Senin, 16 Februari 2009

Sex for housing

Valentine's Day was well and truly ended for readers of the Sunday Telegraph by Lisa Mayoh's report about advertisements on share-housing websites that offer rooms in exchange for sex. Mayoh's report begins:

SLEAZY men are taking advantage of Sydney's rental crisis by placing online advertisements offering women free rooms in exchange for sex.
The zero-rent ads, targeting desperate women looking for somewhere to live, are becoming increasingly common on popular "share house'' rental websites.

Personally, I doubt that these ads are very common at all, and think that the number of women looking to enter into such arrangements is much smaller still.

Which makes the response of one of the websites on which such ads appear all the more puzzling: flatmates.com.au says it will keep running these sorts of ads, despite receiving complaints from users of their site. The site's administrator explains:

We support non-misleading zero rent or $1 rent ads that imply it's in exchange for sex. Here's why: if we didn't allow (reasonably) open and honest ads like this - it would just go underground. You would see cheaper places advertised and people (usually young girls) going there for interviews having no idea what the real deal was. NOT GOOD! (for the girls obviously, but for the listers too).

Okay, so these advertisers 'would just go underground' if flatmates.com.au turned them away. This is rubbish. First, maybe some of them would go to RSVP or some other matchmaking service and, while they're at it, clean up their act a little. Second, while they're allowed to lurk behind ads for share-housing, they are already underground. The excuses offered by flatmates.com.au about the implications of these ads being open and obvious don't cut it.

Flatmates.com.au claims that a sex-for-housing arrangement is about 'choice.' My colleagues in the youth homelessness sector have another name for it: 'survival sex'. I cannot believe that it makes good business sense for flatmates.com.au to risk becoming known as the creepy pervert flatmate website. I expect they'll find that out in due course.