Information dynamics shape the sexual networks of Internet-mediated prostitution

Luis Enrique Correa da Rocha, Fredrik Liljeros, Petter Holme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Like many other social phenomena, prostitution is increasingly coordinated over the Internet. The online behavior affects the offline activity; the reverse is also true. We investigated the reported sexual contacts between 6,624 anonymous escorts and 10,106 sex buyers extracted from an online community from its beginning and six years on. These sexual encounters were also graded and categorized (in terms of the type of sexual activities performed) by the buyers. From the temporal, bipartite network of posts, we found a full feedback loop in which high grades on previous posts affect the future commercial success of the sex worker, and vice versa. We also found a peculiar growth pattern in which the turnover of community members and sex workers causes a sublinear preferential attachment. There is, moreover, a strong geographic influence on network structure--the network is geographically clustered but still close to connected, the contacts consistent with the inverse-square law observed in trading patterns. We also found that the number of sellers scales sublinearly with city size, so this type of prostitution does not, comparatively speaking, benefit much from an increasing concentration of people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5706-11
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Brazil
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Prostitution
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Urbanization


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