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For Indonesians Online, Sex Is Just A Ratings Game

“She’s amazing. She gives you the ‘girlfriend’ treatment,” wrote Cookery (his user name) recently on an online discussion forum.

He was reviewing his paid session with “Mira,” a sex worker employed at a South Jakarta massage parlor, whom he summed up as a “chubby teen.”

Alongside a physical description of Mira, Cookery offered “user feedback” for the benefit of other men involved as clients in Jakarta’s sex industry. He gave Mira a score of seven for her skills at MOT (Man on Top) and eight for WOT (Woman on Top) because of her “killer moves.”

He also rated some of Mira’s other skills — unprintable in a newspaper — as well as posting a cellphone picture of her, with her face hidden under a pillow. The image is distorted enough so that it saves her from possible embarrassment, but clear enough so that it showcases her physique.

Prostitution is famously an occupation that goes back millennia, but the phenomenon of online opinion and rating forums, such as the one Cookery frequents, is a rather more modern one. But in the relatively few years since the Internet has been around, such sites have become widespread, and in Indonesia, at least, are available to the clients of sex workers around the country.

Most cover both sex workers who are based indoors — such as saunas, massage parlors and hotels ­— as well as those who work on the street.

Like many virtual communities, they have developed their own terminology, including FR (Field Report), FK (French Kiss), PanLok (Local Panda, referring to sex workers from China) and many more that are also not suitable for a newspaper.

I messaged Cookery through the forum with a request for an interview.

He agreed to meet me for dinner at a restaurant in the Setiabudi building in South Jakarta, not far from where he works, on the condition that I didn’t divulge his identity because he is getting married next year to a “girl from a religious family.”

Cookery said he would be wearing a football jersey. I spotted him at once — a skinny guy with gelled hair dressed as he said he would be.

Straight off, I asked him whether his girlfriend knew he went to prostitutes, to which he let out a sigh of exasperation. “Of course my fiance doesn’t know,” he said.

He said that if he’d had a really stressful day at work, he’d often go to a commercial sex venue with two of his friends.

“I’ve been going to those places for ages, and I found out about these informative online forums sometime in 2004. So I started posting my reviews and trading them for nomor cantik [pretty numbers],” he said, using the online term for cellphone numbers of freelance sex workers, which are often traded within the community.

Neither of Cookery’s buddies wanted to meet me, but one agreed to a text-message “interview.”

Bogelzz (his user name) introduced himself as 33 and in a “complicated relationship.” “This is how men tend to behave when they have a hobby — they like to talk to other men with the same hobby,” he wrote.

Bogelzz said he read reviews of sex venues almost every week because it enabled him to make informed decisions about where to go to “get rid of stress” at the weekend.

Dandy (not his real name) is also a member of a sex industry ratings community. The long-haired 37-year-old, who would not divulge his user name, said he was more of a “lurker” (someone who reads but does not participate in online discussions). Dandy said he had only ever posted a few field reports (“Maybe two or three times”), and logged in primarily for information about “which girls are good in this spa or that spa.”

He said that his work at an insurance firm required him to entertain clients at massage parlors and spas.

Dandy said he had been taking clients to venues that sold sex “for about three years,” but had only treated himself to their services in the last “one year or so.”

“People would go to those places even if this [online] community didn’t exist,” Dandy said. “And at least we can learn about who’s good and what places to visit.”

Randy (not his real name), a muscular 30-year-old IT expert, agreed with Dandy. “It is common knowledge to most men in Jakarta,” Randy said. “These so-called massage parlors are just a front for better things to come.”

Randy gave a rundown of how things worked at the massage parlors he visits. There is usually a small lounge with a pool table where customers can sit and have reflexology or a massage. “But we all know what people come here for,” he said.

Customers could pick from a bunch of numbered keys to other rooms, Randy said. “Now this is crucial. This is why these forums are important. Because when we pick a number that number is designated to a specific girl who keeps that same number every day.” He explained that members could ask the community which numbers were best at different massage parlors and spas.

Randy said most members posted reports to “earn some bragging rights,” and that more practical concerns, like sexual health issues, were a low priority.

But some community members can see a downside to the ratings system.

SiBesar (“The Big One,” his user name) posts reports about once a month, but says the forums fuel “sex addiction.”

Interviewed via phone, the 31-year-old, who is “happily married” with two children, said that he would often act on the advice of field reports. “Especially when they get good reviews. I always go there the very next day, or even the same day, if I have time,” he said.
SiBesar said he was not worried about sexually transmitted diseases.

“I’m not really afraid because I always wear a condom. In [commercial sex venues] you’re always required to wear them, anyway,” he said.

SiBesar said he made sure his family would never find out he went to sex workers, and never left any information on his field reports that might identify him.

“Some guys accidentally take a picture [of their private parts] when they try to shoot a girl with their phones for the FRs. I’ve never done that – my wife might recognize it,” he said, though he didn’t think it likely his wife would ever stumble onto the forum.

Randy, who is aware of Si Besar’s reputation, said community members were lucky to have each other to talk things through.

“I’m sure a lot of the guys have wives and probably kids,” he said. “But online, you know a guy from his user name and [photo of his private parts]. We all just want to assist each other, while acknowledging none of us are saints.”

A 21-year-old sex worker based at a massage parlor in South Jakarta, who asked not to be named, said she was aware of the existence of the forums.

“Sometimes I have clients who want to take pictures,” she said. “I never let them, of course, because it would be embarrassing,” she
said. Asked how she felt about being rated, she said: “Whatever. I still have tons of guests.”

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