a posting he found on an adult Web site by a young lady looking to meet Taiwanese men for discreet relationships. He chose a quiet tea shop for the first encounter, where he described how he meets women online for sex, saying if both parties are interested it doesn't have to end with coffee, but if it takes a second date then he's willing to wait.

He said most but not all Web sex daters prefer to meet over coffee before they rendezvous in a hotel room. Ted and this cyber-sex virgin sipped tea over small talk in order to determine if and where they would meet again.

He boasted of five to 10 one-night stands with women he met online over the past three years. He said he used the sites to "fill" his sexual appetite, but added if he found the right girl he would consider dating her -- although he wasn't sure it would be a monogamous relationship.

On our date, there were a few uncomfortable silences, but Ted was determined to get more than a bill for coffee out of the encounter, so he suggested we move the discussion to a nearby hotel. "Your mind is somewhere else. Maybe you need to relax," he said before asking, "Have you ever been licked all over? Apparently, it's very good to make you relax."

There is a whole swathe of Chinese-language sites and chat rooms with postings and links to people looking for one-night stands in Taiwan, typically with one-liners that read, "Come in if you want to share a honeymoon night."

Some are more specific in what they ask women. A recent search turned up a gentleman looking only for "girls who like to eat cum."

Date number two, Eric, a 30-year Taiwanese gynecologist, explained within the first 10 minutes why he uses the Internet for sex. "I'm married, but I have discreet meetings outside of my marriage. I still need to be safe."

He finds the Internet a convenient and safe way to meet women because he can learn more about someone before he gets intimate. He met his wife online, but not in a chat room. "It's a different kind of site."

Despite posting a picture of his erect penis in his online profile -- as many others do -- he said women seldom reply to his messages. This was Eric's first date with someone he had met in an adult chat room. "Maybe she was looking for a boyfriend, I am looking for sex," he said, referring to one girl who stopped sending him messages when he mentioned he was married.

Described as the "world's largest sex and swinger personnel site" on its homepage, AdultFriendFinder.com (AFF) boasts more than 10 million active members worldwide. The US-based adult Web site has 16,000 listings from local and foreign residents living in Taiwan. Additionally there is AsianFriendFinder.com with 10,000 listings, most of which are the same as those on AFF.

More than 60 percent of the Taiwan listings are of men looking for women. To provide participants with a directory of suitable matches the application asks members to select what they are looking for from a list of options ranging from erotic chat to sadism/masochism.

"John" said curiosity made him log on to AFF and he paid US$20 per month for a silver membership (basic membership is free). He said he doesn't like to pick up girls in bars, because of a fear of rejection, but after three years of paying for an empty inbox, he now questions just how swinging AFF really is. He believes one reason for the lack of interest in his profile was not attaching a naked picture of himself.

"Jack," and "Michael," also AFF subscribers, did post photos and both were somewhat successful in their encounters. They have each met three girls in the past two years. Describing himself as a highly-sexed individual, Jack said he doesn't limit his pursuit of one-night stands to the Internet, claiming to pick up women at various bars and pubs around the city. Michael, on the other hand, said he is more "clinical" in the way he meets women and feels for a small amount of money AFF provides him with a level of privacy he wouldn't get at a bar.

One of the biggest concerns with Internet dating is the danger of meeting someone you met online in person. According to Internet Crime Detective Chen Yong-shen (陳永昇) of the Taipei City Police Criminal Investigation Division, there have been no reported cases of violence from parties involved in one-night stands arranged over the Internet in Taipei City this year. Cases involving stalkers or jealous lovers, however, would not be handled by his department, making it difficult to determine the actual number of related cases, he said.

Recently a story appeared in local Chinese-language media of a man, attacked and severely beaten while on his way to meet a woman he was corresponding with online. It was reported later that the girl's boyfriend had hired the attackers.

A desire for privacy, according to Chen, also limits the number of people who report Internet dates gone wrong. However, the small number of reported incidents in the Taipei City area suggests the fear of something bad happening is larger than the reality.

When asked to comment, in his capacity as a police officer, whether it is safer to meet a potential one-night stand in a bar or online, Chen replied, "A bar, because there are other people around. If you have problems you could track that person quickly. The problem with chat rooms or Web sites is you don't know this person, you don't know what they really want."

Having browsed adult chat rooms and listings on AFF it seems most people do know what they want: discreet meetings in hotel rooms. For Web-sex daters, adult personal sites are 21st century commodities providing them with designer sex that is convenient and private. Whether for long-term commitment or a one-night stand the Internet is one place where love is being made in Taiwan.

A search for one-night stands (一夜情) on various search engines churns out a list of pornography, cyber-sex and chat rooms for discreet meetings and prostitution. Monitoring these sites is an arduous task undertaken by parents, child welfare groups and the police. Their main concern is that chat rooms are increasingly popular among young students in Taiwan.

A small poll by this reporter of 17 Taiwanese high school students found 90 percent use Internet chat rooms and 50 percent use chat rooms with romantic intentions (dating and/or sex).

Jean a 17 year-old student said she and her classmates use Yahoo chat rooms three to four times a week and often encounter postings by men looking for sex. "Every time I check in the chat room there will be some advertisement for people who want to have one night stands for money."

Jean said she uses chat rooms to make new Internet friends, but most of her female friends have been on "no sex" dates with boys they met online. She wasn't sure how many of her classmates used the Internet to meet someone for sex, but she knew of two girls who allegedly answered advertisements from men willing to pay schoolgirls for sex.

A survey last year conducted by various women's organizations in Taiwan found that of 94 girls who had worked in the sex trade, 40 percent were introduced by peers and 10 percent were recruited by employment agencies while 20 percent were lured into the trade through Internet chat rooms.

ECPAT (End Child Prostitution Association in Taiwan), conducted an additional survey the same year of 140 girls residing in a half-way house, asking them which method they used most frequently during their employment in the sex industry. Thirty percent said they used the Internet.

"They [chat rooms] make it easy for girls to engage in enjo-kosai [Japanese for young girls who prostitute their bodies for money]. It is easy for them to find men without leaving their house," ECPAT Secretary General Lee Li-feng (李麗芬) said.

According to Lee, most girls get involved in the sex industry because of economic problems, but a small number try enjo-kosai because they are curious.

The Internet makes it easier for them, she said, backing her statement with a survey of 40 girls who had engaged in enjo-kosai, 35 percent of whom tried it out of curiosity.

Lee said banning personal sites such as AFF is not the answer to ending child prostitution but she is concerned about who is monitoring these sites. At present ECPAT recruits and trains volunteers to monitor chat rooms. The organization cooperates with the police, providing access to their online database and past research obtained by volunteers.

Detective Chen Yong-shen (陳永昇) of the Department of Internet Crime with the Taipei City Police Department of Criminal Investigation Division said the department is overwhelmed with investigations of chat rooms with ads in which people sell, or are willing to pay for sex, but they only ever find a small fraction of those who post the advertisements.

During the interview, the detective pointed to a 15-year-old boy leaving the office in tears. His father had brought him in after he discovered the boy had offered to pay NT$2000 for a one-night stand in an Internet chat room.

Unlike this case where the boy's father wanted to frighten the boy with a trip to the police station, the detective said young offenders arrested in cases involving enjo-kosai are taken to shelters and left in the care of organizations like ECPAT.