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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Marketing Sex in Russia

I have already had the occasion to say in these pages that, with all due respect for religion and believers, I myself am not a religious man, and for this reason I am not keeping the Advent fast. I know that this fast is a good thing -- it was instituted by the church not just for the fun of it, but, as it says in the Bible, "to honor the coming holy day by abstinence before it". Ancient Jews devoutly observed fasts, and fasted from sundown to sundown, that is, for 24 hours, and abstained not only from food, but from all other sensual fulfillment.

The Moscow militia and prosecutor's office marked the beginning of the present Advent fast with a powerful strike at the satisfaction of "other sensual fulfillment".

On Dec. 3, the police raided tour private firms which specialize in so-called "intimate services" -- to put it more bluntly, in providing women on demand. They arrested the women, confiscated hard currency, sealed up the buildings, and the main thing -- they obtained the addresses and telephone numbers of steady clients. I feel more compassion for the clients than for anyone else.

At the same time the prosecutor's office filed a criminal case against newspapers that publish announcements of sexual services. Among the first to be named were Moskovsky Komsomolets and Chastnaya Zhizn. The latter, by the way, was set up by the magazine Stolitsa, which invested funds in it, but, seeing how the newspaper turned out, stopped its sponsorship a few months later.

In Chastnaya Zhizn, which translates as Private Life, you could read all kinds of ads. "A married couple is seeking a young boy for sex". Or, "I can show a wealthy woman what I am made of. Dima, 21 years old". In Komsomolets a different kind of comment predominates: "Girls for wealthy patrons", "Girls and boys on demand at any hour of the day or night", etc.

The terseness of the announcements in Moskovsky Komsomolets can be explained by the fact that, being a newspaper with a large circulation, Komsomolets has raised the price of such announcements sky high and is taking these "boys and girls" or, more accurately, their handlers, for all they are worth.

The managers of these newspapers have been charged on several counts. The main one. Article 226, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code, is pandering for profit. and also Article 15 -- preparation to commit a crime and attempt to commit a crime.

It is quite interesting to read these papers now, when the smell of blood is in the air, and the forces of law and order have forced many to abstain from such "sensual fulfillment". In a recent edition of Komsomolets there were seven identical ads with just one word: Entertainment. There were 20 more with the word: Introductions. The paper can always say, how was it to know that the entertainment and introductions were of such a nature. Maybe they were international friendship clubs?

One of the ads I found especially touching: "Work for young women". It is pretty funny: What young women? What kind of work? Mermaids, perhaps? Everyone knows exactly what is going on. So our newspapers are learning a new art. What else is there to do? These ads bring in a lot of money, but nobody wants to go to jail. So once again we have to resort to euphemisms.

The magazine Stolitsa has begun to publish a new paper. It is called Center-Plus and is sent free of charge to absolutely all downtown residents and absolutely all organizations and firms. Free of charge, because the paper gets its money not from readers, but from advertisements and personal ads.

When this paper was being conceived, I was in Switzerland, and met there with the editor in chief of a similar paper, which is published in Geneva with a circulation equal to the number of residents in the city. The paper comes out once a week, and we took it as a model. The editor, a fairly young man named Giles Egger, revealed to me a few professional secrets. and I asked questions.

"Do you print all ads which you receive? " I asked. "Absolutely all", answered Giles.

"What do you do with ads that are, well, immodest? There are all kinds of people out there, you know. What do you do with ads from depraved people, from criminals, ads that are written in foul language? "

"We ask the client to rework the ad, and we even help him, so that society's sensibilities will not be offended, and so that we will not be held accountable". and he showed me several examples of rewritten ads.

"And if the client refuses to redo his ad, if he insists on his version? "

"You know", the editor answered, "We have not had any cases like that. The client wants his ad to be published, after all".

I had no need to go so far away to learn wisdom from a capitalist. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the bright workers at Moskovsky Komsomolets learned very quickly, with no help from anyone, how to publish such ads and still keep their innocence. The militia, it is true, in spite of Ostap Bender's assertion to the contrary, are not children, and when the owner of a brothel publishes an ad with his telephone number and address, they will certainly investigate this address, no matter how much the ad makes him sound like Little Red Riding Hood. But at least the newspapers are in the clear.

By the way, I recently opened Moskovsky Komsomolets and read: "I am looking for a manly military friend. Sergei". A month ago this Sergei would have expressed himself much more openly. Well, Sergei, I wish you luck. Keep looking. But it is still Advent, and it may be a little soon to break your fast.

Andrei Malgin is editor in chief of the weekly newsmagazine Stolitsa.