THE FUZZY LIMITS OF SEX WORK

My next door neighbours are scorts. We found out when we moved to the flat and googled our address to check for nearby businesses. They are two girls, one from Brazil and the other from Ukrania. Their youth and beauty makes them stand out from the elderly White people of the building. We have met in several occasions in the elevator, chit-chatted about the weather or the relative cuteness of my puppy. They are nice people who never make noise or complain about our own weird schedules. Also, the Brazilian girl did not get angry when my puppy playfully almost ripped her panties.

There is another scort at the building next to ours. She is Colombian, trans, and very pretty. I have never talked to her. On the other side of the street, there is a flat where another four sex workers live. They are masseusses; specialists in sports massage, erotic massage, and handjobs. If you can pay an extra, you can get the full service from any of the girls you like (Don’t let yourself be fooled. If you don’t like the one you have, you can always switch to other if you want, no matter what they say). One is Romanian, other is Russian, another two are Colombian too. I have never seen them, but there are reviews in specialised Internet forums. There you can find out anything you want about any girl, like height, weight, nipple and clit size, vagina tightness, skin texture, disposition in bed.

There are uncountable prostitutes in my street, the richest street of Madrid. Students, single moms, part-timers. Almost all of them are foreign, although we can find some Spaniards (for those special clients who will reject anything but national product). Their numbers and ratio to the general population are the highest I have ever seen. That’s why my street is mentioned so often in forums for Johns.

These are rich girls, € 100 an hour, with the kind of life that is presented as “glamourous” in late-night programs of TV. Their lives are for sure not like the lives of the street-walkers we can find at Casa de Campo. Those girls are always outside, no matter the cold, wearing miniskirts or just panties, looking cowed, afraid. They have bruises, and some of them look malnourished. In the girls of my street I can see no signs of those expressions, but maybe they are coerced into pretend happiness. Maybe their pimp will beat them up if they do not fulfill a quota. I try not to think about it.

My street is also full of luxury boutiques and high-end restaurants. The population is overwhelmingly rich, and White. If you go to other neighborhoods, such as Lavapiés, Chueca, even Bilbao, you will be able to find more colors, more ethnicities. But this is the Salamanca neighborhood. Men grease their hair backwards while wearing braided belts with the Spanish flag. Women all wear the same bland expressions of pampered housewives. On all the walls and streetlights you can see posters and flyers of Nudo Patriota Español, a far right-wing party advocating for the expulsion of all immigrants. It is also a hotbed for Neo-Nazis, because of course.

I think people more intelligent and more knowledgeable than me have already documented the post-colonial phenomenon. That, no matter what historians say, colonialism is alive and well, molding the lives of uncountable human beings into too well-known shapes. It is a complex phenomenon, and of course not all sex workers are coerced into their profession, but it’s a hard call. I do not claim to speak for these girls, I am not them, but I cannot help to see the hidden mechanisms of society. People are still for sale.

It’s so easy to see, so easy to condemn. We would like to think that this kind of behaviours are marginalised, that they are not valid for the “1rst world” population. Western women are not bought, is said. Western women are able to study, work, and be completely independent of men. We are liberated and we have nothing to fear.

I am a translator. I work for several clients, covering a variety of topics and specialities. For a memorable year, I was mainly a porn and erotic toy translator. Some people asked me if I felt opressed about it, and my answer was always that it was complex, and that I am very well aware of the problematic aspects of porn. However, I do not frontally oppose it. But that’s another article.

Right now I am translating love letters. The flow started in September, with a single German guy writing to a Spanish girl much younger than he. Several others followed; K, Reinhard, T-Bone (names fictitious). Every single one of them was a rich, elderly guy from Central Europe writing to a younger, poorer Spanish girl. I do not see the girls’ letters, because I do not translate into German.

Their relationships follow a depressingly predictable pattern. All guys seem to be very lonely and demanding. They are (I hope) not aware of their own creepiness, their pushing. Money is always a factor. It does not appear when the relationship goes well, save for a few mentions at the end of the letters about wire transfers, or “helping with the mortgage”. However, when the girls seem distant, money becomes a weapon to threaten and to coerce.

Eventually, it becomes the decisive factor of the relationship. One of the women was given the choice between moving to Germany and leaving her son in Spain (the guy did not want him in the country, but offered to pay a boarding school for him) or not getting money from him anymore. Apparently she rejected him. I hope she is ok.

Another one accepted to leave her country and fly to Switzerland, where he is paying rent for her flat. She does not speak German or have any money. He is married with children. Although he promised her he would leave her family as soon as she arrived, he has not, and probably never will. In his letters, you can understand that he is very sorry for himself, having to face such a harsh choice. So it goes.

I wonder if soon Spanish women will be seen with the same regard as the “exotic”, well-to-be scorts that I see in my street. I wonder if then, mentality will change and the people who used to despise them understands them. I have already heard “jokes” about how I should be marrying to find a husband to give me economic stability. My cousins, married and 32, are working too much for their age. They will probably not have children, even if they would like to.

As long as structures of opression exist, all women are opressed, also the wealthy, White, cis pretty ones. As long as prostitution is enforced on women under the guise of marriage or relationships, making us understand that our value is only contained in our attractiveness for the other gender, we will have no power.

And one last thing for men. Do not make excuses, do not allow these behaviours. Do not go buy the services of a scared girl, pretending not to see her bruises, and think what you have done is ok. Do not force anyone else into a relationship they do not want, making them choose between a roof over their heads and their children. Just don’t.

by Esther Nelke

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