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Pimps and Predators on the Internet
Globalizing Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children

   

Commercial Use of the Internet for Sexual Exploitation, part 2

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Live Videoconferencing -- Online Prostitution

The most advanced technology on the Internet allows the live transmission of video captured images. The prostitution industry quickly moved to use this new technology to transmit live strip and sex shows. The communication can be interactive, so buyers are able to direct the women’s actions. Shows can be watched by groups of men, or for more money, the buyer can have a private session. This technology has merged pornography and prostitution and enabled men to buy women in prostitution over the Internet in the privacy of their homes or offices.

One of most popular aspects of using the Internet to send and receive pornography and now technologizied prostitution, is the privacy the man is able to maintain during the whole transaction. The only limitation to this new form of prostitution is the need for high-speed transmission computer equipment. The pimps on the web site provided the necessary software free of charge. As faster computers and more high-speed transmission lines are available to men around the world, this type of technologized prostitution will continue to grow.

The first live videoconferencing site selling strip shows that I saw on the Web was Virtual Dreams in October 1995, running off the CTSNET server in San Diego, California.

"Virtual Dreams uses cutting-edge technology to bring you the most beautiful girls in the world. Using our software and your computer, you can interact real time and one-on-one with the girl of your dreams. Ask her anything you wish–she is waiting to please you!"[180]

By November 1995, "live nude video teleconferencing" was being touted on alt.sex.prostitution. Derek Hamilton said,

"Here’s something that will make your modem sizzle! I was sitting at home…my Penthouse subscription had run out, when I stumbled across "Video Fantasy" on the net. This is one of the most interesting "adults only" services I’ve ever seen. With Windows, my 486 and their software, I called a pretty girl’s studio with my modem and watched her undress. All of this was live and in color on my computer monitor. What will they think of next. Sitting at home being entertained by a beautiful girl. Talk about "safe sex"! I love it! Check out their website at http://www.videofantasy.com. This is lot’s of fun."[181]

The pimps on the Internet conduct their own market research on who is buying the women they offer. According to the Internet Entertainment Group (IEG), the largest pimp on the Web, the buyers for live strip shows are 90 percent male, 70 percent living in the United States, and 70 percent are between ages 18 and 40.[182] The viewers are young men in college, and businessmen and professionals who log on from work.[183] Naughty Linx reports there is a 22 percent decline every Summer, when college students cannot use university Internet connections to log on to sex industry sites.[184]

Pimps on the Internet

The movement of the sex industry to the Internet has increased the demand for new and more extreme images of the sexual exploitation of women and children. Older images identified by color quality of the image or clothing and hairstyle are viewed with disdain. Buyers demand new images with the scenes of sexual exploitation and abuse that are in fashion among predators. The result is increased abuse and exploitation of women and children.

Act One Entertainment, USA, owned by William J. Heath, 37, of Royal Oak, Michigan, is known to have operated between September 1994 and November 1997. The operation, known to have pimped more than 300 women, sold strippers and prostitutes to men. He hired underage girls, filmed them stripping and being sexually abused by him and others. He then sold the images on the Internet. In November 1997, the owner, William J. Heath, was charged with criminal racketeering and production of child pornography. Two other men associated with Act One Entertainment were arrested. Johnnie Juretick, 31, was charged with producing sexually abusive material of children; and Jeffrey Scott Maxwell, 22, was charged with performing sex acts on underage girls. The girls were told they would receive royalties based on the number of people who bought their photographs. [185]

Canada A mother was outraged when she saw pornographic pictures of her daughter on the Internet. Stephen Bauer, 24, was arrested on charges involving three children, aged 14-16, for making and distributing child pornography, being a person in authority permitting sexual activity, sexual exploitation, living on the avails of prostitution, and exercising control and communication with a person under age 18 for prostitution.[186] Most of the girls exploited by Bauer were runaways, or from "broken homes." The girls were dressed in school uniforms, stripped, and used by men, while hidden cameras filmed them. Digital images and videos were transmitted live to an Internet site, which specialized in schoolgirls and skirt fetishes. The site was in operation for about 1 year and had about 1,000 subscribers, who paid $15 to $80 (Canadian dollars) for access to the site.[187] Detective Mike Sullivan of the Illinois Naperville Police Department, USA, discovered the site. Other images on the Web site included images of girls as young as five being sexually abused. [188]

