THE MONEY aspect may have been removed from the “flesh trade” that reportedly used to take place outside of the University of Santo Tomas campus. But sex encounters continue on A.H. Lacson St., if not for prostitution, then for casual sex.

The installation of streetlights, the removal of plant boxes, and the renovation of concrete sidewalks by both UST and the city government have made the encounters less conspicuous. But they continue in a more guarded way, regardless of whether money is involved or not.

A male sex worker told the Varsitarian the encounters continue but without money involved.

“Talagang may iba diyan na walang bayad, ‘yun bang trip-trip lang,” said Bryan (not his real name).

The reputation of A.H. Lacson St. (formerly Gov. Forbes St.) as a meeting place for fornicators and prostitutes has even reached the provinces.

“Archie” told the Varsitarian he was on a semestral vacation from Angeles University and came to Manila, particularly to UST, to do a case study on “prostitution” around the vicinity of UST. He added he had been in the University area for four times.

The Varsitarian made a background check and found out through officials from Angeles University that Archie did study there two years ago but only for two months.

Archie’s case appears to buttress suspicions that the A.H. Lacson St. perimeter of UST has become a haven for casual sex.

The flesh merchants and sexual deviants have apparently perfected the craft of being discreet in doing transactions there, authorities said.

Major Danilo David of Western Police District (WPD) Station 4 said it would be hard for them to pinpoint the sex workers among the bystanders and loiterers in the area.

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“Aakalain mo mga tambay lang iyan. Hindi mo naman madampot dahil di mo masigurado kung sino talaga ang mga iyan,” David said.

These sex workers are commonly seen wearing tight-fitting, short-sleeved, or sleeveless shirts, cargo or walking shorts, and bull cap. They usually wear black clothes to identify themselves to their customers.

According to Bryan, customers would drive their cars slowly to the side of the dark pavement where clients would be waiting. They would simply stop and open the window to call their prospects. After a negotiation, the customer would either bring the client to his place (usually an apartment) or to a motel.

“Wala nang hand gestures ngayon. Sa mata lang, nagkakaintindihan na,” Bryan said.

If police officers or village watchers approach the area, Bryan said prostitutes will simply pretend that they are waiting for a ride. “Kaya nga hindi kami nahuhuli diyan sa España dahil ang daling makalusot,” he said.

According to David, “sex havens” may have sprouted around the campus perimeters. One of them is an abandoned house near Shakey’s restaurant on España St., near Mayric’s bar and the branch of the Bank of the Philippine Islands.

Likewise, it was found that most of the flesh traders thrive along Pi Y Margal St. During an area survey, the Varsitarian found a group of male and gay “sex workers” flocking the street’s corner.

More than poverty

Poverty has always been cited as a factor in the persistence of prostitution. But psychologists also cited two factors: the growing social tolerance for it and the search for sexual gratification.

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In Male Prostitution: Two Monographs (Australia Book Co. and Distributors, 1987), Dr. Paul W. Matthews gave striking observations on male prostitution in Metro Manila.

Matthews said that society seemed to tolerate sex workers. Social sympathy is given to sex workers because of the “economic justification” for prostitution. Many sex workers, he said, argue that poverty compels them to do that kind of work.

Matthews added that customers justify the act because they regard their payment for sex as an assistance to the sex worker’s future and survival.

But to some sex workers, prostitution is not only a means of livelihood but also an avenue for sexual gratification.

“Many (sex workers) obtained satisfaction from pleasing customers and sometimes finding pleasure themselves,” said Donald J. West, M.D. in his book, Male Prostitution (Duckworth, 1992).

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