[Dash of SAS] Prostitution or negotiable affection?

On my first visit to the City of Angels a few years ago, a revered MamaSan who has been in the bar business since its lights were a bright beckoning light once asked me, “How much can you make in a month? I bet my girls can make as much as you or even more.” 

Then she did the math. By managing around four different boyfriends, her top girls can make up to P80,000 a month - each. It requires skilled juggling and multi-tasking but that is made easier through technology and varying timezones.

“We don’t even have to have sex (to make money),” MamaSan’s star bar girl told me. “I just sit with the guy. When he talks to me, I lean in and look into his eyes. I laugh when he says something funny and squeeze his shoulder. Then he slips me some dollars as a tip.”

As we talk, others who aren’t quite as gifted with congeniality sit at the side of the bar, like wallflowers waiting to be picked.

For the fun of it 

The lure of easy money and fast romance are the lure for many like 19-year-old Kate.

Like a lot of the other girls, Kate is not originally from Angeles. She started doing cybersex in Iloilo where she said “everyone was doing it."  When she learned how to work a computer herself, she learned how to eliminate the middleman.

Her boyfriend is a 45-year-old Australian she met on line. He sends her money every month and came to visit her last year. In between visits and chats with her beloved, Kate maintains a profile page on other sites like Blue Jasmin. 

She has perfected the strategy of using an attractive approachable profile picture, whose promise is upheld by friendly engaging conversation. 

On sites where she’s paid by the minute, she slows her replies and escalates the teasing. “Minsan gusto lang nya pakita ko dede ko. Yun lang, may bayad na. Walang galaw-galaw.” (Sometimes the guy on the other end just wants to see my breasts. Just that and I get paid for it. There’s no touching involved.)

She has also learned to identify customers who are soft and sympathetic and most importantly, easy on the purse-strings. “I always say that I want to study but we don’t have money. Nagpapa-awa ako and then maawa naman sya so papadala sya ng money. Sometimes $100 agad ang padala.” (I make myself look pitiful and they pity me and send me money. Sometimes, they send $100 right off.)

She has been able to finish high school, is setting her sights on college and has had her home fixed, much to the delight of her parents.   

I met Kate when she was in Angeles over the weekend with a girlfriend whose boyfriend is a 40-something American. 

The girls were looking for fun and were hoping to earn money on the side. To secure her chances of a return on her investment for going there, Kate scheduled dates with two men beforehand. She is booked for the weekend, she said. 

It’s hard to tell where the business transaction ends and the semblance of a relationship starts. It makes it even harder to tell who the lucky one is.

“We know it’s transactional, but what can you do?” asked a gentleman, well into 60s with a waifish 20-something on his arm. 

As they say, all’s fair in love and war. While you can’t buy love, affection — and its different permutations — is certainly negotiable. — Rappler.com

Ana P. Santos is a former banker turned public health journalist focusing on women’s issues and sexual health rights. It’s a mouthful and for the most part, she’s simply referred to as a “sex columnist.”  She blogs (and rants) at www.sexandsensibilities.com and tweets @iamAnaSantos.