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Like many other social phenomena, prostitution is increasingly coordinated over the Internet. The online behavior affects the offline activity; the reverse is also true.
We investigated the reported sexual contacts between 6, anonymous escorts and 10, sex buyers extracted from an online community from its beginning and six years on. These sexual encounters were also graded and categorized in terms of the type of sexual activities performed by the buyers. From the temporal, bipartite network of posts, we found a full feedback loop in which high grades on previous posts affect the future commercial success of the sex worker, and vice versa.
We also found a peculiar growth pattern in which the turnover of community members and sex workers causes a sublinear preferential attachment. There is, moreover, a strong geographic influence on network structure—the network is geographically clustered but still close to connected, the contacts consistent with the inverse-square law observed in trading patterns.
We also found that the number of sellers scales sublinearly with city size, so this type of prostitution does not, comparatively speaking, benefit much from an increasing concentration of people. Banished from mainstream mass media channels of advertisement, commercial sex is to a large degree organized laterally in social networks among and between sex buyers and sex sellers 1.
Over the past decade, the Internet has become an increasingly important vehicle for sharing information about prostitution 2. With the Internet, sex sellers have been able to reach other types of customers, those who prefer to establish personal communication before actually buying sex, using the relative anonymity of Internet-based communication 3.