Girls as young as 15 are providing sex services using the internet to advertise themselves as available for so-called "compensated dating," according to social workers.
Internet chatrooms would have such topics as "female student hoping to be taken care of. " The social workers said these could be adverts for compensated dating services, and providers would be as young as 15.
However, there is no difference between compensated dating via chatrooms and prostitution, they warned in light of findings that show some girls do not think so.
Compensated dating started in Japan, where female students would provide men with companionship and sexual services in exchange for money or luxuries.
The practice is becoming more acceptable among Hong Kong teenage girls, said Jack Chiu Tak-choi of the Yang Memorial Methodist Social Services. "Some girls don't think compensated dating is a kind of prostitution," Chiu said. "They think it is different because they could choose their clients. Some even think they're helping others."
Social workers found girls priced their services on how they value themselves. The average "compensation" is HK$800. But for sexual intercourse the charge could be up to HK$1,800.
Chiu and his team interviewed six girls aged 15 to 18 with compensated dating experience from mid-2006 to early this year. The findings were released yesterday.
The girls are all estranged from their families. "They need caring and love from their families. A girl told me `when I do that [compensated dating], at least I get hugs from my clients,"' Chiu said.
Their clients ranged from teenage boys to married adults.
Chiu said the flexibility of compensated dating makes it more tempting than regular prostitution.
"Some young boys might be afraid to go to a brothel, but compensated dating often allows the two parties to meet at a mall first. They could terminate the transaction if they don't like how the other looks."
There is a high demand for female students and the internet is making it easier for girls to promote their services, Chiu said.
Codewords such as "BJ" and "ML," used on online forums to represent oral sex and sexual intercourse, make it difficult to crack down on these services, he added.
"In the past, if a girl wanted to get into the business, she might not know how. Now there're many websites for them to join. Some [websites] even publish unreliable guidelines teaching girls how to do business without getting harmed."
The social workers found so-called guidelines such as - "Never let your client take photos of you. If he does, take a photo of him."
But many girls told them if it happened they would not be strong enough to resist. Chiu said most girls are doing this for money to spend or to subsidize their boyfriends.
One of the girls made more than HK$20,000 in a six-month relationship with an adult.
Ng Man-lun, vice president of the Hong Kong Sex Education Association, said parents are to blame for this situation: "Right now many parents are going nuts with the stock market. What does that tell their children about materialism?"