Facebook sex trade thrives in Iraq

Article Summary
With the spread of social media, Iraqi Facebook pages offering prostitutes are growing in popularity.

Facebook in Iraq has become rife with pages featuring sex and female pimps, who have suddenly emerged and who have started to compete with popular politicians and influential clerics over receiving "likes."

Since August, and without any paid advertising on Facebook, the page of Oum Salah has gained more than 71,000 followers. Men have rushed to the page like a swarm of ants to a piece of sugar. Oum Salah offers the kind of sugar that is scarce in Iraq, given that [premarital] sex is considered a sin and that sexual relationships between [unmarried] young men and women are almost nonexistent, meaning that sexual deprivation is only spreading. Women stay at home, while men turn to Oum Salah and the like — people who are offering luxury [prostitution] services on social media.

Oum Salah, Oum Ali, Oum Zaman and many others publish a large number of photos, adding the title "pimp" after their names. Some mention the city they live in, while others prefer to remain regional, providing the phone numbers of prostitutes in any province.

Female pimps post photos of prostitutes with their faces covered and their phone numbers so that customers can call and arrange an appointment for a quick hour of sex. Although prices are already set, the service is subject to supply and demand and final prices are determined through haggling. During the months when sex is dubbed sinful, such as Ramadan and Muharram, prices decrease due to low demand and high supply. In any case, Oum Salah and her counterparts post photos and comments igniting the excitement of men stalking the pages ready to meet the demands of these women, mainly sending prepaid charge cards.

A minute after posting a photo of a girl wearing provocative underwear, Oum Salah gets at least 47 comments. Guys know what they want; one word is enough to describe their emotional state and level of sexual need. Oum Salah then lures them by saying, "Whoever wants more photos of this girl should send me a prepaid charge card." Oum Salah seals huge deals within the confines of her inbox and no one knows how much she has made.

Electronic sex trade

Although Oum Salah takes advantage of the men's sexual drive, other pimps abide by the rules of the profession, offering prostitutes and nothing more. A new customer must be trustworthy and recommended by a well-known, loyal client to prevent the working girls from being arrested or assaulted by customers.

We talked with Oum Ali through a mediator whom she knew long before she expanded her business. ... She agreed to meet with us. She looked like a businesswoman in a commercial office, and did not refrain from talking about the girls who work with her.

The charge for one night, including delivery of the girl to a destination, reaches $100; this is in addition to a fancy dinner, whiskey or a few bottles of beer for the girl. The page of Oum Ali has 1,400 followers. She does not know them all, yet she strives to keep her page clean.

Oum Ali dedicates one hour during the day and another at night to communicating with customers via Facebook. Her operational ability allows her to offer girls in three provinces through an extended network of connections.

The word "sex" is mostly used these days among men living in upscale neighborhoods. A frequently used word in the 1990s — placating the embarrassment of male youths talking about porn movies, photos and voluptuous bodies — "sex" is a word rarely used today. ... Current words have become more audacious and straightforward; there is no need for embarrassment. Talking about sex no longer requires metaphors, and words are uttered straightforwardly. Sex and related topics have entered the era of electronic speed.

An island of women

The group "Only Iraqi Women Would Understand," a secret Facebook group for women, imposes impossibly hard conditions on members wishing to join, so as to fend off the infiltration of men. Inside this group, girls act naturally and talk as if they are talking to themselves. They ask difficult questions — hardly heard of outside this page — about sexual relationships, pornography and marriage. Men go insane over a leaked post from this page, depicting an island of women that no man has ever visited.

The condition for joining is the following: girls must take a photo of their bare breasts with the expression "Only Iraqi Women Would Understand" written across them. Afterward, members of the group discuss whether to accept the request or not.

This has not discouraged men from trying, though. One of them went to great lengths, creating a fake account and hiring a prostitute to fulfill the task. He succeeded in joining the page and leaked posts became more frequent. He says, however, that the page is currently protected after girls cleaned it of spies. 

Contrary to many users, some Iraqi men post comments on the photos and negotiate with pimps using their real names. They know their names will explicitly appear, but silence will prevail. No one would ask why this particular guy liked this page and left a comment. Everyone knows what it is like to feel lonely. They know they have no other outlet but a quick electronic relationship, or else contacting the page of Oum Salah and the like.

Found in: sex trade, men, iraqi women, gender discrimination, facebook

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