Ah, the Internet! The World Wide Web! The information superhighway that provides a torrent of information, answering questions on everything from art history to veterinary science. We use it for so much of our daily lives; staying in touch with friends, buying music, booking Ocean tickets…. Very often we rely almost exclusively on what Wikipedia has to tell us about something. Sometimes we perform our civic duty and throw in a review ourselves. We review restaurants, books, and now…prostitutes. Ladies and gentleman, the inexorable progression of mankind is proud to present Punternet.com, where the curious can find everything they need to know about paying for the delicious pleasure of filleting the proverbial mackerel. It is the website that buries itself elbow deep in the supermarket shelves of the ladies of the night to separate, for you, the Tesco Value from the Waitrose Organic.

For the uninitiated, there is a handy Frequently Asked Questions section, without which a new customer would undoubtedly be left drowning in the stagnant pool of average cyber-prostitution instead of riding the gloriously unbridled waves of the Ecstasea. For those looking for value for money, it’s important to remember that, “you will probably be allowed only one orgasm” – so make it worthwhile and fill the room with the aroma of smacked basil. There’s even a Beginners’ Guide to Saunas and Massage Parlours, which helps you to avoid any receptionist-related faux pas. Of most interest, though, is the Field Reports section. It is here that people come to share their experiences, live vicariously through others, and decide on any potential purchases. As well as the basic ‘Recommended?’ and ‘WouId You Return?’ questions, there are also sections for contact details and a physical description. Here, users like ‘Anaconda’ (ooh, Matron) can write about Holly’s “lovely dark brown eyes” and “smooth olive skin” while noticing that she was “slightly flabby around the midriff” (what a charmer). Punternet is the Autocar, the Which? guide and the Exchange & Mart of the prostitute world, with just a little FHM thrown in for good measure.

This website can be a tremendous source of amusement – particularly when a negatively reviewed girl takes the opportunity to respond to criticism. If you enjoy watching couples argue in the street, this bit’s for you. Let us also briefly ruminate upon the peculiar activity of having sex with someone and then spurning the post-coital fag to go straight to the Internet in order to invite others to do the same. If ever there were a better agent for sloppy seconds, I have not found it. Stranger still is that people heed this advice. What if it isn’t as good for you as it was for ‘BroadShoulders’? Could you imagine the feeling of consternation as you lie thinking, “Well this is all fine and dandy but ‘alldayallnight’ seemed to have a much better time.”

Pondering on this led me to wonder what Punternet was actually for. Is it serious? Maybe it’s just a place for people to voyeuristically observe others’ experiences and occasionally boast of their own exploits? Not really. It seems to do exactly what it says on the tin. ‘Galahad’, the original punter and founder of the site, describes ‘commercial sex’ simply as one of his ‘hobbies’ – and it shows. This is not a website for people who like to indulge in glamorously taboo activities. They are not joyfully sinning and sticking two fingers up to conventional morality. It is not alternative, nor even terribly risqué. Rather, it is a conduit for mundane sexual release. It is redolent with the seediness of the industry it covers. More often than not, punters’ experiences seem functional, almost mechanical. Their principle concerns are not for the fulfilment of fantasies, but rather for cleanliness and convenience. Reviews focus on timekeeping and the turgid business of getting to the sex without rushing or causing embarrassment. The acts themselves are buried in obscure acronyms and euphemisms. Reading reviews, you can feel the sad sigh of anticlimax as the Internet’s fantastic promises evaporate into suburban dreariness. The women are pretending, the men don’t care, and you never forget that they are, in fact, using each other.

Punternet is worth a look, if only to confirm that it actually does exist. Take a second glance, though, and it has all the charm of a train station toilet. It performs as advertised and, as clean as it may be, you never leave without feeling at least a little bit dirty.

James Torrance


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