Most of the big pimps on the Internet migrated to the Web from phone-sex operations.[189] They claim the move was natural. Men talking to and buying women over the Internet was just a step up in the distanced interactivity of audio prostitution created by phone sex lines. Pimps in the phone sex business say they also had an advantage in understanding how to create and market long distance prostitution. They point out that the buyers on the end of the phone or computer supply the most important component-what they are paying money for-the ejaculation.[190] The phone sex pimps also had the money and resources to draw on when they moved to the Internet.[191]

A few of the pimps on the Web who started out selling women in audio prostitution are:

Seth Warshavsky, founder of Internet Entertainment Group, the largest live sex show producer on the web, started a phone sex business in 1990, when he was 17 years old;

Ian Eisenberg, who runs the Web site Babes4U with Steffani Martin, and is still in the phone sex business, is the son of Joel Eisenberg, a pioneer of the phone sex business in the 1980s;

Ted Liebowitz, Web site operator from Manhattan, runs a phone sex business;

Steve Becker, who now works for Penthouse, ran a number of phone sex lines in New York.

The following are profiles of a few of the owners and operators of sex industry sites on the Web and their businesses.

Seth Warshavsky

Seth Warshavsky is the biggest pimp on the Internet. Founder and President of the Internet Entertainment Group (IEG), 25-year-old Warshavsky has been making money from the prostitution industry since he was a boy. While in grade school he ran a computer bulletin board; at age 17 he dropped out of school, moved out of his parents’ house and opened up a phone sex business with a friend using US$7,000 borrowed on credit cards.[192] His first phone sex number was called 1-800-GetSome.[193] In the beginning, if a buyer called the 800 number, an answering service would get the buyer’s credit card information, then page Warshavsky. He would have a woman call the buyer back. Soon after he started he was getting 50 to 60 buyers per day at US$39.95 per call. His phone sex business continued to grow so by 1995 he had an annual income of US$60 million.

He was able to draw on this money to go into the pornography and live videoconferencing business on the Web. In late 1997, IEG employed three programmers and eight graphic designers.[194] One of the designers described his work as a "dream job" because any new technology was available for the asking.[195]

His sites include stripping, live sex shows, and pay-per-view hard-core pornography.

ClubLove is the Video Theatre for downloadable QuickTime videos and pay-per-view movies. It was visited more than 7 million times per day in early 1998.[196] At that time the "club" had approximately 600,000 members who paid the US$19.95 subscription fee.[197]

The Dressing Room offers buyers background information on the web site performers and enables them to send the strippers email.

The Gallery offers pornography.

The Yellow Pages lists phone sex numbers for audio prostitution

The Sexual Relief Map is a directory of strip clubs, adult bookstores and escort services in the United States.

The Arcade is the live-video section, and Warshavsky’s premier section. The live peep show costs US$40 for 15 minutes in mid-1997.[199]

Warshavsky’s IEG brought in US$7 million in revenues in 1996, which increased to US$20 million in 1997. In 1998, he claimed he would bring in US$40 million. He will not say how much of that is profit, but says, "We did turn profitable in the middle of [1997]"[200]

Warshavsky is also making huge profits by selling live videos to hundreds of other sex industry sites on the Web. The strip shows for heterosexual viewers on sites such as PenthouseLive, Vivid Video, Buttsville and AlleyKatz, and for gay men viewers on sites such as VividMan and SteelCity, are supplied by Warshavsky’s ClubLove. Over 300 sex industry sites pay IEG for live videos. The sites keep 35 percent of the revenue, while IEG gets 65 percent. Warshavsky’s IEG does business with 1,400 sex industry sites on the Web, comprising about 5 percent of the Web’s total number of sex industry sites. IEG has advertising banners on over 1,100 sex industry Web sites. IEG pays the Web site owner two and a half cents each time someone clicks on the advertisement, which links the viewer to an IEG site. Counting all the sites, at the end of 1997, Warshavsky had 400,000 subscribers to 29 Web sites.[201]

