Jan. 28 2000 3:30 AM


How e-commerce is transforming the oldest profession.

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If the expansion of cyberhooking came only at the cost of traditional prostitution, this would be an easy case to make. But it's harder because, obviously, some percentage of cyberjohns would not otherwise visit prostitutes at all. That is, legalizing cyberhooking wouldn't just draw more people to the high end—it would also increase the total size of the prostitution market. The only answers to this point are: 1) like all voluntary transactions in a capitalist system, the trade of sex for money gives both parties something they want; 2) cyberhooking's harm to society, as explained, is far less than in traditional prostitution; and 3) like other combinations of money, technology, and human nature that start in California (fast food and cell phones, for example), cyberprostitution is probably going to flourish anyway.

Scott Shuger was a Slatesenior writer and the original author of "Today's Papers." He died June 15, 2002.