Tinder may be a useful app for finding dates or relationships, but for Indonesian sex workers, the app has a very specific purpose.
Through online dating apps, they are able to look for clients without having to leave their homes, South China Morning Post reports.
There is nothing new about solo travelers seeking casual hook-ups on dating apps. In fact, Tinder has even come up with a dedicated feature called “Tinder Passport” to allow travelers to search for dates in their destination of choice even before they arrive.
It is no secret that tourism has turned prostitution in Southeast Asia into a thriving sector. In Bali alone, over 5 million international tourists visit each year, bringing good business for the local sex workers.
With the aid of Tinder and other dating apps, it is far easier for tourists and sex workers to communicate and negotiate the terms of their transactions.
Sex workers don’t even have to look for clients at nightclubs or on the streets, a convenience Dewi and other workers have taken advantage of.
“Every night, I had to bribe so many people just so that I could wait for potential customers in those nightclubs: bouncers, security guards, even the people from the villages,” Dewi was quoted as saying.
“Back then I used to have a pimp, and I had to pay him, too. At the end of the day, I did not get to keep much. But it’s not even about the money. I was always scared that the police would catch me on the street and throw me in jail.”
These days, she just swipes right on Tinder to find customers.
“I swipe right on everyone. In the last week alone, I have had 18 clients, all through Tinder. I charge differently for every client, but typically, it’s between 1.5 million rupiahs to 3 million (US$105 to US$210) for a short session.”
Aside from the convenience the app brings, Dewi says it also provides anonymity and some sort of security.
“It just feels safer than being out there, at bars or on the street,” she explained. “At least here there are no police watching me. I also get to choose my own clients, and I can ask as many questions as I like before I take the job. I can do it from anywhere.”
While prostitution is technically illegal and may carry up to 1 year and 4 months in prison in Indonesia, the law under “crimes against decency and morality” usually applies to procurers.
Local law enforcement has been actively raiding and closing large brothels, shutting down 122 brothels across the country since 2013.
A regular Bali tourist from Germany named Ben says he bought a Tinder Plus subscription in 2018 mainly because of the “Passport” feature. However, the 34-year-old shared that he was not aware that prostitution is illegal in Bali.
“It’s not as if people are out there in public places making sexual transactions. I think because it’s online, and everyone else is doing it, people are turning a blind eye,” he says.
“I start swiping for girls once my ticket to Bali is booked. I guess you can call it … wanderlust. I’m there looking for dates, holiday romance, other travelers. But occasionally I do stumble upon escorts on Tinder. The app makes sex transactions really straightforward.”
Feature Image via Pixabay