In early September 1998, Warshavsky’s IEG launched a free web site that provides financial stock quotes and charts accompanied by soft and hard core pornographic images. He hopes to create a popular Web site by combining two hotly sought after items –pornography and financial information. He plans to attract men between ages 25 and 49.[202]

Lapis Labs, Tucson, Arizona, USA

In early 1998, Lapis Labs operated 25 pornographic Web sites, such as XXXCellar, NastyLinks and FreeGayPorn. The sites have 150,000 images, 1,000 downloadable QuickTime videos and 700 RealVideo live videos, and receive between 15,000 to 30,000 buyers each day.[203] The co-founder and software developer for Lapis Labs would not allow his name to be used in interviews. The founders of Lapis Labs claimed they wanted to make money while avoiding "corporate America." They originally thought they would make children’s educational CD-ROMS, but couldn’t afford the start-up costs, so switched to pornography. The co-founder likes to focus "on being a technology company rather than a sex company."[204] The private corporation was launched with an investment of US$10,000. In early 1998 it had six employees.

The US$10 per month membership fee provides the buyer with access to 80,000 "full-sized, full color JPEG images," and 5 to 25 minute clips from 1,000 movies.[205] The nameless co-founder will not reveal how many subscribers the company has, but the demand is such that the company is always upgrading their servers and equipment. Lapis Labs buys its pornography from "content brokers" and directly from photographers and videographers. Although the men running the company like to hide behind anonymity, they are not shy about the material on their Web sites. "If it’s legal, we have it. There’s some material that I personally find repulsive, but not everyone has the same tastes."[206] Also, for a group of men who claim they were initially interested in children’s education, they take a liberal view on children’s access to pornography.

"Children will have easy access to adult material so long as adults have easy access to adult material. For example, somebody’s dad or older brother is always going to have a porn collection to ‘borrow’ and show to friends, or dirty novels, or whatever. People like sexual content, they’re going to have it around, and kids are going to get a hold of it."[207]

Lapis Labs sites have sophisticated search engines that enable the buyer to search film clips by gender, sexual act, number of people in scene, and a description of the people, such as race or hair color-two popular attributes on which stereotypes are based. In early 1998, they were preparing to move into full-length pay-per-view video on demand over the Internet.[208

KNB Enterprises

KNB Enterprises, owned by Jeff and Kathy, who declined to give their last names in interviews, run WebVirgins, a sex industry Web site that was making US$500,000 per year in 1997.[209] They claimed to get a new buyer every 2 to 3 seconds, 24 hours a day.[210]

Danni's Hard Drive

Danni Ashe, a former stripper, founded Danni’s Hard Drive in Los Angeles in 1995. According to Ashe, her site was initially accessed 70,000 times per day, and grew to 5 million accesses per day by 1998. Ashe claims her gross revenue has grown by more than 2,000 percent, and required her to increase her staff from a part-time assistant to 15 full-time employees.[211] Her Web site has 15,000 images of 250 models, and features images and videos of Ashe herself. In mid-1998, she had 22,000 subscribers who paid US$14.95 per month for access to her Web site. In 1997 she brought in US$2.7 million, and expected to make US$3.5 million in 1998. Her Web site is so popular it has 450 streaming video channels and six live video feeds.[212] She banks on what she considers male nature, "…let’s face it: every man in the world masturbates and they’re just looking for new source material."[213]

Women in the Commercial Internet Sex Industry

The growth and expansion of the pornography and prostitution industries on the Internet have also increased the demand for new material, resulting in increased sexual exploitation of women. Fierce competition among pornography web sites has pushed pimps to advertise and present more and more extreme material, such as penetration with large objects, bestiality and bondage. Of course, making these images requires more violence against women.

