Commercial Use of the Internet for Sexual Exploitation
Growth of the Commercial Sex Industry on the Internet
By the mid-1990s, one of the hottest places for commercial development was the Internet. In early September 1995 there were 101,908 commercial domains on the Web, up 26,055 sites from the end of July, and up 72,706 sites from the end of 1994. The sex industry was leading the way.
At the beginning of 1995, there were just 200 businesses on the World Wide Web selling “erotica services” and products, from condoms to pornographic videos.123 I did a search on Yahoo, a popular search engine, in August 1995 and August 1996. In August 1995, the category “Yahoo: Business and Economy: Companies: Sex” had 391 listings for phone sex numbers, adult CD-ROMS, X-rated films, adult computer software, live videoconferencing, prostitution tours, escort services and mail-order-bride agencies. In August 1996 there were 1,676 listings-a four fold increase in one year.124 In late 1997, according to Naughty Linx, an online index, there were 28,000 “sex sites” on the Web with about half of them trying to make money selling pornography, videos, or live sex shows. 125
The mainstream pornographic magazine, Playboy, was quick to jump on the Web. It made its debut in 1994. Playboy’s Web site content differed from the print magazine. The content of the Web site was designed to appeal to a younger, wealthier audience, the majority of which (75 percent) did not subscribe to the print Playboy magazine.126 In 1996, Playboy magazine’s site was the 11th most visited site on the Web.127 Since its debut on the Web, Playboy has been one of the most popular Web publications. In 1997, the Web site generated US$2 million in advertising revenue. Many of the advertisers are e x c l u s i v e t o t h e W e b s i t e a n d d o n o t b u y a d v e r t i s i n g i n t h e p r i n t p u b l i c a t i o n . 1 2 8 I n m i d - 1 9 9 8 , P l a y b o y ’ s C y b e r C l u b h a d 2 6 , 0 0 0 s u b s c r i b e r s p a y i n g U S $ 6 0 p e r y e a r . 1 2 9 W pornographic magazine, Penthouse, went online in April 1996, its web site recorded the h e n t h e
highest number of visits for a publication site on the Web.
By mid-1995, strip clubs set up advertising Web sites. Strip clubs from New Jersey, New York and Delaware, USA, had their own home pages where they advertised their shows. They featured pornographic photographs of strippers, their “cyberstars” of the week. One Web site for a club in Delaware included pornographic images of women engaged in the types of legal prostitution offered at that club, including couch dancing, table dancing,
shower shows and dominatrix acts.131 men’s descriptions of these acts.)
(See the section on strip clubs in this report for
A 1996 survey found that 20 percent of the users of the World Wide Web said they regularly visited pornographic sites.132 In 1997, Bruce Ryon, Vice President and Technical Analyst for PC Meter, claimed that more than 25 percent of households that own computers visit sex industry sites each month.133 By 1998, another survey indicated