The Secret Prostitution Code, and What It Says About Johns

The Secret Prostitution Code, and What It Says About Johns

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This summer, I discovered the many ridiculous sexual euphemisms employed by johns who frequent online prostitution forums. On the Internet, dudes who pay women to have sex with them communicate in an absurd code in the hopes of eluding law enforcement officers (that’s “LEOs” to them). The code ranges from straight acronym (BBBJ is “Bareback Blow Job”) to schoolyard joke (Ed Zachary Disease is code for “A woman with an unattractive face”). My pick for the most offensive code-word? “CCL.” That means that your sex worker of choice has got the “Concentration Camp Look.”

Now, a study in this month’s Journal of Contemporary Ethnography has attempted to decipher these sex codes for real for real. The study, conducted by researchers Kristie R. Blevins and Thomas J. Holt, examines the “argot,” or coded language, of the prostitution enthusiast’s “virtual subculture” in order to discern what these communication strategies indicate about the men who engage in–and report on–prostitution. Here’s what they discovered about the language of johns:

* First off: Don’t call them “johns.” On the online forums studied by Blevins and Holt, terms like “john” and “trick” were considered derogatory to prostitution enthusiasts. Online, johns prefer to refer to themselves as “mongers,” “trollers,” or “hobbyists.” According to the study:

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For example, a user in the Inglewood forum described a successful night identifying and soliciting several prostitutes and closed by writing, “I cant wait to monger again like the sadistic one that I am.” Another Inglewood poster wrote, “Saturday morning, am, and it was time for this dedicated hobbyist to pursue another adventure.” . . . Thus, the terms used to describe the customers of prostitutes reflect the notion that the customers find nothing wrong in paying for sex. It is simply an interest or pastime that they enjoy.

* “Pooner” is a good thing. If someone calls you a “pooner,” that means you’ve achieved online prostitution forum street cred. (Congratulations?):

Mongers who were very involved in discussion forums and review boards were often referred to as a pooner. This term was meant as a sign of respect and status and was used to identify those with clout in the forums. For example, jester from the Atlanta forum posted a question seeking information about escorts: “I was looking for recommendations about agencies from pooners who have used them . . . I don’t need to know details (if you are worried about LE), only about ones that are half-way reliable.” Asking for assistance from more senior or experienced members in this fashion could increase the likelihood of information sharing. Thus, active involvement in both the sex trade and online resources played an important role in indicating status among johns across the forums.

* “Mongers” tend to avoid offensive terms for prostitutes. According to the study, forum users shied away from calling sex workers “hookers,” “hos,” or even “prostitute.” Aww, how sweet. In place of derogatory terms for people, mongers used derogatory terms for objects, often referring to sex workers by their make, model, and build:

This language may be perceived as respectful and a way to neutralize the negative perspectives of their practices, mirroring their use of terms such as mongering or hobbying. At the same time, these terms treat sex workers as items, rather than individual human beings. For example, posters used the term streetwalker or SW to describe a prostitute who works the streets looking for clients. Posters would also use a letter to denote the race of the sex worker, including WSW for white; BSW for black; and LSW, HSW, or MSW for Hispanic.

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