In the live sex shows of the Internet, the buyers relay requests to the woman through an 800 number, while watching her on their computer over the Internet. The women act out pornographic scenarios in 8-by-8 foot cubicles setup in a warehouse in Pioneer Square in Seattle.[214] Stage sets are a health club, bedroom, shower, and dungeon.[215] Each set has a microphone and speakers so the strippers and the buyers can communicate. The buyers can then direct the woman in the set, and make demands for her performance. The men often ask the women to give special signals to indicate that the performance is live, and that they are in direct contact with the women. In most set-ups, multiple men can be logged on and viewing one stripper at once. The men compete with one another for the woman’s attention. One woman reported:

"It’s really disconcerting. Suddenly, the phone will pop on and a man will say hello, and when another one pops on it’s like two kids tugging on your arm. A lot of them are very clear about what they want to see and what they want you to say."[216]

The women in the live prostitution shows on the Internet are usually in the same constrained economic circumstances with limited opportunities as women who strip in clubs. In April 1998, twenty women were stripping for the Internet Entertainment Group (IEG).[217] In these virtual peep shows, "star performers" are available on weekends, but most of the week local women staff the strip-sets for US$20/hour.[218]

"Natalia" While Warshavsky, owner of IEG, lives in a half million-dollar condo and drives a new Jaguar, "Natalia" is paid US$20/hour to strip and perform sex shows for buyers over the Internet.[219] While "Natalia" claims that stripping makes her feel good about herself, "Natalia" is not her real name and she doesn’t want anyone to know she earns money this way. She says she strips for IEG because her other job does not pay enough to support her and her family. She conceals the stripping from most of her friends and family. She describes the depersonalization that other women in the pornography and prostitution industries undergo. She takes on another personality in order to act out the scenarios required. "Out there, I’m a completely different person than I am in here. This is my shadow side." [220]

As in other parts of the pornography and prostitution industries, women assist in the exploitation of other women. At IEG, the "Director of Talent" is Mara Mehren. A former operator in the phone sex business, who moved up in the business with Ian Eisenberg; now, at 35, she video-captures the sex shows in Warshavsky’s IEG warehouse. She controls camera angles and monitors who is logged on and for how long. She is the high-tech version of the brothel madam making sure the men get their moneys worth. [221]

An advantage of stripping on Internet live shows may be that the women don’t have to physically deal with men, as they do in strip bars and clubs.[222] Many women report the lack of physical contact with men is an advantage to stripping for online prostitution industry sites. A few former "porn stars" have set up their own Web sites.

Madeleine Altmann, 33, of New York owns, runs and strips on Babes4U Web site. Her operation represents a US$100,000 investment for computers, video equipment and high transmission telephone lines that can handle streaming video. She videos herself dancing and stripping, then transmits it to buyers on the Internet. She says, "I would never be a stripper or a prostitute. I don’t want to be near the clients or see them."[223] Although Altmann herself doesn’t want to have any contact with the men, she has other women who work for her engage in sexually explicit computer "chat" with the buyers.[224]

Other Forms of Violence Against Women on the Internet

Other forms of explicit and extreme violence against women and children can be found on the Internet.

During an Internet search on rape, an activist found a Web site with a message from a man asking for someone to rape his wife because she didn’t like having sex with him. Visitors to this Web site left messages with their email addresses indicating that they were willing to rape the woman. Thanks to investigation and complaints to the Internet Service Provider, this Web site was taken down.[225] Another woman found a Web site that promoted the "pre-planned violent rape of lesbians" as a way of "converting" them to heterosexuality. She lodged a complaint with the webmaster.[226]

In Spring 1998, I found a web site called The Rape Zone. The home page featured a picture of a woman screaming as a man forced her against a wall with one hand around her throat and the other restraining her arm. The page title was underlined with a red bar that dripped blood. The site claimed to have over 1,000 images of rape and many video feeds. All of the images were of women tied-up, being beaten and penetrated with large objects. There were a number of images in which the women appeared to be bleeding. Memberships were being sold and viewers could purchase full-length videos.

 

Caution: Extreme Images of violence and Rape!!

What this site is: A photographed documentary of a rape encounter.

A visual and mental journey throught [sic] the mindcrime of a rapist.

Video Series

Brutally Raped – Sadist’s Delight
Brutally Raped – Tina is having a real hard time! This buy has no mercy!
Brutally Raped – Lovely Maria gets gangbanged by 3 black sadists
Brutally Raped – This time sweet little Manoa is the victim

The Sex Industry and the Internet Industry

 

 

 

 

 

 


Published by The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, 1999
Donna M. Hughes, dhughes@uri.edu
http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes