March 14, 2005 09:49am
Cyberprostitution: A New Twist on the World's "Oldest Profession"
Source: Adult Industry News
by: Jessica R. Blaemire
Eric: hey there
Tara: hey yourself...wanna go private?
Tara: what we goin' to do here?
Eric: can you spread your legs wide
Tara: u want pants off?
Eric: sure, thats cool...ohhh...
Eric: now take the vibrator, and penetrate yourself
Eric: oh god...
Tara: ohhhh...is this what you want?
Eric: exactly...wawww you are so hot...
This is an example of what is commonly known as "cybersex." Often, this erotic text is accompanied by live video links. Websites such as PrivateLive.com and Flirt4Free.com have built their businesses by enabling customers to view men and women masturbating and performing other sexual activities and engage in cybersex with the performers. The customer begins by viewing the woman for free, along with every other non-paying person in the chat room.
The customer can talk to the woman or man without paying, but the activity will not be interactive until he enters a private room. In the conversation above, the customer has entered his credit card number allowing him to go one-on-one with his chosen woman. Only the customer will be viewing the live web cam during the time of the "private chat." All other online users will be blocked and if they click on that particular performer, will receive a message telling them that the performer is currently with another customer in a private chat room. In the private chat, the customer can direct the woman do perform acts on herself. With the help of the live video cam, the customer can enjoy her as she enjoys herself. On Flirt4Free.com, the price tag is $11.99 for two minutes of interactive discussion. Most websites also offer subscriptions for a monthly or yearly fee.
These cybersex experiences in a private, consensual setting raise few legal questions. A couple communicating and expressing themselves with the help of erotic text and a web cam is similar to a couple sharing dirty narratives over the telephone line, or in sensually written letters. Few people would argue that this should be banned by law. Introducing a financial transaction into this situation, however, raises some interesting legal questions. When cybersex involves payment, cybersex, to some people, begins to look like an act of prostitution.
There is yet to be any litigation regarding these live sex websites, and so it is unknown whether they will actually be determined to fall under current prostitution statutes. Prostitution is regulated in the United States by each state and so there is the possibility that Cyberprostitution could be treated as prostitution under some state statutes and not under others.
Many of these states' prostitution statutes seem to require actual, physical touching. Because of this requirement, Cyberprostitution should not be counted as real prostitution.
Even if physical touching is not required by a state's statute, it is unlikely that Cyberprostitution will still be prosecuted under these statutes. It would violate the due process rights of cyber prostitutes to treat them as traditional prostitutes. A person charged under a prostitution statute, for Cyberprostitution activities, would not have had appropriate knowledge of the crime he or she had committed. Most state statutes are so unclear as to whether this modern form of paid sex is covered, it would be unfair and unconstitutional to charge the participants in Cyberprostitution as criminals.
What the courts will actually decide, though, remains to be seen. This is a hypothetical situation, but is an interesting one that is likely to be addressed in the near future.
About Jessica R. Blaemire:
Ms. Blaemire is a law student at the University of Virginia. With her article, she is not attempting to give legal advice. For a copy of her entire research project, "A New Face on an Old Profession: A Look at Prostitution on the Internet," please contact her at JRB6n@Virginia.edu.