Online prostitution sites using 'sex menus'

Online prostitution sites using 'sex menus'

PORTLAND, Ore. – The people who run prostitution operations have long harnessed the power of the Internet at the expense of the prostitutes.

Now, their operations are becoming more sophisticated. Online prostitution sites have become so blatant that johns here in Portland can log onto a website and use online menus to custom order a prostitute.

It's like ordering your meal at a fast food restaurant, but instead of burgers and fries, these menus let customers choose from parts of a human being and what they will do for you.

We visited several of these sites to see how they operate.

Johns can start at the top, ordering hair color: brown, blonde, black, red.  Next, they can choose eye color and ethnicity.  And then they move on to body type: average, curvy, slim, athletic, "cushin' for pushin’.”

They can select the height of the prostitute, down to a few inches, and the bust size, as well.  Do they want tattoos or piercings and where do they want them?  How do they want other body parts groomed? It’s all there for the choosing.

And finally, prostitution customers choose the services – some so graphic we can't list them here.

With just a few clicks you have an "escort" – not just any escort, but one you have custom-ordered piece by piece.

We called one of the women advertised on these online menus. She works in Southeast Portland. 

She told us it is convenient for the customers and they can get the person and the services they want. For example: GFE (girlfriend experience), PSE (porn star experience) and what she says is the most requested RPG (role-playing game), "daddy-daughter."

Portland Police say they are aware the menus are used for prostitution.

"We are not stupid.  We know what the ads are for, just like everybody else knows what the ads are for," said Sgt. Pete Simpson.

However, Simpson said there are hundreds of new prostitution ads posted online every month in Portland alone. 

"To manage that and to actually go out and work each of these cases would be an insurmountable task," he said.

Simpson said Portland Police conduct stings on adult prostitution but spend more resources on stopping child prostitution.

"With limited resources, our focus is going to be children and juveniles and shutting down sex trafficking going on with underage youth," he explained.

According to Erin Ellis, executive director of the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Beaverton, the sex menus are about children, even though they may seem to portray adult prostitution.

She said the average age of entry into the life of prostitution is 12 to 14. She said the people being served up on the menus are often groomed for this through child rape.

"What we're looking at is not just selecting body parts to put together the entire woman. This is an issue of child abuse and this is how child abuse is being packaged," said Ellis.

Ellis said the menus can make the process seem cleaner and more business-like for the exploiter, less like the buying and selling of a human being.

"It takes the guilt out of it," Ellis said, "This is putting together a toy that really means nothing."

She said abusers are more likely to be violent if they view their victim as an item rather than a person.

"The big benchmark that eases the process is when we turn a human being into a commodity or a piece.  And as we segment the human body we can then ease our conscience and do as we please," Ellis said.

Ellis said the toll taken on the prostitutes includes post-traumatic stress disorder, physical scars from violence and disease, life-long depression, eating disorders, drug addiction and suicide. 

"There's always a price tag attached to this," she said, "You can't be subject to this kind of dehumanizing behavior from another without some sort of trauma response."

We contacted seven sites advertising with menus for the Portland area. Not one responded to explain why they do it. 

Ellis says sex advertising makes huge amounts of money for the people who run the sites, but rarely for the women, men, children on the menu.

For more information on human trafficking, visit the Polaris Project’s website.