Uncovering the Exploitation of Children in Filipino Webcam Sex Industry

In the Red Light District of the Philippines, it’s not uncommon to see lingerie-clad women lining the streets, dancing provocatively and beckoning the people walking by to purchase their services. This notorious, booming sex industry attracts foreigners all over the world, and many of the sinful acts that occur here go unnoticed or even ignored. The recent arrest of Timothy Deakin shows how involvement with this industry is often not regulated and points to underlying problems with a lack of visibility.

Arrest of Timothy Deakin

Timothy Deakin, 53, during a raid at his home

Timothy Deakin, 53, was arrested for running a webcam sex ring involving children. The rise of the webcam sex industry raises issues about the unethical motivations behind its participants. Many natives find no problem with it because they think “children don’t mind taking off their clothes and are not physically touched.” This nonchalant sentiment allowed Deakin to hide his crime. However, it’s important to note that he is paranoid and subconsciously knows the immorality of his actions. He even told his friend the day before that he “needed to get out of here.” This relates to the Michael Foucault’s view of power and discipline. Foucault wrote that power should be visible and unverifiable. In this case, the power is somewhat visible. Deakin knows he is engaging in immoral activities and feels the need to hide it from a “power” by using many complicated files on his computer. One officer who raided the house even exclaimed, “He knew what he was doing. It was like finding many computers within one.” The power is unverifiable in the way that he never knows if he is being traced or watched. He suspects it but is surprised and shocked when the raid happens. In Foucalt’s panoptic model, the prisoners in the surrounding cells know they are being watched by the tower, yet never know when.

This article goes on to say that Deakin denies everything once his house is raided by authorities. He says, “I’m schizophrenic and there was no children here.” This shows that Deakin is aware of his unethical crimes. According to Foucalt, the panoptic model ensures permanent visibility. The watchtower is seen by all the inmates; Deakin wasn’t able to “see” a constant visible power. Perhaps if there was a permanent power, he would have been deterred. Foucault stresses the importance of having this visible and unverifiable power to regulate society. No power is truly visible in the Philippines regarding this issue, as Deakin’s neighbors noticed children entering the house but never said anything. On man on the bike even nonchalantly said “computers, sex, children” when asked about Deakin. Because the sex industry is so deeply ingrained in society, parents often find no problem with it, and some shockingly even encourage their daughters to enter the business. This clearly demonstrates the lack of visibility. If there was a strong authority visible to all, children would most likely be protected.

Needing a Visible Authority

This can be related to another article, in which a widowed Filipino mother is described as she offers her eleven and ten year old daughters to perform sexual acts. If a clear, visible authority were here, it would act as a deterrent. The article also points out that people who watch these webcam shows overseas often use bitcoin or untraceable credit cards to avoid being traced. This is the unverifiable aspect of power. They know what they are doing is wrong and feel like they are being seen, but don’t know when or from where. If they felt they were being watched all the time in a state of permanent visibility, then they most likely wouldn’t be involved. Foucault’s panoptic model was based on psychological regulation over the subjects. Simply seeing an authoritative figure, whether it’s a watchtower or surveillance camera, instills a sense of morality in people. It doesn’t matter if the camera is on or off; the presence is enough to maintain order.

The Pros and Cons of Being Watched

In these crimes, having the awareness of being observed would seem beneficial. However, Foucault also believed that this would eventually make everyone the same and cause “dynamic normalization.” He said it may stifle individuality and encourage conformity. This “fundamentally undemocratic” way of life will create a robotic society and eliminate free will and spontaneity. There needs to a reformed system in regulating the sex industry, especially with the increasing use of technology and the involvement of children. This raises questions about Foucault’s theories; perhaps some areas of life need more watching and surveillance than others. Society needs a balance between having free will and creativity and also being pushed to do the right thing.

The panoptic model perfects operations of power by increasing the number of people who can be controlled and decreasing the number of people needed to operate it. This model has pros and cons, and it shows that there is much needed reform in the Philippines regulating the sex industry.